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Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  1,051 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
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 opp ...more
Hardcover, 321 pages
Published September 19th 2006 by HarperOne (first published September 1st 2006)
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Apr 04, 2009 Katie rated it it was ok
This book annoyed me. Maybe I'm just not the intended audience, but it rubbed me the wrong way all the way through. I read to about the halfway point, then skimmed to the end. It did get terribly repetitive, so I didn't appear to miss too much by skimming.

Butler Bass starts off by talking about how she dislikes "self-absorbed and isolating" spirituality. This got me all excited, because I feel similarly. However, I couldn't help but feel that many of the congregations she profiles who supposedly
Dec 03, 2008 Erica rated it liked it
Shelves: christianity
There were parts of this book that I really enjoyed, and parts which really bothered me. By and large, I found myself agreeing with the author, if annoyed by some of the folks profiled. I guess it just feels like sometimes people tend to become very self-righteous when talking about what worship, or church community, or pastoral responsibility should or shouldn't look like, rather than traveling the journey that is theirs to travel with as much integrity as they can. If that makes sense.
Feb 22, 2009 Rhonda rated it liked it
This Baltimore native did study on Pew Grant of mainline churches which were "making it," thriving, and not ultra-conservative mega churches. Very interesting insights, author very winsome in person, heard her speak last week and read book in advance. Thought provoking as well.
May 19, 2012 Martin rated it it was amazing
While the popular media, both secular and religious, have long written off "Mainstream Protestant" denominations as dying, diminishing, and doomed, this book gives an alternative to this "conventional" thinking.
Diana Butler Bass took a three-year pilgrimage exploring a number of vital mainline congregations throughout the United States. What she experienced led her to conclude that, in spite of being irrelevant, mainline Protestantism may indeed hold the essence of where the Church needs to be
May 27, 2011 Sean rated it liked it
In Christianity for the Rest of Us Diana Butler Bass journeys through the mainline churches in the United States for a research project on the spiritually vitality of those churches. Bass spent her childhood in a Methodist church until her family moved out west in her teen-age years. From that point on until later adulthood she was a part of the Evangelical church. This project came about because she noticed, once she came back to her mainline roots, that the Evangelical churches were getting al ...more
Michael Robinson
Sep 23, 2012 Michael Robinson rated it liked it
The introduction didn't really grab my attention but I kept reading. I got the sense that the author, Diana Bass was trying to establish her credentials as a pastor and an author. I guess the part about her "being qualified" to write about the subject was a bit off-putting.

I could relate to Chapter one: Vanished Village and how the author Diana Butler Bass experiences and description of the church she grew up in and its decline.

It was very interesting how each of the congregations she got to
Jun 15, 2015 Elena rated it liked it
Shelves: church-theology
This book has some worthwhile insights, and will be useful for my congregation to consider. However, there were some aspects of the book that rubbed me the wrong way. It is very much a white church book, speaking to white church people. Yes, some of the churches discussed have racial diversity, but the author spent much more time discussing political diversity than racial diversity.

Her approach to political diversity was very centrist, a sort of "good church people can be either Republican or De
May 29, 2009 Dan rated it liked it

If you are looking for a prescription for vital Christianity based on a study of Scripture, you will be disappointed in Christianity for the Rest of Us. This book is the result of a study, or pilgrimage as the author calls it, to refute critics who say that only conservative churches can grow. She knew that "other" Christians existed and set out to discover them and learn the characteristics of those mainline Protestant churches that are thriving. The study was a serious, three-year study, the n

Jul 04, 2012 Tucker rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished
A theory-meets-practice book about how to run churches that are more about communities than about institutions. There's an inspiring passage about serving those in need, including homeless people in church activities, and making visible public statements about it. Some chapters explain specific traditions, virtues, or practices - like discernment or testimony - as the author understands them in light of her liberal Christianity.

