I was invited to preach revival at Rose Hill United Methodist Church in Nicholas County, Kentucky. A new friend, Jimmy Humphries is the pastor there. I have to say, I was really blessed by the time and the people!
Rose Hill is a small country church with a part-time pastor. Which is to say they are small and dwindling. Country churches have generally had trouble navigating the modern American cultural/religious landscape. Their problems mirror the problems of country people generally.
Our society in some ways pays homage to the countryside as the place where our roots are, where we were forged as a nation. We can romanticize it sometimes. We think we'll all go back to the farm and all will be well.
But we also denigrate the country-- backwards yokels; a boring place; not sophisticated-- and I'm being kind with what is thought and said.
I heard from one old man in the church something I had never thought about: the church, he said, had always been poor. So I was struck by how much, indeed, they have done over the 100 or so years they have been there.
Our country churches built our denomination. They constitute the vast majority of our roughly 40,000 churches. They represent a time when Methodists CONSTANTLY planted new churches. We literally went everywhere there was a community of people. We've quit doing that and these little pioneer churches are struggling to find their way in a depopulated countryside and an American scene that has let go of religion. I don't think we are as much anti-Christian as we are apathetic about it. Who knows, our churches might grow radically if we were being beaten and imprisoned for our faith.
Of course, this is just a snapshot of the issues facing small churches. Wendell Berry can explain it much better than I can.
And, you know me, I am not pessimistic about the work of the Lord. So my message to the folks over the past 5 nights was to remind them of all that God has done for them and how because of such great love and power we cannot be silent about it. We have to speak about it, tell our neighbors what God has done in our hearts and bodies.
So I talked to them about being willing to follow this great Lord to the places He went to preach the Good News, to places where we have never been: the house down the road; among the unsavory characters of our community; to the good folk who simply do not know Christ...
It's a veyr simple thing. It's so easy that no one believes it's true. There is only one thing you must do to help a small church grow: invite your neighbors. All the time. Even two years later when they still have not come. It would be a simple thing for each small Kentucky church to grow by 5 people per year. That would add 3000 or more people to the church.
All you have to do is invite them.
The boys had Fall break Thursday and Friday. We had some hiking plans Thursday, but rain kept us in, so we worked on the robot. We had a good time learning how to use its color sensor to see colors and then respond. The cool thing is that John adn Joe programmed it, using the graphical programming language and entering the settings. It is really fun to see them do this. Today we are going to finish the first big project and make a robot that shoots balls. NIce.
Thursday night, we left revival and drove to Dayton, OH. Not very far, really. Friday morning we spent at the Air Force Museum. I lived in Fairborn, Ohio, outside Dayton, in 4th grade while my dad was stationed at Wright-Patterson. I loved the Air Force Museum then and had not been back in 30 years. It is still awesome!
In Louisville I met a guy who had flown P-47s in WWII. It was neat to see the plane. I guess as an Air Force brat you like to see how planes developed from the Wright Brothers' first machine to the F22, and all the stuff in between. Remember that the Wright Brothers were bicycle mechanics and inventors!
My brother and I used to sit outside and name the planes by how their engines sounded. I love the smell of JP-4 in the morning.
Got to see the B-29 that dropped the bomb on Nagasaki. Sobering to see the thing.
I came back with a stash of my favorite toys as a kid: balsa wood planes with rubber-band powered propellers. We used to put fire crackers on them and let them fly and we'd "shoot down" the commies.
I was looking on my shelf and realized I have two volumes of all of Shakespeare's plays and poems. It's weird how what was once fairly popular culture--go to the play, people reading the plays together of an evening-- is now largely an academic pursuit. Same with Dickens or Eliot or Hardy; in their day people eagerly awaited the serialization of their novels. Now, you have to take a 300 level or above British Lit class to read them!
And I know that we have tv now. And cars so we can go different places. Entertainment has changed. But... the weekly installments of The Office or whatever... we have really descended!
If we are looking for peace and quiet, we'll have to pretty much shred just about everything we're doing.