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It's noontime at the Lunch-Box Cafe in Pandora, Ohio, where the leaders of St. John's Mennonite Church are meeting in the back banquet room. The room has a Lake Wobegon feel, its walls lined with walnut-colored plywood paneling warped by humidity and age. An assortment of 19th-century idyllic country scenes hang on the walls. A forgotten stereo sits atop a dusty shelf.

The Lunch-Box Cafe and its customers symbolize what's best about rural Ohio: honest work, fair prices, and a genuine sense of community.

Just down the road is an uncommon church. It's in the middle of a cornfield, a mile or two out of town on a rural highway (not a spot church-growth experts would have chosen). There's no interstate exit close by, no new subdivisions sprouting up down the road. Nor is it close to a major population center.

Yet the average worship attendance of St. John's stands close to 500, with a nearly equal number of children enrolled in Sunday school and almost 300 in Pioneer Clubs. The church population ...

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