Transforming (Mainline) Congregations

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Today I present the first of three interviews with Energion authors about how mainline congregations can be transformed and can renew their ministries. As I read the responses, however, I sensed that these answers don’t just apply to mainline congregations—any congregation can benefit from some of these practices.

While I presented the questions for this interview, I collected them from others. Each question represents either a question exactly as I heard or read it from someone who was concerned about ministry in aging and dying, or otherwise dysfunctional congregations, or my summary of a number of questions I have encountered on that topic.

Our first respondent is Dr. Bruce Epperly, author of a large number of books, many of which you will find listed under suggested reading, including Energion titles Philippians: A Participatory Study Guide, Healing Marks, and Transforming Acts (forthcoming, June, 2013).

Next week, we will publish responses by Bob LaRochelle, and the week following by Bob Cornwall. I hope that readers will engage with the content. If you are a pastor or church leader, consider answering these questions for yourself. Comment on what is said and engage in dialog. This is an important topic and there are some very helpful—even critical—ideas expressed. If you post on this topic on your blog, please let me know (pubs@energion.com) and I’ll be happy to provide a link. Alternatively, you can provide your own link in a comment.

— Henry Neufeld

EPPERLY RESPONSES

1. How do you take a church with an old, historical landmark building and a congregation of maybe 50 on a really good Sunday, average age about 60, and transform it into a living, growing faith community?

As one who has integrated pulpit and classroom for over thirty years, primarily in university and small congregation settings, I see congregational transformation and vitality as involving the interplay of intentionality and grace. There are a multitude of patterns or models for lively congregations.  Our emerging Saturday night church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, seldom had more than thirty in attendance in the Quaker social hall where we met.  Yet, our services were always lively and spirit-filled: the nondescript social hall was adorned with banners, scarves, and candles; often the aroma of bread baking for communion coming from the adjoining kitchen wafted through the air; and young children camped out on blankets at the edge of our circle of chairs.  We were participatory: sermons almost always joined a pastoral word with community reflection and sometimes were inspired by moments of holy reading, or lectio divina, in which the congregation pored over a passage, listening for the divine word in the words of scripture.

… from a mustard seed, a great plant grows; from five loaves and two fish, a multitude is fed.

We had small numbers but a big theology and our welcoming theology was matched by our radical hospitality, everyone welcome at the communion table, children bringing the elements for weekly communion to the table with the offering, and willingness to follow the Spirit’s movements and change course at the drop of the hat.  We never felt small or irrelevant or compared ourselves to other churches; we had a vocation and mission and that was good enough for this moment in time.  In that regard, I encourage congregations to begin where they are, not judging themselves by other congregations’ size and apparent vitality – after all, some megachurches have mini-theologies – and remember that from a mustard seed, a great plant grows; from five loaves and two fish, a multitude is fed.

Our music was global as well as traditional, sometimes simply the sung voice, other times accompanied by guitars, tambourines and maracas (the kids loved that!), keyboard, and clapped hands.

We had a sense of mission and that guided our approach to worship and decision-making: to be a radically hospitable, “come as you are,” inclusive, open and affirming, and progressive congregation.  I think mission is everything in vital communities:  cast a vision, meditate upon it, placard it, and see it as the flexible polestar guiding everything you do.  Our mission at Disciples United Community Church (www.ducc.us) involved both the inner and outer journeys – spiritual formation and care for each other and openness to being a light to the larger community through refugee resettlement, advocacy for the GLBT community, and affirmation of diversity.

Out of our experiences as pastor and church musician, Daryl Hollinger (the church musician) and I penned the book, From a Mustard Seed: Enlivening Worship and Music in the Small Church.   We reminded our readers that the average Protestant church in North America has 75 or less congregants gathered for worship each Sunday and out of what seems like scarcity, great worship can emerge.  Everyone is gifted, and simple and low cost instruments (rain sticks, maracas, finger cymbals, simply-constructed hand bells) can bring life to worship.

When worship ended, we left the communion bread on the table and placed other snacks around it, creating a love feast with every worship service.