The book opens with an anecdote where she felt anxious during a mome
Michele Zuniga
Mar 31, 2016 Michele Zuniga rated it it was amazing
Thus study of thriving, Spirit-filled mainline, liberal Protestant churches was thrilling, at least as thrilling as a sociological study can be. It was a celebration of Emergent churches and their common characteristics. They distinguished Spirit-filled congregations and those wherein the pastor was enthusiastic but the congregation not on board, as well as those churches doing business as usual. Useful to see where our church lines up, what might be a joyous expression for us.
Amy Paget
Jun 13, 2015 Amy Paget rated it really liked it
Diana Butler Bass's book is awesome, describing as it does the key renewal signposts in the mainline 'open Christian' churches. Those signposts are: hospitality, discernment, healing, contemplation, testimony, diversity, justice, worship, reflection, beauty. Butler Bass balances her research findings with a gentle, highly readable approach. Don't miss this book if you are seriously interested in American religious life.
Bob Paterson-watt
Jul 21, 2015 Bob Paterson-watt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The now somewhat-dated exploration of neo-mainline churches moving forward on pilgrimage out of irrelevance into both ancient practices and modern engagement was a good and helpful read. Many great first-hand expressions of mid-range church expressions that matter both personally and corporately. Could well be a very helpful congregational study book, although some cross-border translation may be necessary for this to work in Canada, as the US-focused study bleeds Blue-Red polemics all over the ...more
May 01, 2013 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Christianity for the Rest of Us is am amazing book. I read this book as part of an Advent Book Study, led by our interim Senior Pastor. We discussed two chapters each week Discussion could have been one chapter per week, there were many ideas exchanged The experience of visiting and study so many churches and then focusing on a dozen or so, was quite interesting. As a long standing member of a mainline Protestant New England church, I have seen many changes of the past 40+ years in this congrega ...more
Feb 01, 2008 Alicia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality
I really enjoyed reading this book. I didn't care for the title, but I really enjoyed the content of the book. The author spent three years traveling to different churches and then in the book describes different things that the churches are doing well. The whole time I was reading, I kept thinking "I want to go to a church like that." It has given me so many ideas to think about and has made me look at different aspects of my own spiritual life. I found at the end of the book there was a sectio ...more
Nov 25, 2013 Amy rated it it was ok
First, this wasn't my choice of a read, it was picked for my group.
Its was entertaining to read Bass sharing all her experiences in the various churches along her pilgrimage. But in the end I was hoping she'd give a bit of an outline, maybe, on programs, or outreach that she'd suggest for the New Emerging revitalized church to put into practice.

I could identify with a few of the church goers, and to some degree I think my congregation is doing some of this stuff, to attract the pilgrims in our
Apr 23, 2008 Margaret rated it really liked it
Recommended to Margaret by: 2007 clergy conference
I bought this when Diana Butler Bass spoke at a clergy conference in May of 2007. Her analysis of what's happening in the church is very helpful. Her examples of thriving mainline churches are all of the progressive, mission oriented bent - not surprising at all, but by omission suggests that the family oriented church is somehow deficient (a fairly common view, one I wrestle with) - but I've grown to appreciate that the mission in family size churches happens by the amazing involvement of churc ...more
Sarah Weisiger
Jan 29, 2014 Sarah Weisiger rated it really liked it
Some interesting ideas about vital practices in healthy churches. Would be useful perhaps as a leadership study of vitality in session or within various committee groups at the church.
May 28, 2013 Helen-Louise rated it really liked it
Interesting look at the vibrant and growing churches from mainline denominations, churches that are not conservative or "evangelical" [though all are evangelical in the original sense of sharing the good news of God's love.] She walks us through her study of several churches from Episcopal, United Methodist, Lutheran traditions and how each, in very different and "non-traditional" ways are reaching out to their communities, bringing back the idea of the neighborhood church, thriving themselves, ...more
Aug 24, 2008 Joe rated it really liked it
A very interesting study in response to the myth that mailine churches are in decline, and are eclipsed by evangelical mega-churches. Bass's research reveals that MANY churches are flourishing, and they are doing so without resorting to mimicking the mega-church evangelical style. It is a refreshing expose' of how mainline churches ar engaged in thoughtful, reflective, discerning worship and ministry. Worth a read for anyone who is interested in seeing the Christian picture in America from more ...more
Aug 03, 2009 Marvin rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion
From reviews, I thought this might make a good resource for an adult CE class. It's OK, but it doesn't really have either much theological depth or much practicality. Its premise is good: mainline Protestant churches don't need to be in a state of decline if they pursue certain practices, such as hospitality, good worship, attention to beauty, testimony, pursuit of justice, etc., and she offers examples of Methodist, Episcopal, & Presbyterian churches who are succeeding on these grounds.
Leigh  Kramer
Aug 26, 2013 Leigh Kramer rated it it was amazing
I couldn't stop talking about Christianity for the Rest of Us, a look at the ways the mainline church is flourishing. The author spent 3 years interviewing and attending Protestant churches, which resulted in a very hopeful, encouraging look at the state of the church- one that often counters the evangelical opinion. I especially appreciated hearing more about core practices and the history of the mainline church. Very helpful as I begin my own foray into a mainline congregation.
Jun 13, 2013 Jeffrey rated it it was amazing
Bass does something that many contemporary writers in theology have a hard time doing: she sees hope for the future of the church. Analyzing churches of all sizes, from different areas, Bass shows that churches can find a niche and be successful in today's world. In this book, churches, pastors, and people of faith will find something that they can see themselves, or their churches, doing to remain faithful and make a difference in the 21st century. And that should give us all hope.
Jul 17, 2012 Nathan rated it really liked it
A challenging book on how moderate to liberal Christians can be the church and grow the church without trying "the next big thing" or sacrificing their faithful beliefs.

