If millions of Americans still lived in rural areas, surely God cared about them too.
We’ve all heard it: “Go big or go home.” It’s the phrase we used in high school after we succeeded in eating 66 chicken wings—one hugely important wing more than our best friend. It’s the phrase we used in college to commemorate basically any achievement from a victory in intramural sports to a surprisingly good grade in ECON 101.
It’s the phrase we tell ourselves, and maybe a close group of friends, right before we ask the girl of our dreams out on a date. In 2015, the band American Authors capitalized on the cultural ubiquity of the phrase in a catchy song titled…wait for it… “Go Big or Go Home.”
For many young people in rural areas, this phrase also sums up what feels like a virtually indisputable certainty in life. Today, if you happen to have been born and raised away from the fast-growing urban and suburban centers of our country, there is a pervasive sense that to make it big you have to go. If you’re content with smallness (small dreams, a small checking account, small opportunities, etc.), however, you can choose to stay or choose to return home after spending a few years away at college.
I know the power of this line of thinking because I grew up in an area of the rural rust belt where many who can get out do get out, where one grows up hearing adults talk about how few jobs and opportunities exist locally. For people growing up in places like this, there is a sense that a successful future requires a move to the city or the Sunbelt. One either goes big or goes home.
For too long, evangelical church planting agencies, conferences, and well-known church planters have contributed to this mindset by basically overlooking the need for rural church …