Thursday, August 31, 2017

Why I Love the Rural Church

I learned about Jesus in that church. I learned to fear and adore God, follow Jesus as Lord, repent of my sin, and have assurance in the perseverance of my faith. I learned that my salvation wasn’t based on my ability to woo God or the modification of my behavior. Rather, it rested in the relentless love of God for my soul.

 

Growing up in the mountains of northeast Alabama, I was never really aware that I was from a small town. Sure, I knew Birmingham and Huntsville had more people than my hometown of Boaz, but I never thought I was any different because I was from a rural community. I also wasn’t aware that I attended a small church.

Oak Hill Baptist Church was a little country church outside the metropolis of Horton, AL – insert sarcastic laughs here. The population in Horton is less than the average number of shoppers in a Walmart Supercenter at midnight. The auditorium sat maybe seventy-five with every inch of every pew taken. There was no sound system or lighting, no overheads or projectors for song lyrics. We had three different hymnals. Our song leader had to make sure to announce the hymn number and what color hymnal! There were no youth or children’s programs. Crying babies and disruptive kids were the norm. I didn’t even realize noisy babies were an issue until we moved to Missouri and all the children in our new church were sent to their designated areas so the adults could sit in uninterrupted silence to listen to the message. Our rural church had a piano, a song leader, and an old-school pastor. Again, it never occurred to me that my church was small, outdated, or in a cultural class perceived as lower than any other church.

I learned about Jesus in that church. I learned to fear and adore God, follow Jesus as Lord, repent of my sin, and have assurance in the perseverance of my faith. I learned that my salvation wasn’t based on my ability to woo God or the modification of my behavior. Rather, it rested in the relentless love of God for my soul. Mrs. Gardner, my Sunday School teacher, would talk about Jesus with tears welling in her eyes. This was a woman who had been rescued by the Lord and was obviously thankful for it. She gave her life to teaching young people about, in her words, “her Jesus.” Her Jesus became my Jesus. God saved my sister there, too. God used this country church in the hills of Sand Mountain and its untrained, KJV-only pastor who, as the pinnacle of his messages, would herald the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Brother James will forever be a spiritual hero of mine.

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