Rural Stories: Books to Challenge, Inspire, and Encourage the Small Town Pastor

Donnie Griggs, J.D. Vance, and Winn Collier


If church history has shown us anything, it’s that stories matter. From the time of the earliest followers of the Way, stories shaped the Christian community in profound ways. The most powerful story was the gospel—God in the flesh dwelt among us, died, rose again on the third day, ascended to the right hand of the Father, and would one day return in glory to redeem creation and rule as the good and righteous king.

Throughout the millennia, the church has lived in this gospel story while also passing on the stories of those who, shaped by the story of the gospel, have themselves been part of stories worth passing on.

From martyrs to missionaries and everyday saints, their stories have inspired others to step out in faith and live into the call of God in their lives. This has been true throughout church history, and it remains true today.

Just as the story of colonial missionary David Brainerd inspired an English cobbler named William Carey to commit his life to the work of mission overseas, so the story of folks like Carey, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, and Jim and Elisabeth Elliot inspired future generations to, as Carey said, “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”

Because stories matter so much, it is significant that for decades few people (other than a novelist here and there) have cared to narrate the opportunities and realities facing pastors of small churches in small places.

For those of us who feel called to small places in America’s vast rural stretches, coming by stories that apply specifically to our experiences has been a difficult and disheartening task.

Fortunately, this is changing. People with a heart for folks in rural and small town America are beginning ...

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