Tom and Gary Gilley continue their discussion on the marketing of the church, focusing on current trends in the church-growth movement.
TBC Note: A free pdf of Pastor Gilley's book This Little Church Went to Market is attached below the following transcript.
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call with T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. It’s great to have you tuned in! In today’s program, Tom continues his discussion on the general state of the church with special guest Gary Gilley, author of the books This Little Church Went to Market and This Little Church Stayed Home. Now, along with his guest, here’s TBC executive director Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Our guest today for the second week is Gary Gilley. He’s the pastor of—Gary, tell us the name of your fellowship again. I…
Gary: It’s Southern View Chapel. It’s a small community right outside of Springfield, IL, and our church is named after that community. So it’s an independent Bible church.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And Gary’s the author of a number of books—actually a series of books that we offered until one went out of print, but it’s available for free, and it began with This Little Church Went to Market. The other books are This Little Church Stayed Home and followed that--the latest book which we have-- is This Little Church Had None. Gary, I can’t wait till This Little Church Had Roast Beef!
Gary: Well, our ladies in the church are writing a cookbook called that…
Tom: [laughing] Okay!
Gary: …so I’m not sure what to do with the one that went “wee wee” all the way home, though. [laughs]
Tom: Okay, well, I’m sure the Lord will give you some thoughts…
Gary: Do a book on the Rapture…
Tom: There you go! There you go. But anyway, they’re clever titles. But more importantly, the content of these books—I can’t recommend them more highly. They’re really good stuff, and we’re going to be talking about that in our series. Now, last week, we were just approaching psychology. In Gary’s first book, if you didn’t hear the program, [in] This Little Church Went to Market, he covers three areas of concern: entertainment in the church, marketing in the church—which is deadly—and then psychology, and all of those three tell us that if a church is promoting these ideas, pushing these ideas, they do not believe in the sufficiency of God’s Word. Gary, let’s talk about that for a minute. Does the Bible teach sufficiency?
Gary: Well, I think it’s very clear it does. Second Timothy 3:16,17 is probably the key passage, but I think it’s all over. I think it’s just assumed in every place of the Scripture that God has the final word on everything.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Well, Peter tells us, “Accordingly, God has given us all things--all things-- that pertain to life and godliness.” So, that would cover all things, don’t you think? [chuckles]
Gary: [laughs] Yes, I think it would!
Tom: You know, we’re talking about--somebody says, “Well, wait a minute, it doesn’t teach me how to change my transmission in my car!” We’re talking about moral issues, godly issues.
Gary: Right, life and godliness.
Tom: Absolutely, absolutely. And it comes with the knowledge of Him. It comes with a diligence in reading His Word, and then living it out--again, “not by might nor by power but by God’s Spirit.” But it’s all there; it’s all there. Yet one of the things that we’ve seen influence the church--probably began in the ‘70s and then grew--and that is Christian psychology, turning to, really, Freud, Jung, Maslow, Rogers, supposedly putting them in a spiritual context. Boy, there’s a transformation!
Tom: But it became and still is very powerful within the church. Certainly James Dobson would be a great influence there, but there have been others: Minirth and Meier…I mean, I could go down a list even today where this is a concern that we have because of its influence among evangelicals, among Bible-believing Christians, and it’s just huge.
Gary: Yes. Yeah, I think most people, even not realizing what they’re doing, they’re turning to these methods and philosophies instead of Scripture…
Gary: …because everybody’s doing it. It’s just--everybody does it.
Tom: Yeah. Well, it’s our old nature. We’ve got a problem, we want it solved now, so we want a silver bullet, as though they offered a silver bullet, which is part of the delusion here, part of the deception: people thinking that psychology--and by psychology, I’m talking primarily about…well, about clinical psychology, psychological counseling, or psychotherapy.
And I remember being asked a question at one of the conferences I was speaking at. They said, “Well, you know, what’s your problem?” Like, “Well, Tom’s got problems, but what’s your problem with psychology?”
And I said, “Well, let me try and make this as simple as I can, as clear as I can: what do you folks think about Sigmund Freud? What do you think about a man who lusted after his own mother and none of his theories or concepts have anything to do with science? What about Carl Gustav Jung, a man so demonized…” (you can get this from his biographies and so on), “and I could go on to Carl Rogers and others.” I said, “Would you say that these were godly men? Because they are the foundation of psychotherapy, of psychological counseling. So what do you think about these men? Would you call them godly men?”
