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Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighbourhood Church is Transforming the Faith

Released: December 2007 
RRP  $21.99

There are a lot of self-help books for churches out there, and sometimes it seems like most are from and for American mega-churches. Sometimes that makes translating into a different culture and context a challenge. What makes Christianity for the Rest of Us different from many is that here is a book that tells the story of mainline protestant churches from across the USA – churches like Cornerstone United Methodist, Plymouth Congregational Church and Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church. This is not the story of the mega-church, or the right-wing evangelical movement – but of traditional neighbourhood churches in mainstream denominations.

Diana Butler Bass has scoured her country looking for signs of hope and stories of growth, renewal and revitalisation in those churches that popular wisdom suggests should be in decline. With that objective in mind, perhaps she has something to say to us across the water in the Uniting Church in Australia.

In Christianity for the Rest of Us, Diana Butler Bass speaks from the context of extensive research, including hundreds of interviews and visits with congregations, ministers and members. She seeks to identify the common threads evident in mainline churches that are not only surviving, but prospering – and in churches where there is genuine spirituality, growing faith, and effective mission. She identifies ten of these “signposts of renewal” and then proceeds to share stories of hope and unpack the differing contexts in which she finds them.

She then moves on to suggest ways in which neighbourhood churches have the potential to engage with what she labels spiritual “tourists” and transform them into spiritual “pilgrims” – those on a journey with life-changing purpose.

Christianity for the Rest of Us is a thought provoking read. It will have you thinking carefully about the place of practices such as hospitality, discernment, worship and justice in your life, and the life of your church. It is also a book that is accessible to the majority of us – using language that doesn’t required a theological degree to interpret.

Despite a few cultural differences, Diana Butler Bass presents some ideas well worth considering as we seek to be the Uniting Church in Australia – a church that claims its identity as a pilgrim people and which shares a great deal of heritage with those churches whose stories are told in Christianity for the Rest of Us.


Reviewed by Scott Guyatt who works with the Property Services Division of the Uniting Church in Queensland.