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“This Little Church Went to Market” by Gary Gilley

Discussion in 'Reformed Book Review Room' started by CoffeeSwirls, Oct 17, 2005.

  1. CoffeeSwirls

    CoffeeSwirls snaps back wash after wash...

    As a seeker looks upon the recent track record of the church, they may have the perception that the church has never been more relevant than ever before. Churches are growing to incredible proportions, religious paraphernalia is sold in droves and people are having experiences that amaze them at a personal level unprecedented in modern times. In “This Little Church Went to Market” Gary Gilley asks a very pointed question on the front cover of the book. Is the modern church reaching out or selling out?

    The model churches he uses to answer this question are two of the largest new-paradigm churches in the USA, Saddleback Church and Willow Creek, and they are used not only for their errant display of a gospel not found in the Bible but also because many churches seek to emulate their practices to bring in visitors with a message that Jesus will fulfill whatever felt need you may have. If the leadership of these churches had not actively sought to be the authority in such matters, this angle would have come across negatively, but since they are actively trying to reproduce their ways across the landscape of the church they are fair game.

    Gilley sets the tone right off the bat as he discusses the American craving for entertainment over substantive truth, amusement over serious thought. Using many examples on our culture, he shows that this is true in many forums. Sesame Street, for example, has altered the way schools instruct students because these students expect to be entertained if their attention is to be maintained. In a similar manner, many churches have responded to the cultural demand to not be subjected to boredom by livening up their services. While no church should take steps to put people to sleep, we have no business removing the true excitement of the gospel from our services.

    The market-driven philosophy chapter begins where the entertainment chapter leaves off by displaying the inevitable results of our idolatry to entertainment. As long as the consumer is king and as long as that consumer is the unbeliever who may be uncomfortable sitting through a exposition of the word, churches that seek to follow in the footsteps of the new-paradigm churches will avoid anything that reveals the discomfort of their target audience. Just as any business wanting to be successful will seek out new products to sell, the church seeks to conform to the wishes of the culture. As I look out at the events that have embarrassed the church in recent years, this practice has caused much ridicule, second only to rogue “pastors” who try to assume the roles of elected leaders.

    As Gilley discussed the shift from theology to philosophy, he pointed out some general resumptions of philosophy that do not agree with the Bible. Included among these are the concept that man is either inherently good and that we are victims of our environments rather than sinners. As churches seek to fill roles not granted her by God, we will lose sight of the gospel, making it into whatever the felt needs of the visitor may be. God does promise to be the father to the fatherless and the protector to the widow (Psalm 68:5), but the comforts of God are not to be the reasons one turns to Him. We are to turn to Him as sinners in need of forgiveness and the righteousness of God. Faith and repentance is what is promised, not fulfillment and self-esteem.

    As I have come to expect of Gilley through his newsletter, Think on These Things, he does not waste any time delving into the heart of the matter nor does he mince words. Like a doctor, he diagnoses the issues facing the new-paradigm methods and the message that results. He then takes the rest of the book to explain the implications of this progression and prescribes a method of treatment (Luke 5:31-32) from the infallible words of the Bible.

    This book is not meant to be the definitive book on how to “do church” but serves a warning to anyone who is seeking a church for their own defined needs to be met. I highly recommend this book, perhaps to be read in conjunction with The Deliberate Church or as a counter point to The Purpose Driven Church.

    Further reviews of this book can be found at the Diet of Bookworms. My only compensation is that I have received a free copy of the book.
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  2. Erinwilcox

    Erinwilcox Delighting in His Goodness Supporter

    WOW!!!!! I'll have to get a copy of that book. I'll have to inform my father as well. That is such an interesting issue. One of our favorite sermons is "What a Church Ought to Be" by Mark Chanski. It addresses these very issues in a very pointed way.