Friday, March 02, 2012

rural church mission models

I had a lot of fun on Wednesday, working my way through Rural Theology journal, researching current study of the rural church in mission. During Thursday, some of that research was synthesised into my current fresh expressions, mission and church thinking. Today the results go public, as I gather with 30 folk from across South Australia.

One thing I’m taking some time to explore with them is rural churches in the Bible. While the mission of Paul is often portrayed as urban, there are examples of rural churches in the Bible. As I thought more about them, I became to find them really thoughtprovoking and began to I wonder what patterns of life they might suggest for rural churches today.

For example, Israel in the Old Testament was primarily a rural church. Their pattern of gathering revolved not around weekly worship but around three large festivals. This suggests a very different pattern of worship, community, mission and interconnection. (I wrote about this in 2005 with my The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change but never related it to rural church life until this week. Duh!)

Similarly, the church of 1 Peter was primarily rural, scattered in house churches across Asia Minor. Their call was to be “wildflowers” – distinctive in behaviour, drawing questions.

For those interested, my notes for the two hour session are here

Update: the Old Testament model really brought some energy into the room. “So, could we stop doing weekly church and move to a festival gathering?”; “So how would we resource better the home table?” (well, Faith inkubators is one place to start); “So could we connect rural youth with state-wide three or four festivals and skype networks in between?”

Posted by steve at 11:05 AM


  1. This is good ‘fodder’ Steve – interesting & thought provoking. It also begs the question – what sort of buildings best support the pattern of life for rural churches today. Often the buildings we’re in suggest the pattern of life unless we ‘think outside the box’ (scary for some) & take a risk to use them differently.
    Some great stuff here – I’ll add to my RSS feed.

    Comment by Lynne Aird — March 7, 2012 @ 7:45 am

  2. Thanks Lynne. Glad it was helpful Two comments. First, I think groups need to spend a lot of time dreaming and imagining and during that time, building talk should be banned, else church as is – “fulltime minister, Sunday services, keeping building going” – which are Christendom definitions of church, shape the agenda.

    Second, in the notes I talk about four ways rural folk belong – one includes place of buildings, so I’m not dismissing them. But it’s different saying – how does the community see the building functioning for identity than how can we pay for guttering.

    Third, I’d encourage a period of experimentation – lets do a church road trip – lets meet in our foyer, in our hall, in the community centre, in our pub – and then evaluate how each space impacts us. Try to get people in their guts realise how environment shapes us, and add that to our thinking.


    Comment by steve — March 7, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

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