Tag Archives: Rural Church

Lessons From the Farmer

By Kevin Wiebe

Backwater hicks. Rednecks. Trash. Uneducated hillbillies. I have heard all these labels and more applied to people in rural areas. People dismissed simply because of their postal code.

Having spent most of my life in small towns and rural areas, I have come to love living close to nature, to farms, open fields and big skies. When I think of the many farmers I have known, there is a deeply profound wisdom that comes from their lives.

Most of the farmers I have known are simple and beautiful people. They work hard, they love their families, and they enjoy their lives and work. Due to the nature of farming, many live in rural areas near their fields and animals.

For many, their day-to-day work isn’t lived in a metropolis surrounded by thousands of people and their varying opinions. As such, given that they don’t have to watch urban homelessness every day or deal with sub-par public transportation, it can seem like they are ignorant of those matters that mean a great deal to a lot of people. So these lovely farmers get dismissed as being as unknowledgeable just because their field of knowledge is different than others. And it is true that some might remark, “I don’t know about all of that stuff” and then go back to work planting their fields or harvesting their crops.

And this really is my point. They get back to work doing what they know they should. Our polarized world has a tendency to spend a lot of time talking, debating, arguing and fighting. We try to figure everything out, to understand it all, to defend our positions and convince everyone else to be like us. We debate back and forth about the minutia of politics and ideologies and spend time endlessly quarrelling over debatable things. But what if we set aside so many of those squabbles and simply got back to the work that we know we should be doing? To loving God and loving others, to being a good neighbour, to living honestly and being kind?

Ecclesiastes 11:4–6 (NLT) says, “Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both.”

Kevin Wiebe

No matter if we are urban or rural, a farmer or a philanthropist, none of us will know everything, and if we wait to do what we know is right until all the conditions are perfect, we will never do anything. So let’s take a lesson from the farmer. You don’t have to know everything, and you don’t need to understand or be right about everything in order to follow God. Let’s get back to work.

Book Review: God’s Country, Faith, Hope, and the Future of the Rural Church

Bradley Roth, God’s Country: Faith, Hope, and the Future of the Rural Church (Herald Press, 2107). ISBN 9781513801612. $22.99. Reviewed by Kevin Wiebe, pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship (Tilbury/Stevenson, Ont.) and a member of the BCM.

The word that comes to mind is “refreshing.” Brad Roth writes in way that is thoughtful, reflective and that is almost devotional in nature. His illustrations and points linger in my mind for a long time as I continue to reflect on his thoughts.

Yet this book is also challenging in all the right ways. Roth refuses to slip into the common stereotypes of the rural/urban divide. He resists the temptation to look at the rural church in overly romantic ways, but neither does he scornfully dismiss it. Rather, he writes of both the joys and challenges, the strength and weaknesses of the rural church and how important it has been, is now, and will continue to be to the work of God in the world.

Roth doesn’t speak pejoratively of the urban church either, but as it is a book about the rural church, much of the focus stays there. Where Roth does exhibit a large dose of skepticism, however, pertains to modern church growth tactics.

He seems to be picking up on a growing frustration among many pastors (in my circles, at least) with the church growth industry. In a world where the mantra is that bigger is better and smallness equates to failure or inadequacy, many small-town pastors feel they don’t measure up and are failures in ministry because their church is not a mega-church.

Roth does acknowledge that the number of people in our churches matters, not because we are supposed to be obsessed with numbers. It’s because numbers represent people—and it is for those people that Jesus died. Roth reminds the reader, however, that this is a very different thing than the empire-building notions that are found in much of the church growth literature available today. He reminds readers that the church is called to be a church, not an industrial complex or a power-hungry organization.

Personally speaking, I resonate very deeply with God’s Country because it challenges and encourages me in the context where I find myself as the pastor of a small rural church. I would highly recommend this book, especially to anyone involved in or even interested in rural ministry.