One last note about our experience at Disciples United Community Church: whereas Christian formation of adults has been abandoned in most mainstream and progressive congregations, we placed a premium on adult theological education.  Perhaps, we had an advantage: a theologian as one of the pastors.  Whereas some large congregations barely get a dozen for adult education, our education-worship-fellowship were seamlessly tied together.  If we had thirty five in worship, we would likely have twenty to twenty five in adult education.  Folks would move from the education tables to worship by simply turning their chairs around and placing them in a circle.  When worship ended, we left the communion bread on the table and placed other snacks around it, creating a love feast with every worship service.  While geography can shape logistics, vital and lively worship requires flexibility in space and movement: the sanctuary of traditional churches should be respected, but in most sanctuaries there is room for gathering either in the chancel or narthex, thus making hospitality, community, education, and worship an integrated whole.

Here are some ready to hand and easily taught resources for congregational adult theological education and worship:

Diana Butler Bass, Christianity After Religion (HarperOne)

John Cobb, Praying for Jennifer

Monica Coleman, Not Alone: Reflections on Faith and Depression (Inner Prizes)

Bob Cornwall, Ephesians: A Participatory Study Guide (Energion)

Bob Cornwall, Ultimate Allegiance (Energion)

Maxie Dunnam, Workbook of Living Prayer (Upper Room)

Eric Elnes, The Phoenix Affirmations: A New Vision for the Future of Christianity (Jossey-Bass)

Bruce Epperly, Healing Marks: Spirituality and Healing in Mark’s Gospel (Energion)

Bruce Epperly, Philippians: A Participatory Study Guide (Energion)

Bruce Epperly, Emerging Process: Adventurous Theology for a Missional Church (Parson’s Porch)

Bruce Epperly, The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for a Postmodern Age (Parson’s Porch)

Bruce Epperly, Immersion Bible Studies: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah (Abingdon)

Bruce Epperly and Daryl Hollinger, From a Mustard Seed: Enlivening Worship and Music in the Small Church (Alban)

Joyce Rupp, The Cup of Our Life (Ave Maria)

Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith

Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why (Baker)

2. How can you engage someone brought up as a scientific rationalist in (say) the last 30 years in your church sufficiently long to enable them to have some kind of transformative experience, and how do you get them to stay?

The greatest challenge for the church is to be “relevant” to the needs of seekers, spiritual but not religious, self-described “nones,” and the scientific community.  When you ask young adults, even within the church, about their perspective on the church, they use terms like: intolerant, anti-scientific, homophobic, small-minded, racist, and sexist.  And, quite often they are right.  But, worse yet, is when they describe the church as “irrelevant” to their lives.  A lot of Christians believe that the desire to be “relevant” waters down the faith, but I believe that the church is always called to minister concretely and not in terms of some Platonic ideal, beautiful in its abstraction, but unrelated to real life.  If the message isn’t relevant, it isn’t the gospel!

If the message isn’t relevant, it isn’t the gospel!

I think one of the most important things churches need to do is to cultivate spiritual practices and develop a vision of reality that is non-dogmatic, yet transformative.  Diana Butler Bass says that the words “doctrine” and “doctor” have the same roots and this should remind us that doctrines are intended to be “healthy teachings,” not exclusionary devices or walls intended to separate “us” from “them.”

Ironically, except for the hard-core atheists who themselves resemble religious fundamentalists in the “how” of their faith, most rationalistic people are open to the transcendent.  A Pew Report notes that 50% of the population claim to have experienced something they describe as self-transcendent or mystical.  While people are not necessarily more spiritual or mystical today, this figure is nearly twice as high as forty years ago, indicating an openness to experiencing and sharing experiences of the holy and spiritual.  Some Christians malign “Oprah-spirituality,” but the popularity of her program points to a need the churches should be addressing in light of the gifts of our traditions.

In my writing, I have focused on spirituality, healing, and global theology.  I believe that churches will be vital both among their members and to seekers and rationalists if they:

