Rural Scene (i)

Most of these articles were written while at the HMB, but some since. Those related to the WalMarting of rural America have been widely reprinted and have had an impact on rural church work. I attempted to interpret changes in the rural context and suggested what the churches might do to respond. You may wish to also look at the articles in the rural and small church library.

30 Facts a Small Town Pastor Needs to Know : I love small towns. I hate small towns. Small towns offer life on a manageable scale. when one has a need, he knows who to call to meet it. Unless the need is for anonymity. In a small town, one is always on stage.

The Passing of the Six-mile Parish : Most Christian congregations were planted across time with an intention to serve a particular place, a parish. It was expected by both ecclesiastical authorities and community leaders that the place would continue to be much the same for generations to come. Until well into the current century this expectation held up, for the most part.

How To Become a 30-Mile Church : He certainly didn’t set out to do so. He probably didn’t intend to do so. It may have been more a consequence of change than a cause. However, community boundaries in rural America have been redrawn. The Wal-Mart town has become the dominant community across the landscapes.

From Six-Mile to Thirty-Mile Church Fields : Lyle Schaller has alerted us to the emergence of the 60-mile city. He notes that the freeway system in and around cities has spurred a sprawl that allows people to live as many as 30 miles or more from the city core, and yet actively participate in the life of that city. This is true not only of the major metropolis but of smaller cities such as Albany, Georgia; Springfield, Missouri; or Madison, Wisconsin.

New Life for Rural America: A Vital Concern for 22,200 Southern Baptist Churches : The economic plight of people in rural America has garnered growing public attention during the 1980s. Those who worked in the cotton mills and the sewing factories of the rural Southeast, the oil field workers of the Southwest, and the once prosperous farmers of the Midwest and the Great Plains and the timbermen of the Pacific Northwest—these have fallen on hard times. Changes in technology, world trade, and the value of the dollar have cost hundreds of thousands of jobs in rural America.

Industrialization of Heartland Agriculture

Reaction: Consequences for Community : I see my task as representing the most common social institution in rural America, the 200,000 churches. They count among their adherents 80 percents of the residents of non-metropolitan America. Most of these congregations were in place by 1920. Their founding mission sprang from the Jeffersonian dream of a nation peopled by yeoman farmers and shop-keepers. The plan called for the placement of a settlement about every six miles across the nation. Here would cluster the social institutions–stores, schools, churches and services–to support the work of the farm families settled on farmstead up to three miles away. Most American born before 1920 came into just such a six-mile world.

Empowerment and Missions Among the Poor : Baptist Missions with the poor of America, “the plain people,” the people of the land, is a story of empowerment. Where other denominations sent missionaries to the poor to do good things for them, we sent missionaries that empowered and entrusted persons from their own ranks to be their pastors. This strategy was deeply grounded in our Baptist heritage–our central doctrine was the “freedom of God” which means that God is free to call whom he will to proclaim the Gospel. Lack of education was to be no disqualifier. It was the call that was crucial. Certainly, this is risky. Examples of excesses and ignorance abound. But, we have believed that God is free and this is how he acts.

East Tennessee Preacher’s School: Eating Country Ham on Store-bought Biscuits : I was raised on Lum and Abner. With a touch of Bob Burns. And a daily dose of Little Abner. One of my early childhood memories was attending a live show of L & A at the Palace Theatre in KC. My image of Ozark people was one of poor and ignorant people. Lazy, shiftless, violent, and drunken were added to my stereotypes. The God of grace has dealt with me and my prejudices in this wise.

When the Factory Closes : The nightly news tells us that Dow Jones averages are up. The news from Wall Street is positive. Our coastal cities brag of being revitalized. The newspapers in Nashville, Atlanta, and Charlotte speak glowingly of commercial development. But the shoe factory in Glenville, West Virginia, is closed. So is the giant tire plant in Miami, Oklahoma. Chemical plants up and down the Mississippi and around Donaldsonville, Louisiana, are shut down. Another company in Des Moines, Iowa, has cut back its work force. There is no fire in the open hearths of steel plant after steel plant along Interstate 20 through Birmingham, Alabama. The spindles sit idle in textile mills around Gastonia, North Carolina. Across the country in the past decade, hundreds of thousands, even millions of people have learned that the factory where they have worked for years has closed.

Becoming an Info-age Church : NOTE: This is not a promotion for buying a computer, VCR, and a satellite dish for your church. Rather, it is a call for our churches to seriously consider how to position themselves for very significant social changes which are now in process. These changes are typically labeled “The Information Age.” Basically, it means that as we move into the 21st century most working Americans will be providing a service rather than producing a product or growing food and fiber.

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