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RELIGION FREE ). Religion is human efforts to win God's favor, and true chanitiristy will teach you that there is nothing you can do to do that. Religion is bad, I agree with you. But the Bible does not teach religion, it teaches about a personal relationship with your Creator.Last: Great sites!!! I will definitely visit this post a lot looking for inspiration. Design in general in the christian medium has grown a lot during the past few years, and these sites clearly show that.Thanks!

J. Mark Lawson


Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I'm truly grateful that you have found a church where you feel at home; where you don't have to hold your breath wondering if you're going to hear something that makes you angry. You've stated about as succinctly as possible why it is that American Christianity has lost your generation (with a few important exceptions, of course!). On the one hand, the surging tide of conservative evangelicalism is offensive to your pluralistic sensibilities. On the other hand, more liberal churches, as you say it, often have little "Spirit," and have allowed themselves to drift into cultural irrelevance. You don't mind being challenged, but don't want to be offended when you worship. You don't expect to be entertained, but you don't want to be bored. Seems like a reasonable expectation. - JML


This post strikes a chord with me, as a Christian (self-identified only within the past few years) and as product of the second after-shock that Putnam and Campbell describe. I grew up with the impression that American Christianity was repressive, discriminatory, and just another arm of a conservative, Right-wing machine; in the meantime I was baptized and confirmed in a church without any visible Spirit. But mine is also a generation that desperately needs the kind of Christianity the UCC represents, the kind I am so lucky to have found. We're coming of age in a time when doing everything we've told will guarantee success doesn't, when we're overwhelmed with mixed messages about how best to live, and there's so little emphasis on spiritual fulfillment and the difference that can make. It's essential, both for the health of mainline Christianity in the United States and for young people who are looking for peace and solace, that what it means to be a church-going Christian be re-framed so that it isn't identified as any political group.

Barb Wiggins

I can relate to some of the conclusions the author reaches, yet I never connected those conclusions with politics. My children in the 1960's struggled with disallusion with my beliefs, and living a Cnristian life. I suspect they would apploud the author. Your article challnges me to explore my understandings, and you know how challanging that is for me. Barb

J. Mark Lawson

Becky and Gary,

Thanks for your comments. I don't know what church is going to look like in the next hundred years. (Who would have predicted it would look like it does now?) And it's easy to get discouraged with the "institutional" issues, which must be addressed, but they don't make up the whole picture. In fact, today's post, "An Epiphany," tells of a moment when I believe God called me back from the despair of these huge societal questions to my first love. Take a look.

Becky West

Fright. It's fright that the members of our congregation express - both overtly and subtly - when they are confronted with or even just stumble upon the idea that we might need to update our beliefs, processes, liturgies, customs, and our expression of God's presence, if we are to become relevant to people who are not like us. We have forward-thinkers in our midst who want to reach out differently but who have been burned by the people who don't want change. It has not been an easy transition. I think we need to nurture the risk-takers (myself included) while at the same time care for and yet challenge those of God's people who fear change. It can't be done too fast, and it can't be done fast enough.

We do have a way to help people. We have to figure out how to break through the barriers that have driven young people away from churches "as they understand them to be." How can we begin to do this better?

Gary Ferner

Mark, as you know, I tend toward the optimistic when it comes to most things in life. I'm less optimistic about the future of the mainline Protestant church as we know it. The churches I have served spent 95% or more of their resources keeping their heads above water, meeting their own needs...it was a struggle getting them to see how outreach and mission were all part of the same ministry. With aging buildings and aging members, the 21st century challenge you mention above may just be a little more than most can handle. Our future may be in some new form (transformed?) that emerges from the churches that are left standing a decade from now. There will need to be a mighty movement of the Holy Spirit in and around our churches if we can ever hope and pray for a new form of 'doing' church. In the meantime, we continue to see our sister churches dwindle and struggle. Thanks for a really good blog! gary

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