Friday, July 23, 2010

Review of Transforming Church in Rural America by Shannon O’Dell

Author: Shannon O’Dell

Pages: 200pgs

Publisher: New Leaf Press

Price: 9.35

Genre: Ministry/Church/Pastoral Resources

Quick Summary:

I received this book from New Leaf Press to review. It is the compelling story of a pastor called to minister in rural America. It follows the typical “your small church doesn’t have to do small things” mantra. As it says on the back, this book shares, “a powerful vision of relevance, possibility, and excellence for these small churches”. This may cause many local church pastors to salivate—they’ll buy this book as the next great thing to help their flailing country church. If you think like me, these words are typically code for watered-down garbage. Even though the mega-church buzz words are present the heart of a local church pastor really does bleed through the pages of this book.

What I Liked:

O’Dell’s passion for the local body and for the lost is clearly seen. This guy really does love the rural church. His encouragement to stick it out in rural settings is encouraging. I hope many pastors (myself included) take his advice to use where God has planted you for His glory. He is bold and encourages pastors to be bold in leading. Furthermore I like his challenge to men to lead their wives sacrificially. There is much to be commended in this book. However…

What I Disliked:

Perhaps I am just an old fuddy-duddy (though only 29). Maybe I’m just too narrow minded, or maybe just a wimp. It seemed to me that this guy took a small church, cast his vision, and “made it happen”. This page was dripping with passion and boldness but not with gentleness and respect. I know that ministry can be brutal but at times it seemed like O’Dell was just airing dirty laundry or licking old wounds.

I read this at the same time that I read Church Planting is for Wimps, and the difference in the vision and attitude is telling. Mike McKinley talks about patience but he seems like a gentle shepherd. Shannon O’Dell talks about patience but doesn’t seem like a gentle shepherd.

Should You Buy It?

I’m a little torn with this. I think there are some things in this book that could be helpful. But I also think the attitude and “bold leadership” is dangerous. I cannot in good conscience commend this book to everyone. I’d much rather see you by McKinley’s book or even a book like Trellis and the Vine. But please be certain to read other reviews—I may just need sleep today. I have a ton of respect for Jared Wilson and he seemed to not enjoy this book.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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