A friend and collaborator says that rural America is experiencing a "tremendous dying." I take it that also means that she expects an ensuing resurrection. How can the rural church participate in resurrection?
Rural (and center-city) churches have been dealing with social and economic decline for a long time. This isn't all bad. Remember the story of Daniel and his three friends who were offered the rich food of the king's court and refused it in favor of a vegetarian diet? The rural community of faith hasn't gotten used to very rich food.
The rural churches of the United States know something of exile. The fact that churches in other locations may be dealing with that soon could make the learnings of town and country churches transferable.
The Center for Theology and Land has engaged in a study of 100 of the most vigorous rural congregations from Maine to California. We conducted extensive face-to-face interviews with members of 20 of those churches, mostly Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Methodist.
Time after time a clear pattern emerged in these exemplary congregations. The most vital churches, many of whom had been battered by change, have adopted an enterprising, locally self-sufficient attitude. They realize that their future cannot be dependent on denominational offices to pull them through. They were not defiantly self-reliant or antagonistic to their denominational offices, but the denomination was peripheral to their vigor and future health.