An important part of any Ministry is recognizing the culture around you, so that you can effectively deliver God’s message of redemption to them in a way that is understandable. Paul demonstrates this in Acts 17 in Athens when on Mars Hill.
One of the challenges that Rural Ministry brings with it is all the subcultures that can exist within your context. It may be a thick dedication to “sports as a way out of this town” or it might be an influx of immigrants from another area or maybe another country. I know a youth worker that was dealing with the issue of a bunch of white rural boys trying to form gangs in a farming town of 5,000 people. They were trying to set up colors, pick fights with other groups, and generally rock the area’s “quiet small town image”. They did. Unfortunately, it resulted in the death of a 15 year old girl from the town.
In Parke County, Indiana, I have two interesting subcultures to work with The Old Order Amish, and the “shunned” Amish. In an area that covers our county and parts of two others, we have approximately 130 families (and growing) of Old Order Amish (that is a large settlement!!). They have purchased a lot of land here, brought down the enrollment numbers at two of our local schools, and have a lot of “purchase power” when land is auctioned locally. They are blamed for the enrollment number problems at out schools and for many other problems locally. It’s like they are seen as “second class citizens”.
Apart from the Old Order Amish, you have a group of “shunned” Amish. There are as many as 30 more of those families, that to the average person, look, well Amish. They are a group of Amish that have left the Amish church mainly because of making a decision to follow Christ instead of the rules and orders of the Amish Church. Many have been “re-baptized”. Some even use electricity in the home. The simple dress, buggies, and self-sufficiency is still there, but they are worshipping Christ with a zeal that has been described to me as “refreshing and amazing”. There have even been reports of prayer and sick being healed. Thankfully there are a few non-Amish Christians that have been invited in to witness what is going on there. They have a desire to help these Amish Christians grow in their faith, while keeping that zeal. Praise the Lord!
However, this poses an interesting question: What if God decides to start a huge revival within the “shunned” Amish?
Given the subculture and reputation that the Amish have in the community, there will likely be a lot of churches that would miss out. Sad but true.
Knowing the subcultures of an area is something that requires a lot of study, talking with people who have grown up in the area, and getting to know people. It sounds a lot like what Paul did in Acts 17.
So maybe in addition to Acts 1:8 churches, Acts 2 churches, Acts 4:32 churches, and Acts 29 churches, we need some Acts 17:23 churches!