As the subtitle promises, this is a book about “the untapped potential of the small-town church.” It is a short book, full of practical advice for the rural pastor, written by two men who know their subject. Both Klassen and Koessler spent the early days of their ministries successfully pastoring small-town churches. Their approach is to share what they have learned through their experiences. The result is an interesting book that should offer insight and practical help to those in similar situations. This volume would be a nice gift to the pastor of the rural church .
One could find cause to be concern over a few issues however:
The use of Scripture is practically non-existent in the volume (and one of the few passages, Acts 5:13, is used incorrectly due to not reading the very next verse (pp. 24, 25)). I realize that it is not the purpose of the authors to discuss ecclesiology. Nevertheless, the modern trend by Christian writers to examine issues without reference to the Bible is disturbing (cp. Leadership Journal in which it is reported that less than one percent of its articles have any reference to Scripture at all).
The use of pop-psychology is peppered throughout the book, especially the “self-image” theory. This is another disturbing trend (pp. 21, 22, 23, 56, 113).
Throughout the book, the authors rightly emphasize that the size of a church does not indicate the quality of the church; numerical growth is not necessarily a good indicator of a church’s — especially a country church’s — ministry. Yet the final chapter, which details four rural church success stories, incredibly points to increased church attendance as an important measure of accomplishment in three of those churches.
This final criticism may be hitting below the belt, but I found it interesting in the Epilogue that the authors ask us to imagine several things. One is to imagine “A small-town church whose pastor has overcome the temptation to use the small church as a stepping stone to ‘bigger and better’ things. ” Yet, our writers are no longer small-town church pastors themselves. Klassen is the general director of the Rural Home Missionary Association, a mid-sized mission, and Koessler is now a professor at Moody Bible Institute. Both men have moved on to “bigger and better” things. There is no shame in this, but perhaps our men should carefully consider what they are actually saying by this statement, less they condemn themselves.