A Visit to Jacob’s Well

Article by Jason Byassee

The Westport neighborhood of midtown Kansas City, Missouri, is a mix of avant-garde youth and aging hippies. If bumper stickers are any indication, political views range from the muscular left ("Veterans for Kerry") to the forthrightly left ("Peace is patriotic") to the crudely left ("Dump the son of a Hush?"). The first man I passed …

An Awkward Church

Book by Douglas John Hall

(ENTIRE BOOK) Professor Hall ‘thinks the faith’ from within the North American cultural and ecclesial context. His theological work is not a timeless abstraction, but a rigorous attempt to engage Christian faith with social and historical actuality so that the gospel may be more faithfully proclaimed and lived.

Biker Wedding

Article by Brian Jones

  “The early Christians were not people of standing, but they had a secret power among them, and the secret power resulted from the way in which they were members of one another.” — Elton Trueblood     I’ve performed more wedding ceremonies than I can count, but there is one wedding that I will …

Cash and Character: Talking About Money in the Church

Article by Donald A. Luidens

BOOK REVIEW: The Crisis in the Church: Spiritual Malaise and Fiscal Woe. By Robert Wuthnow. Offord University Press, 291 pp., $30.00. In this his most prophetic book, Robert Wuthnow grieves for the lack of economic and stewardship visions in the contemporaiy church and for its antecedent failure of spirit. He places much of the responsibility …

Chapter 1: The Purpose of the Church and its Ministry  in  The Purpose of the Church and its Ministry

Book Chapter by H. Richard Niebuhr, Daniel Day Williams, & James M. Gustafson

At least in many parts of Christendom the quest for meaning, the revival of historic religious convictions about man’s nature and destiny, about his lostness and his salvation, and the need to realize the significance of these convictions in relation to contemporary world and life views, have led to a renewal of the theological endeavor. The role of the seminary is here weighed in several relationships.

Chapter 2: “The Family Pew” and the Church Today  in  Confronting the Idolatry of Family: A New Vision for the Household of God

Book Chapter by Janet Fishburn

This chapter is about the way “the family pew” ethos affects program planning and leadership roles in congregations. If family loyalty controls the events that matter most in the life of a congregation, the faith commitments of that congregation are misplaced. If love of family is stronger and deeper than love for Jesus Christ, this is family idolatry.

Chapter 2: The Emerging New Conception of the Ministry  in  The Purpose of the Church and its Ministry

Book Chapter by H. Richard Niebuhr, Daniel Day Williams, & James M. Gustafson

The seminary’s express purpose is to educate those who will direct the affairs of church institutions, especially local churches. They tend in consequence to neglect the first function of a theological school—the exercise of the intellectual love of God and neighbor. To this imbalance we shall need to address ourselves in other connections. The definition of the minister in the modern community is faced as well as the authority of the minister and his director.

Chapter 3: The Effect of Family Idolatry on a Congregation  in  Confronting the Idolatry of Family: A New Vision for the Household of God

Book Chapter by Janet Fishburn

The focus on ministry as spiritual direction requires the pastor to become the servant of all, the person who enables the ministry of every other member of the congregation. To accomplish this objective would require a redistribution of work in most congregations. In that process, both pastor and congregation will find that their understanding of the nature and mission of the church is changing.

Chapter 3: The Idea of a Theological School  in  The Purpose of the Church and its Ministry

Book Chapter by H. Richard Niebuhr, Daniel Day Williams, & James M. Gustafson

Very much as local pluralistic churches and harried ministers, seminaries also have an uncertainty of purpose. The first, superficial impression is not erased by more thorough acquaintance with theological schools; many instances of self-satisfied provincialism, inert traditionalism and specious modernization tend to confirm it. But more intimate acquaintance also brings into view a second, very different aspect of the scene. Alongside conventionality, which is sometimes downright antiquarian, one encounters vitality, freshness, eagerness and devotedness among these teachers and students.

Chapter 5: The Christian Life, Spirituality, and Sexuality  in  Confronting the Idolatry of Family: A New Vision for the Household of God

Book Chapter by Janet Fishburn

Where the longing for God is satisfied, human sexuality is enriched because spiritual discipline gives form and direction to desire. The mystery of sexual union is heightened for partners who love each other in Christ.” Conversely, exaggerated or compulsive love of any kind is a sign of alienation from God, of a lack of spiritual direction.

Chapter 6: Family-related Ethical Issues  in  Confronting the Idolatry of Family: A New Vision for the Household of God

Book Chapter by Janet Fishburn

The inability of many congregations to address the life experience of the post-sixties generation realistically could be one of the reasons that so many young adults who came of age in the 1970s and 1980s are not found in “the family pew.” Parents who were reared to believe that the values of “the family pew” are the only option for Christians are confused when they discover that their children do not conform to those ethical values.

