“When the wrappings are removed, it is very hard to distinguish what the modern church is offering from what the secular world is offering.” (ch. 3)
In this chapter, Dr. Gary Gilley paints for us a picture of what the modern, new-paradigm church is offering and their market-driven goals for the church. But not all of their goals are ones to accuse them of. The Willow Creek Church and Saddleback Church, and those like them, have made it their goal to understand the unsaved around them. These churches call them the “unchurched Harry and Mary”. They want to know what drives them, what they are seeking for, and what will bring them through their doors. Sounds good, but Dr. Gilley looks deeper.
Having detoured around the Bible, the new-paradigm churches often look to other sources to develop their systems. (ch. 3)
Among their sources is George Barna and his Barna Research Group.
Barna assures us that churches sell (or market) their product the same way that major retailers sell shoes and tools. But what is the church’s product? (ch. 3)
Exactly. What IS the church’s product they are trying to peddle to the people who walk through their doors? Dr. Gilley points out what it says in I Corinthians 1:18-23 about “the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness.” How does the new-paradigm church attempt to market a product that is foolish to the world?
George Barna said, “Ministry, in essence, has the same objective as marketing – to meet people’s needs.” (ch 3)
Dr. Gilley then asks us if this is what the gospel message really is – or has this market-driven philosophy of the modern church mutated the gospel message to a dying world.
In quoting from Lee Strobel’s (pastor at Saddleback) book “Inside the Minds of Unchurched Harry and Mary”, he is able to point out to us what these unchurched people want and are looking for. They are only interested in what can help them deal with their pain, their marriages, careers, self-esteem and so on.
Dr. Gary Gilley responds:
The leaders of the market-driven church believe that ‘the most effective messages for seekers are those that address their felt needs.’ . . . However . . . the gospel is not about helping Harry feel better about himself or his circumstances; it is about his rebelliousness against a holy God who will ultimately condemn him to hell if he does not repent and trust in Christ for the forgiveness of his sins. The distinction between the market-driven approach and the biblical approach lies largely in understanding this fundamental difference. (ch. 3)
This was a long chapter and so full that I cannot put it all here. But he went on to speak of church attendance statistics, the modern church putting dollar numbers to winning lost souls, and how when you view a sinner as the consumer – the consumer must be satisfied, whether it’s with the true gospel or not.
This Says It All
I could not bring myself to title this section “My favorite part” since it hits me in the gut when I read it. Dr. Gilley quotes Michael Horton here in speaking of the market-driven philosophy:
By the time we are finished, we have entirely transformed the communion of saints. We did not have to officially jettison the Bible, as the modernists did earlier this century. We did not have to say that Scripture failed to provide answers for the modern world or speak to the real needs of contemporary men and women, as the liberals said.
All we had to do was to allow the world to define the church
instead of allowing the Word to define it. (ch. 3)
Oh God. What have we become?
“For the time is come, that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” I Peter 4:17
If you are just beginning this book study of “This Little Church Went To Market” with us, you are welcome to begin the series here. To purchase your copy, you can buy one on Amazon (paperback and kindle – affiliate link) or on Dr. Gilley’s website here.