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Books by Martin Thielen

Searching for Happiness: How Generosity, Faith, and Other Spiritual Habits Can Lead to a Full Life
PREORDER TODAY! Available to ship February 2016.

Searching for HappinessThe key to happiness is being rich, successful, and beautiful...right? Martin Thielen, best-selling author of What's the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?, insists that this is far from the truth. Happiness, Thielen argues, does not come from external factors like getting a job promotion or finally reaching your goal weight. Rather, happiness is an inside job.

In brief, easy-to-read chapters, Thielen offers ten traits of happy and fulfilled people. Using psychological research, personal anecdotes, and Scripture, Thielen begins the path to contentment by showing how life circumstances—including income, health, physical appearance, and marital status—only account for about 10 percent of a person's overall life satisfaction. From there, he offers alternatives to the frequent methods we use to make ourselves happy. Instead of aiming to make more money, Thielen contends that expressing gratitude and cultivating optimism are surer paths to joy. Rather than focusing on constant advancement in our careers, let's practice our ability to forgive, to be generous, and to use trials as growth opportunities. These lessons, and much more, help readers who may be dissatisfied in their lives see that authentic contentment is closer than they ever imagined.

The book features a guide for group or individual study, which includes questions for reflection and a challenge for each individual to reflect on during the week.


The Answer to Bad Religion is Not No Religion: A Guide to Good Religion for Seekers, Skeptics, and Believers
(published 2014)

The Answer to Bad ReligionTo help those who've been hurt by or turned off by negative religion, Martin Thielen explains that there is an alternative to abandoning religion: good religion.

In an article published in Huffington Post, Martin Thielen writes:
"So what is the proper response to bad religion? Some argue that the answer to bad religion is no religion. A growing number of "new atheists" argue that since religion can be toxic, we need to get rid of faith altogether. But that's a weak argument. For one thing, you are not going to get rid of religion. People are hard wired to have faith. And if you did get rid of religion, the world would be terribly impoverished.

Think of all the good things religion gives us. Religion provides meaning, purpose and hope for billions of believers. It builds significant relationships and faith communities. It gives people a sense of transcendence. It motivates people to care for others. It promotes responsible ethics and high ideals. It inspires music, art, and beauty. Almost every major charitable organization in the world is faith based. A world without religion would be a bankrupt, impoverished world. So the answer to bad religion is NOT no religion. Instead, the answer to bad religion is good religion.

Jesus understood that. In the face of the arrogant, judgmental and legalistic religion of his day, Jesus offered a healthy alternative of humility, grace, mercy, compassion and justice. Promoting that kind of religion is what mainline, moderate and progressive churches are all about.

We are not perfect by any stretch. But we try to offer healthy faith to the world. We promote a religion of grace, not judgment. A religion of love, not hatred. A religion of open-mindedness, not intolerance. A religion of compassion, not legalism. A religion of humility, not arrogance." Read complete article.

For complete information about the book and additional resources, click here.

"Read this book to find to get into the clear about what good religion is and can be. Your soul will be glad you did."
     ~ Donna Schaper, Senior Pastor and Author.


What's the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? - A Guide to What Matters Most articulates mainline, orthodox Christianity in a fresh, accessible, and storytelling style.

New Edition!

This new edition includes a Leader's Guide and a new introduction from the author that reflects on the book's reception. The Leader's Guide features unique and easily implemented aids for carrying out a seven-week, congregation-wide initiative that will help local churches reach out to their communities. More information is available at

New Book

An Excerpt from the Introduction

When I first met Danny, he said, "Preacher, you need to know that I'm an atheist. I don't believe the Bible. I don't like organized religion. And I can't stand self-righteous, judgmental Christians."

In spite of Danny's avowed atheism and my devout Christian beliefs, we became close friends. Over the next year Danny and I engaged in numerous conversations about God, religion, and faith. During that time Danny softened his stance on atheism. One day, after a long conversation, he announced with a laugh, "I've decided to upgrade from an atheist to an agnostic." Several months later Danny said, "I've had an epiphany. I realize that I don't reject Christianity. Instead, I reject the way that intolerant Christians package Christianity." A few weeks after that conversation, Danny said, "Martin, you've just about convinced me on this religion stuff. So I want to know—what's the least I can believe and still be a Christian?"

"What's the least I can believe and still be a Christian?" What a great question! This little book represents my best effort to answer that question. Part 1 presents ten things Christians don't need to believe. In short, Christians don't need to believe in closed-minded faith. For example, Christians don't need to believe that Jews are going to hell or that it's heresy to believe in evolution. Part 2 presents ten things Christians do need to believe. They need to believe in Jesus—his life, teachings, example, death, and resurrection. A great benefit of these beliefs is that they provide promising answers to life's most profound questions including: Where is God? What matters most? What brings fulfillment? What about suffering? And is there hope?

To read more, click here.

The Reviews Are In!

Praise for What's the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?

"Thielen, senior pastor of Lebanon First United Methodist Church in Tennessee, has written a brief book that somewhat belies its catchy title—it is not a cynical expedient for quasibelievers, but rather a purgative for overeager and bigoted Christians. He reminds readers that Christians need not be sexist, anti-Semitic, literalistic, anti-evolution, or judgmental; they do, however, need to believe in and embrace Jesus and his message. VERDICT: Clear and easy to read, with punchy messages, Thielen's book will find favor with pastors, church groups, and individuals."
— Library Journal (January 15, 2011) by Graham Christian

"If you long to clear away theological underbrush and discover (or rediscover) a Jesus-centered approach to the Christian faith, read this book. Don't be deceived by the book's brevity or title. Thielen engages the kinds of questions people actually ask. He combines theological acumen, a pastor's heart, and a knack for storytelling to fashion one of the most useful books I've read in a long time."
— Michael A. Smith, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

"Martin Thielen's whimsical title disguises a very serious issue every clergyperson deals with daily: how to help Christians navigate through myths and misunderstandings and faulty assumptions about our faith. This is a fine resource for clergy and laity alike, particularly those who have wondered: "Do I have to believe that?"
— John M. Buchanan, Pastor, Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago, Illinois

"For anyone still trying to get out from under that old, hard brand of Christianity that clinches its fist against science, women, or other faiths, and for those trying to sort out the simple basics of what we believe is at the heart of the Christian faith, Thielen's book is clear, accessible, down to earth, and reliable."
— James C. Howell, author and senior pastor, Myers Park United Methodist Church, Charlotte, North Carolina

"What's the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? sounds almost sacrilegious but it's anything but! With this book, Thielen invites readers into a safe space to ask the tough questions surrounding our most commonly held beliefs. He releases us from the guilt of doubt and sets us free to examine our faith and conclude that doubt not only goes hand in hand with faith, but actually enhances it. His book is a call to the world of 'both/and' rather than 'either/or.' It is a call to freedom in faith, to being openly Christian, yet open minded as well. We don't have to leave our brains or our doubts at the door when we receive Jesus as savior—hallelujah!"
— Sharon L. Baker, Associate Professor of Theology and Religion and Coordinator of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program, Messiah College


WJK Radio 22: Martin Thielen Explains the Least We Can Believe

Martin's other books, seen below, are out of print. However, most of them can still be found on the Internet.

Books by Martin Thielen

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