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If the Church Were Christian

4.08  ·  Rating Details  ·  537 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
While many denominations claim to be growing, the largest group in American religious life is the disillusioned—people who have been involved in the church yet see few similarities between the church's life and the person of Jesus. In the midst of elaborate programming, professional worship teams, and political crusades, they ask, "Is this really what Jesus called us to do ...more
Unknown Binding, 224 pages
Published February 2nd 2010 by HarperOne (first published 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Tenille Shade
Jul 19, 2010 Tenille Shade rated it it was amazing
I have read Phillip Gulley's other theology books, but this one is probably my favorite. His perspective on how the church has lost its way resonates with my own faith struggles. I have been battlings a deep sense of disillusionment for years now, and when I read a book like this I realize I am not alone. Gulley gives the reader permission to question the churches' deeply rooted traditions, and reminds us that grace should triumph fear.

If you consider yourself "open-minded", this book will chal
May 26, 2010 Kit rated it really liked it
I agree with everthing Philip Gulley says in this critique of "church" - by which he means pretty much every Christian denomination in America (he is a Quaker). And if you wonder how he could lump all the Christian denominations together, just ask yourself if you think the Sanctuary Carpet-Choosing Committee meeting looks or sounds very different no matter which denomination you're in.

And that's what Gulley is really talking about here - not in-depth theology (although he does touch on big theol
Sep 03, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! The author has some significantly different beliefs than my own, yet I came away with a boatload of ideas for improving my spiritual life. Such a good reminder to go back to the primary source, the words and actions of Jesus himself, as we practice Christianity.
My favorite passage is in the last chapter, where Gulley describes the lives of Ben and Dorotha, an elderly couple who “…lived on one Social Security check and gave the other away. They raised chickens so they could dis
Mar 22, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it
When our children were about middle-school age, they and many of their friends began wearing bracelets that had the letters "WWJD" on them, which stood for "What would Jesus do?" If the Church Were Christian is all about what the author believes Jesus would want us and our churches to do. It's a wonderful reminder of the core values Christianity was based upon, stressing the importance of love, service to others, forgiveness, acceptance, and peace.

Philip Gulley is not afraid to talk about contr
Jun 22, 2011 Katherine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
I was lucky to have found this book at a library sale. I had heard of his other work "If Grace is True", and have been wanting to read it. So when I saw this laying on that table, I had to have it. And I'm very glad I found it.

Reading this book was almost like finding someone had taken many of the different things I believe about religion and faith and had written them out for me - in a way I know I never could.

Books like this mean a lot to me - someone who is often considered a "heretic" for co
Dec 09, 2010 Stan rated it really liked it
The author has an interesting backstory in that he was raised Roman Catholic but later left the catholic church and joined the Quakers. He has been a Quaker minister for over 20 years. On more than one occasion, he reports, congregants have demanded that he give up his credentials as a minister because of his provocative and outspoken beliefs (not too surprising, since he flatly dismisses the virgin birth as not credible, and tells congregations they should stop spending their money on missionar ...more
Jun 30, 2011 Gloria rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-the-spirit
This is one provocative little book. Just finished it and had the thought that I better dive into Rob Bell's controversial book "Love Wins" and now I see in the description on GoodReads that Gulley's books will appeal to Rob Bell fans.

Gully is a Quaker pastor who normally writes funny, inspirational books ala Garrison Keillor (Lake Wobegon Days). This is a seriously different format and content. Gulley is good at using simple, story-like examples to make his point, but it is his points that will
Sep 14, 2014 Rod rated it did not like it
Reading this book was as much fun as walking into a china shop with an AK-47 assault riffle. There is sooo much to shoot can't miss! Every paragraph has a error of logic and theology. Philip Gulley can look at the simplest situation and get it backwards. This is no surprise since people like Borg, Claiborne and Diana Butler Bass approved of this heretical nonsense.

