The Difficult but Indispensable Church

The Difficult but Indispensable Church

The Difficult but Indispensable Church

The Difficult but Indispensable Church


Why is it so difficult to be church today? Of course, Christian community is marked by ennobling worship, mutual care, and joyful celebration. But just as often it is marred by staid routine, insularity, and disagreement over leadership, budgets, ethical stances, or even the shape of congregational prayer itself. Alienation, blame, and power struggles ensue. Is church worth it?In this volume of fresh thinking about life in Christian community, twenty-one theologians from Wartburg Seminary strongly attest to Christ-centered community, offering new views of church as the indispensable site of radical Christian commitment and an essential healer for a hurting world.

Reflective churchgoers will find here a virtual theological guide to church renewal. In part 1 the authors show how church can model an alternative vision of community, helping people achieve well-being and health, even as their differences are affirmed. Part 2 gets to the heart of Christian practice through creative discussions of belief, fellowship, encounters with Scripture, preaching, and moral deliberation. Part 3 finds the church in motion in new ways of understanding discipleship and mission near and far. Part 4 shows how a Christ-inspired openness can reveal new perspectives on tough issues of public policy, race and class, and ordination of gays and lesbians. Modeling what they espouse, the authors find unanimity in affirming the strengths of diversity, the unsuspected key to church renewal.

Contributors include: James L. Bailey, Karen L. Bloomquist, Norma Cook Everist, Roger W. Fjeld, Ann L. Fritschel, Paul Hill, Peter L. Kjeseth, L. Shannon Jung, Duane H. Larson, Elizabeth A. Leeper, David J. Lull, Craig L. Nessan, James R. Nieman, Daniel L. Olson, Winston Persaud, Duane A. Priebe, Ralph W. Quere, David A. Ramse, Gwen B. Sayler, Thomas H. Schattauer, and H. S. Wilson.


The experience of “difference” describes our public and church life today. Our daily life is vastly different today than it was even a decade ago. Within our own cherished congregational lives, we are surprised not only that things are different from a while ago, but that we in the congregation seem to be so different from one another and have such different opinions about how our lives should lead and be led. Difference has led to recognition that our lives do not fit so well together as we once thought they had or should. We sense that we are overdue for serious talk about our life together.

Except for those who believe that all the questions that so impinge today upon church and culture are answered fully, we know that major, careful conversation about our commonalities and differences of conviction is extremely important for people of Christian faith. We know, too, that such conversation requires immense commitment and energy. It tires us to converse about commonalities and differences of core values. It tires us even more when we together are not able to see well ahead of time the end result. It is difficult to be in serious conversation for which we cannot anticipate the resolutions. We would rather know the destination than engage in the journey. Yet we also know that authentic church life is about such serious talk together.

We pray that this book will help stimulate and guide such faith-full conversation. We live in difficult times. Even life in the church is difficult. But the gospel of Jesus Christ frees believers from fear of difficulty so that we, with the Holy Spirit’s inspired guidance, can know abundant life courageously together as Christ’s body. Christ’s body is indeed his church. and that it is Christ’s body means that the church is indispensable.

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