Chapter 8: Spiritual Formation Through Family Ministries  in  Confronting the Idolatry of Family: A New Vision for the Household of God

Book Chapter by Janet Fishburn

Good relationships with parents, children, siblings, or life partners are of great importance to most church members. Yet, many congregations, these issues are treated as private or peripheral to the life of faith. As the designated leader of a congregation, the pastor is expected to interpret the meaning of the Christian life. That means that the pastor can influence the way the people of God think about the church, ministry, their families, and all of life.

Chapter 9:  in  Confronting the Idolatry of Family: A New Vision for the Household of God

Book Chapter by Janet Fishburn

The church today is in no position to condemn the evils of “the world” unless members can do so with spiritual integrity. If the dream, identities, and behaviors of church members are not distinguishable from the American Dream of togetherness, successful careers, and upward mobility, the church in the United States can hardly offer justice to victims of cultural oppression. If congregations continue to reflect the racial and sexual prejudices of American culture in the way they define membership, authority, and power, the church will have very little credibility as a prophetic voice in God’s world.

Church Market: Investing in Congregations

Article by Donald A. Luidens

Book Reviews: A Field Guide to U.S. Congregations: Who’s Going Where and Why. By Cynthia Woolever and Deborah Bruce. Westminster John Knox, 96 pp., paperback, Bridging Divided Worlds: Generational Cultures in Congregations. By Jackson W Carroll and Wade Clark Roof Jossey-B ass, 268 pp. Congregations in Transition: A Guide for Analyzing, Assessing and Adapting in …

Confession and Community: An Israel-like View of the Church

Article by George Lindbeck

I picture the process of change in my theological thinking in both archaeological and architectural terms: I have dug down into earlier layers of experience, and built on what went before. In my childhood and youth, I encountered cultural and religious groups other than my own; later I would engage them theologically, in reverse order. …

Confronting the Idolatry of Family: A New Vision for the Household of God

Book by Janet Fishburn

(ENTIRE BOOK) By analyzing attitudes about church and family and by illustrating how our “biblical values” are often too closely related to the “American Dream,” Fishburn offers sharp insights into the changes currently underway in our culture, churches, and families. Fishburn proposes a new agenda for the church — an agenda that can create a healthy context for traditional and non-traditional families.

Epilogue: The Servant Role of a Pastor  in  Confronting the Idolatry of Family: A New Vision for the Household of God

Book Chapter by Janet Fishburn

Pastors are not exempt from the temptations of the American Dream — an idolatrous love of family, career success, and a high standard of living. The desire for success, defined by the size of a congregation, can blur the spiritual vision of a gifted pastor. Most do not realize that the battle for the hearts and minds of church members is being waged against the power of a civil religion that forms the life commitments of most church members. A life committed to Jesus as Lord of all life does not preclude loyalty to nation, family, and church. But it does mean a reorientation of the heart so that commitment to nation, family, and church are expressions of love of God.

Forward  in  The Purpose of the Church and its Ministry

Book Chapter by H. Richard Niebuhr, Daniel Day Williams, & James M. Gustafson

Education in general, and not least ecclesiastical education, is subject to constant processes of deterioration and hence in need of periodic self-examination Thirty-six seminaries have given particular help by supplying information about their development during the last twenty years through The Study of Theological Education in the United States and Canada.

From Catacomb to Basilica: The Dilemma of Oldline Protestantism

Article by Leonard I. Sweet

In the film made to celebrate its 125th anniversary, the International Red Cross officially designated itself a "movement," and incorporated that identity into its title. Not wanting to be known as an "organization" or "association," the world’s largest humanitarian society prefers to call itself the International Movement of the Red Cross. If oldline Protestant churches …

From Guilt to Affirmation in the Mainline Churches

Article by Norman D. Pott

The decline of members and dollars among mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics since the mid-’60s is nowhere more graphically portrayed than at church convocations and national assemblies. Witness the graphs with their plummeting lines, the anguished presentation of statistics by the denominational hierarchy, and the curious blend of pessimism and hope communicated through such newly …

Learning from New Forms of Church: Gospel Ventures

Article by Stephanie Paulsell

Mainline to the Future: Congregations for the 21st Century By Jackson W. Carroll. Westminster John Knox, 130 pp. Transforming the Mainline Church: Lessons in Change from Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Hope. By Robert A. chestnut., Geneva Press, 186 pp. The other day, on a crowded subway, I glimpsed an ad featuring an attractive, curly-haired young woman. …

New Kind of Christian

Article by Jason Byassee

  Brian McLaren’s two most important books — A New Kind of Christian and the recent A Generous Orthodoxy – both open by raising the specter of an evangelical pastor leaving the ministry or the church altogether. The fictional lead character in New Kind is poised to abandon his ministry until a wise new friend …

No Steps to Heaven

Article by Harold H. Wilke

The scene is upper Manhattan, Broadway at Reinhold Niebuhr Place, Union Theological Seminary. Union’s president, Donald Shriver, walks jauntily down the steps to the bustling street and sits down in a wheelchair brought for the experiment, thus putting himself in the place of a student with a handicap. Gazing up from his wheelchair at that …

