After years of focus on the large church, there is now renewed interest in the rural church-congregations whose attendance would not make a decent Sunday school class in a megachurch.

As the pastor of four small, rural churches, I welcome this interest. But I have noticed a troubling trend: discussions of the rural church have the air of a family of a terminally ill patient. Unless drastic and dramatic measures are taken, so the thinking seems, the rural church will be lost.

Nonsense. Although the rural church needs help, it is not in danger of extinction. In fact, the rural church holds many inherent strengths.

The strengths usually cited are "soft" features: rural congregations function as a small group; relationships are close; concern is felt and expressed among the members. These features are seen as a consolation for the lack of "hard," numerical strengths.

Actually, rural churches can boast of some impressive numerical facts.

Percentage of community penetration

The five communities I ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe to Christianity Today magazine. Subscribers have full digital access to CT Pastors articles.

Homepage Subscription Panel

Read These Next

High Hopes
High Hopes
Matthew Barnett's secret is to inspire others to dream what God can do—and dream big.
From the Magazine
Why There Are So Many ‘Miraculous’ Stories of Bibles Surviving Disaster
Why There Are So Many ‘Miraculous’ Stories of Bibles Surviving Disaster
When Scripture makes it through flood or fire, we see signs of a faith that endures.
Editor's Pick
His Eye Is on the Pastors
Seasoned Salt
His Eye Is on the Pastors
God sees and watches (as do others), which is both a comfort and a caution as pastors navigate their calling.