January 4, 2024

All-Parish Book Study 

You might have noticed that the Church and nearly all individual churches are in decline. 

In 2007 Canadian philosopher and sociologist Charles Taylor’s book, “A Secular Age,” shook his field and the Church with its exploration of how western society has changed and why more and more people find the church to be irrelevant at best. Taylor’s book, however, is dense and assumes a knowledge base that many of us lack. Happily, practical theologian and professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary, Dr. Andrew Root has taken Tayor’s work and applied it to the work of the church in his “Ministry in a Secular Age” series. His work, though still challenging, has been widely read and very well received by pastors around the world. He found, however, that pastors were having trouble sharing his works with parishioners, because, again, a certain knowledge base was assumed in the books. 

In response to this need, this past May, Root released a new book with coauthor Blair Bertrand, “When Church Stops Working: A Future for Your Congregation beyond More Money, Programs, and Innovation.” In this book, written for vestries, church boards, and congregants, he describes the issue of secularity and how churches have used secular approaches to address what is fundamentally a spiritual challenge and presents a simple and faithful but very difficult (for people formed by secularity) response. 

This Epiphany season, I am asking that we ALL read and discuss this book together as a congregation. It is a brief book, 176 pages, and is available in print, digital, and even audio formats and if cost is an issue for you, please talk with me. I hope you will talk about it in your own households, small groups, classes, and ministry groups. We will also have a chance to discuss each chapter together on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 by Zoom beginning this coming Wednesday, January 10. Please check the Tune Up or contact the church office for the Zoom link. If you can’t join the discussion, please read or listen to the book anyway. I hope that the book and our discussion will help us to put our parish situation in context and release many of the fears we have about decline. 

What to read: 

The basic book: “When Church Stops Working” by Andrew Root and Blair Bertrand 

Optionally, if you enjoy the above and you’d like to go deeper, try Andrew Root’s Ministry in a Secular Age series:  1. “Faith Formation in a Secular Age,” 2. “The Pastor in a Secular Age” 3. “The Congregation in a Secular age,” 4. “Churches and the Crisis of Decline” and 5. “The Church after Innovation” and his related book “The Church in an age of Secular Mysticism: Why Spiritualities Without God Fail to Transform Us” 

If you want to go really deep – Charles Taylor’s “A Secular Age”  

Want more? Or a different format? Try the “When Church Stops Working” podcast, available on most providers.