The Harvest is Plenteous…
Rural Evangelism is a life long learning process. Mission for Christ has been in existence for 45 years and still this process is at work amongst us. The Mission started as a faith work, which remains with us to this day. We are able to continue in ministry through the Lord’s bounty towards us. This takes the shape of donations by a small number of individuals loyal to the vision and church gifts. We also have a small Charity Shop in Hastings, which reaches out to the local community practically.
Every quarter we produce our paper, Action, which is filled with testimonies and reports of places we have been too. Along with this, we are introducing articles which will show the direction we are heading in for the future. Prayer has always been the cornerstone for us since the early days of the work. This continues today with the introduction of a Prayer Initiative. It is for the work of the Mission but also to highlight the needs of rural churches. We want to see the Prayer Initiative as a way of networking small rural fellowships strongly in the area of intercessory prayer for one another. Praying together, we are a force to take the spiritual battle against the enemy victoriously. This has grown to over 500 receivers and it is still on the increase. There is life in the villages!
At the Mission’s point of conception, there was a vision for the counties of Kent and Sussex. This has developed and grown as the opportunities have expanded. However, although we travel extensively at times the surface of rural Britain is barely touched. Considering that the majority of land in Britain is rural, it is the forgotten mission field. We give thanks to the Lord for those called to minister in the inner cities. However, the response of the Lord’s call is lost on the less attractive field of the rural areas. To many the countryside is stereotyped and yet it is the most challenging.
There are changes occurring which need to be addressed. Over the past year, we as a Mission have been noting developments that are becoming more prominent. This will affect our evangelism, the needs of the church and how we act as a resource for the Lord’s people who are facing these changes. People from the cities are moving into the rural areas and commuting to the cities. There is an increase in value of property as it is bought up for second homes and local first time buyers cannot afford homes which push young couples out of village life and into the towns. We are seeing drug and alcohol problems becoming commonplace to village life. Seeing pastoral oversight dwindle in these small works also has its difficulties. Those with the heart for the people but have not the preparation they require to fulfil the task. Here we also hope to become a resource, which brings these leaders together and provides avenues for them to grow into the role they have in the service of Jesus. These and other obstacles will shape the future of our ministry.
From our present position, we feel the surge now of picking up the torch passed on to us and taking this work that the Lord has raised up to the next level. That stage is from the initial area of vision into a national mission. The vision has not changed but our prayer is that it will become even more fervent in our hearts. The need is getting greater and with the guidance of the Lord along with the modern tools available to us to achieve the task laid before us, that will be possible.
The problems we face in evangelism are those that many face today. However, our greatest difficulty is distance. We cannot be everywhere at once. The Mission team needs to work alongside a local fellowship over a protracted period to see the best results. The purpose of this is ultimately to release us from being required, so that members of the local church may themselves be able to do the work effectively. We recognise for the work to develop and grow there will be a need for a network of regional workers to be developed. These people will have contact with the local churches in their area and will know circumstances firsthand. They will cultivate new contacts and inform the main team of useful information to assist in the ministry within any community.
Opportunities are still developing for us as a Mission. This year our desire is to visit more rural fellowships than previous years. Regardless of size, we go anywhere there is freedom to preach the full gospel of God’s redeeming grace. Our methods are many but the message is changeless. We are always encouraged when contacted by a fellowship or group of fellowships to share the need and we will be actively involved in this area of the ministry throughout 2005.
There are always stories that encourage us. We have been closely involved with a fellowship in Norfolk over the last seven years. Speaking with the Pastor after the New Year I discovered that baptismal classes would soon be starting. They would be the first for a number of years and the first step towards church membership. Remember these dear people making a public declaration of their faith in Christ.
Another blessing comes from a fellowship near Sevenoaks, Kent. Their Pastor is retiring and it is extremely hard to find a replacement for such a small group. However, the new Pastor was among them and his induction will have occurred by the time you read this article. He has already indicated that our ministry will be invaluable to him embarking on this work. Our desire is to be a resource to help him fulfil his ministry and the fellowship reach the local community for Jesus. We have already arranged to help with several Sunday services and possibly support in other ways where required. Please pray for this new chapter in the life of this fellowship.
If you are interested in the work we are involved in or we can be a resource in some way for your own area, please contact us. Perhaps you are from a town church and were unaware of the need in the villages. To come and share with you the need of those in the rural areas of Britain would be a blessing.
Gordon Brown is the Field Team Leader of 'Mission for Christ' and is an ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene.
Headline Spring 2005 pp 19-20.