Nones and Dones Book Recommendations

At the 2016 NEXT Church National Gathering, Renee Roederer hosted an optional ministry context conversation on “nones and dones,” people Renee defines as spiritually curious and institutionally suspicious. As part of that discussion, a book list emerged for those looking to learn more:

Church Refugees: Sociologists Reveal Why People are DONE with Church but not Their Faith – Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope

Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope provide a sociological study that explains why the Dones are leaving churches behind. They explore the primary themes for departure in order to listen to the concerns of the Dones and help churches adapt.

The Nones are Alright: A New Generation of Believers, Seekers, and Those in Between – Kaya Oakes

Kaya Oakes provides historical analysis about why people are leaving organized religion and how some are reclaiming it outside of institutional structures.

Grounded: Finding God in the World – A Spiritual Revolution – Diana Butler Bass

Diana Butler Bass argues that what appears to be a religious decline in the U.S. is actually a new, transformative movement of people experiencing God as intimate and incarnational in the world.

Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory  – Tod Bolsinger

Tod Bolsinger tells the story of the Lewis and Clark exploration as they had to dramatically adapt once they reached the Rocky Mountains. In the same way, church leaders recognize that dramatic adaptation is needed as culture is changing.

The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why – Phyllis Tickle

Phyllis Tickle argues that the Christian Church experiences a major reformation approximately every 500 years,  and that a new, great emergence is currently developing which will invite more into the faith as the institutional church changes.

What is the NEXT Church Reading?

by MaryAnn McKibben Dana

Happy March! This month on the blog we will be featuring reflections from our 2016 National Gathering. Watch this space for thoughts from a wide variety of folks, especially around the question, What “stuck”? What ideas, speakers, workshops or worship services are continuing to work on your heart as you envision “the church that is becoming?” We’ll be hearing from ruling elders, teaching elders, seminarians, and more.

We start with a list of books and blogs collected during our authors’ lunch, in which writers and book-lovers came together on Tuesday to share favorite books, websites, and other resources. What is the NEXT Church reading? What is the NEXT Church writing? Here are a few answers, in the order they were shared. Bold items are books written by NEXT attendees and leaders.

A list like this one is by nature incomplete, even inadequate. What would you add?
  • Aric Clark, et al — Never Pray Again
  • Martha Spong, editor — There’s a Woman in the Pulpit
  • Denise Anderson — Soula Scriptura blog
  • Kathleen O’Toole — Meanwhile (poetry)
  • Andy Weir — The Martian
  • Mark Douglas — Confessing Christ in the 21st Century, Believing Aloud: Reflections on Being Religious in the Public Square
  • Christian Wiman — My Bright Abyss
  • Ta-Nahesi Coates — Between the World and Me
  • Marilynne Robinson — The Givenness of Things
  • @ This Point — journal from Columbia Seminary, theological investigations in church and culture
  • Adam Copeland, editor — Kissing in the Chapel, Praying in the Frat House: Wrestling with Faith and College, Stewardship Made Whole (forthcoming)
  • Jenny Lawson — Let’s Pretend This Never Happened
  • Mark Davis — Left Behind and Loving It
  • MaryAnn McKibben Dana — Sabbath in the Suburbs, Improvising with God (forthcoming), 
  • Theresa Latini —Transforming Church Conflict
  • Jennifer Harvey — Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation (Prophetic Christianity Series)
  • Scott Dannemiller — The Year without a Purchase (blog: Accidental Missionary)
  • Fredrik Backman — A Man Called Ove
  • Lynn Miller — The Power of Enough
  • Samuel Wells — Nazareth Manifesto
  • Charles Freeman — blog: Way More Important Than That (A blog on where faith and sports intersect … or don’t …)
  • Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru — League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth
  • Diane Roberts — Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America
  • Jessica Vazquez-Torres, contributor — Church Responds to Racism 
  • William B. Sweetser Jr. — A Copious Fountain: A History of Union Presbyterian Seminary, 1812-2012
  • Atul Gawande — Being Mortal
  • Diana Butler Bass — Grounded: Finding God in the World-A Spiritual Revolution
  • Ian Haney López— Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class
  • Amanda Palmer — The Art of Asking
  • Stephen King — On Writing

mamd profile picMaryAnn McKibben Dana is a teaching elder in the PC(USA) whose ministry consists of writing, speaking, and freelance writing/consulting with non-profit organizations on their social media needs. She is a member of the NEXT Church Strategy Team. Connect with her at her website, The Blue Room.

