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

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  1,334 ratings  ·  73 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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4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,334 ratings  ·  73 reviews

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Mar 26, 2009 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
Oct 09, 2007 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 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.
Apr 06, 2012 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
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The common point of view these days is that the so-called "mainline churches" are losing members. Along with this is the assumption that they are doomed, and that only more conservative evangelical churches are growing. Diana Butler Bass offers a different perspective in her book that shares experiences discovered in a study supported by the Lilly Endowment.

While it is true mainline congregations are having a difficult time, it is too soon to write an Obituary. Butler Bass studied ten mainline c
Rini Cobbey
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
I wanted to like this book and forced myself to finish. The narrator (audio) was truly horrible. She did accents for interviewees being quoted and they were obnoxious, offensive, and unnecessary. Occasionally I heard an idea that resonated. But mainly I heard the same concepts repeated ad nauseum. Maybe I should have read the cliffes notes for myself. I think the thesis was the church should be purple politically and mainline churches are hipper than they used to be. Which, maybe fine. But I who ...more
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First it must be noted that the research and data used in this book may be dated now as this was published in 2006. However, the basic premise left me encouraged about finding a relevant worship experience in future mainline Protestant churches. Many will continue to decline and die but the churches Bass writes about are growing and thriving and providing an avenue for spiritual growth and transformation of both individuals and communities.
Sharon Archer
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faith
I struggle with the agenda of the Christian Right and the idea that if you are liberal, well you can’t be Christian...
The world is not in a cosmic battle between good and evil. The republican platform is not an interpretation of scripture. “By defining politics as winning, often in terms like destroying the enemy and defeating Satan they rightfully frighten people away from any talk of Christians in politics.” We need discussion, discernment, debate, and compromise.
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Excellent analysis of contemporary mainline churches that have adapted to the changing needs of congregations who are questioning the business-as-usual mid-20th century approach to Protestantism in the US.
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is such a good and important book. It's been out a few years now and is about mainline churches, but I find in compelling now even for someone like me who is not part of the mainline tradition. Anyone who cares about church would find this interesting.
Oct 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great discussion on how to keep mainline Protestantism vibrant in a changing world.
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is non-fiction, but a very interesting analysis.
May 14, 2011 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
Jul 26, 2013 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
Michael Robinson
Nov 02, 2009 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
Dec 21, 2008 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 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 25, 2013 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 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
Oct 17, 2013 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 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
May 28, 2013 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
Bob Paterson-watt
Jul 02, 2015 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
Aug 24, 2008 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
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.
Jul 17, 2012 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.
Jan 01, 2009 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 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.
Leigh Kramer
Aug 16, 2013 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.
Michele Zuniga
Mar 30, 2016 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.
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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
“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
“The moment that we think we know, we’ve lost our perspective on wisdom.” 0 likes
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