And of course, you can hear the grumblings among the audience, “No, no, no, not for me.”
Well, what does Psalm 1 say? “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly.” And all those who have degrees in, whether it be, you know, a medical degree and then going into psychiatry or a Ph.D. in psychology, psychological counseling, even master’s degrees in some of those--that is the basis for their understanding, for their approach, to psychology, and if you’re going to be credited or licensed to perform those things, these are the guys that you have to know and understand and promote along with 500 different methodologies, 10,000 variations on that, and it’s just a swamp of delusion, right, Gary?
Gary: Right. I think, you know, instead of the simplicity of Scripture, which is really refreshing when you think about it, you’ve got all these competing things. I actually, very early in my ministry, thought I would get a degree in psychology, a master’s degree. I took two courses and realized I’d made a big mistake. Everything I was learning was diametrically opposed to Scripture.
Gary: But that was an eye-opener for me. I learned a great deal in that experience.
Tom: Sure. And the thing that--you know, my background, my dad was a psychiatrist. I grew up in the mental health community, so I know it experientially at least. But there are so many simple things that people are not recognizing, and, Gary, last week, you mentioned you wanted your fellowship to think, [to] think these things through. And some of it is so simple. For example, the heart of psychological counseling is the belief that man is inherently good. [chuckles] Now…
Gary: Yeah, got it false from the start here.
Tom: Yeah! And if that’s the case, what’s the point of the cross?
Gary: Right. Right.
Tom: Just to reorient us? No, no! “The heart,” Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” We need to be changed by the cross, transformed by what Christ did--how He paid the penalty for our sins--and become new creatures in Him. That’s the only way we’re going to have--well, Jesus said He came [that we might] have life and have it more abundantly and so on.
Now, Gary, I want to get on to…last week we talked about the church growth movement. Give us a little background there, because many of the things that you write about--and we’re going to get on to This Little Church Stayed Home. Some of these trends and all of these things that have come in…but at the heart of this has been the so-called “church growth movement.” What about that?
Gary: Well, we’re Americans, and so we want to be big and successful, and that’s become kind of our god, I think. If you look at any church in our community or yours that’s really big and really growing, everybody thinks they’re successful. And pastors, being Americans, they want to be successful, too, so they want to have numbers. Now, how do you get numbers? Well, if we’re living in an age, which I think we are, in which most people want to have their ears tickled--they’re not interested in sound doctrine--you’re not going to bring in big crowds with that. There’s not many large churches in America built on the foundation of God’s truth; most of them are built on something else. So if you want church growth, in most cases, what you’re going to have to do is play the game, come up with the techniques and the marketing and the entertainment and all these things that people want to hear, and that will probably grow your church if you do it right, but you’re not growing God’s church.
Tom: Right. You see, the issue here is it is consumer-oriented. You’ve got to make the people that come feel good--feel good all the time--but what does it tell you about the cross? What does it tell you about the message of the gospel? What does it tell you about having your lives changed for good? Doesn’t work, does it?
Gary: No, it isn’t getting to the heart of the real issues.
Tom: Right. But, as a consumer, you know, what’s the axiom? The customer’s always right! You’ve got to go that way, so now we have at least a man-oriented institution--you can call it a fellowship--but basically, it takes the focus off Christ and His saving grace to what man can work out. So it ends up being a kind of works-salvation process.
Gary: Well, again, some of these churches will preach the gospel pretty clearly, but they’re not living it out consistently with their man-focused ministries, because you’re exactly right: once we believe that the consumer’s always right, we’re going to give the consumer what he wants, and that’s not necessarily what God wants, so we have to have it Christ-centered: what does He want? That’s found in the Word, so we’re back in this kind of a cycle: here’s God’s church, He tells us what He wants in His Word, we start deviating from that, then we’re in trouble.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Gary, I want to talk about our upcoming generation. You know, you’ve got what, two sons?
Tom: How old are they?
Gary: They’re in their thirties.