  • Sponsor meditation groups
  • Have healing services and dialogue with holistic and complementary medicine
  • Present a big vision of the universe.  Imaginative and poetic readings of the Genesis creation accounts, Psalm 8, Psalms 148-150, Paul’s speech at the Areopagus describe a grand, unfolding, creative universe in which God is still at work, bringing forth new possibilities in the human and non-human worlds.  Bring photos from the Hubble Telescope to church, show Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos Series,” gather people to watch “Nova.”
  • Provide possibilities for wonder.  Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel asserts that one of the primary religious virtues is “radical amazement.” Do amazing things at church.
  • Get involved in mission.  What are you doing to lower the carbon footprint?  Does your church address global climate change?
  • Seek justice.  Sadly, many people see Christianity as about God, guns, anti-immigration, and slashing government programs that help the poor.  To risk a bit of controversy, there is no inalienable Christian right to own a gun or lower taxes. These issues aren’t even on the biblical radar, either concretely or abstractly, and while I do not oppose gun ownership, given the words of the Sermon on the Mount, a fixation of gun rights may be quite incompatible with gospel Christianity!  But, the scriptures are clear – care for the immigrant, welcome the stranger, insure economic justice, provide for the vulnerable.  This needs to be done both politically (see Amos, Hosea, Micah) and congregationally (see Acts 2 and its vision of having all things in common ownership.”
  • Concretely get your hands dirty in mission projects: give money, but also time.  Seekers want something to give their heart and hands, as well as their heads, too.
  • Take science seriously as a companion, not a threat.  As early Christian theologians, proclaimed, “Wherever truth is present, God is its source.”

For further reading, let me suggest:

Philip Clayton, The Predicament of Belief: Science, Philosophy, and Faith

Bruce Epperly, Emerging Process: Adventurous Theology for a Missional Church (Parson’s Post)

John Haught, Cosmic Adventure: Science, Religion, and the Quest for Purpose

John Haught, God and the New Atheism: A Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens (Westminster John Knox)

Alistair McGrath, Surprised by Meaning: Science, Faith, and How We Make Sense of Things

John Polkinghorne, Science and Religion in Quest of Truth (Yale University)

John Polkinghorne, Testing Scripture: A Scientist Explores the Bible (Brazos)

Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith (Harper)

3. Can a charismatic, evangelical. mission-based church find a home for a post-modernist theologian/mystic?

Yes, provided that its theology is open-spirited and adventurous.  Doctrines are often treated as idols rather than guideposts.  Moreover it needs to be spiritually and globally open, seeing diversity as a divine gift and source of growth and threat.  Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and so did we.

Acts of the Apostles provides a good model for such an open-source spirituality.  Neither structures nor doctrines had been developed. The first followers of Jesus were making it up as they went along, inspired by the Holy Spirit to constantly revise their faith and sense of boundaries.  The mission and welcome of the Gentiles, as difficult as it was, opened the doors to new inspirations and challenged old and sacrosanct orthodoxies.

To reach out, we need to risk changing our own understandings of God and our faith.

Post-modernists don’t want to hear about God, they want to experience life in its wonder and beauty.
They want to “taste and see” God’s goodness.  They have questions and visions and need to be heard.

To reach out, we need to risk changing our own understandings of God and our faith: that’s what happened to Philip when he encountered the Ethiopian eunuch and Peter when he dreamed of unclean food and discovered nothing was unclean.  Remember that the old-time religion was once new-fangled.   The Protestant Reformers have a good word for us: the Reformation is always reforming and so should we.

For further reflection:

Rob Bell, Love Wins (Harper One)

Bruce Epperly, Transforming Acts (Energion, [forthcoming June 2013])

Patricia Adams Farmer, The Metaphor Maker (Create Space)

Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy (Zondervan)

Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions that are Transforming Faith (Harper One)

Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christian (Jossey-Bass)

Thomas Oord, The Nature of Love: A Theology (Chalice)

Doug Pagitt, A Christianity Worth Believing (Jossey-Bass)

Doug Pagitt, The Church in the Inventive Age (Sparkhouse)

4. What are the possible roles for young people in a church in renewal? Would you give them opportunities to read, speak, lead a service, provide music, etc.? In other words, how fully can those in their teens (and even younger) participate in leading renewal?

The future is now. Young adults, like the young boy with the five loaves and two fish, can be agents of transformation.  Young adults are not just future leaders, they can be leaders now.  Given good mentoring, they can grow in the faith, challenge old assumptions, suggest new ways, and pioneer in new technologies.  They can combine high tech (social media, web site construction, and fearlessness around technology) with high touch (hearts open to God) to advance God’s mission of love, healing, and Shalom.

Young adults are not just future leaders, they can be leaders now.

We need to listen, be willing to let go of control and power, and open to new ways of doing ministry to make room for a creative synthesis of tradition and innovation in church life.