Progeny of Programmers: Evangelical Religion and the Television Age

Article by James A. Taylor

Some of my best friends are evangelicals. In many ways, I admire them. Their kind of religion offers a much-needed shot-in-the-arm to my own liberal and often lukewarm faith. At the same time, they disturb me. My evangelical friends and I don’t see things the same way. We read the same Scriptures, we worship the …

Prologue: Protestant Ideals and Historical Realities  in  Confronting the Idolatry of Family: A New Vision for the Household of God

Book Chapter by Janet Fishburn

This Prologue summarizes the book. There are three parts: Part 1 is an analysis of the origins of current attitudes about church and family. Part 2 is a discussion of the way values often believed to be “God-given and biblical” are related to the values of the American Dream. In Part 3, describes the role of church leaders in planning educational programs that are supportive of members of traditional and nontraditional families, but not dependent on “the Christian home” as the primary agency of Christian spiritual formation.

Seven Ways to Change Congregational Culture: Renewed Life

Article by Anthony B. Robinson

Though the past quarter century has been a challenging, sometimes discouraging time for mainline congregations and their leaders, many positive things, often hidden from public view or statistical analysis, have been going on. Many mainline congregations have learned to see scripture afresh, have profited from more biblical preaching and have rediscovered the power and beauty …

Splitting Up

Article by Jason Byassee

Last year the Church of the Resurrection in suburban West Chicago closed its doors and put its building up for sale. The Episcopal congregation had suffered membership losses 14 years earlier when some conservative members left to start their own church, also called the Church of the Resurrection, in nearby Glen Ellyn. The new congregation …

The Explorer’s Guide To Christianity

Book by Marcus Braybrooke

(ENTIRE BOOK) Marcus Braybrooke guides us through the various forms of Christian beliefs and practices. He asks for understanding of the vast differences between various Christian approaches. His hope is that this writing will be a doorway to the Christian world for the non-believer and the believer.

The Liberated Legalist

Article by Howard Wall

Perhaps that is why the Scriptures often construe the ethics of the believing community by various codes of rules. Such codes ordered the moral life of each community in terms of specific, historical and relevant descriptions of God’s will. which in turn made obedience easier and covenantal blessings more immediate. It is interesting, for instance, …

The Shape of the Church: Congregational and Trinitarian

Article by John W. Steward

After Our Likeness: The Church in the Image of the Trinity, by Miroslav Volf. Eerdmans, 313 pp., $28.00 paperback. Good books provide readers with fresh insight and useful information. Great books, especially in theology, range over several disciplines, revisit enduring human patterns and then weave new paradigms to explain old concerns. Miroslav Volf’s book is …

The Testament of Friends

Article by Stanley Hauerwas

A team of evangelical Christians invaded Shipshewana, Indiana, to bring the lost of Shipshewana to Christ. In front of Yoder’s drygoods store one of these earnest souls confronted a Mennonite farmer with the challenge, “Brother, are you saved?” The farmer was stunned by the question. All his years of attending the Peach Bloom Mennonite congregation …

True Confession: A Presbyterian Dissenter Thinks About the Church

Article by Barbara G. Wheeler

I have a practical problem. I joined the Presbyterian Church as an adult, in significant measure because I admire this denomination’s theology of the church and its processes for making decisions. Today I find myself in strong disagreement with the Church about an important matter. How shall I conduct myself now that I think that …

Unrecognized Internal Threats to Liberal Churches

Article by Harvey Seifert

So-called “mainline” or “liberal” denominations have recently been taking a public-relations beating for lack of growth and for neglect of mission. Many possible causes have been suggested, among them a general conservative trend of our times, greater faithfulness by liberals to the radical demands of the gospel, and greater expression by conservatives of warmth, zeal …

Weddings, Inc.

Article by Valerie Weaver-Zercher

Book Review: Brides, Inc.: American Weddings and the Business of Tradition. By Vicki Howard. University of Pennsylvania Press, 320 pp. One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding. By Rebecca Mead. Penguin, 256 pp., $25.95. Altared: Bridezillas, Bewilderment, Big Love, Breakups, and What Women Really Think About Contemporary Weddings. Edited by Colleen Curran. Vintage, …

Welcoming the Stranger

Article by L. Gregory Jones

Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition By Christine Pohl. (Eerdmans, 185 pp.) My wife and I were visiting some old friends, a couple in their 80s whose health had been failing. At the time of our visit, the husband was confined to a wheelchair and was struggling with dementia. He was only intermittently …

What is the Church For?

Article by Jason Byassee

What, precisely, is a good church? How would you know one when you see it? A popular answer these days is that a good church is a “purpose driven” church. The phrase and the concept come from Rick Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, California, one of the largest and fastest …

Why Should Anyone Believe? Apologetics and Theological Education

Article by Dennis M. Campbell

Book Review: Apologia: Contextualization, Globalization and Mission in Theological Education by Max L. Stackhouse and others (Eerdmans, 237 pp., $14.95 paperback). Text: Theological education today is characterized by genuine confusion about what should constitute the curriculum of basic degree programs at the graduate-professional level. Though debate about requirements has always me on, it was once …