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Growing a Rural Church

Who says you can't raise strong congregations in country fields?

If you're a rural pastor, as I am, you have probably read books that claim to address the needs of the small, rural congregation, only to discover that to many authors, "small" means a church of less than two hundred and "rural" means a town of less than ten thousand. You've probably heard exciting news about churches adding thousands of members every year, too.

Where does this leave the pastor of a church of forty in a community of five hundred? What does church growth mean in such a congregation?

More than eight years ago, I was called to a two-church pastorate; the smaller church had a membership of twenty-one, the larger a membership of sixty. On my first Sunday in the smaller church, I preached to seventeen people: two men, twelve women, and three children. About sixty attended regularly in the larger church during my first year, but sixteen months after my arrival, more than twenty of them left after a lengthy dispute. A lot of people in both churches seemed discouraged.

I cannot tell ...

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