Englewood Christian Church was once a thriving mega-church, but like the neighborhood surrounding it on Indianapolis' east side, the church spiraled downward for decades in the face of widespread economic decline.
Today, Englewood--both church and community--are thriving again. Not that ECC has restored its mega-church status, but this church of 200 is having an impact that far outweighs its numbers and that upends the received wisdom about how churches work best. This story of recovery is about moving away from status symbols of success and finding a new path to strengthening and deepening community ties and creating contexts for human flourishing.
Can a modest church sustain a city? Can it foment social change simply by encouraging people to talk and listen to one another? C. Christopher Smith says that it can, and in this brief but extraordinary ebook, he shares his church's story of discovering the surprising and powerful virtue of conversation.
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Praise for C. Christopher Smith's "The Virtue of Dialogue"
"'The Virtue of Dialogue' is filled with hope and possibility, even for today's hemorrhaging and puzzled Church. Chris reminds us that in our world of culture wars and stale debates, civil dialogue is an endangered art. Here is a wonderful and simple call to real community and to honest dialogue."
Shane Claiborne, author of "Jesus for President" and "The Irresistible Revolution"
"There is something very 1st Century about Englewood, and there's also something very postmodern -- that's because Englewood is seeking to be missional, not by theorizing about it but by actually doing it. Where they began is where we all need to begin: with conversation. We must face one another in a listening mode. Only then can our words become genuine conversation. This little book could be revolutionary for your own faith community."
Scot McKnight, author of "The King Jesus Gospel" and "Junia Is Not Alone"
"There is no question that Americans are becoming increasingly polarized in civic discourse. In 'The Virtue of Dialogue,' Chris Smith offers an alternative way of talking to each other that opens a window of hope for a way forward and is rooted in his community’s lived experience."
Sean Gladding, author of "The Story of God, the Story of Us"
"The story of the Englewood Christian Church is a compelling one, not because it's unusual (which it is), but because it narrates a story of church rebirth many people are experiencing under the radar of the 'success-driven' U.S. Christian establishment. Beautifully written, stunningly simple, this piece by Chris Smith gives hope for all those working in churches in the midst of long decline. To you who are looking for a way forward that is different from the latest mega church conference, I urge you to read this little book."
David Fitch, B.R. Lindner Professor of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary, author of "The End of Evangelicalism?"
"In these brief but inspiring pages, Chris Smith offers the wider Church a vital service. By narrating for us the story of how one seemingly unremarkable congregation stumbled into the life-giving and service-spawning practice of conversation, Smith gives us hope that the Church might again become a community capable of honest, full-bodied dialogue. In so doing, he makes a powerful case for why congregational conversation should be regarded as one of the primary means the Spirit uses to help us imagine and discern together God’s will for our common life."
Philip Kenneson, Professor of Theology at Milligan College, author of "Life on the Vine"