I will say that I lament Bass's tendency to equate fundamentalists and evangelicals. I and many I know count ourselves as moderate to liberal Christians and evangelicals at the same time. I want "evangelical" to be reclaimed from the political polemic it currently is being crushed by and she doesn't help with that.
May 13, 2013 Karin rated it really liked it
I thought this book was important enough to buy several extra copies to share with friends at church. It reaffirms much of what we do and hold important in my own church. Our pastor of 37 years is retiring and I think this book will help us formulate a vision for ourselves as a transformative church and assist us in the process of calling a new pastor to share that vision. Discernment as a Christian practice will be critical, and we may need some training in this area.
I read Christianity for the Rest of Us as part of an ecumenical discussion with the Book Buddies. (You can see our discussion here.) I think the arguments made in the book could be tighter, but I enjoyed the thoughts that they generated in me as well as the discussion. I'll be thinking about spiritual practices and the transformation of self and community for a long time.
Aug 27, 2010 Ron rated it liked it
I don't know what to make of this book and am going to let my impressions "perk" some before trying to put very much of my thoughts into words. I do know that reading it has helped me to become clearer about the void between organized religion, the power structures in churches, and various different types of "church-goers" each of whom involves them selves in church doings at different levels and in different intensities.
Jan 01, 2009 Robin rated it it was amazing
A great book for mainline churches that want to grow and are encouraged by other mainline churches growing. It shows how Mainline Protestant churches can flourish without becoming evangelical mega churches. I believe this church could make a difference in the life of our church and with our new pastor, I believe it will! Looking forward to growing our church into the nurturing home for so many more! Praise and Worship!
Feb 07, 2008 Michael rated it really liked it
Interesting book about so-called mainstream "legacy" churches competing in the age of "Big-Box" mega-churches.
MB met author at a book signing in Calgary. Similar scenarios to growth of Big Box Book Stores versus Little "Mom & Pop" Book Stores. Her book contains wise advice for historic traditional little churches on street corners and how they can re-brand themselves to become relevant again.
The author offers several insightful comments and conclusions. In my opinion, she comes about her conclusions with too much assumption and with too much animosity toward our evangelical brothers and sisters. This leads to more than a few points sailing right over my head in an ethereal breeze, or ground into my palms as I play devil's advocate. This could have been so much better than it was.
Kylie Towers
Jan 15, 2008 Kylie Towers rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kylie by: Broad Street United Methodist Church
I actually haven't finished this book, but I've skimmed through the entire thing and am going back to read in detail. The minister at my church is preaching on this and so far I love it's message. Bass talks about how it's possible for each of us to travel on our own faith journey using directions other than those laid out by organized religion. What a novel idea!
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Diana Butler Bass is an author, speaker, and independent scholar specializing in American religion and culture. She holds a PhD in religious studies from Duke University and is the author of seven books, including the bestselling Christianity for the Rest of Us, released by HarperOne in 2006. It was named as one of the best religion books of the year by Publishers Weekly and Christian Century, won ...more
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“The whole message of the Christian scripture is based in the idea of metanoia, the change of heart that happens when we meet God face-to-face. Even a cursory knowledge of history reveals that Christianity is a religion about change. The Christian faith always changes--even when some of its adherents claim that it does not.” 6 likes
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