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Christianity For the Rest of Us | A review

Christianity outside the Evangelical brand

Is there Christianity outside of the Evangelical brand?

Christianity For the Rest of Us chronicles the three year journey of religion writer Diana Butler Bass as she visits churches along the centrist to progressive spectrum, and recounts how they have redefined themselves to recapture market share, to put it bluntly. She seems to want to make the point that to be an evangelical church is to be part of the megachurch culture that she thinks has taken over the Christian brand. And the non-evangelical Christian churches are “the rest of us.”

I selected this title because my pastor at Shift Church calls us, “a church for the rest of us.” I sort of get the idea: a church for people who don’t feel like they fit in the typical church scene. It can mean whatever you want it to mean. But I like clear definitions. So this title had me wondering if he got the idea from this book, and if it would help me get some more definition from someone else who used this tagline as a book title.

So much for this being the inspiration for our church: an Evangelical start up that is still renting a school’s facilities. I have been a part of Evangelical congregations since 1981, and I’ve never been a member of megachurch. And I never thought we were taking over the church world. It has generally seemed to me like it was a definite minority position to be an Evangelical, Fundamentalist, or whatever kind of Christian you want to call us. Of course, if Ms. Bass was a member of a congregation that was dwindling in the shadow of an Evangelical stadium church, I could see how she got this sense of being in the Alamo.

Since I like to read books by people I have little in common with, I was eager to find out how the churches she visited were dealing with their individual problems. After all, we are trying to understand the struggles of all our neighbors and how Christ is the answer to them. This turned out to be very enlightening, because it showed me how the grace of God is working in all kinds of congregations to all who draw near to Him.

Instead of being a treatise on how to tweak your theology to become more popular (yes, I did suspect this), it was about the journey of prayer many people had in the midst of different traditions. In desperation people sought for the supernatural God to meet their needs and the needs of others. And the Lord loves these imperfect individuals as much as he loves the rest of us broken people. We are all wrong about something, but that is what makes us human. And I found the struggles of the men and women in these pages to be very much like the people in Evangelical churches.

In the end, I think “the rest of us” refers to those we identify with; the people who know our struggles. But it also alienates us from “those others” in the Christian community that we think are part of some kind of “in” crowd. And I don’t want to be alienated from my brothers and sisters with whom I have differences of opinion as we seek the face of the same God. Whether we like it or not, we are part of the same body, and “the rest of us” are the ones that are still lost.

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