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Village 3 246Lessons for pioneer pastors

From a Twitter thread by Tim Wilson

Tim Wilson is the pastor of Wheelock Heath Baptist Church, a village in Cheshire.

Tim recently tweeted about lessons from the life of Benjamin Francis, who was a rural pastor. Benjamin was born in Wales in 1733. His parents died when he was six and he was brought up at Swansea and was baptized there in 1749. In 1753, he went to Bristol Baptist Academy, and, after assisting ministry in 2 areas, moved to Horsley, Gloucestershire in 1757 as the pastor, where he died 14 December 1799, aged 66.

Though he lived for many years in England, Benjamin Francis clung to the Welsh language. He frequently attended the Welsh Association and published two collections of hymns in Welsh.

Tim points out that Benjamin had much against him; English wasn't his native tongue, he was a bivocational farmer-pastor who looked  after a  small congregation in a small village. Yet in his ministry, he baptised 450 people. 

Here are 8 lessons from his life for rural pastors:

1. Trust God in Hard Pastorates
Francis was 24 when he arrived in Horsley. It was a poor congregation with low literacy rates. Only 66 members but God grew the church members to 252, with 450 converts. Pastors, trust God in hard pastorates.

2. Prioritise Evangelism
Francis is reported as weeping for his hearers. He reports, "...delighted in telling poor sinners the unsearchable riches of his compassionate Redeemer.". Let us not forget the need to preach passionately for the salvation of souls.

3. Persist in Prayer
If you asked Francis where the success came from he'd say prayer. Two meetings were held - 6am and before the afternoon service. 50-60 attended the morning, and the afternoon would be overflowing. God works through prayer.

4. God can bless the Bi-vocational
Francis was obliged to do secular for an income. He reared pigs, grew fruit and veg, manned a school and even dabbled in the wool trade. Whether or not bi-vocational is ideal, God can use it to reach his lost sheep.

5. Perseverance amidst trials
Francis didn't have it easy in family life. His first wife and 3 children died within 3 months. In his second marriage 7 out of 10 children died. This clearly deeply affected Francis. But in the midst of trials he kept proclaiming his Saviour.

6. The value of good Training
Baptists could not attend Universities. But the Bristol Baptist Academy produced many good pastors. It sent many pastors out to poor or rural areas. Good training is vital to good pastors.

7. Pursue deep Friendship
From 1758-1770, Francis wrote to Joshua Thomas, as "your most affectionate David" The letters included questions from one to another which Thomas later published in a volume. In isolated pastorates, friendship is vital.

8. Seek Humility
In one letter to Thomas, Francis wrote, "How languid my faith, my hope, my love! How cold and formal am I in secret devotions!" But at his death, tributes referenced his "fervent prayers". Clearly he was humble enough to always want more in his faith.

If you are in a rural area, why not connect with The Rural Project network?

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From a Twitter thread by Tim Wilson, 14/03/2023

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