Ah, small town USA! It poses as the last vestige of the heart of what used to be America. Yet, regardless of its’ importance to the fabric of our nation, it is easily overlooked or completely ignored. Broadview, Montana is one such berg. It serves as a “bedroom” community to the greater Billings area and with less than 200 people, and fewer than 60 homes, one bar, one gas station 3 churches and a part time post office … Just say, it will never qualify as a powerhouse of influence or importance.
Oh sure, small towns have their issues. There are the usual mix of kind, generous folks along with the grumpy ones who can’t seem to get along with anyone. Yet, in spite of the lack of standing, in a world where “bigger is better,” these folks live their lives, and do the best they can.
Don’t get the wrong idea. Small towns are not anywhere close to the Utopian arena. There are family feuds, which have been promoted and festering for generations… disputed fence lines, abused water rights… and cattle that ventured into the wrong pasture are just some of the issues that have divided people for decades.
Broadview, Montana, is not the exception. In fact, from the time the town was established, the rail line went right through the center of town. It was a well-known fact that one side of the tracks was for Catholics and the other for Protestants. If you were one or the other, you had better not dare buy property in the others’ territory. To say a climate of mistrust was prevalent would be a classic understatement.
One hundred seven years ago, an Evangelical Church was established in Broadview. Over the years, godly men have faithfully served this tiny community. Yet many of the suspicions and prejudices persist to this day.
With these realities snugly in place, a question taunts the evangelistically minded. How does a well-established, small church have any impact on transforming attitudes and bringing a divided people together? Apart from an event like Pentecost where God’s spirit moves in power, the earth shakes and flames of fire appear on the heads of God’s own, small steps which communicate love and concern, must be applied faithfully over time. In addition, God’s people must live in authentic intimate relationship with Jesus, and pray for their community.
Transformation is happening in Broadview because folks are reaching out and showing they care. A vibrant Awana program is reaching about 50 of the Broadview’s kids from pre-school to eighth grade. The games, snacks and Bible teaching attracts children from Catholic homes, Mormon homes and generally un-churched homes and the noise and chaos in the sanctuary of a 100 year old country church is enough shake its’ very foundations. But boys and girls across this little berg are coming to know Jesus and their homes are being transformed.
For the adults, “we care” is being communicated through community wide events. A couple of times a year, this church suspends services in its’ sanctuary and reserves the community center. A guest musician is brought in, good food is provided and more importantly, the gospel is communicated. Sure it is a small thing. Sometimes, small things can have unanticipated results when God’s power is unleashed. Some of these unexpected results would be some good Catholic Christians are coming regularly to an adult Sunday School Class, taking seriously subjects like, Transforming prayer and Heaven. From that Sunday School Class, they are going to their own church to worship but are taking with them information to discuss from the class.
Recently, the All-School reunion committee contacted the church and asked if we would participate in the planning for this event. They insisted that one of the best ways to conclude their revelry was to gather as a community for a worship service. The event was planned and over 100 people crowded into a community center to sing, to read scripture, to pray and to hear the message that God’s great grace is indeed enough for these dark and derisive times.
The times, they are a changing… or so the saying goes… when it comes to Broadview, my prayer is make it so Lord, make it so. May Your power continue to transform all of us so that the unbelieving world will look at us and marvel at Your power and grace.