Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: spiritual hunger

There is a famine

Image by nancygebhardt from Pixabay 

Rural and small town churches across Canada are rapidly disappearing.  Fifty years ago, the town where I grew up had five churches.  Only two remain, and they are the churches where one is least likely to ever hear Bible-based preaching.  Smaller towns nearby have no churches at all.

This is more than a demographic curiosity.  It means that in whole swaths across our nation people are deprived of a readily accessible place to hear the Word of God preached.  In times past many people deemed this a necessity.  Families would invest money, time and labour to ensure they would have a place of worship.

What has caused the decline?  One part of the problem is the cost of maintaining a minister.  To provide suitable living accommodations and a decent salary for a minister and his family was by far the greatest part of the operating cost of most small town churches.  Some denominations would have one minister serving congregations in three or four towns.  Over a period of years the smaller congregations died out one by one.  Other denominations merged rural and small town congregations into a congregation in a larger town.  Many people find it too far to drive and now many congregations in the larger towns are struggling.

Ministers do not want to stay long in a low-paying church; the parishioners find the constant turnover of ministers discouraging.  Some ministers are young and find it hard to develop a rapport with parishioners older than themselves.  Others have been taught new ideas in the Bible Schools and Seminaries that do not resonate with their staid small-town parishioners.  Old-fashioned Bible truths and the old hymns are laid by in favour of teachings and choruses thought to be more appealing to younger people.  None of it seems to have worked.

The real problem is the notion that a church cannot survive without a trained and salaried minister.  The pattern shown in the Scriptures is for believers to meet together for worship and mutual edification.  In such a setting, The Holy Spirit will eventually give direction to choose one or more brethren to be ordained as ministers.  They will minister to the needs of the brothers and sisters, while continuing to earn their own livelihood.  The congregation may provide help for expenses incurred in their ministry, but they will not need a salary.

The preparation needed for the ministry is not training in Bible School or Seminary, but a genuine spiritual life, with love for God, the brotherhood and all mankind.  Such a minister is well equipped to minister to the needs of people and point them to the same Saviour who has delivered him in all his times of need.

The preaching of the Word should not be a lecture by someone who is considered to have superior knowledge, but an exposition of Bible truths that relate to the very real present day needs of every man and woman, including the preacher himself.

This is the pattern of the New Testament and of Anabaptists of former generations.  Congregations organized in such a manner can prosper and grow and multiply.

There was once much sound Bible-based preaching in most denominations.  I fear that over time the reliance on trained and salaried ministers introduced unsound teachings, as well as creating a financial burden that small-town congregations could not manage.

Are there still people in the small towns and rural areas with a longing for Christian fellowship and sound Bible-based preaching?  Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost and to gather together His scattered sheep.  Such sheep are not only to be found in the glamour of foreign mission fields or big city missions, some might be found in the very prosaic setting of a small town.

Pressing utmost need

hummingbird-140461_640The days here have been cool for the last few days. Today was the coolest at 10° Celsius. Sunshine and warmer weather is supposed to return tomorrow. Throughout the day today there was always a hummingbird at our hummingbird feeder and a goldfinch at our finch feeder. I know there was more than one of each, but we only saw one at a time.

These birds are so tiny that they need to take in prodigious amounts of food to maintain their body temperature. That reminded me of a verse from a hymn that we sang in church this morning:

Come ye thirsty, to the living waters,
Hungry, come and on His bounty feed;
Not thy fitness is the plea to bring Him,
But thy pressing utmost need. *

The birds obviously felt their pressing utmost need, and were taking full advantage of the food offered. How am I doing at maintaining my spiritual temperature? Something I read in the Bible three days ago really warmed my heart — is that keeping me warm today? Not likely, especially if what I read didn’t move me to take action of some kind.

It is not enough for the birds to just eat, either. The physical activity fuelled by the food they eat helps to warm their body. In the same way, a Christian needs to feel a “pressing utmost need” of spiritual food, but if that food does not lead to spiritual activity of some kind, Christian life will eventually grow cold.

* Him That Cometh Unto Me, words by Eliza E Hewitt, 1851-1920

%d bloggers like this: