The Front Porch Republic’s Darryl Hart has written a nice essay that asks, “If cooking slowly and growing organically are in, why is rural ministry out?” Hart quotes Wendell Berry, who wrote that mainline denominations treat rural congregations as “a training ground for young ministers, and as a means of subsidizing their education.” Real churches are in cities, and those who are not ready for ministry in the big city should be sent to prepare in the countryside. “The denominational hierarchies . . . regard country places in exactly the same way as ‘the economy’ does: as sources of economic power to be exploited for the advantage of ‘better’ places,” Berry wrote in “God and Country.”
Hart looks for signs that organized religion is doing better at finding its roots in rural churches. But he doesn’t discover indication that it is. Hart writes:
“Evangelicals are disposed to understand grace and faith in extraordinary categories and so overlook stories of ordinary believers, routine piety, and even rural congregations as insignficant. Discontent with the average and routine aspects of natural life and of grace appears to breed a similar dissatisfaction with humble ministries in places of little interest to the editors of the (New York) Times.