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Transforming Church in Rural America Paperback – February 15, 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 164 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

O'Dell, a pastor, explains how he led a small rural Arkansas church from a handful of members to a multi-site church of thousands. A unique feature of the book is inclusion of photos and perky illustrations and rich graphics to move readers through important points. O'Dell's is a fresh, no-holds-barred voice in Christian nonfiction, and he makes the case for a strong connection between marriage and ministry: "Now this book is primarily about growing the rural church, and I feel that having a red-hot marriage and a functional family is an extremely important element of that." He advocates V.A.L.U.E.: vision, attitude, leadership, understanding, enduring excellence. For all the crisp selling and innovation in the book itself, it doesn't break all the rules. Instead, it uses some of the tired phrases found in many books on church growth; and, for all the good pictures and talk of transformation of lives, the majority of the photos are of buildings and illustrations for the pastor's sermons.
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About the Author

Shannon O'Dell passionately seeks to inspire his growing multicampus church to give God only the very best. Innovative, inspiring, and committed to reaching out to struggling churches in rural areas around the country and the world, he has served as senior pastor for Brand New Church in the small community of Bergman, AR for over six years. He is a former youth pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, OK. He is married to wife Cindy, and the couple have four children.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: New Leaf Publishing Group/New Leaf Press (February 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0892216948
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892216949
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #469,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By dinglefest VINE VOICE on July 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
Shannon O'Dell reluctantly left a large multi-pastor church to lead a small rural church in a town with a population of less than 100. He now has a passion for rural ministry, which led him to write this book. He raises some good points, like that a pastor who leaves as a missionary to Africa gets prayer and financial support and a commissioning service as he leaves while a pastor who leaves a big church to go minister in the sticks gets questioned about the financial wisdom of it and gets laughed at. Throughout the book, he provides personal anecdotes, Bible verses, and best practices as he offers guidance to rural pastors (though he gets a bit list- and acronym-happy in places).

As for me, I love rural churches. As much as I love my decidedly not rural church now, it's a comfortable fit whenever I return to the little Baptist church where our wedding was held and where I was baptized. That's why I was interested in reading this. I found myself nodding in affirmation at points and furrowing my brow in others.

I think this could be worth reading for nothing but his family-focused advice to those in ministry. He stresses the importance of marriage and of a family vision. The best line of the book was "...a red-hot marriage and a functional family is the most powerful evangelistic tool in rural America" (or anywhere, I would add). Other spots were solid too, and I plan to send this book to the pastor who married us as an encouragement to him.

I found three bothersome spots, though:

1. One section frustrated me so much that I had to put down the book and walk away for a bit. It was only page 24, and it may have affected my view of him through the rest of the book.
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Format: Paperback
I just finished "Transforming Church in Rural America" and I feel like I've had a shot in the arm. This book was just what the Dr ordered for my life and ministry at this time.

I serve in a church under a pastor that is all about breaking all the stereotypes and "rules" that man has put on the rural church, so the breaking away from the "rurals," as Shannon calls it, has already been done here. In my situation, this re-affirms to me how to support his leadership and keep the rest of our volunteer lay-ministry staff on track.

Shannon doesn't merely teach you in this book how grow a big church in a small community. He doesn't give you step by step, "here's how you do exactly what we are doing." Those kind of books are on my bookshelf - unread. I've grown tired of those. Instead, Shannon shares how to hear from God, how to stick to His vision, how to pursue the vision, and how to maintain it.

This book will show you, not only through experience, but from scriptural examples as well, how to tranform a church in a rural community to leave the stale "we've done it this way before" model and move forward with a model of vision that sees that God has a plan for every community, every church, and ever person.

This book is not for the pastor who is too afraid to hear from God and move forward. This book is not for the lay ministers who are building their resumes serving under pastors like that. It is for visionaries and those who support a visionary.
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Format: Paperback
This book is nothing more than a guide of how to destory a community and a rural congregation. It is my-way-or-the-highway. I understand that pastor-lead churches are becoming more and more the norm, but this is setting a community up to fail if the congregation doesn't go with what the pastor says. What about the elders? What about the older generations? Are they not as important as the younger?
I was a member of his 'rural' church he tried to transform. Please believe me, that he did not TRANSFORM any church. He destroyed a rural Southern Baptist church, changed its name, and moved it to a community that was closer to a much larger town full of doctors and business owners. Half of his preachings were money, money, money, money to fund his new toys and new building. I read this book to try to understand his point of view, why he did what he did. And now I do.
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It’s a common chestnut: if the church would just believe rightly and vision faithfully, God would give it a supersize blessing. Little rural churches would stop looking so little and rural and start looking more mega and suburban, which is obviously God’s true desire for the church--that and packing satellite gear into Hummers.

Pastor Shannon O’Dell’s 2010 book, Transforming Church in Rural America picks up this chestnut uncritically and applies it to our worst stereotypes of rural life with a vengeance.

Leaving behind a self-described “cushy” youth position at a megachurch in suburban Oklahoma City, O’Dell took a leap of faith to serve a small, family congregation in rural Arkansas. O’Dell tells his story at the beginning and end of the book. However, the bulk of the book is sandwiched in the middle: his V.A.L.U.E. formula for rural revival--a reflection on his core leadership principles. Sprinkled throughout are rants, disparagements, and defensive explanations aimed at readers from the original South Lead Hill congregation. He also throws in some marriage advice along the way. As O’Dell explains: “You must be dedicated to a red-hot marriage or your ministry will not survive” (91). Be ready for more zingers like this. Pastor O’Dell refers to his “red-hot marriage” eight times too many in this book, just as he speaks of his “hot wife” in his Amazon author profile.

Pastor O’Dell stumbles at a number of places. He has limited experience in small and/or rural congregations. I wonder if many of the struggles he faced in leading the South Lead Hill Baptist congregation had more to do with the dynamics of the size of the church and less to do with its rural location.
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