For suggested reading:

Kenda Creasy Dean, Almost Christian: What Our Teenagers are Telling the Church (Oxford University Press)

Kenda Creasy Dean and Andrew Root, The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry  (IVP)

Kenda Creasy Dean, The God-Bearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry (Upper Room)

Sharon Daloz Parks, Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Emerging Adults in Their Quest for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith (Jossey-Bass)

5. What role would theological or doctrinal distinctives play in such a church? Is the particular theological flavor of the church important?

As Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr recognized, all human activity is ambiguous, and so are denominational distinctives – and I will make the bold statement that even non-denominational churches have plenty, if not more, particular theological and liturgical baggage than many denominational churches; they just don’t think so!  Denominational distinctives can be spiritually suffocating and they can also be spiritually liberating.  They respond to different emotional, experiential, and spiritual styles.  They remind us that “we didn’t invent this,” and they serve as a challenge to those who want to jump over twenty-one hundred years of history to rediscover the illusory “New Testament church.”

The church is always contextual and filtered through the lenses of our experience and as long as denominational distinctives can be allowed a degree of fluidity and transformation in relationship to global spirituality, the diversity of Christianity, and congregational spiritual and mission needs, they can be positive factors in Christian formation of persons and communities.

For further reading:

Edwin Aponte, Santo! Varieties of Latino/Latina Spirituality (Orbis)

Bruce Epperly, Emerging Process: Adventurous Theology for a Missional Church (Parson’s Porch)

Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy (Zondervan)

Rowan Williams, Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief

Rowan Williams,  Faith in the Public Square (A&C Black)

6. What role does liturgy play in church renewal? Is it important whether the church is formal or informal, “high church” or “low church,” or what style of music is used?

Liturgy and worship are central to congregational transformation.  The whole fabric of worship – hospitality, preaching, music, prelude, postlude, technology employed – can transform the life of faith. Today, worship needs to be global as well as local.  We need to embrace the experiences of Christians across the globe as well as across history.  This can as easily occur in a congregation of fifty as a congregation of five hundred.

Liturgy and worship are central to congregational transformation.

Everyone can be part of worship as readers, singers, greeters, musicians (with simple instruments such as maracas, finger cymbals, rain sticks).  Worship flourishes when it truly is the people’s work and when sermons inspire conversation and reflection.

For further reading:

Bruce Epperly and Daryl Hollinger, From a Mustard Seed: Enlivening Worship and Music in the Small Church (Alban)

Michael Hawn, Gathering into One: Praying and Singing Globally  (Eerdman’s)

Michael Hawn, One Bread, One Body: Exploring Cultural Diversity in Worship (Alban)

Thomas Long, Beyond the Worship Wars (Abingdon)

Marcia McFee, The Worship Workshop: Creative Ways to Design Worship Together (Abingdon)

Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Worship (Baker)

7. Can a pastor in a church that is part of a denomination lead that church in renewal? Do denominational politics prevent the kinds of creative actions that are necessary for church renewal?

All congregations face limitations, but within the limitations emerge the possibilities.  While it is easier to transform a “new” church than a congregation with traditions, physical plant, and denominational distinctives, transformation can occur and transformation is always contextual.  The challenge of “non-denominational” churches is that they, in fact, have more baggage than they admit – the ego of the founding pastor, the lack of theological and liturgical structure, the temptation to assume the superiority of a certain style of worship (usually the illusion of the founders that they are doing something for the first time), the lack of connection with the communion of saints through history.

… within the limitations emerge the possibilities.

The times call for an appropriate boldness: the right blending of tradition and novelty in doing new things, experimenting with new paths of worship and evangelism, and exploring new types of worship spaces.  We need to launch out into the deep in ways that reflect the most imaginative possibilities for our communities.

I suggest that all congregations that have a “history” explore using the “appreciative inquiry” process as a way of discerning their passions, gifts, and visions for the future.

I suggest the following books:

Mark Branson, Memories, Hopes, and Conversations: Appreciative Inquiry and Congregational Change (Alban)

David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney, Appreciative Inqiury: A Positive Revolution in Change (Barrett-Koehler)

Bruce Epperly, Emerging Process: Adventurous Theology for a Missional Church (Parson’s Porch)

Darrell Gruder, Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (Eerdman’s)

Loren Mead, The Once and Future Church (Alban)

Loren Mead, Transforming Churches for the Future (Alban)

Margaret Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science (Barrett-Koehler)

Alan Roxburgh,  Introducing the Missional Church (Baker)

8. How can a pastor assigned to a new church discern the needs of that church and find the path to renewal for that specific congregation?

