Book Tour: If The Church Were Christian

Rediscovering the Values of Jesus

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.

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13 Responses to Book Tour: If The Church Were Christian

  1. Margot- That was an awesome review!!! I love Gulley, he’s made me think and questions so much in the past. I no longer attend a church for a lot of the reasons above….I’m not being helped on my spiritual journey, so I’ve tried to find look elsewhere. I’m immediately going to request this book from my library!!!!! I need to get my Bible out and dust it off….Thank you.

  2. I just requested it!!! Can’t wait to read it! Thanks again for a wonderful review!

  3. Molly says:

    I first read about this book on Jenners blog and instantly knew it was one that I wanted, no make that NEEDED to read. Your review has now confirmed that resolve.

  4. Great review, Margot. This book sounds very thought provoking and one that could generate some wonderful discussion.

  5. Sounds very thought provoking – glad you liked it so much!

  6. We, too, have a solid background of faith. I had seen this book advertised and immediately thought some of the chapter titles sounded subversive – just as you predicted. But now that I’ve seen your review, I think I will get ahold of a copy and check it out for myself. We tell our children it’s ok to read things that appear to be contradictory to our church beliefs – and as long as you stay true to that core faith and compare everything you read to what scripture says, you won’t be swayed from your faith, you will grow in it. Guess I will now have to put my words into action. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement.

  7. jay says:

    It is 8AM on the west coast and you can see how many have already read your review. I feel that the approach and content you presented in your review was both stimulating and challenging to all of us with our feet in the sand around the rock keep up the good work. I love you and am continually inspired by your positions on life altering views.

  8. cerrin says:

    I have to say that when I saw the title I didnt want to read it. I was putting it into the religious mumbo jumbo catagory in my brain. Your review wanted me to discuss these topics. Because I agree with the chapters the If Then made me think Yeah that is why I dont go to church. That is why I stopped going a long time ago.

    Thanks

  9. Margot – your review, and some of the questions you raise from your reading of the book, may be as thought-provoking as the book itself! Thanks for sharing it with us, and I hope you continue to benefit from your reignited desire to ‘think, think out loud, talk, and read’ about the topic.

  10. Stacy says:

    I’m so glad that you had such a positive reaction to this one. Anything that makes you want to open your Bible and read is a good thing. The church we attend here, although we don’t go every Sunday, is independent and thriving. 3 morning services with 500? people at each service. I think it’s because he teaches just the scripture and let’s you take it from there.

  11. Wendy says:

    Great review…I haven’t read the book, but you have made me think about reading it. I am one of those Christians who has not lost my faith, but has lost my desire to be part of the church. So much of what I was seeing was not falling into my definition of what it meant to be a Christian … all those answers above to the question “If the Church Were Christian” has been exactly my thoughts…especially this one: Gracious behavior would be more important than right belief. I see so much proselytizing about what we are supposed to believe, all the while people acting in despicable ways.

  12. Florinda says:

    The title of this book intrigues me, and your review spurred me to place it on my wishlist. I’m not a churchgoer at this time, and Wendy’s comment pretty well captures my reasons for that. This sounds like an important read – thanks for the thoughtful review!

  13. Bumbles says:

    I haven’t belonged to a church since I was 13. I enjoyed it when I went. But I didn’t miss it when it was gone from my routine. I feel like I was given a nice foundation of information and have used that as the structure of my own personal beliefs. I like the statements you highlighted from the author very much. If churches were that way I likely would find them more attractive.

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