The gospel’s reach as described in Acts 1:8 spans Jerusalem, all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Rev. Sam Proudfoot, the mission now reaches Middle Earth as well, specifically: the Hobbits of the Shire.
Pastor Proudfoot leans back in his chair with a wistful look, as he describes the people of his parish. “They are a simple, yet elegant people, not much concerned with the goings on of the world beyond their borders. They are a people of the earth, going about their business of working hard and playing hard—which at first was a challenge. How does one start a church among people who only want to eat, laugh, and watch fireworks displays? I had to let go of my preconceptions of the church, as it exists in faraway places like Minas Tirith, the towns of Rohan, or even Bree for that matter. I realized early on that our gatherings would not look like a community college setting or a motivational seminar.”
When Shireville Community first met “Pastor Sam-wise” (as the Hobbits call him), he told the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, which was a big hit among a people very much committed to eating (in fact, they have thoroughly embraced the Nazarene tradition of potluck suppers). When Pastor Sam finished the story, he started into another story, but the Hobbits motioned for him to sit down and wait his next turn. “You see, it’s their tradition to trade stories, as the night gets dark and the fire dies down to glowing embers. They tell stories of dragons and narrow escapes from certain death, along with a moral lesson or warning—usually to prefer the safe and familiar surroundings of the Shire and leave adventures to others.”
Pastor Sam will soon be publishing a brief missiology entitled, Ministry in Story: A Tale of the Church Among the Shirefolk of Hobbiton. While not specifically Christian (at least as yet), the Hobbits of the Shire are not irreligious; their values and convictions are wrapped in their moral stories. They take to the stories of the Christian faith without missing a beat, as though they have known the story of salvation all along. “Ask any of the Hobbits in our gathering, and they will probably not use the word ‘church’—but that’s exactly what we have. I see a spiritual deepening beyond simple moralisms and fear of the unknown, toward an ethic of self-sacrifice and service. These are exciting times for the Shire, at least in the understated and quaint way of the Hobbits.”
Despite such progress, Pastor Sam still encounters the occasional scoffer, who chuckles at the notion of discipling Hobbits.” He responds by citing a traditional Middle Earth proverb, “Never laugh at live dragons."
Always put church first,
Dr. Wiley F. Church
Editor’s Note: For the benefit of those lacking strong comedic sensibilities, this is a humor piece, and is not meant to be taken as literal truth, though it may reflect "missional" principles in a "churchy" sort of way.