The disturbing part is that many people on Goodreads gave this book a good rating - is the entire world theologically illit
Alisa Kester
Feb 11, 2011 Alisa Kester rated it did not like it
Shelves: worst-books-ever
It's interesting how Gulley picks and chooses from the words of Jesus. Anything he likes becomes the truth. Anything that doesn't fit his viewpoint is discarded. He's an extremely misguided man, and the great pity is, he's misguiding others - even to the point of suggesting people seek out false religions.
Jun 09, 2010 Erika rated it it was ok
Gulley has some good points and I appreciate his perception of Jesus' teachings in this book and how it applies to the church as a global whole. Some of his points were particularly refreshing, such as the tolerance of people to ask questions in faith and to explore. However, the basis of his book is shaky. In the first part of his book, he challenges readers to ponder where we, as Christians, gain our knowledge of Jesus. He nearly disputes the possibility that the Biblical texts that we rely on ...more
Sera Goldsmith
Jun 10, 2010 Sera Goldsmith rated it really liked it
While I don't agree with everything in this book, I found it incredibly thought-provoking. The author tackles many issues in the church that have really struck a chord with me in the past, and have been reasons that I have chosen to take a step back from church and figure some things out for myself. While the areas I disagree with him on are related to theology and specific biblical ideas, I have to give him credit for being so bold as to question things and present alternative view points. Very ...more
May 01, 2015 Lee rated it really liked it
I think that is was very good and helped to give me a different perspective.
Phila Hoopes
Dec 17, 2015 Phila Hoopes rated it it was amazing
What if, instead of enforcing doctrine and condemning sin on pain of hellfire, churches lived the values that Jesus demonstrated? Values such as unconditional love, compassion, social justice, generosity and grace?

This is the question that Quaker pastor Philip Gulley asks through pointed chapters on topics such as “Affirming Our Potential Would Be More Important Than Condemning Our Brokenness” and “Encouraging Personal Exploration Would Be More Important Than Communal Uniformity.” Gulley speaks
M Christopher
I would have liked to give this book a higher rating. I began reading it with a great deal of hope. After all, who wouldn't want the Body of Christ to "Rediscover the Values of Jesus?" I certainly found myself nodding in agreement as I perused Gulley's chapter titles/topics before I began reading: "If the Church were Christian... Reconciliation Would be Valued over Judgment / Gracious Behavior Would be More Important than Right Belief / Peace Would Be More Important Than Power" and so forth. I'm ...more
Philip Cosand
Jan 07, 2016 Philip Cosand rated it liked it
Maybe I wasn't scarred enough by my church. (Shrug) Everybody else seems to -love- this book and I thought it was just fine.

It reads very much like a college thesis. 10 subtopics are introduced, the pastor puts forth his own views and life experiences in the 10 areas, and we are asked to agree with his strong statements.

There was really only one or two things I could find as being "new" to me. Mostly it felt like a rehashing of notions I had come across before. Much like Men Are from Mars, Wome
Mar 21, 2016 Judy rated it it was amazing
Philip Gulley is a Quaker minister who writes a very interesting, readable book drawing on his experiences and examining what it really means to be a Christian. Our church class has been studying this over the past several months and Gulley's analyses have sparked lively discussions. Still, it is a book that a person can gain from reading it alone. Lots of thought-provoking questions.
Nov 24, 2014 Nancy rated it it was amazing
I'll say one thing for Gulley. He's not afraid to tell it like it is. And like it is less and less is what the church should be. An interesting read--would make a good group discussion and certainly a book that any person of faith--church goer or not--should read.
Feb 18, 2010 Sharon rated it it was amazing
Gulley is gentle, but firm-- and right on about the church. I would hope that good church folks would take his criticisms and his recommendations to heart.
Bruce Snyder
Feb 06, 2016 Bruce Snyder rated it it was amazing
A book comes along once in a while that really speaks to my heart. This was such a book and Philip Gulley read my heart, mind and soul when he wrote it. If the Church Were Christian posits ten changes that would occur if mainstream churches acted on the message and model of Christ rather than continue to twist and untwist the same rope that organized religion has become. If the Church were really Christian, Jesus would be a model for living rather than an object of worship. We get so hung up on ...more
Lloyd Hughes
Dec 31, 2013 Lloyd Hughes rated it liked it
Mr. Gulley's work appears to address the ever-widening gap between form and substance in the practice of religion. Most Christians are aware of and concerned about this -- some consciously, some unconsciously. Most are uncomfortable challenging the establishment. Some leave the Church, some remain in place in a state of docile compliance. There are several polarizing issues challenging today's church that are creating a spirited debate among devout/committed/concerned/well-meaning defenders of t ...more
Karin Grice
Jun 11, 2016 Karin Grice rated it really liked it
Definitely a thought-provoking book for any Christian who came to the faith via traditional/conservative teachings. Gulley makes his points clearly, and if the reader is open to a liberal interpretation of Christian writings, there is plenty of opportunity for reflection. A question for the author, though: Why do the conservative mega-churches continue to grow given their culture of always knowing the truth (as they see it.)
Jan 07, 2016 Bobbi rated it it was amazing
Gulley is very insightful. As a Progressive Christian, he espouses much of what I feel the current Mainline Church is struggling with, and is lacking in some areas. If you like to be challenged in long-held views on the church, this book is for you. If you do not like the established view to be questioned--stay away. I am reading this for a book club and am looking forward to our discussion.
Kevin Summers
Aug 13, 2014 Kevin Summers rated it liked it
Sample quote: "The gospel accounts, written some thirty to sixty years after the death of Jesus, are the early church's words about Jesus, not necessarily the actual words of Jesus. ... Nevertheless, the story of Jesus is a compelling one and still has the power to shape, form, and transform our lives."
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Mar 17, 2016 Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
Both scathing, but both authored by pastors who love the church despite its weaknesses. I, too, love the church, but find it disappoints me....We could be so much more but for our complacency and off-putting piousness, the very things Jesus stared down in his Jewish faith.

