This Little Church Went to Market by Gary Gilley

Reviewed by Tim Chaffey


     A major change has taken place in the church in the past few decades.  In an effort to reach out to the “unchurched” all around, many churches have adopted a market-driven philosophy to “doing” church.  At first glance, they would seem to be very successful because many of these churches are exhibiting tremendous numerical growth.  Are there any dangers or drawbacks to this new market-driven idea?

     Gary Gilley answers that question with a resounding “YES!”  He is also careful to point out some of the positives that have come from this movement (such as setting goals, excellence in all we do, and evangelistic fervor).  Even though this movement has brought many into the “church” it is debatable whether or not they have brought many to Christ.  This is the crux of the issue and Gilley nails it.  These “new paradigm” churches as he calls them (as opposed to New Testament churches) preach a gospel of need-fulfillment rather than the Biblical gospel of salvation for the sinner.  So-called negative concepts, such as sin, hell, and repentance are seldom or never mentioned because they might turn people away from the doors of the church.  Instead of preaching the offensive message of the cross (1 Cor. 1: 18) these churches proclaim a new gospel designed to make the sinner feel welcome.  Gilley states, “The new gospel is a liberation from low self-esteem, a freedom from emptiness and loneliness, a means of fulfillment and excitement, a way to receive our heart’s desires, a means of meeting our needs.  The old gospel is about God; the new gospel is about us.  The old gospel is about sin; the new gospel is about our needs.  The old gospel is about our need for righteousness; the new gospel is about our need for fulfillment.  The old gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing; the new gospel is attractive.  Many are flocking to the new gospel but it is altogether questionable how many are actually being saved.”

     This movement can be traced back to the heretical teachings of Robert Schuller and his self-proclaimed gospel of self-esteem.  He has called himself the founder of the modern church-growth movement.  Well known churches, such as Willow Creek and Saddleback Community have adopted Schuller’s approach and revamped it a bit.  Instead of merely focusing on self-esteem, these churches follow the secular teachings of Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs.  These churches believe that if a person’s physical needs are met then they will be ready to accept Christ and have their spiritual needs met.  Yet this is exactly the opposite of the approach that Jesus took.  He preached and taught before He took care of their physical needs (see Matt. 15: 32-39).

     The real problem is that all of the so-called “seekers” are entering the doors of the church and they seldom hear the real gospel.  If this continues, untold millions will enter eternity thinking that they are on their way to heaven, but in reality they will hear, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”  This is a tragedy.  We often hear that we can change the methods, but not the message.  There is some truth in that, but if the method attempts to make the gospel non-offensive, then it destroys the gospel itself, which is offensive to human pride.  We are not called to preach a new gospel to the world, but to faithfully proclaim the true gospel.

     I believe that every Christian in the world should read this book.  It is only 138 pages and could be expanded upon.  Gilley accurately demonstrates the dangers of the “seeker-sensitive” movement.   

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(9 out of 10)

About the Author

(from back cover)