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Christianity for the Rest of Us – Review

Christianity for the Rest of Us by Diana Butler Bass was published in 2006 by Harper San Francisco. Bass is a well known author, speaker and thinker among mainline protestants. Christianity for the Rest of Us is a result of a three year study that was “designed as an in-depth ethnographic investigation of vital, healthy, viable and growing mainline Protestant congregations through field research across the United States” (Bass, Christianity for the Rest of Us, 295). Within these congregations, Bass sought “to discover whether a common pattern, language, and spiritual logic were taking shape in a variety of congregations in different parts of the country” (Bass, 4).

In the first section, Bass addresses the question “What happened to the neighborhood church” (Bass, 13)? She addresses shifts that have taken place in society and within local congregations in the United States over the past 50 years. This background sets the stage for the particularities of renewal within the churches studied. Each of ten “signposts of renewal” among the congregations are addressed with concrete examples from local communities. These signposts of renewal include: hospitality, discernment, healing, contemplation, testimony, diversity, justice, worship, reflection, and beauty. Finally, Bass uses the metaphor of shifting from tourist to pilgrim to address the potential for individual, communal and world transformation.

This book is a well written mix of individual examples and big picture topics. There is a concreteness to each of the signposts of renewal as they are all grounded in particular examples from local congregations. Bass does not provide a detailed blueprint for change, but instead paints a vivid picture of what the experience of vitality looks and feels like within a local congregation. Bass writes for a particular audience – liberal protestant congregations – and at times is a bit harsh on those outside of this group.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to those thinking seriously about renewing the mainline church. Church leaders, pastors, and mainline Christians looking for renewal within the church would enjoy this book.

Bass, Diana Butler. Christianity for the Rest of Us. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 2006.