Put briefly, he or she needs to pray with her or his eyes open!  He or she needs to recognize the gifts of the congregation, its specific challenges, and the context of its ministry.  Ministry and congregational life is always concrete and contextual and transformation occurs right where we are.

The pastor needs to claim a flexible vision, grounded in prayer, but not a specific agenda that overlooks the spiritual gifts of this particular congregation.  We see in a mirror dimly and need to open to the unexpected movements of the spirit moving through this time and place.

A life steeped in prayer and meditation, an openness to God speaking through the everyday moments of congregants, and a deeper realism, cognizant of the bottom line, but also aware that God can do great things within our limitations, are essential for renewal.   We need to apply the wisdom of Acts of the Apostles for our time and place – lively, making it up as we go along, open to the Spirit, building bridges not walls, welcoming otherness, and faithful to the best of tradition.

I suggest the following texts:

Robert Cornwall, Ultimate Allegiance: The Subversive Nature of the Lord’s Prayer (Energion)

Robert Cornwall, Ephesians: A Participatory Study Guide (Energion)

Bruce Epperly, Philippians: A Participatory Study Guide (Energion)

Bruce Epperly, Tending to the Holy: The Practice of the Presence of God in Ministry (Alban)

Bruce Epperly, Transforming Acts (Energion, [forthcoming June 2013])

Kent Groff, Clergy Table Talk: Eavesdropping on Clergy Issues in the Twenty-first Century (Energion)

Renita Weems, Listening for God: A Minister’s Journey Through Silence and Doubt (Touchstone)

9. What is the role of the pastor’s personal prayer and devotional life (or that of the lay leadership)?

The pastor’s prayer life is absolutely essential.  While the adage “pray as you can, not as you can’t” applies globally to spiritual formation, we have to begin by making the effort to place ourselves consciously in the flow God’s gentle providence.  I believe that all of life is a “call and response” in which God calls to us in every life situation.   God’s call is for us and for those around us.  Accordingly, pastors’ prayer life awakens them to God’s vision for their congregation and for pastoral encounters.

In the spirit of Acts of the Apostles, pastors are challenged to be practical mystics and Pentecostals, constantly imbibing of the Spirit and then letting the Spirit flow from them to others.

… pastors are challenged to be practical mystics and Pentecostals …

I would begin simply, if I have found that the tasks of ministry have crowded out my prayer life, with a simple prayer to be open to God throughout the day.  This prayer is always answered, although the answers may transform your life.  I would invite pastors to simple breath prayers: taking a few minutes each day for stillness, breathing in God’s Spirit in “sighs too deep for words.”  One of my mentors used a breath prayer that followed this pattern:

Inhale: I breathe the Spirit deeply in and

Exhale:  blow it ___________ out again.

(expressing how I feel, knowing that God is the ultimate recipient of

our feelings – so blow it “happily,” “angrily,” “joyfully,” “peacefully,” etc)

Our prayer life can and ought to be integrated with our preaching and pastoral care.  Praying without ceasing is a way of life, not one more thing to do in ministry.

I suggest the following books on spirituality of ministry:

Bruce Epperly, Starting with Spirit: Nurturing Pastoral Leadership (Alban)

Bruce and Katherine Epperly, Tending to the Holy: The Practice of the Presence of God in Ministry (Alban)

Bruce and Katherine Epperly, The Four Seasons of Ministry: Gathering a Harvest of Righteousness (Alban)

Bruce and Katherine Epperly, Feed the Fire: Avoiding Clergy Burnout (Pilgrim)

Kent Ira Groff, Clergy Table Talk: Eavesdropping on Ministry in the Twenty-first Century (Energion)

Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step (Bantam)

Gerald May, The Awakened Heart (HarperOne)

Flora Wuellner, Feed my Shepherds: Spiritual Healing and Renewal for Those in Christian Leadership

(Upper Room)

10. What is the role of the pastor’s academic and professional development in church renewal?

Pastors are the rabbis and theologians of their congregations.  Study and continuing education are always contextual and related to your congregational dynamics.  Accordingly, there is no one ideal for the pastor-theologian.  Still, it is essential to the preaching of the gospel and pastoral care that we take continuing education seriously.  After all, would you want to go to a doctor who failed to keep up with medical research, a tax preparer who did not keep up with IRS regulations, or an attorney who hadn’t kept up with changes in the law?  We should expect the same from ourselves as pastors – and our congregants should expect gravitas and reflection from us!

