If I were a pastor at this moment, I would have our leadersread this book by Gary Gilley and the book by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert included in this review section and as I read those two books along with the session, I would personally read Al Baker’s book mentioned in this section as well. Why these books? Because the church is not doing too well today, at least the “institutional church” as we know it. The sad thing is that while many of the leaders are concerned and are frantically trying to fix the leak before the water supply dries up, they are often using the wrong materials which further complicate the problem.
The truth is that God placed the church, the heart of his kingdom, here with a purpose, design, and assignment. He did not intend to let the world determine those things. The church is his body, his bride, his people. He created the church to be among other things but especially, “the ground and pillar of truth.” What makes that so difficult today is we are living at a time when the concept of truth is not very clear because the emphasis is not on God but man. This means that truth, if there is such a thing, is man’s to determine. This is how it tends to play out with no absolute measure or standard whereby general agreement regarding truth can be achieved.
Though we are living in an age often referred to as one of cultural relevance yet there seems to be an innate awareness of standards. Even those claiming that things are relative and may differ for different people in different circumstances, yet, there is an awareness that things such as murder, human injustice, insensitivity to peoples’ needs are wrong.
How often the god of this world, Satan, has blinded the eyes not only of the unbelievers but believers as well to God’s truth. The truth as it relates to this book’s topic is not about gimmicks, circuses, raffles, entertainment, and the like run by the church. The truth is about proclaiming God’s truth as he has revealed it in his book, the Bible.
The author has identified several areas in his attempt to call the church back to its reason for being, namely to proclaim, witness to, and teach the Word of God in a manner that lives will be transformed by the power of the Gospel.
A couple of examples will illustrate the point. Gilley refers to the seeker sensitive approach to how the church goes about its mission. Of course that refers to making your church have curb appeal in order to attract people. Now, no one of course would want the opposite but this tends to happen with this method of church ministry. How it is done, plays to the world’s agenda with truth either taking a back seat or for all practical purposes, or exiting the scene. He uses the most famous church in the U. S., the Willow Creek Church, who has used this model only to finally conclude that they have really failed in discipling the people. Their own surveys have shown that the thousands of people in their flock know very little about the Bible, doctrine, etc.
Then there are those who have bought into the pragmatic method of doing what works to grow the church. “If it works, it must be of God.” As long as the people are coming and filling the pews or chairs, it must be working. The problem with this approach to the church’s mission and ministry is that looks to the standard of pragmaticism vs. looking to Scripture. It looks good so it must be right.
Some churches are allowing themselves to be invaded by the spirit of paganism, generally not intentionally but without discernment. Many of the church’s methods of ministry reflect things characterized not by the Word of God but by pagan practices. This might be called by some, the “name it and claim it” mantra. Gilley refers to a book entitled The Secret by Rhonda Bryne, a book that has tremendously impacted Oprah Winfrey and her eclectic religious leanings, which teaches the “law of attraction.” If you think it, it will be. New Age spirituality is no stranger to the churches using Eastern mystical practices. This can often infiltrate through, art, music, silence, even people. You heard it! Get in touch with your feelings. Be real and authentic. It is all about experience. Eventually, God is quietly dismissed from the scene but when God leaves, so does his lampstand.
In the section in this book entitled “The Way Back,” Gilley calls the church to return to the Word of God, proclaiming, teaching, witnessing to, and living God’s word because that is God’s method carrying out the church’s mission. However following God’s method requires proclaiming and teaching about sin, death, and hell. It requires an ongoing awareness of the need for repentance and changing the way we think about life and reality. The church must help its people develop a deeper understanding, appreciation, application of God’s Word and this cannot be done using the world’s agenda, or accommodating the church’s life to the life the world around it. There is and should be even more, a concern that many people who are professing faith in Christ have no experience of conviction for sin and the need to repent. The whole truth of the Gospel is not being taught and we must remember that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”
This Little Church Had None is a call for the church to return to God’s agenda and assignment in preaching and teaching the truth in a life transforming way. It appears that many Christians today are not challenged nor taught that without holiness of life, no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14), and if they are, it is generally a half truth, “O that is something God does. We do no have to do it.”We need this book’s challenge and reminder! It is Gilley’s third book in the series mentioned in earlier edition of Equip to Disciple, This Little Church Went to Market and This Little Church Stayed Home.