For decades the accepted wisdom has been that America's mainline Protestant churches are in decline, eclipsed by evangelical mega-churches. Church and religion expert Diana Butler Bass wondered if this was true, and this book is the result of her extensive, three-year study of centrist and progressive churches across the country. Her surprising findings reveal just the opposite—that many of the churches are flourishing, and they are doing so without resorting to mimicking the mega-church, evangelical style.
Christianity for the Rest of Us describes this phenomenon and offers a how-to approach for Protestants eager to remain faithful to their tradition while becoming a vital spiritual community. As Butler Bass delved into the rich spiritual life of various Episcopal, United Methodist, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, and Lutheran churches, certain consistent practices—such as hospitality, contemplation, diversity, justice, discernment, and worship—emerged as core expressions of congregations seeking to rediscover authentic Christian faith and witness today.
This hopeful book, which includes a study guide for groups and individuals, reveals the practical steps that leaders and laypeople alike are taking to proclaim an alternative message about an emerging Christianity that strives for greater spiritual depth and proactively engages the needs of the world.
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 Rather, the old neighborhood Protestant church has fallen on hard times because the old neighborhood has been replaced by a strip mall.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.