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The Congregation in a Secular Age

Keeping Sacred Time against the Speed of Modern Life

series: Ministry in a Secular Age

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Academy of Parish Clergy 2022 Top Ten Book for Parish Ministry

Churches often realize they need to change. But if they're not careful, the way they change can hurt more than help.

Leading practical theologian Andrew Root offers a new paradigm for understanding the congregation in contemporary ministry. He articulates why congregations feel pressured by the speed of change in modern life and encourages an approach that doesn't fall into the negative traps of our secular age.

Living in late modernity means our lives are constantly accelerated, and calls for change in the church often support this call to speed up. Root asserts that the recent push toward innovation in churches has led to an acceleration of congregational life that strips the sacred out of time. Many congregations are simply unable to keep up, which leads to burnout and depression. When things move too fast, we feel alienated from life and the voice of a living God.

The Congregation in a Secular Age calls congregations to reimagine what change is and how to live into this future, helping them move from relevance to resonance.

This is the third book in Root's Ministry in a Secular Age series.


Part 1: Depressed Congregations
1. The Church and the Depressing Speed of Change
2. Speeding to the Good Life, Crashing into Guilt: Why 1.6 Billion Dollars Isn't as Good as You Think
3. Fullness as Busyness: Why Busy Churches Attract and Then Lose Busy People
4. The Strip Show: When Sacred Time Is No Longer the Time We Keep
Part 2: Examining Congregational Despondency; Our Issue Is Time
5. When Time Isn't What It Used to Be: What's Speeding Up Time?
6. When Brains Explode
Dimension One: Technological Acceleration
7. Minding the Time: Why the Church Feels Socially Behind
Dimension Two: Acceleration of Social Life (Part One)
8. Why The Office Can't Be Rebooted: The Decay Rate of Social Change
Dimension Two: Acceleration of Social Life (Part Two)
9. When Sex and Work Are in a Fast Present: The Church and the Decay Rate of Our Social Structures
Dimension Two: Acceleration of Social Life (Part Three)
10. Why Email Sucks, and Social Media Even More: Reach and Acceleration
Dimension Three: Acceleration of the Pace of Life (Part One)
11. Reach and the Seculars
Dimension Three: Acceleration of the Pace of Life (Part Two)
Part 3: Moving from Relevance to Resonance
12. Time-Famine and Resource Obsession: Another Step into Alienation
13. Why the Slow Church Can't Work: Stablization, Alienation, and Loss of the Congregational Will to Be
14. Alienation's Other: Resonance
15. When Bonhoeffer Time Travels: Resonance as Carrying the Child
16. To Become a Child: Matthew 18 and Congregation That Is Carried
17. Ending with a Little Erotic Ecstasy


"Andrew Root is one of our leading practical theologians. Over the years he has carved out a space within which solid theological reflection and philosophical inquiry are merged into practical strategies that are illuminating and often fascinating. In this new book he continues his ongoing dialogue with Charles Taylor, providing us with a fascinating and timely exploration of time, church, and culture. Time is something we tend to take for granted. But it is a crucial dimension of social and ecclesial life. In this book Root clearly lays out the implications of thinking about time and speed and the ways in which we build communities, think about theology, and ultimately become more faithful disciples. This is a book well worth reading."

John Swinton, chair of divinity and religious studies, University of Aberdeen

"Root serves as a guide for current congregations often lost in the time and space of the wilderness of high modernity. He deftly leads his readers on an adventure through historical, philosophical, and theological perspectives, providing an eternal compass of resonance toward our True North. The experience of reading this book is what I imagined it was like to witness Moses parting the Red Sea. Just as Moses created a passage for Israel from Egypt, Root shows us how to suspend the relentless rush of time and points the church toward a path from our present captivity in the rat race of modernity to the life-giving vitality of the love of God. This book is required reading for the next generation of Christian leaders. Root provides a clear and resounding perspective on why and how the church matters in a secular age."

Pamela Ebstyne King, Peter L. Benson Chair of Applied Developmental Science, Thrive Center for Human Development, Fuller Theological Seminary

"On a secular view of the world, we are thrown into an existence in which our time is running out. The pressure is on to accomplish as much as we can, as quickly as we can, which generates a constant anxiety that fuels depression. Not only does this pressure terrorize the secular world, it also menaces the many congregations that are fighting for survival in the so-called secular age. In response to this situation, Andrew Root offers a fierce remedy. As someone to whom this book really speaks, I could feel a weight being lifted off my shoulders, page by page. Why? Because this book offers a fresh, timely, and powerful reminder of the hope of all hopes--the one true hope--to which the gospel witnesses. As such, it made me a happier person, authentically so!"

Andrew Torrance, University of St. Andrews

"Root is an expert reader of contemporary church life. He deftly distills complex philosophical, historical, and sociological scholarship and delivers what his readers need to know. And Root's constructive proposals challenge churches and individuals to rethink their relationship to time and busyness. The Congregation in a Secular Age will leave many readers wondering just how Root knows them and their congregations so well. This book is a valuable resource to anyone who has the nagging feeling that there's never enough time."

Ryan McAnnally-Linz, associate director, Yale Center for Faith and Culture

The Author

  1. Andrew Root
    Caroline Yang

    Andrew Root

    Andrew Root (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is Carrie Olson Baalson Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the author of more than twenty books, including Faith Formation in a Secular Age, The...

    Continue reading about Andrew Root


Academy of Parish Clergy 2022 Top Ten Book for Parish Ministry

"Root achieves something quite remarkable. . . . [He] places two issues--speed and secularism--at the center of our current cultural weariness. But the solutions he offers are anything but simplistic. . . . The Congregation in a Secular Age invites us to ask whether we, as the church, are playing the same games as Silicon Valley. Competition and speed are necessary for capitalism but are deadly for churches. Why compete in a game of speed that we were never meant to play--and which we are destined to lose? Root's book is essential for pastors like me, stuck in an accelerated culture. Perhaps it is not enough to 'un-hurry' or 'slow down'; maybe it's time to get off the ride for good."

Chris Nye,

Christianity Today