Nov 07, 2015 Kristin rated it it was amazing
Every chapter of this book is packed with insights that challenge our thinking. Gulley encourages us to think about the church's history, the decisions made, and the results. Have things gotten a bit contorted? He asserts things like...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" and "encouraging personal exploration would be more important than communal uniformity." Hard hitting. ...more
Shirley Freeman
This was great. It's hard to dislike a book which articulates my own views so well. I read it fairly quickly in preparation for the author's community visit last weekend. It would be a good one to read again and to discuss with a group. If you ever have a chance to hear Philip Gulley speak, I would urge you to do so. He's funny, thoughtful, articulate -- and a great story-teller. When asked what his ideal church would be, he said it would be one where people would love deeply and be truly authen ...more
Jul 14, 2014 Josh rated it liked it
Good look at what Christians could be if they would let go of what everyone else thinks they should do and do what Jesus said to do.
Jul 16, 2010 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: grace-gospel
This is a great book to believers and also unbelievers, it is very good. The title of this book is what pulled me in,after reading the synopsis I decided to read the book. The first sentence pulled me in and I read through the entire thing in one day. The author makes three different points that would make you question your belief on whether you follow Christ or not. One- If the church were Christian, inviting answers would be more valued than supplying answers. Second- Meeting needs would be mo ...more
Baumgartner Lisa
Sep 15, 2014 Baumgartner Lisa rated it really liked it
Par for the Philip Gulley course; he does not disappoint. Radical and thought provoking, a great book for group study.
Sep 26, 2015 David rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody
Recommended to David by: Kyle Hern, the group leader
Read it for a men's group at church. Writer supposedly a Quaker, but seems to be agnostic. A waste of time.
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Philip Gulley has become the voice of small-town American life. Along with writing Front Porch Tales, Hometown Tales, and For Everything a Season, Gulley is the author of the Harmony series of novels, as well as If Grace Is True and If God Is Love, which are coauthored with James Mulholland.

He hosts "Porch Talk with Phil Gulley" on the Indiana PBS affiliate WFYI television's flagship show Across I
More about Philip Gulley...

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“I have failed to be an appropriate model for Christian conduct many times. At significant points, when I should have led by example, I failed to embody the very principles I publicly affirm. I have been intolerant, greedy, slothful, and even dishonest. Were someone to say I was an example for how others should live, I would be flattered but would know their assessment was inaccurate. To say Jesus is 'only an example,' as if that were a small thing, underestimates not only the profound difficulty of serving such a role, but also discounts its rarity.” 3 likes
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