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Small Town Jesus

Over the past couple of decades church planting has moved from being a strange and novel idea to the top of many denominational and movement agendas. Being part of a church planting family of churches myself, this is something I applaud. Starting new churches has proved again and again to be the most effective way of seeing people respond to Christ and become his disciples – something which should be obvious from the pages of the New Testament, but which had become lost in the ‘Christian West’. With every town already having churches most people assumed no more churches were needed, and mission was an activity left to the parachurch. Thankfully that has now changed dramatically.

A further trend of recent years has been an emphasis upon starting churches in the cities. The reasons for this emphasis are obvious too – across the world cities are dominating in a way unprecedented in human history. An increasing number of people live in cities, and cities are the cultural, economic and political hubs. ‘Reach the cities and you reach the world’ is the mantra. A number of high-profile Christian leaders living and ministering in major cities have helped draw attention to the need to start new churches in the city, and the ambitions of any young and energetic church planter tend to be city-focussed – especially on those cities or areas in the city where single-speed bikes, hipster beards and artisan coffee are in much evidence.

In this climate starting a new church in a small town looks an unappealing option, yet millions of people live in small towns and need to be reached with the gospel as much as those in the cities. In his new book, Small Town Jesus, Donnie Griggs shares his passion for the small town. Donnie questions the reality of whether reaching the city really does enable us to reach the world, and urges us not to forget the significance of small towns – the kinds of towns that Jesus came from and ministered in. In this Donnie’s aim is “not to eradicate mission in the cities but rather to help move toward a more biblical approach to viewing our mission.”

In the USA 33 million people live in towns of fewer than 25,000 inhabitants. How are these towns to be reached? Using his own experience of starting and leading a church in a town of 10,000 (a church that now gathers around 1,000 people each Sunday) Small Town Jesus explores the theory and practice of church planting in contexts very different from the big city. Planting a church in a small town requires at least as much skill and cultural savvy as planting in a city – perhaps more. In the big city you may only connect with a very narrow band of people but still be able to gather a crowd: in the small town there is no margin for error – you need to be able to love and reach everyone!

Donnie writes from an American context, though he references the scene in the UK, with which he is familiar. From a British perspective, this book would serve both those wanting to start churches in our small towns and villages, but also those in the suburbs – which function rather differently from American ‘burbs. The reality of UK life is that most of us live in some variety of suburbia, and these suburbs often function more like small towns than big cities. And while there is a growing library of resources available to help the city church planter, there is hardly anything available for those pioneering in small towns: Small Town Jesus usefully plugs that gap.

For more information, and details of where to find the book, visit

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