Dirt Roads Network Hit The Ground Running In 2019
The first three months of 2019 have been an absolute blur. God has been opening doors and the message of Dirt Roads Network has been spreading. God has given us favor with several people and organizations. We have taken the opportunity to advocate the value of rural ministry in many settings. I am humbled by the response we have received. Here are some of the highlights of how God has used Dirt Roads Network so far in 2019.
The Gathering—Orlando, Florida, January 9-12:
We joined over 2,000 Wesleyan pastors at The Gathering. It happens every four years and is designed as a time of refreshment and connection for the whole Wesleyan Church. The theme this year was “Thrive.” I had the privilege of leading a well-attended workshop titled, “Thriving in Rural Ministry.” In addition to a couple hundred pastors, several district superintendents attended. After advocating the value of rural ministry, I spoke about the need for long-term rural pastors to take a sabbatical. I also gave some guidance on how to introduce change in a rural setting. The response was overwhelming. We enjoyed meeting and getting to know several rural pastors.
There is a renewed appreciation for rural pastors within our denomination right now. Throughout the week we met with dozens of people. I shared the vision of Dirt Roads Network and encouraged pastors who serve in smaller places. One of the highlights for me was a conversation with H.C. Wilson, one of our former general superintendents. Although he lives in Canada now, he had heard about DRN and went out of his way to find us and express his support for what we are doing. He believes we have identified one of the greatest needs within The Wesleyan Church.
Mitchell Wesleyan Church Board Retreat—Mitchell, South Dakota, January 24-26:
The Mitchell Wesleyan Church has a large congregation with people driving several miles from smaller towns to attend. They sense God may be leading them to adopt a “river” mindset and plant a number of rural churches.
When I spoke to their board members, I shared the Lamont story and explained our journey from a “lake” church to a “river” church. I shared the scriptural basis for rural ministry from John 9 and a biblical strategy for starting a new church in a small town from Luke 10. These have become two of the main messages I share when introducing rural church planting. I also shared some of the differences between the way agrarian and white-collar people think, plan and communicate. It all resonated with the board. The church is currently discussing changing its name and my guess is that the word “river” might somehow be included.
Alpena United Methodist Church—Alpena, South Dakota, January 25:
I had the honor of speaking at the Alpena UMC while in South Dakota. The Alpena UMC Pastor Zach Kingery was raised in rural Lamont. We consider him to be one of “Lamont’s” pastors. It was a joy to spend some time with him and his wonderful family. I was blessed to work this into our trip to Mitchell.
Northwest District Winter Retreat—Billings, Montana February 27-28: Click link for story
Exponential Church Planting Conference—Orlando, Florida, March 4-8: Click link for story
Crossroads Farm Road Trip—Rural Hillsdale County, Michigan, March 15-18: Click link for story
Indiana South District Ministerial Convention—Bloomington, Indiana, March 25-26:
I spoke at the Indiana South Ministerial Convention. It is an annual convention for the Indiana South District of The Wesleyan Church. I felt led to focus on the heart of the pastor. Using Paul’s relationship with both the Philippians and Corinthian churches, I illustrated how Paul loved, whether or not he received love in return. In other sessions I spoke about the need for spiritual parenting and about rural church planting.
The feedback we received was very positive. District Superintendent Dr. Mark Eckart told me that of all the ministerial conventions he had taken part in, this one was the best one yet. I am grateful for and amazed by the way God has enabled me to be an effective pastor to pastors.
Rural Home Missionary Association Small Town Pastor’s Conference—Morton, Illinois April 8-10:
I joined over 500 pastors at the Rural Home Missionary Association Small Town Pastors’ Conference. I was joined by Doug Preston from Lifeline Church in Greensburg, Indiana. We primarily attended to learn all we could about running a conference for rural pastors.
We were very impressed. This conference valued rural pastors and provided great workshops and main stage speakers. Small town and rural ministry was openly celebrated. Many rural pastors have told us how they feel overlooked and undervalued at conferences. That was not the case here. Doug and I walked away convinced of the need for a conference like this for Wesleyan and Dirt Roads Network pastors.
RHMA does many good things and have supported rural missionaries long before rural became a buzzword. However, they do not believe women can be pastors, and they have a strong theological bent. We would like to offer a reasonably priced conference like RHMA’s that welcomes both men and women pastors and a Wesleyan view of theology.
As you can see, we have kept a pretty busy schedule this year. Thank you for your continued prayers and support. God is using us to encourage rural pastors around the country and it has only just begun