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Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith Hardcover – September 19, 2006

4 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Most pundits will tell you that the mainline churches—Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Congregationalists and Disciples of Christ—are in decline: it is now commonplace to assume that liberal churches are doomed and only evangelical churches are growing. Think again, says Butler Bass (The Practicing Congregation) in this challenging and hopeful book, which summarizes the findings of a three-year study funded by the Lilly Endowment. Yes, many mainline churches are struggling, but not because liberal Christianity is a contradiction in terms. Rather, the old neighborhood Protestant church has fallen on hard times because the old neighborhood has been replaced by a strip mall. And many mainline churches are thriving. Butler Bass showcases 10 of them, including Redeemer UCC in New Haven, Conn., and Saint Mark (Lutheran) in Yorktown, Va. She then examines 10 practices, from hospitality to worship to vigorous theological discussion, and posits that these practices are the heartbeat of vital mainline churches. Her provocative conclusions include the observation that today's mainliners have redefined politics by favoring bottom-up acts of service over structural change. And, she says, the thriving congregations are neither red nor blue, but purple—a mix of Democrats and Republicans. This is Bass's best book yet. (Oct.)
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“This excellent and timely book celebrates a vastly important phenomenon that has been too little noticed.” (Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 321 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; First Edition edition (September 19, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060836946
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060836948
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #432,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Diana Butler Bass was born in Baltimore, Maryland and grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona. For as long as she can remember, she's been interested in spirituality, religion, history, and politics--passions she intertwines in her books and writing. She holds a Ph.D. in American religious history from Duke University. After a dozen years teaching undergraduates, she became a full-time writer, independent researcher, educator, and consultant. Her work has been cited in the national media, including TIME Magazine, USA TODAY, and the Washington Post, and she has appeared on CNN, FOX, PBS, and on NPR. For five years, she wrote a weekly feature on American religion for the New York Times syndicate. She currently writes for Huffington Post and Washington Post and is a contributing editor at Sojourners magazine.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Anyone who feels that only evangelical megachurches are capable of increasing in membership should pick up a copy of Dr. Butler-Bass' most recent book. "Christianity for the Rest of Us" This book, which contains the results of her seminal sociological study of exploring vitality in mainline congregations, disproves the commonly held theory that the mainline church is either dead or on life support. Throughout the book, Dr. Butler-Bass sheds valuable insight on why some moderate to progressive mainline churches are indeed thriving. She dedicates chapters to explore the common characteristics such as hospitality, social justice, and worship that she discovered in these mainline churches that are growing and expanding.
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Format: Hardcover
Diana Butler Bass' book offers hope to neighborhood churches everywhere and points the way toward healthy, vibrant, faithful Christian community. As a young adult, I yearn for a Christianity that is rooted in tradition, yet filled with the Spirit of the living God --- a Christianity that is aware and responsive to the needs, concerns and hopes of this aching planet. Diana shares real stories from real churches all around the country seeking to live the gospel way of life --- feeding, forgiving, healing, reconciling and transforming.

For three years Diana studied centrist and progressive churches and discovered many that are "flourishing, and they are doing so without resorting to mimicking the mega-church, evangelical style." Paraphrasing one commentator, it may just be that the church so many are yearning for is just around the corner. God grants us wisdom and courage through the words of this fellow pilgrim. Here's a glimpse inside Diana's book,

"On my journey, I traveled with those who are more comfortable in the wilderness, people who were willing to explore the new terrain around them. Yet they did not travel alone. I found that in the breakdown of old villages, Christians are forming a different sort of village in congregations cross the country. Not spiritual gated communities or protected rural villages. Rather, their new kind of village is a pilgrim community embarked on a journey of rediscovering Christianity, where people can forge new faith ties in a frightening and fragmented world. For those I met, change was not always easy, and their churches were not perfect. But they embodied courage, creativity, and imagination. And risk. In reaching toward a new kind of Christianity (which is, as I hope will become obvious, actually an old kind of Christianity), they serve as a living guidebook for spiritual nomads who are seeking to find wisdom's way." Christianity for the Rest of Us, pg. 25
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Format: Hardcover
For decades the idea has been that America's mainline Protestant churches are increasingly irrelevant, replaced by suburban evangelical mega-churches: now CHRISTIANITY FOR THE REST OF US: HOW THE NEIGHBORHOOD CHURCH IS TRANSFORMING THE FAITH comes from a church expert and former NY Times columnist to maintain there's a revolution taking place within the mainline churches across the country. Modern mainline churchgoers who don't use the evangelical approach are growing - and their views represent a wider community interested in religion and politics alike. Her three-year study, funded by the Lilly Endowment, surveys some fifty such churches across six denominations to chart not a decline, but a revolutionary change in the making. CHRISTIANITY FOR THE REST OF US is a guide no church leader can ignore.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In her first book, Diana Butler Bass told us how her personal spiritual pilgrimage coincided with the spiritual journeys of the Episcopal Churches she attended. Apparently, both of those journeys convinced her that the "mainline" churches still have vitality when many (including members of the mainline churches themselves) believed they were dying. Her next books hypothesized about what was contributing to the vitality in those churches and her recommendations for introducing "intentional practices" into those congregations who were struggling. This book is both a broad and an indepth study of what is working in these historic, traditional churches that makes it possible for them to spiritually compete with the megachurches and fundamentalist evangelical churches that are getting all of the attention from the secular press. Her research identifies nine different "intentional practices" of these churches that make it possible for them to be instrumental in the transformation of individuals toward deeper trust in God, faith founded values, and faith driven behavior. (Many of the nine "intentional practices" can be equated with the Natural Church Development categories). As she always has, Bass tells wonderful stories about the things she observed or reports the details of interviews she and others conducted to give anecdotal credance to the big conclusions she draws. Here is a book that will give confidence to the "mainline" pastors and parishioners who are wringing their hands about the future of their congregations. It will help them identify what is going on in their own places of worship that is fulfilling the missions of the Christian Church and point to practices they are not doing that would bring new life to their parishes. The only regret I have is that we needed Ms. Bass' book thirty years ago, but, as she herself points out, it is not too late for a resurgence of Christian Churches whose strength is their roots in the long history of the Church in the West.
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