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If the Church Were Christian: Rediscovering the Values of Jesus

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  777 ratings  ·  125 reviews
“[Philip Gulley’s] vision of Christianity is grounded, gripping, and filled with uncommon sense. He is building bridges instead of boundaries, and such wisdom is surely needed now.” —Richard Rohr, O.F.M, author of Everything Belongs

Quaker minister Philip Gulley, author of If Grace Is True and If God Is Love, returns with If the Church Were Christian: a challenging and
Hardcover, 197 pages
Published February 2nd 2010 by HarperOne (first published 2010)
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Another one from my tbr explode project, added in 2009 (the year before it was published!) A few years before that, I read Gulley's other non-fiction religion titles (If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person; If God Is Love: Rediscovering Grace in an Ungracious World), wrote him a letter, and he invited me to have lunch. I was in the midst of leaving church and wanted to understand how/why he stayed. So this was actually a pretty interesting follow-up.

He looks at issues in the church
May 26, 2010 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
Dec 23, 2012 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
Tenille Shade
Jun 24, 2010 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
Jun 21, 2011 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
Mar 22, 2010 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
Jul 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: dissatisfied and questioning Christians
I'm writing this immediately after giving the book away for someone else to read so it will lack some details- like the name of my favorite chapter. But I remember telling her- "I just love this man and his writing!" The subtitle of the book is something like "Rediscovering the Values of Jesus" so each chapter reads: 'If the Church were Christian: ... followed by statements like "there would be more reconciliation than judgement; or there would be more acceptance than exclusiveness. Think of any ...more
Justin Banger
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is phenomenal. Easy to digest and quite profound. The chapter titles alone are worth the price of the book. The chapters are:

If the church were Christian, Jesus would be a model for living, not an object of worship.

If the church were Christian, affirming our potential would be more important than condemning our brokenness.

If the church were Christian, reconciliation would be valued over judgment.

If the church were Christian, gracious behavior would be more important than right belief.

Alisa Kester
Feb 11, 2011 rated it did not like it
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.
Aug 30, 2014 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
Bruce Snyder
Jul 14, 2015 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
Dec 09, 2010 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 ...more
Jun 28, 2011 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
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: heresy

If the church were Christian…

- Jesus would be a model for living rather than an object of worship
- Affirming our potential would be more important than condemning our brokenness
- Reconciliation would be valued over judgement
- Gracious behaviour would be more important than right belief (“Mirroring the compassion of Jesus would be more important than echoing the orthodoxy that has built up around him”)
- Inviting questions would be valued more than supplying answers
- Encouraging personal
Great in spirit but a bit glib and still not radical enough for me. The concept of """tolerance""' is not something I think should be celebrated - it's half a step away from a melee. Inclusion and welcoming and unconditional acceptance are much, much better. And Jesus was way more of a revolutionary than the palatable Jesus presented here. It's a nice book for nice people but doesn't pose all that much of a challenge to the status quo.
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone Seeking a Different Path in the Christian Faith
Reviewed for THC Reviews
I’ve had If the Church Were Christian on my TBR list for a while now, so when it was coincidentally chosen as our church book club pick this month, I eagerly dove into reading it. Some of the things Rev. Gulley had to say mirrored things that I’ve read in other progressive Christian books, and some were more unique to his personal perspective. I have to give him credit for being a great storyteller who sucked me right into the book. He also has a talent for boiling issues
Jun 09, 2010 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 Gray
Apr 02, 2010 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
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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 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.
Apr 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
I think that is was very good and helped to give me a different perspective.
Feb 18, 2010 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.
Ryan Jiorle
Aug 11, 2018 rated it liked it
This book has some very powerful and important messages in it, but I think it would have been better off as an essay or something shorter. It is not a particularly long book to begin with, but much of the first half was fairly repetitive in its message. The author uses dozens of anecdotes to emphasize the general idea that the church is too dogmatic and needs to care more about the real needs of people by being more gracious and inclusive. Again, this is a very powerful message, but it was drawn ...more
Little House
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Mr. Gulley gave me a lot to think about. Unfortunately, I think that he threw the baby out with the bath water. He seems to believe that Christians must throw out their core beliefs in order to act like Jesus. While there are a lot of things that the "church" could do better, for every bad example that he gave there are Churches that are doing things right. They are loving and serving their communities while still believing the Scriptures. They believe that Jesus was God and was born of a virgin ...more
Pearl Loewen
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philip-gulley
This was my first book by Philip Gulley, and I am hooked. It almost makes me want to be a Quaker, and I would welcome Philip Gulley as my pastor in any tradition. I read this book at a vulnerable time when the pull back to conservative evangelical Christianity was strong, and it reminded me of all I have left and don't want to return to. Philip Gulley does not condemn the church, but offers a welcome course correction as an insider, and is a voice needed today. His persistent, curious "what ...more
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Gulley was raised Catholic and ended up a Quaker pastor. That makes for some interesting stories and insights. This is a quick read. Nicely organized, friendly style, and edited in a way that by the end you sorta feel like you know the author.

The author says we ultimately choose love or the law. On the way, he takes some stands that will make conservative Catholics and Protestants wince a little. But it's OK to rattle cages. As Gulley points out, institutions tend to prioritize their own
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Another thought-provoking book by Philip Gulley. You don't have to be a Quaker, as the author is, to ask yourself, or your church, the questions he poses, e.g., "If the church were Christian, affirming our potential would be more important than condemning our brokenness,"...peace would be more important than power," and "...inviting questions would be valued more than supplying answers."
Gulley challenges the reader to review his/her own values vis a vis Jesus' teaching re: values.
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
To quote a friend, "We love and hate, baptize and banish, proselytize and ostracize, accept and reject, bear and share and lift and add to the burdens of others....if there is anything virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things and if they can be monetized, we do that too."
Thank you K. Puzey for these thoughts because they helped encapsulate what this book is about.
Dave Rogg
I'm not going to rate this book because I didn't finish it. I didn't finish it because his beliefs are strongly opposed to my beliefs. I am open to other people's views and often learn from them. However, after reading things like "Whether or not Jesus was sinless remains unknown to me and, quite honestly, is of little importance." and "While I question the divinity of Jesus..." I chose not to finish the book.
Sharon Anderson
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was very good and eye opening/thought provoking. I didn't 100% agree with every single thing (maybe 80%), but that's okay!!! It's always good to get different perspectives and expand your world view! I recommend this, especially if you were raised in a strict evangelical home and are having questions.
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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 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.” 4 likes
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