It's a good, challenging question with multiple answers, most uncomfortable.
His post came a week after I read this story about the decline of churches in rural areas. Rather, it's about the exodus of pastors from rural areas.
Why are the pastors disappearing? Mainline churches (as well as some Evangelical) prefer their ministers seminary trained. But the starting salary for debt-burdened seminary grads now runs to $35,000 a year. That can break a poor and aging congregation, says Elizabeth Rickert Dowdy, pastor of the Tar Wallet Baptist Church in Cumberland, Va., who recently helped disband her other church: "When you have a congregation that's historically been able to survive at 20 members and loses 12, they close." And for the first time in American history, the majority of seminarians don't come from rural areas. Shannon Jung, a rural-church expert in Kansas City, Mo., says of young pastors, "A town without a Starbucks scares them." Wolpert recalls a professor's warning to a promising seminarian to shun a rural call: "Don't go. You're too creative for that."
The guy who said "You're too creative for that" needs to repent.
It's a disgusting sentiment. But it does not surprise me. He might as well have said "You're too good for them."
I came across this news story and the iMonk's post in a time when I'm also wondering why nobody is planting in the Northeast.
Of course I don't literally mean "nobody." I actually know a few guys who are planting churches in New England. And a few heading out to pastor in the Southwest. Post-Christendom and pre-Christendom, respectively, perhaps.
Thank God for the Mark Driscolls and the Tim Kellers and the Mark Devers and the John Pipers, all doing gospel-centered ministry in Christian-thin areas.
But God bless the guys whose names you don't know. The ones plugging away faithfully in gospel-centered ministry in little country churches, inner city strip malls, in homes and apartments and coffee shops and taverns in places where you can't spit and hit a Christian.
This past week while I was out writing at the cafe in the Frist Center, I overheard a white, tattooed punk rocker dude talking predestination with a large black woman. This is Nashville. Today I wrote from a coffee shop in a "hip" area of Nashville and the two guys next to me were talking about Abraham and Sarah. In a brief text message exchange with Canadian Bill Kinnon I said, "Man, this place is so Christian thick. I bet this never happens up there." He confirmed it did not.
And this is why the young pastors are planting churches (and launching satellite video venues) in the Bible Belt. Because this is where the customers are. It's a lot easier to sell "become a better Christian" to a suburban soccer dad who's already reading self-help books than it is to love people who want nothing to do with you.