For many Christans, the concept of mission suggests something that happens overseas. When Jesus gave the 'Great Commission' he spoke first of witnessing in Jerusalem, then in Judea, then neighbourig Samaria, and then the uttermost parts of the world. That was precisely what the frist disciples did and how the gospel spread and Christianity spread all over the world. While churches now engage in mission activity in many ways and in many places, one area seriously neglected and under-resourced are the rural areas of the UK.
There are around 10 million pople living in the rural areas of the UK. In the mid 20th Century, most villages had both an Anglican church and at least one non-conformist or free church. Since then there has been marked decline in both the total number of village churches and the size of the congregations. Church services are less frequent, the average age is high and it is rare to find a village church with a thriving chilrdren's ministry.
There is no one rural culture. Our history has given rise to various kinds of villages. They also vary in size and proximity to the nearest town. Village shops have largely vanished, bus services are less frequent, and now even village pubs are joining the many closed village churches. Much of the change has been driven by suburbanisation as people from towns and cities have moved into the countryside.
Ppeople in the rural areas have had to fight to keep such amenities as have survived or to get reasonable internet connections.
Most village churches do not have a proactive mission strategy. They are usually fairly active in providing social capital (the glue that keeps village communities together) and in providing social care. But while some socialgood work can be considered part of mission, we are patently failing when it comes to articulating the gospel message, calling people to faith in Christ and making disciples.
Among the reasons for this is the sense of being under-resourced and the intimate nature of rural societies. Very few organisations exist that offer specialist evangelistic ministry appropriate to rural cultures. Those that do exist, combined, could not reach more than 2% of the rural population in any one year. That is lfar ess than the rate at which the rural population changes.
Realising that the presence of rural churches should be central to a strategy to re-evangelise the rural areas, Rural Mission Solutions seeks to inspire, encourage and equip village churches for mission. The two main ways in which we do that is through local rural mission consultations and our programme of webinars and videos. Despite the limited internet access in some area, the majority of people in rural UK have internet access, which s why we are putting our resources out there.