Book Review: Inhabiting Eden: Christians, the Bible and the Ecological Crisis

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. During September, Leanne Pearce Reed is curating a month of blog posts exploring stewardship of all creation. Join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

by Walter Canter

Patricia Tull’s book Inhabiting Eden searches the wisdom of the Old Testament for a way of ideal relationship with God and creation. Tull ends up in Genesis and Isaiah (along with a supporting cast of plenty other texts from across the OT and gospels) basing her approach to the ecological crisis in humanity’s identity and prophetic call.

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Tull begins with a broad assessment of human relationship with God and creation—she finds that the relationship we have isn’t the ideal depicted in Scripture. After the broad overview, Tull assesses the implications of this less than ideal relationship in regards to commerce, food, animal life, and human rights. Inhabiting Eden ends with a hopeful prophetic call to renewed relationship with God and creation through living within the planet’s means.

Throughout Inhabiting Eden, Tull challenges contemporary understandings of ‘environment.’ Environment, to Tull, is not isolated to the nearest wetland, national park or forest. The environment that needs our care and respect in Eden is everywhere. All humans live in an environment and human action affects both the immediate environment as well as the beautiful places of wilderness. The story of creation includes everything, no part of this world is out of God’s reach and all parts of this world are loving gifts from its Creator. Using this all-encompassing definition of environment, Tull develops a theology of gratitude.

Within the ordered and fundamentally good creation, humans have the vocation of caretakers. God provides what we need, and in response to that providing, human beings have the task of preserving these gifts. In Tull’s words, “We were intended to draw sustenance from creation’s bounty. With each breath, we take in God’s provision of air; with each drink, the precious water supply; with each bit of bread, the manna for one more day of love and service. We can begin to uphold the world that upholds us by recognizing these gifts with gratitude, especially our place in an ordered world that is full and fundamentally good, and our vocation to preserve the goodness and health of this living, teeming, exuberant world” (30).

Tull, along with the biblical prophets, shapes her call for justice around an understanding of change in the world. The ecological crisis comes out of dangerous change, but hope comes out of an acknowledgement that just as change in human behavior brought danger, a new change in human behavior can overcome that danger.

Tull’s writing style and structure is accessible; she dives into current ecological issues and scriptural study with clear and concise language. Tull’s accessibility makes it tempting to read quickly, but the depth, poignancy, and relevance of the information often left me pausing to assess my own handling of these sacred texts in relation to my everyday activity. There were even a few moments in Inhabiting Eden where I paused mid paragraph to google things like, “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” hoping that Tull’s description of our planet’s state was hyperbolic (it wasn’t… and ew).

Inhabiting Eden is an excellent read that reminds the reader of the timeless power of Scripture as it challenges the reader to see these old texts in a new light.

Provided by: Walter Canter

Rev. Walter Canter is pastor of Calvary Presbyterian Church of Big Lick in Crossville, TN. He’s an avid soccer fan and enjoys hiking with his wife (and occasionally his dog). Contact him at

Paracletos Reading List

Brownson, James V. et al: Storm Front: The Good News of God. Eerdmans 2003

Butler Bass, Diana: Christianity After Religion. Harper One 2012

Hudson, Jill M.: When Better Isn’t Enough: Evaluation Tools for the 21st Century Church. Alban 2004

Kitchens, Jim: The Postmodern Parish: New Ministry for a New Era. Alban 2003

Mancini, Will: Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, and Create Movement. Jossey-Bass 2008

Merritt, Carol Howard: Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation. Alban 2010

Rendle, Gil: The Multigenerational Congregation: Meeting the Leadership Challenge. Alban 2002

Whitsett, Landon: Open Source Church: Making Room for the Wisdom of All. Alban 2011

A Passion for the Reign of God–A Review of Emergence Christianity

by Elizabeth Michael

emergence christianityI heard Phyllis Tickle speak at the Festival of Homiletics this spring.  The speaker introducing her went through a long list of her credentials and accolades and then asked her, “What is your passion?”

I expected to hear that Tickle was passionate about her small farm in Tennessee, knitting, rock-hopping, and sea-salted dark chocolate, or some such things.  (After all, who of us hasn’t wrestled with that last line of a bio, which conventionally includes friends/family/pets, a favorite creative pursuit, a slightly obscure physical activity, and a rather innocuous guilty pleasure?)  Instead, I found myself sitting up straight when I heard her response: “What is my passion?  Still, though it may sound ridiculous, the reign of God.”

That answer got me to pull Tickle’s books out of my “good intentions” pile and open them.

A few years ago, Tickle’s writing popularized the concept of semi-millennial cultural tsunamis: she posited that every 500 years, almost as clockwork, the Western world has experienced periods of enormous upheaval in which every piece of culture has been reconfigured.  Five hundred years ago it was the Reformation, 1000 years ago saw the Great Schism, 1500 years ago witnessed the Great Decline and Fall, and 2000 years ago birthed the Great Transformation.  This, then, is one of Tickle’s gifts to the heart wearied by anxiety for the church and culture in our age: we are right on schedule.

