For those of you who don’t know, I live in Maine. I have lived in Maine my entire life. As in Maine with a statewide population of 1.3 million people (according to the US Chamber of Commerce), as opposed to 1.2 million people in Dallas or 625k in Seattle. Maine, according to a recent survey, is one of the least churched states in the US.
I have a heart for missions. Ironically, my passion for missions developed during my first mission trip to Nicaragua. Even more surprising is the fact that I gained a heart for the lost in Maine while living in Nicaragua for six weeks. I find global missions easier than local missions, but they are equally important.
While I can’t share the details of the story that brought it up, I was told of missiologists focusing only on urban centers for the purpose of church planting. While the details of the story may have allowed for some righteous anger or frustration, the idea of only church planting in urban areas broke my heart.
I understand, that with limited money and resources, it makes sense to focus where there is a greater concentration of people. I really do get that. But this methodology seems to insinuate that those in rural areas are less important, or at the very least do not carry the same urgency to be reached. It feels as though it devalues people, because if everyone is priceless then it doesn’t matter if a location has a million people or a thousand people. A single person hearing the Gospel and turning to Christ is as significant as a church full of people doing the same.
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.” Psalms 139:13-15
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7
God used a church planter from North Carolina, who relocated to Maine and planted my church, to reach me. While we are all called to missions, I had family trying to reach me and I resisted. I know this wholeheartedly as God used my pastor as a part of my personal testimony. And I am just one person. My church is filled with amazing people with incredible testimonies of God’s grace. His grace is effectual and He will reach His elected regardless of our actions, but to be used in His work and see the way that He weaves our stories together in a beautiful tapestry of our lives is important. I can’t imagine what it would look like if my pastor hadn’t been obedient to Christ calling him to Maine.
If light shines brightest in darkness, why wouldn’t the darkest regions of the country be a focus for domestic missions? What if God plans to use the darkest region of the nation to be a beacon of His light as He cuts through the darkness? What if we miss the opportunity to be used by Christ, because in our limited human logic it made sense to concentrate elsewhere?