Mayberry doesn’t exist anymore

May 21, 2020

“Barney Gets His Man” is a favorite episode from The Andy Griffith Show. In that episode, there’s a high-speed car chase, Andy carries a gun and an African-American citizen can be seen in the background when the criminal is apprehended.

If that’s the only episode you ever watch, you might think Mayberry is a center for urban crime with a diverse population. If you watch more than one episode, you realize that’s not a good representation of Mayberry.

On the other hand, nothing much was true about Mayberry anyway.

Though based on the towns of Mayberry and Pilot Mountain, the show was filmed on Hollywood backlots. Just about the only real establishment on the show was Snappy Lunch, where you can still get a pork chop sandwich today. You can get a haircut at Floyd’s Barbershop, but that opened later because of the show.

We don’t like to think of Mayberry as fiction. Andy Griffith makes us nostalgic for the good ol’ days. The only hardened criminals in Mayberry were passing through. Prankster Ernest T. Bass never did anyone any real harm. And on Sunday, everyone in town, including Otis the lovable drunk, gathered at the All Souls Church.

What remains unchanged is the Great Commission that Jesus imparted to the church to make disciples of all people.

I travel to “Mayberry” a lot, and not just for the pork chop sandwich. I’ve got family nearby. I’ve run in the Mayberry Half Marathon. I also travel to Mayberry as a missionary.

“Mayberry,” or Mount Airy, is also known as pocket of lostness No. 159. I once stopped on the side of Haymore Street to look at some data about pocket No. 159.

One of three families with children has no father in the home. One out of four adults over the age of 25 didn’t graduate from high school. There is far more ethnic diversity than the TV show would have led us to believe.

About one in six families live below the federal poverty line. And 11,000 of the 16,000 people who live there do not know Jesus. Suddenly I realized that I was parked right in front of Andy Griffith’s homeplace. We are definitely not in Mayberry anymore!

Mayberry, if it ever existed like we see it on the show, certainly does not exist anymore. All across North Carolina are little Mayberry-like towns that aren’t like they were a generation or two ago.

What remains unchanged, however, is the Great Commission that Jesus imparted to the church to make disciples of all people.

Whether you are in pocket No. 159 or anywhere else, there are lost people all around you, often within the shadows of steeples of North Carolina Baptist churches. Filled with the Holy Spirit, and committed to the task of impacting lostness through disciple-making, your church and every member of it can make a difference.

While some may wish for a return to Mayberry, we now have the opportunity for something even better. The current pandemic has forced all of us to do life differently. Perhaps this disruption has led us to an opportunity to reach into our communities like never before.


by Russ Reaves  
Strategic Focus Team  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

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5 Comments

  1. Sally Matheny

    Great article! I found it entertaining while bringing home a clear and important message.

    Reply
  2. Amanda

    Hello! Good article. Can you tell us how you pulled the statistics for Mount Airy and surrounding area please? Interested in the stats specifically. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Russ Reaves

      Thanks for a great question! We use a variety of demographic and mapping services which analyze streams of data ranging from the U. S. Census to the Annual Church Profile of NC Baptist Churches, with many points in between. We like to always specify that demographics are a snapshot in time and they evolve, so we need to verify this information by getting out in the community to prayerwalk, prayer-drive, meet and converse with neighbors. Usually what we find is that our data is pretty accurate. Where there are anomalies, we can usually detect the reason for it (census bloc spillover, people group migration, gentrification, etc.). Even in those very rare occasions, however, when our data is proven wrong, we rejoice because followers of Christ have gone out to interact with the community and intercede for it. So, if we’re wrong, please tell us! The data, whether it is right or wrong, is a starting point to catalyze missional engagement in the community.

      Reply
  3. Pastor Ray Eaton

    In the video above about rural evangelism, what are the action steps, resources, suggestions, and training that y’all do to help us with this?
    I’m a rural congregation pastor in one of these areas and churches and in almost two years I’ve made zero impact or headway. How can you help me?

    Reply
    • Russ Reaves

      Hi Pastor Ray! Thanks for your excellent question! Big picture answer here: disciple your people well, saturating your community with prayer, and gospel conversation training. And, we have resources and events to assist with all of the above. Now, more specifically, the Strategic Focus Team has strategy coordinators working across the state to help churches utilize the tools, resources, and specialists of the BSCNC as they build individualized strategies to impact lostness in their community. Please email me some information about your church and community, and I will personally connect you to the Strategy Coordinator for your area to set up a meeting to discuss these things. God bless you pastor!

      Reply

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