The 9Marks website has a great article on this whole “the city is where it’s at” “theology” that’s sweeping through city churches (and church planters) at the moment with nary a thought for those poor country cousins.
While I love and appreciate cities for all their goodness, and have lived in cities (excluding Townsville – which is regional) for just under half my life, I also think healthy, wholesome country towns are the lifeblood of the church and are often neglected.
A big part of my professional life involves helping the push for a regional area in Queensland to get appropriate per capita (and per revenue raised) government investment into infrastructure. It’s an eternal frustration. There are few votes in pleasing the country areas – so we’re the poor second or third cousins when it comes to government priorities.
There’s a real danger that the church ends up looking the same. It takes courage for a city raised ministry candidate to move to the boondocks. There’s no (real) program for sending graduates into rural service like there is for other vital professions (school teaching etc). City churches are too keen to snap up graduates for their vibrant and exciting “city” ministry.
And of course, as some good friends would itch to point out, these city churches could telecast their services into regional areas as a pragmatic solution.
There’s a lot to be said for feet on the ground ministry that’s engaged in community life – particularly when community life tends to be stronger the smaller the community (this is a generalisation based purely on my experience living centres with populations of 5 million, 3 million, 170,000 and 6,000). The opportunities for ministry are greater with greater natural community – but the opportunities for exciting ministry programs and huge growth decrease with the size of community.
So good on the 9Marks guys for pointing out this flawed hermeneutic (and particularly flawed Biblical proof texting) of city based ministry. It’s one of the few problems I have with the Mars Hill fan club. And in fact any city centric thinking.