"When figure heads of evangelicalism call young leaders to give their lives in strategic areas like cities, and when large denominations have church planting initiatives that focus their resources and efforts on cities, it’s no wonder why there has been a vacuum of leadership, resources, and ministry-aid for rural areas." - Christianity Today
By Daryl Neipp
In his book Satisfied, Jeff Manion describes a fictional interaction to which we can all relate. It’s a warm evening. A dad calls to his son, who is playing in the backyard, “Would you like some ice cream?” The son bounds into the house, where he finds a large scoop of ice cream in his bowl, and life is good (especially if it is mint chocolate chip).
However, what if there are two boys? The dad calls them both in from playing. What if they find their ice cream but the scoop distribution is not exactly equitable? It wouldn’t be long until the dad heard, “That’s NOT fair!” from one of the boys.
We can conclude that the issue would have nothing to do with what one boy received; rather, it would have everything to do with what the other received. This is how comparisons work: we look at what someone else has, then become discontent with what we have. While this little story is something we can all smile about, the problem of comparison is not something we simply outgrow. Well into adulthood we carry this tendency to always search for the greener grass, which can be particularly harmful within ministry contexts.
"Two-thirds of churches have an attendance under 125. The smaller church is the norm, not the exception. And though the news has not been that promising for smaller churches in recent years, I do see some very promising signs for the years ahead. Why do I make such an apparently contrarian statement? Here are five reasons." - Thom Rainer
We can learn valuable lessons about dealing with unresolved conflict from the example of Nehemiah in 5:1-13. To truly lead restoration work we have to be willing to deal with unresolved conflict. There is probably no greater need in rural restoration work than to become proficient in the skill of conflict resolution. In the rural setting, after a time of evaluation, it will often become obvious that unresolved conflict is a major cause for decline.
You can’t ignore conflict, because it will not simply “go away.” For a while the tension in a situation or relationship may subside, but unless the root issue is understood and worked through, it’s only a matter of time before the conflict will rear its ugly head again and this time with much more intensity. Unresolved conflict severely impacts the testimony of a church in the rural setting, so be willing to rely on the One who breaks down walls. Fulfill your calling as a peacemaker.