RURAL CHURCH & Books to Challenge, Inspire, and Encourage the Small Town Pastor

by Charlie Cotherman, The Exchange, Christianity Today, 11/28/17.

… Here are a few of the recent books that I’ve found to be helpful…

Rural Reads

Anyone interested in rural ministry—especially rural church planting—would be wise to pick up Donnie Griggs’s 2016 book Small Town Jesus: Taking the Gospel Mission Seriously in Seemingly Unimportant Places. Short, sweet, and deeply informed by Griggs’s experience as someone who grew up in a small place, left for college, the city, and big church planting dreams, only to return to his small town years later to start a church, this book manages to address the prevailing emphasis on urban and suburban church planting without becoming snarky…

At the same time, Grigg’s offers a compelling rationale for planting healthy, vibrant, and contextualized church communities in small places. In his chapter “Rethinking Objections to Small Town Ministry,” Griggs addresses many of the practical concerns that come up when people talk about small town church planting (e.g., Don’t small towns have enough churches already?). The book concludes with two chapters that offer practical advice on “how to do ministry in small towns…”

Another recent book that offers a first-hand look into the harsh realities that many families in small town and rural America face is J.D. Vance’s bestselling Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. Vance’s memoir gives a deeply personal account of what chronic underemployment, broken family structures, and destructive decisions (especially related to drug and alcohol abuse) look like.

For many of us living in or pastoring in rural areas or small towns, Vance’s story will seem distressingly familiar. Vance describes with unusually clarity a reality many Americans have chosen not to see. In small towns and rural villages across our country, families are breaking down and young people are turning to drugs at rates that frequently exceed those of suburban and urban areas.

The last book on my list is a work of fiction. Winn Collier’s Love Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small Town Church draws on the legacy of books like Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and Eugene Peterson’s The Wisdom of Each Other: A Conversation between Spiritual Friends in that it invites the reader into the heart and mind of a pastor through the medium of letters.

When Jonas McAnn agrees to accept a call to a small congregation in a small, Virginia town he chooses to embrace the people and the place with a Wendell Berry-esque sort of appreciation. As one of McAnn’s letters reads, “Particulars matter. Stories Matter. Places Matter.” These convictions lead McAnn to cultivate eyes to see the joys of small town life, from coffee groups to fishing trips, without shying away from hard issues.

Through all the ups and downs of ministry McAnn manages to take the goodness of God seriously while simultaneously not do the same thing for himself. He is not the savior of his little church or his small town; God is…

Read more at … http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/november/rural-stories-books-to-challenge-inspire-and-encourage-smal.html