The Trampled Mind of a Rural Pastor

Ignorance, in many ways, is bliss when you don’t know everyone. I remember growing up in the city and seeing so many people but only connecting to a few. You didn’t know who lived down the block, and you certainly didn’t know who their parents and grandparents were. You were clueless about the condition of their marriage, their career, their mental health, and heartbreaks. 

Yet, in rural ministry, you hear all of that. You know the couple down the street because one of their moms goes to your church. Every trip to the grocery store, you run into someone you know and hear about the family struggles. You get your oil changed and hear the guys talking about their wives while their wives sit lonely in your seats every Sunday. It seems everyone is connected in some way, and you listen and know it all. Each conversation begins with, “Pastor, you can’t say anything, but I need you to pray.” It is heavy, exhausting, and gut-wrenching.

I love to learn the stories of my people, but when their story begins to change mine, it becomes unhealthy. I see it as a privilege to pray for my people, but I cannot internalize every heartache I hear. There are healthy amounts of compassion that good pastors must possess. However, if your compassion turns your mind and heart into a trampled doormat, you are no good to anyone. If you spend all of your time carrying the burdens of others and never your own, you will quickly be unable to carry anything. My mind becomes overrun. When our minds become overwhelmed with the brokenness of others, they tend to drift to the ungodly. We are called to take every thought captive, but for rural pastors who connect with so many in small towns, it does not mean those thoughts should take us captive. 

If you spend all of your time carrying the burdens of others and never your own, you will quickly be unable to carry anything.

Repeatedly Paul warns the early churches about the condition of their minds. 

  • “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
  • “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2
  • “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” Romans 12:1

Our minds are the avenue where the gospel finds footing in our context, where the gospel becomes relatable to our people and is the think tank of grace in our rural and small towns. If we do not prioritize thinking about God-sized solutions, our people will drown in their broken thoughts because we have led them to no other option. Therefore, we must guard our minds so compassion remains healthy and Jesus is evident in our perseverance.

Our minds are the avenue where the gospel finds footing in our context, where the gospel becomes relatable to our people and is the think tank of grace in our rural and small towns.

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