Our Mission Field
Luke records a parable of Jesus in which he tells of a “certain man” who prepared a great banquet and invited his guests only to have his invitation spurned by each of them. In response, he tells his servant, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.” It is down these country lanes that R.A.M. is traveling, believing it is here we will find the souls that will ultimately “fill” God’s house. But who would have guessed what we were going to find when we got there?
Over 50,000,000 Americans live in rural America. That’s roughly 1 out of 7! Not only is there a significant population in these communities, but the needs are just as significant or greater than their urban/suburban counterpart. Drug and alcohol abuse, breakdown of the family, physical abuse and child neglect, poverty and unemployment describe several of the challenges facing these communities. Tragically, a dramatic demise in the presence and influence of the church is accelerating the destructive impact of these problems. Many churches are quietly dying off without so much as a fight (unless it is among themselves!) R.A.M. exists to reverse this downward spiral and promote the evangelization and revitalization of the rural communities of America by sharing the truth and grace of Christ through his word and compassionate action.
Our Guiding Principles
We firmly believe that all Scripture is the “God-breathed” mind of God and when faithfully applied thoroughly equips the man of God for “every good work” (II Tim. 3:16-17). Based on this conviction, the following are two foundational principles that guide R.A.M. as we diligently seek to obey His word and fulfill our mission:
“Making, maturing, and going” – Jesus commanded His followers to make disciples of all nations (Matt.28:19-20). Disciple making does not end at baptism, but rather intensifies as those disciples of Jesus are matured in their faith through the ongoing teaching and training associated with mutually edifying relationships in the body of Christ. As disciples mature by first taking responsibility for their own relationship with God they then begin to “go” and help others do the same, perpetuating the God-mandated cycle of Kingdom building.
“Empowered witnesses local to global” – Before the birth of the church Jesus made it clear that His disciples would require the power of the Holy Spirit to be His “witnesses” and fulfill the mission of evangelizing the world, beginning locally and extending globally (Acts 1:8). R.A.M. still believes it is by God’s power that we are able to effectively and with integrity “witness” to our world today. Likewise, we seek to model local to global missions by establishing or strengthening the church in the county seat, or in some cases the community of greatest influence within a county, and from this base provide spiritual support, leadership and encouragement to reach the rest of a given county and region.
Steps Toward Growth and Revival
R.A.M. prayerfully and intentionally seeks the leading of the Holy Spirit. In keeping with His nature as our guide and counselor who “comes alongside” us, we demonstrate the same approach in our ministry to rural churches and communities. Serving as a resource to facilitate growth, R.A.M. “comes alongside” churches that desire growth and are willing to take action. Functioning as an objective third party, we help churches and their leaders make an honest assessment of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as the needs of the community where the church lives.
A New Perspective
As part of the process it is imperative to consider one’s perspective and focus. Are there biblical teachings that are central to spiritual maturity and fruitful ministry that have been missed or deserve renewed focus? What are they and when and how will they be presented and implemented? One of the most pivotal questions a church needs to ask itself is: Are we Christ-followers or church-goers? Is our spiritual maturity measured by “attending” or a life transforming walk with God? It begins with perspective. Jesus said it this way, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light” (Matt. 6:22). Once our perspective is right, the path towards growth becomes clearer and brighter.
The Importance of Youth & College Student Mission Teams
It’s true, “Apostasy is one generation away.” RAM recognizes the crucial importance of reaching the youth in Rural America if the church is to thrive into the next generation. In the southwest region of Oklahoma where we have initially focused our attention, there are 12 counties, with a combined population of 86,118 children under the age of 18 (based on US Census figures from 2010). That is 31% of the population of these counties and that percentage is reflective of nearly every county.
RAM is targeting this crucial segment of the rural population by recruiting and training college students to work with rural churches in their outreach efforts, especially to children, teens and young adults, through short-term summer missions. RAM’s long-term vision is to recruit from among these same students “teams” of young professionals and young evangelists who, from their RAM experience, now have a vision for rural missions and a desire to return to these same rural communities to continue building the Kingdom in Rural America.
Women’s Prison Ministry
The needs of women in the rural communities are significant, especially as reflected by the number of women per capita in Oklahoma Corrections. For many years Oklahoma has led the Union in the number of women it imprisons, the majority for drug related charges. Courts would welcome an alternative sentencing option for female drug offenders. Unfortunately, there is a severe shortage of such programs. RAM sees this as a unique opportunity to develop an alternative treatment program that would minister directly to this population, especially in the county jails of rural communities. By providing an alternative, long-term treatment program to these women, coupled with rural churches equipped to provide spiritual support over the course of their treatment and follow-up afterwards, RAM envisions a powerful opportunity to address this need.
Sister Congregations: Promoting Unity, Cooperation & Domestic Missions
R.A.M. seeks to be a voice and catalyst for unity and cooperation in the evangelization and revitalization of Rural America by organizing and/or promoting worship, fellowship and outreach opportunities in rural communities. A unique aspect of this focus is R.A.M.’s serving as a liaison in bringing together urban/suburban churches and rural churches in “Sister” relationships to reach Rural America with the love of Jesus.
“Sister” congregations are urban/suburban churches and rural churches that have formed a voluntary but intentional fellowship between them to more effectively reach the rural congregation’s community with the love of Jesus. When urban/suburban and rural churches work together, the burgeoning spiritual needs of Rural America can be more effectively met and:
- The rural congregation receives spiritual encouragement and support (that is often absent outside of their immediate congregation.
- The urban/suburban church has multiple opportunities to participate in domestic missions only minutes from their doorstep. The possibilities are as many as faith can envision!
Planting Churches that Make and Mature Disciples of Jesus Christ
Central to our mission to “evangelize and revitalize the rural communities of America” is our long-term vision to recruit, equip and send teams of disciples who will plant churches that make and mature disciples in the rural communities and counties they become a part of. Because of the unique characteristics of the rural mission field and RAM’s strategy to reach it, the impact for Kingdom building has proven to be more immediate than in urban and foreign settings. Much can be accomplished in less time and with less financial expense! We are presently exploring potential locations for our first church planting.
The Holy Spirit continues to unfold His plan for us and we are awed and grateful for His leading. Join us in continually praying for His direction and our humility and faith to boldly follow His lead!