Study is often, like the good seed of Jesus’ parable, choked by the many demands of ministry.  But, despite busy schedules, preachers need to commit themselves to intellectual-theological and professional growth. This can be done in a variety of ways: workshops and retreats, on-line courses, D.Min. programs, weekly study time, and research of on-line blogs.  It may also include the arts, immersing yourself in great music (jazz, classical, etc.), going to museums, and attending plays.

Our Jewish parents saw study as a form of worship, and we should do likewise as a way to “love God with our minds” and provide good theological and spiritual nourishment for our congregants and seekers.

For further reflection, let me suggest:

Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time  (Harper One)

Marcus Borg and N.T. Wright, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (Harper One)

Philip Clayton, Transforming Theology (Fortress)

Monica Coleman, Making a Way out of No Way: A Womanist Theology (Fortress)

Bruce and Katherine Epperly, Tending to the Holy: The Practice of the Presence of God in Ministry (Alban)

Bruce Epperly, The Four Seasons of Ministry: Gathering a Harvest of Righteousness (Alban)

Bruce Epperly, Process Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed (Continuum)

Bruce Epperly, Starting with Spirit: Nurturing Your Call to Pastoral Leadership (Alban)

Bruce and Katherine Epperly, Feed the Fire: Avoiding Clergy Burnout (Pilgrim)

Douglas John Hall, The End of Christendom and the Future of Christianity (Wipf and Stock)

Catherine Keller, Toward the Mystery (Fortress)

Patricia Adams Farmer, The Metaphor Maker (Create Space)

Jay McDaniel, Living from the Center: Spirituality in an Age of Consumerism

Brian McLaren, Why Did Jesus, Mohammed, and the Buddha Cross the Road (Jericho Books)

Rebecca Parker and Rita Nakashima Brock, Proverbs of Ashes (Beacon)

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead: A Novel

Walter Wink, The Powers That Be (Theology for a New Millenium)

Renita Weems, Listening for God: A Minister’s Journey through Silence and Doubt (Touchstone)

N.T. Wright and Marcus Borg, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (HarperOne)

11.  What spiritual practices can transform congregational life?

Congregations are called to be laboratories of spiritual formation, lively worship, and healing and wholeness.  The good news is always contextual, and grace abounds, but we need “practices,” ongoing disciplines that awaken us to God’s transformative love and power in our time.  Becoming a “practicing” church also invites seekers, many of whom, are in search of spiritual experiences and healing of body, mind, and spirit to try the church again “for the first time” or simply walk in the doors, letting go of previous preconceptions.

Congregations are called to be laboratories of spiritual formation …

I believe that pastor and congregants alike need to take seriously the long tradition of Christian spirituality, reflected in practices such as lectio divina (holy reading), imaginative prayer (Ignatian spirituality), centering prayer, sung prayers or chants, and healing worship and practices.  These invite the church to experience the liveliness and creativity characteristic of the community described in Acts of the Apostles.

I suggest the following books on spiritual transformation:

Diana Butler Bass, Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith (Harper One)

Diana Butler Bass, The Practicing Congregation (Alban)

Dorothy Bass, Practicing the Faith (Jossey-Bass)

Maxie Dunnam, The Workbook of Living Prayer

Maxie Dunnam, The Workbook of Intercessor Prayer

Bruce Epperly, The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for a Postmodern Age (Parson’s Post)

Bruce Epperly, God’s Touch: Faith, Wholeness, and the Healing Miracles of Jesus (Westminster John Knox)

Bruce Epperly, Healing Marks: Healing and Spirituality in Mark’s Gospel (Energion)

Bruce Epperly, Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living

Bruce Epperly, Philippians: A Participatory Study (Energion)

Bruce Epperly, Healing Worship: Purpose and Practice (Pilgrim)

Bruce Epperly, Tending to the Holy: The Practice of the Presence of God in Ministry (Alban)

Bruce Epperly, Transforming Acts (Energion, [forthcoming June 2013])

Kent Ira Groff, Active Spirituality (Alban)

Kent Ira Groff, The Soul of Tomorrow’s Church (Upper Room)

Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)

Sara Miles, Take this Bread (Ballantine)

Kathleen Norris, Cloister Walk (Riverhead)

Joyce Rupp, The Cup of Our Life (Ave Maria)

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