Transforming Church in Rural America by Shannon O’Dell takes an honest look at pastoring a church in “the sticks.” As O’Dell says, our Christian culture adds to our wrong, prideful assumption that real ministry only takes place in megachurches, and when we find ourselves in small, rural communities, we’re often content to just let it be like it’s always been rather than striving for true evangelism, discipleship, and growth where we are. The attitude encountered in these places, all too often, is “most rural churches say they want to grow, and they think they want to grow, but they really don’t. They don’t want a real pastor — a true and dedicated shepherd to lead them into new fields of harvest — they want someone to pacify them, tell them what they already know, and keep things the way they are.” But, as the book goes on to explain, God is ready to “break all the rurals” of ministry to rural America and in even our smallest communities, do an enormous work.
O’Dell tells his own story in the pages of the book — how he was called to a town of under one hundred, how he encountered opposition as the church grew, and how God worked beyond what anyone could have imagined, using this small rural church in the middle of nowhere, Arkansas to reach people all over the state, the country, and ultimately, the world. He keeps referring back to the process — change, conflict, growth — showing throughout his story how following God’s will in the good and bad times yielded great fruit. It’s an inspiring story with encouraging tips, warnings, and clear Biblical direction.
I would highly recommend this book to leaders and church members in rural America, as we all seek to discover how God can use our small communities to change the world.
Many thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishing for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book to review. All opinions expressed are mine entirely.