I never expected that ministry would lead me to living in the middle of nowhere. I grew up within 20 minutes of a major city (Pittsburgh) and in college and seminary we lived in sizable cities. So for 31 years of my life I lived in cities and it was the norm. Several of my first ministry trips were in large cities (New York and New Orleans) and I loved them. So I assumed that I was wired to be in ministry in a city setting, even if it were a smaller city of say 100,000. I was wrong (that is often what happens when we presume on God’s will!)
God led me to the middle of nowhere. I say that because of two things that happened this week that reminded me I’m sort of in the middle of nowhere. I was having dinner with a denominational leader and our pastoral intern. The denominational leader was getting an important phone call on his cell and it kept dropping. In his frustration he told the person on the other end, “I can’t hear you, I’m in the middle of nowhere!” I understood his frustration because I dealt with this on several occasions. But we were having dinner discussing how we can bring the message of the gospel to these towns located in the middle of nowhere.
The second thing that happened is that I heard my own preaching. I don’t particularly like to listen to myself preach and I agree with what Martyn Lloyd Jones said that I would not cross the street to listen to myself preach. But I was going through my filing cabinet and found a DVD of a sermon I did in seminary. I wanted to listen to see if I could notice some improvement in my sermon delivery since then. I heard myself say in the sermon these words (maybe prophetically to myself): “Are you willing to go and take that church in middle of nowhere and be that unnamed disciple who never gets any glory but God gets it all?”
So here God has me to the middle of nowhere. We are trying to buy a house in the middle of nowhere. My kids are going to school and making friends in the middle of nowhere. We are trying to put down roots in the middle of nowhere. Last night I got to pray with a handful of people who live in the middle of nowhere and love Jesus. I get to serve Jesus and His church in the middle of nowhere.
God loves the middle of nowhere. He created the middle of nowhere. Jesus gave His life for churches gathered in the middle of nowhere. God calls some of His servants to serve Him joyfully in the middle of nowhere. So for those of you who serve in the middle of nowhere be encouraged: God loves the place and the people in the middle of nowhere.
*(For those of you who don’t know where I serve it is an extremely nice small town of 6,000. Orange City Iowa is a Dutch enclave with a rich heritage of the Reformed faith. There is a college here which gives it a younger feel most of the year. It would probably make it on the top ten list of the cleanest towns in the world. I say all this because I am aware that there are those who serve Christ much more in the middle of nowhere than I do.)