I have a theory about rural communities that have populations under 2,000 people. It’s not based off of any scientific research… it’s purely an observation. Here it is: the vast majority of people in rural communities are passive and not naturally gifted as leaders or interested in the characteristics generally associated with leading.
There, I said it.
And for me, this has been one of the most difficult issues to deal with… and it daily drives me crazy. Let me give two reasons why it is frustrating:
(1) Our culture is supposed to mistrust church leaders. Anyone who knows anything about post-modernism knows that church leaders are suspect. They are probably lying and if they aren’t lying, they are just wrong. This has been demonstrated time and time again through research after research. People in cities mistrust pastors. Yet in many rural communities, pastors are still considered culturally to be “men” or “women” of God. In fact, pastors may be the most educated people around… so everyone assumes they should just follow their leadership. If you come from a mindset that takes the research about post-modernism’s mistrust of church leaders hook, line, and sinker, you’ll find yourself frustrated that everyone is always looking for you to… *gasp*… lead!
(2) Deep down, all leaders know that sometimes what appears to be “following” is actually just apathy. When people naturally “follow,” I sometimes wonder if they are just so apathetic about things that they will go anywhere. Deep down I know I’m not a good enough leader to get anyone and everyone to grab their gear and head into the deepest and darkest battle with me. That’s just not realistic. And my natural reaction to apathy is to pull away and distance myself from it, rather than to continue leading.
Despite these frustrations, I have come to see these two obstacles must be overcome if you want to serve well as a leader. I’m sure that there are other reasons that frustrate rural church leaders. What would you add?