A Big Gospel

Why Ministry in Forgotten Communities Matters

The gospel of Jesus is often unstrategic. In this book, pastor Stephen Witmer lays out an integrated theological vision for small-place ministry. Filled with helpful information about small places and with stories and practical advice from his own ministry.

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Jesus loves small, insignificant places.

In recent years, Christian ministries have increasingly prioritized urban areas. Big cities and suburbs are considered more strategic, more influential, and more desirable places to live and work. After all, they're the centers for culture, arts, and education. More and more people are leaving small places and moving to big ones. As a ministry strategy, focusing on big places makes sense.

But the gospel of Jesus is often unstrategic. In this book, pastor Stephen Witmer lays out an integrated theological vision for small-place ministry. Filled with helpful information about small places and with stories and practical advice from his own ministry, Witmer's book offers a compelling, comprehensive vision for small-place ministry today.

Jesus loves small places, and when we care deeply about them and invest in them over time, our ministry becomes a unique picture of the gospel—one that the world badly needs to see.

Product details


  • Foreword: Ray Ortlund
  • Introduction: My Small-Place Story
  • Part I: What Are the Small Places Like?
  • Small Places Are Better and Worse Than We Think
  • 1. Taking a Fresh Look at Small Places
  • 2. Why Small Places Are Better Than We Think
  • 3. Why Small Places Are Worse Than We Think
  • Part II: How Can We Minister Fruitfully in Small Places?
  • Developing a Theological Vision for Small-Place Ministry
  • 4. The Source and Goal of Small-Place Ministry: A Shaping Gospel and a See-Through Church
  • 5. Strategic Isn't Always What We Think
  • 6. Small Is Usually Better Than We Think
  • 7. Slow Is Often Wiser Than We Think
  • 8. Fruitful Small-Place Ministry: The Circle and the Arrow
  • 9. Battling Joy Killers in Small-Place Ministry
  • Part III: Should I Be Ministering in a Small Place?
  • Reasons Not to Do Small-Place Ministry, Reasons You Should, and Reasons to Consider
  • 10. Good and Bad Reasons Not to Do Small-Place Ministry
  • 11. Good and Bad Reasons to Do Small-Place Ministry
  • 12. Common Reasons to Prioritize Big-Place Ministry
  • Conclusion: Pray Big, Trust God, Work Hard
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes

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Author Stephen Witmer
ISBN 9780830841554
Format Paperback
First published January 2020
Dimensions 140mm x 215mm x 13mm
Language English
Pages 216
Publisher IVP

Jonathan Dodson

Lead pastor of City Life Church, Austin, founder of gcdiscipleship.com, author of The Unbelievable Gospel and Here in Spirit

There are billions of people living in small places, yet they are often ignored by ministry-minded people like me. Sure, rural areas are downstream of mainstream ideas, innovation, and trends, but small places are thick with culture and rife with opportunity for gospel ministry: poverty, depression, suicide, racism, injustice, and souls stranded in sin unacquainted with the love of God in Christ Jesus. As Stephen points out, both rural and urban places are easily romanticized. What the world needs is Christians who value the small even in the big—disciples who move slowly and are attentive enough to bring a grand gospel into the nooks and crannies of life. This book has just about everything you need to help you do that, especially if you live in a small place. It offers rigorous research on rural trends, demographics, and the subtleties of smallness; it motivates ministry in those areas with the gospel of grace; it equips you to develop a theological vision for the place of your calling; it immerses you in real stories of rural ministry; and it challenges urban ministry biases with winsome wit, but most of all it calls us to love in place and discover something more of the immeasurable love of God in Christ Jesus for all the world.

Don Carson

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, president and founder of The Gospel Coalition

In an age when we tend to lionize big strategies, big churches, and big cities, Stephen Witmer movingly calls us back to faithfulness, not least when the sphere to which we have been called is small and unknown. Of course, it is not a question of either-or: either big cities or small towns and rural villages. Dr. Witmer does not try to force us into mutually exclusive worlds, but at a time when agendas favor the big and the urban, he patiently summarizes the biblical and theological evidence for underscoring the small and the overlooked. Read Witmer and (ironically) expand your vision.

John Koessler

Professor of applied theology and church ministry, Moody Bible Institute

Francis Schaeffer observed that there are no little people in God's sight and no little places: 'To be wholly committed to God in the place where God wants him—this is the creature glorified.' There is a tendency these days to quantify the value of ministry. This thinking assumes that bigger is better. The larger the population is, the greater the need. Such a view tends to rule out small places. Stephen Witmer helps us to correct this by showing us that small places are much like everywhere else. They are also different. Witmer makes an informed and winsome case for the importance of doing ministry in the places that many of us are inclined to overlook. A Big Gospel in Small Places will help you to understand not only the need but the unique nature of today's forgotten communities.

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A Big Gospel | Stephen Witmer | £14.99 £11.24