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


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.

Praise for Christianity for the Rest of Us

“Church renewal isn’t only about the dramatic and large-scale. It’s about transformations quietly maturing in local communities nourished by profound prayer, pastoral commitment and imagination, and readiness to learn from a wide spectrum of Christian wisdom. This excellent and timely book celebrates a vastly important phenomenon that has been too little noticed.” —Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

“This book is so full of good news that I keep it next to my Bible. With her clear vision of congregational transformation and her ability to read the signs of the times, Diana Butler Bass is the soft-spoken prophet many of us have been waiting for. What is more, she assures us that what we hope for is already underway. Anyone looking for a flourishing church will find one in these pages, along with concrete practices for renewing the congregations we know best.” —Barbara Brown Taylor, author of Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith

“The most important book of the decade about emerging Christianity and the renewal of mainline congregations. Exciting and encouraging, hopeful and helpful, and filled with examples of vital Christian practices from which all interested in the future of the church can learn.” —Marcus Borg, author of The Heart of Christianity

“Diana Butler Bass has debunked the myth that the only churches which are growing are Evangelical and Pentecostal. She finds life and renewal in the mainline churches—but it’s happening there for the same reasons as elsewhere: through a recovery of genuine faith and real spirituality. I recommend this well-researched and well-written book to all who care about the transformation of churches.” —Jim Wallis, author of God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and The Left Doesn’t Get It

“What a delightful, encouraging, and informative book! This book not only presents ten characteristics shared by vital progressive congregations, it also situates these characteristics in the context of recent American religious history. As a result, the book provides a rare combination – both practical guidance for church leaders and a thoughtful rationale for why those guidelines matter. Highly recommended!” —Brian McLaren, author of Everything Must Change and A New Kind of Christian

“In the spirit of the much exaggerated death of Mark Twain, Diana Butler Bass demonstrates that the so-called mainline neighborhood church is alive and well, which is for so many of us, very good news indeed, given the alienation of fundamentalism or secularism: thank God for this good news.” —Peter J. Gomes, Harvard University

“Diana Butler Bass shows, with eloquence and clarity, why the church for modern seekers is just around the corner. What a hopeful book, confirming something many of us have long suspected—our little corners of the Kingdom are changing the world, one heart at a time.” —Philip Gulley, co-author of If Grace is True

“This is Diana Butler Bass at her very best—a warm, candid, totally engaging scholar taking a look at main-line Christianity in this country and telling us with gusto why she likes what she sees. Bravo!” —Phyllis Tickle, religion editor, Publishers Weekly (retired)

“This energizing book reminds us that the gospels don’t belong to any political party or any cultural style—that Jesus’ subversive love belongs to us all.” —Bill McKibben, author, The End of Nature

“Not only does this book confirm the dictum to ‘think globally and act locally’, but teaches us that to think traditionally today we must act very creatively! Diana Butler Bass is teaching us how to “discern” the living Body of Christ, which is clearly both within and beyond any single Christian group or denomination today. This book is ecumenical hope!” —Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, New Mexico

“I have been waiting for someone to write a book about the faithful witness and creative energy of mainline churches and congregations. Diana Butler Bass has done it. Thanks be to God.” —Rev. John Buchanan, pastor, Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago

“Full of careful insights and analysis, Christianity for the Rest of Us is a book of great encouragement and hope for mainline Protestant churches who will hear the message.” —Frederick H. Borsch, author of The Spirit Searches Everything, retired Episcopal Bishop of Los Angeles, Professor of Anglican Studies and the New Testament, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia