I grew up going to a small country church, Six Mile Baptist Church to be exact. I am not sure who said, “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy,” but in some ways, that is true.
Even though I have left the country to serve in larger churches across America, I still see myself as that small country church boy. There have been many times, as I drove past one of these churches and saw all the mud-encrusted trucks parked out front, that I wanted to pull in and worship with them. I knew I would be welcomed and, afterwards, someone would invite me to their home for food and fellowship. These country churches share some common characteristics:
• It isn’t hard to spot the chairman of the deacons; he is the one with the largest belt buckle. Everyone, including the young ladies, sports big belt buckles, but his is the biggest.
• In all my growing-up years, our country church never had a split over theology. The closest we ever came to a split was when we wanted to buy a van. Half the church wanted a Ford and the other half wanted a Chevrolet.
• On average, three out of four vehicles parked out front are four-wheel drives.
• When you join, the pastor has you stand at the front, and everyone comes by to welcome you into the fellowship. Then you are given a key to the front door. Every family has a key to the front door.
• The only question asked in Vacation Bible School is, “When Jesus fed the 5,000 with the five loaves and two fish, what kind of fish were they, bass or catfish?”
• These churches are the only places where you can hear Amazing Grace and Just as I Am played on a steel guitar.
• If there is a foreign-made car in the parking lot, somebody’s city relatives are visiting.
• They are the only churches that have bake sales to raise money for a new septic tank.
• Since everyone in the congregation is related or nearly related, there is no such thing as a secret sin.
• You can’t tell the difference between a church youth group meeting and the Future Farmers of America meeting. Students wear the same blue jacket to both.
• You can tell when the pastor is getting ready to preach. The choir files out and sits down in the pews. Otherwise the majority of people present will be sitting behind him.
• The pastor and his family never have to buy meat or vegetables. But they had better like squash; that is the vegetable that is shared the most.
• When the preacher asks “Bubba” to come and take up the offering, four men come forward.
• They are the only churches where, during a revival meeting, you can still hear the words “fire” and “damnation” mentioned in the same sentence.
• They are the only churches where you can find four generations on one pew.
I hear about country churches, city churches, African-American churches, Chinese churches and more, but I must tell you there is no such thing. The Church is just that: the Church, the living body of Jesus Christ, a fellowship of those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and called into His fellowship. Each member has been gifted by God as He sees fits, all fitted together to represent not a certain country or people group but Jesus Christ Himself.
The church is to have Jesus’ hands to do His work. We are to have Jesus’ heart to feel the needs of the world. We are to have Jesus’ feet to take us to where He wants to do His ministry. “For He himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph. 2:14).
The Church is a group of believers coming together and loving one another, no matter if you drive a Chevrolet or a Ford (Yes, our family voted for the Ford, but the chairman of the deacons had a second cousin who owned a Chevrolet dealership, and he sold it to us at a discounted cost). Christ has called His body to walk in unity. And if we allow Jesus to change our hearts, then the Ford folks and the Chevrolet folks will embrace even the one who drives the blue Honda in the parking lot.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).