Book Review: The Forgotten Church

The Forgotten Church:  Why Rural Ministry Matters For Every Church In America, by Glenn Daman

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Moody Publishers.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

I get the feeling that I would have appreciated this book’s contents had it been written by someone with a different mindset.  In general, it could be said that far more than most people I have an appreciation for the struggles of the rural ministry [1].  Speaking personally, I regularly serve as a lay speaker within a rural church in my own denomination although it is a considerable drive from where I live.  In addition, I grew up in the country and regularly saw the situation of the rural church in the area of Central Florida where I grew up as well as in Western Pennsylvania where my father’s family lived.  The problems discussed by the author, including the destruction of the rural economy and the longstanding issues of history as well as the fondness for tradition and community that can make things difficult for city slicker ministers–like the author–are things I have personally witnessed in some fashion.  In theory, then, I should like this book.  Only, I don’t.

The author divides this book into thirteen chapters after a foreword and a discussion about seeing as Christ sees, which is problematic since the author has an unbiblical view of Jesus Christ as some sort of rural peasant.  The author talks about the rural ministry as both forgotten (1) and misunderstood (2), and attempts to give a historical perspective of both rural life (3) and the rural church (4).  He talks about understanding rural culture (5) as if he does, and also discusses poverty in rural America, comparing it to a ghetto (6), before going full social justice warrior in discussing illusory structural racism (7) as if he were bell hooks’ long-lost brother.  He then discusses the role of the church in the rural community (8) before attempting to develop a theology of rural ministry (9), and show the contribution of rural ministers to their communities (10).  Finally, he comments on how ministers can develop strategic partnerships (11) with others, view the rural community as a mission field (12), and speculates on the future of rural ministry (13) before talking about some aspects of rural ministry that church history books (?) don’t tell in an appendix.  After some notes and acknowledgements the material takes up about 250 pages of material or so.

There are a great many ways this book fails to be as good as it should have been, but it would appear most of all that this book is written by someone who serves as a rural pastor but who was educated in seminary in Portland (and his ungodly progressive political worldview shows way too much) who is assuming that this book is written to other social-gospel-wielding hipsters like himself.  In the case of this reader at least, this assumption was mistaken.  One can see an almost Janus-faced hypocrisy in the mindset of the author, who notes that rural churches themselves value tradition and are (rightly) suspicious of progressive ideas from urban areas, but whose attempts at framing racial and cultural issues (including the conversion of indigenous peoples) is itself ungodly and unbiblical and sharing more in common with the leftist wing of the Democratic party than the transracial but deeply culturally conservative view of the Bible.  Ultimately, if rural ministry is going to be undertaken by people like the author, it would be better for the rural church to remain forgotten and misunderstood rather than be corrupted by the author and his ilk.  Unfortunately, this book is about a worthwhile subject but the author does not provide a worthwhile perspective on it.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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