Indeed, it is not the church alone that experiences upheaval: economic, political, and social life are disrupted right alongside ecclesial life.  The upheaval of our own times, christened the Great Emergence, has been the subject of a few of Tickle’s books.  Her latest, Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where It Is Going, and Why It Matters, published in 2012, serves as an “interim report” on the church-that-is-becoming.

Those who still find themselves uncertain of what emergence Christianity is will find in this volume a helpful introduction.  Here Azusa Street, Taize, New Monastics, the by now infamous SBNR crowd, and theology-on-tap groups find a place in Tickle’s chronicle.  Here the “emerging” and “emergent” camps are differentiated.  Here are considered, if not answered, questions of our present moment: How will Christian community look in an Internet age of anonymous intimacy?  What does the deinstitutionalization of Emergence Christianity mean for the future of professional ordained clergy?  When an Emergence culture finds meta-narratives suspect, what is to become of Christianity’s Grand Narrative?  What does “growth” mean to the church-that-is-becoming?

It is perhaps telling that the final section of the book, “And Now What?” is also the shortest.  Looking ahead to the inevitable reconfiguration of all that is currently being disrupted, Tickle is not prescriptive and minimally predictive.  She identifies impending dilemmas to be revisited, among them atonement theory and the question of what it is to be a human being.  She wonders about the implications for the church of an Emergence culture skeptical of hierarchy and disinclined toward membership.  Most incisively, she raises the question that follows inevitably in the wake of every tsunami: where now is our authority?  Or, put another way, how then shall we live?  The volume is only an interim report, after all.  There is more to come, and readers are left with the implicit responsibility of living into the questions.

Were its first 200 pages useless, the book would be worth purchasing for the annotated bibliography and afterword alone.  The robust reading list offers further fodder for those so inclined; it is evidence of Tickle’s careful scholarship.  But the brief afterword evinces not only her scholarship, but also her faith.  She writes of the mystery of the Trinity and of the story by which she lives her life; she writes like a person passionate about the reign of God.

Elizabeth Michael is privileged to serve as Associate Pastor at Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church in Durham, NC.  She does love sea-salted chocolate but is striving to be still more passionate about the reign of God.

Essential Reading for the NEXT Church

A theological memoir. A scriptural guide to community organizing. A collection of stories and reflections from young clergy women. A cheeky look at the end times. These are just a few of the books featured at our two Author Luncheons during the 2013 NEXT National Gathering in Charlotte. During the lunch, authors shared a few words about their books, then we opened the floor for suggestions of books, blogs and resources that others have found helpful in engaging the church that is becoming. What is the NEXT Church reading? What is the NEXT Church writing? Here are a few answers. A list like this one is by nature incomplete, even inadequate. What would you add?

Books Featured at NEXT Left Behind and Loving It: A Cheeky Look at the End Times, Mark Davis Reflecting with Scripture on Community Organizing, Jeff Krehbiel Bless Her Heart: Life as a Young Clergy Woman, Ashley-Anne Masters and Stacy Smith Sabbath in the Suburbs: A Family’s Experiment with Holy Time, MaryAnn McKibben Dana Church and Stage: Producing Theatre for Education, Praxis, Outreach and Fundraising, Dean Seal The Benefit of the Doubt, Frank Spencer (coming soon to Amazon) Take My Hand: A Theological Memoir, Andrew Taylor-Troutman Imagining the Small Church: Celebrating a Simpler Path, Steve Willis

Other Books Recommended by NEXT Church Conferees Einstein’s God: Conversations about God and the Human Spirit, Krista Tippett Geography of God: Exploring the Christian Journey, Michael Lindvall Effective Organizing for Congregational Renewal, Mike Gecan Putting Away Childish Things: A Novel of Modern Faith, Marcus Borg When Spiritual But Not Religious Is Not Enough, Lillian Daniel Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History’s Best Teachers, Gary Neal Hansen

Blogs and Websites (in no particular order) Mustard Seed Journal, Mary Harris Todd 1001 Hints for Youth Ministry, Kent Smith The Pudgy Parson (Still) Going to Graceland RevGalBlogPals Glass Overflowing, Marci Auld Glass Painted Prayerbook, Jan Richardson A Church for Starving Artists, Jan Edmiston In the Meantime, David Lose The Blue Room, MaryAnn McKibben Dana Spirit in the House, Dean Seal and the Forgiveness 360 Project Inside Outed Tribal Church, Carol Howard Merritt

Resources for Writers CreateSpace: Amazon Publishing Wipf and Stock (publisher) Presbyterian Writers Guild Collegeville Institute (writing workshops and programs) Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, Michael Hyatt