Today I had an experience that reminded me why I am glad to pastor in a smaller town. During a break in my sermon prep, I decided I would walk over to Tim Hortons for a cup of coffee. The 400 metre walk (round trip) in the cold was really what I was after – the jolt of caffeine was just an excuse. Inside the coffee shop, I ran into my teenage son chatting in the corner with some friends. I reminded him to be home in time for dinner, and I didn’t happen to mention that there were people from our church sitting not two seats away and no doubt carefully monitoring his behaviour. It was probably better for him not to know, but I was glad to know they were there.

As I made my way back outside into the cold fall air, I had not gone 200 metres back through the adjoining parking lot before I ran into another family from our church. They stopped, hugged me and promised to be at church the following Sunday. I didn’t bother to tell them that I hadn’t noticed their absence the previous Sunday – I don’t have that kind of facial recognition software – but I was glad to hear that their absence wasn’t habitual and that they were sad to have missed the service. As the children made their way towards the coffee shop, the mother pulled me aside and told me that she had recently been diagnosed with cancer. Thankfully they had caught it in time and there was every reason to hope for a full and complete recovery. Nevertheless they were frightened and wanted me to know; we immediately huddled together in prayer. We asked the Lord to be gracious – we thanked him that the cancer had been found so early and asked that he would guide the doctors in their inquiry and treatment of the problem. We asked that the Lord would heal – whether through ordinary or extraordinary means, we did not specify. We thanked God for his love and goodness and together we said, Amen.

The mother wiped away tears and we said goodbye. She hurried off after the children and I made my way towards the church, with my cup of now lukewarm coffee in my hand.

About 50 metres further on I saw a lady from our church sitting quietly in her car. I anticipated waving at her as I walked by but she didn’t look up – she stared straight ahead as though lost in thought or concerned by who knows what.

I knocked on the window, and as she rolled it down I told her she was under arrest for loitering.

She wasn’t.

We laughed.

And then she began to cry.

She told me that her brother was dying and he was not a believer. She had tried witnessing to him but he didn’t appear interested. I took her hand and we prayed together. We prayed for this sickness to soften his heart and open his eyes so as to see the mercy and grace of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We asked for God to open her mouth and to anoint her words when she next had a chance to share the Gospel. We said amen together, and she went on her way.

I went back to my office with a very cold cup of coffee in my hand and a fresh sense of gratitude in my heart.

There is something to be said for ministry in the big city. I did it for years, and I enjoyed the opportunity. But there is also something to be said for ministry in the smaller town. There may not be as many fish in my pond, but by the grace of God, I know them well. I don’t need to schedule my pastoral care – I just need to go for a walk.

I don’t know what the future holds – none of us do – but today I am thankful for the ministry that I’ve been given.

Even still, come Lord Jesus – Amen!

Pastor Paul Carter

N.B. To listen to Pastor Paul’s Into The Word devotional podcast on the TGC Canada website see here; to listen on SoundCloud see here. You can also find it on iTunes.

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9 thoughts on “Why I Am Glad to Pastor in a Smaller Town”

  1. You have much to be thankful for. For God to give you opportunities to minister on such a personal level without having to seek it out or invent it is evidence of His faithfulness and yours. Thanks for sharing this accounting His marvelous grace.

  2. Reg Schofield says:

    The only way a Shepherd knows his flock is to walk amongst them . That was the strength of a smaller church and I still hold that , with all due respect , many large Churches the men who preach are less Pastors and shepherds of the flock and more pulpiteers . May God continue to bless you and by his grace , may your sheep be profoundly cared for and impacted . I love hearing stories like these , it gives me hope that true shepherds do exist .

  3. Caleb Hall says:

    Terrific post. Thanks for sharing this experience.

  4. Linda hunter says:

    Pastor Paul that is so precious.
    God Bless!

  5. John Betsworth says:

    Coming from the corporate world in T.O. I am glad to be part of a small town too, especially for the opportunities to interface with our tribe and others. What an opportunity to show we care and to be cared for. Thank you to our pastoral staff and elders for building a caring church.

  6. Marianne Westrope says:

    I continuously thank the Lord for the leadership He has place at our church at this time. May He continue to bless you, your marriage, your family and your ministry. Thank you for all you do for us.

  7. Caro-Claire says:

    We are thankful to be living here too and to be a part of church family that has such caring leaders and fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord that reach out to one another. God bless you Pastor Paul In Jesus name we pray.

  8. Jeff McLain says:

    I always enjoyed large cities and metropolitan areas. However, I am Pastoring in a small suburban town of 3,000 residence and almost 6,000 individuals. My experience is almost identical, and I love it

  9. CJones says:

    Thank you Lord that we are fish in a small pond, thAt our Pastor knows us well, and that there is lots of work for this school of fish to do here through the power of your Holy Spirit ❤️

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Paul Carter

Paul Carter attended Moody Bible Institute and is a graduate of York University (B.A.) and McMaster Divinity College (MDiv). He has been in pastoral ministry since 1994, serving in both Fellowship and Canadian Baptist churches in Oakville, Mississauga and Orillia, Ontario Canada. He presently serves as the Lead Pastor of First Baptist Church, Orillia, a large multi-staff church with a passion for biblical preaching and local mission.

Along with his friend Marc Bertrand he is the co-founder of the Covenant Life Renewal Association (CLRA) seeking Biblical and Spiritual revival within Canadian Baptist Churches. He also serves on the TGC Canada board.

Paul has written two books and is a frequent blogger on issues of Christian faith and living. You can find his devotional podcast at

Paul is the happy husband of Shauna Lee and the proud papa of 5 beautiful children, Madison, Max, Mikayla, Peyton and Noa.

You can find him at:

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