by Phillip Gulley
Harper One, 2010
My Rating: A
Before I tell you about this book, you should know that I am a Christian. Except for the past decade, I’ve been an active church member. I’ve served as a church elder and in other leadership positions. I come to this book with a solid background of faith. This book hasn’t shaken my internal faith but it has shaken my thinking about many of the basic practices of the church. I suspect the author would like that reaction.
To some people this book is going to appear sacrilegious and subversive. I’m sure it’s causing controversy in many circles. I think that’s a very good thing. If this book is successful, it will have people talking and arguing and questioning the concepts Phillip Gulley is setting forth here.
Phillip Gulley is a Quaker minister (and author with an interactive website) who is questioning the major activities within the Christian church, primarily in America. Using the title of his book he organized his chapters around “if – then” arguments. Let me show you what I mean. Here are a few of the chapter titles:
If The Church Were Christian . . .
- Jesus would be a model for living rather than an object of worship.
- Gracious behavior would be more important than right belief.
- Inviting questions would be valued more than supplying answers.
- Meeting needs would be more important than maintaining institutions.
- Peace would be more important than power.
- This life would be more important than the afterlife.
All of this is a powerful message for the 39,000 denominations and independent churches in America. These are serious questions. It’s a powerful message for individual Christians as well. As I see it, an important question for myself and others who call ourselves believers is this: What is the correlation between Jesus’ example and how I live my life? Is my church helping me with those questions? As Phillip Gulley said, I don’t want the church to give me the right answer. I want it to help me ask more questions.
Some churches claim they are growing, but what’s really growing are the large numbers of people who no longer attend. They keep their membership for purposes of weddings, funerals, and baptisms but, except for special occasions, they are no longer present. I don’t believe these people have lost their faith. They just don’t see the church as a help in their spiritual journey. If the church were really modeling the behavior and teachings of Jesus, wouldn’t they still be there?
This book has not shaken my faith. Just the opposite has happened. This book has caused me to think, think out-loud, talk with others, and now, eagerly, re-read the Scriptures. (I started in Matthew 5.) I’m more excited than ever to be a Christian. I want to look again at the life of Jesus. As the subtitle of this book says, I want to Rediscover the Values of Jesus. I’d love it if the church were able to do that too.
This would make an excellent study for a Christian discussion group or adult Sunday School class or the staff and leadership group within a church. In the back of the book the author has added a list of questions for each chapter.
It’s been my pleasure to participate in today’s stop on the TLC tour of If The Church Were Christian. I’d like to thank Trish of TLC for allowing me to read and review this book. Please visit other bloggers who are participating in this tour. You are sure to get other opinions of the book. The list is here.