Monday, May 17, 2010

Book Review: Transforming church in Rural America by Shannon O'Dell

My journey as a pastor began just over 10 years ago following 15 years of serving the church in various pastoral roles.  I have been a youth pastor, children's pastor, IT tech, Singles pastor, Missions pastor, Associate Pastor, Recreation Pastor, well you  get the picture, I have served in about all possible ministry positions in my life.  Little prepared me for the last 10 years as I have sought to serve as a Shepherd to God's people.  Although there have been days that I would never trade, for the most part there have been some incredibly difficult days that I wished had never came.

Today I received a book in the mail as a gift entitled Transforming Church in Rural America by Shannon O'Dell.  Not sure what but something intrigued me about the title and I began to read it.  I started at 9:15 and finished it just a few minutes ago with a staff lunch break tucked in to enhance my physique (not really, I was just hungry!).

As I started reading my heart immediately related to the writings, as the story mirrors mine with amazing detail.  In the pages of Rural America you will find practical lessons that I have learned, lessons others will benefit from helping us invigorate rural church in America.  I love the fact that Shannon talks openly about the burden of enduring because to serve God in rural Bible belt American the one trait you will need apart from a dynamic relationship with Jesus is endurance.

Two things stood out to me: Shannon told of how God asked him, are you building a congregation or congregants.  The contrast between the two are essential to seeing life change.  God hasn't called us to build great churches, but to build disciples.  The second thing thing that encouraged me was what I would call Shannon's cycle of growth: change, conflict, growth.  Any organization that is growing will experience this cycle.  Before today I had heard and known that, but for some reason it clicked and encouraged me greatly.

You will be challenged and encouraged if you are a rural church pastor.  For some of you, you need to change your jobs, leaving the church for the called.  For others this will be the shot in the backside that will kick you into gear.  I pray the later for my fellow laborers in Christ.  I agree with Shannon, Rural America is the next great unreached people group.

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