When it comes to planting and revitalizing churches, rural America is “forgotten field.” It faces a variety of demographic and economic challenges, and the rural pastorate often means bivocational ministry in small congregations. In consequence, rural ministry is not an option for many would-be pastors.
Gerad Strong thinks it should be. He served as lead pastor of Bethel Church in Rapid City, South Dakota, before becoming director of Discovery and Development for the Church Multiplication Network in Springfield, Missouri. He pioneered Bethel’s use of multisite models to serve rural churches in his region.
We typically make two assumptions about multisite churches: (1) They are megachurches, and (2) they are video venues. Jeff Leake’s Twelve Trends in Multiplication shows why both assumptions are mistaken. The Forgotten Field specifically shows how multisite models can work well in rural settings, where the congregations are small and highly personal.
Pastors of large and midsize churches with a vision for ministry in rural areas will find Strong’s book particularly helpful. It will guide them through the questions they need to address to implement a multisite approach to rural church planting and revitalization. Personally, I think of rural multisite as the Methodist circuit-riding of the twenty-first century.
The spiritual needs of rural Americans are great. The Forgotten Field identifies one way churches can meet those needs. I commend both Gerad Strong and his book to interested readers.
Gerad Strong, The Forgotten Field: Using Multisite Models to Reach and Revive Rural Communities with the Gospel(Friendswood, TX: Baxter Press, 2022).
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