It’s no secret that the Christian Church is no longer the well established institution it once was – (well, maybe in the Bible Belt but not California!). So what’s the way forward? Different approaches in the past fifty years have included a focus on fostering healthy social dynamics or utilizing the best in business and management practices. As important as these approaches may be, some of the most exciting conversations today are about finding the heart of our needed renewal within Christian faith itself, with its tradition, wisdom and practices. Our council and liaisons are reading two very good books that have emerged from this “missional church” conversation:
Diana Butler Bass’ book Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith is being read by our three ministry liaisons (Judy, Lisa and Linda). A couple of years ago, a few of us reading an earlier book by the same author, called the “Practicing Congregation.” Bass studied fifty mainline congregations (Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian, etc..) and says: “I do not deny that mainline Protestantism is in trouble. Some of its institutions, unresponsive to change, are probably beyond hope of recovery or repair. I also believe, however, that lively faith is not located in buildings, programs, organizations, or structures. Rather, spiritual vitality lives in human beings; it is located in the heart of God’s people and the communities they form. At the edges of mainline institutional decay, some remarkable congregations are finding new ways of being faithful – ways that offer hope to Americans who want to be Christian but are wary of the religion found in those suburban megachurches.” She tells inspiring stories of churches practicing hospitality, discernment, healing, contemplation, testimony, diversity, justice, worship, reflection and beauty.
Anthony B. Robinson’s Transforming Congregational Culture is a book that focuses more on church leadership itself. It is being read by our council. “Programmatic change is not enough. Restructuring is not enough. Neither will go deep enough … Change in the internal life, self-perceptions, and culture of the congregation will be necessary if it is to respond to these shifts in the community.” Chapters include “From Civic Faith to Human Transformation. From Assuming the Goods to Delivering the Goods. Congregational Spirituality: From Givers to Receivers Who Give. From Board Culture to Ministry Culture. From Democracy to Discernment. The Budget: From Ends to Means. From Fellowship to Hospitality.”
Both books are readily available from Amazon and other sources – let us know if you’d like to read along and join in on the discussion!