Tom: Thirties…so, you know, to me they’re like the elder statesmen of the upcoming generation, okay? And I have five, and my five are 24 up through 35, and I have a great concern, based on what you’ve been writing about in your books, what we’re concerned about at The Berean Call, that what are they going to have to deal with, first of all? We’ve seen incredible changes--as you’ve articulated and written in your books--incredible changes in the church, and what’s going to hold them, what’s going to sustain them through this, especially with regard to marketing? Now, I’m kind of setting up here--in the marketing approach, we mentioned Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, seeker-friendly, seeker-sensitive churches turning to the world with regard to entertainment, and again, the marketing approach. But people burn out on that, don’t they?
Tom: Now, what I find really fascinating is that for our young people--I’m thinking about Dan Kimball, for example, at Santa Cruz Bible Church, where he’s written a book called The Emerging Church, and what he found was [that] the kids were getting a little sick of lights and music and, you know, electric guitars and all of that stuff, and he gave them a quiet, acoustical service—candles, subdued lighting, and so on; and the kids reacted to that in his church by saying, “Wow, this is really spiritual!” Now, this was at least one thrust of the emerging church or emergent church movement, and what I find interesting [is that] it’s marketing all over again, right?
Tom: Now, yeah, you’re going to give the young people what they want. Now, where did they turn? And let’s start talking about the approach to the experiential, the “bells and smells” and all of that stuff—address that, Gary.
Gary: Well, I think you’re right. I think what has been called the emerging or emergent church is a backlash to the seeker-sensitive church. I think young people—and maybe for the good--some of them are saying, “Look, this isn’t what the church ought to be. Well, I’m not getting anything that I wouldn’t get at a rock concert.” And so they’re looking for something deeper, so that’s maybe a positive thing.
The problem is the guys and the leaders that started the emerging and emergent church did exactly what you said: instead of going back to Scripture, they went back to something they thought that this group of young people might really appreciate, and that was more of the mystical approach to Christianity that comes out of the—I think most of the Roman Catholic medieval times and earlier in which they had the monastic system and the various monks and hermits and so forth; [they] came up with all sorts of so-called “disciplines” that were supposed to conform people to Christ or reform them to Christ. So they went back to the Reformation, they went back to even earlier in the first several centuries of Christianity, and started adopting these kinds of disciplines. Many of these were not rooted at all in Scripture, but they have this spiritual feel about them.
Tom: Sure. But, Gary…
Gary: Young people like that.
Tom: …just to interject this, they actually go back to eastern mysticism!
Gary: Well, ultimately they do, because there’s a definite link. I’m not sure anybody’s been able to show where all those links are, but if you look at any form of mysticism, and in my second book, This Little Church Stayed Home, I write about mysticism. You look at any eastern mysticism like Hinduism or Buddhism, you look at Jewish mysticism like the Kabbalah, “Christian,” so-called, mysticism in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox church, and then brought up to the spiritual formation and the emergent movement today, you’ll find that mysticism really takes on the same form. It’s an attempt to use various techniques to have a spiritual experience. But it’s not rooted in Scripture, so it’s an experience that’s out there. It could be anything. It’s very much something the young people want, because that’s where their life is. They’ve been brought up to go after experiences…
Gary: …and they’re getting burned out, as you said, with the seeker-sensitive, secular approach. Then let’s go to a spiritual feeling approach! But as I’ve written in my books, instead of this group of leaders, the emergent leaders, going back to Scripture, they go back to eastern and Christian mysticism instead, and that’s deadly.
Tom: Right. It is. First of all, you’ve lost the objective Word of God in all of this. You bring somebody around who’s talking about their experiences and so on--well, look, how do you know this is of the Lord? I mean it could have been the double pepperoni pizza they had the night before or something like that. But seriously, these lack the ability to objectively understand what is going on. I think in one of your books--I can’t remember which--you talk about hermeneutics. Well, we’ve dealt with that. This is the way we understand the Word of God objectively. You know, it sounds like a big, technical word, but all it means is the way we converse and have conversation--context, and grammar, and all of that, which we don’t even have to know those terms. It’s just the way we converse with people, with one another.
Gary: Yeah. Yeah, well, that’s normal for us. We don’t, like I said, we don’t think about it. If we read the newspaper or tax forms or whatever, we use hermeneutics to interpret. But when we come to the Bible, then we start twisting things around.
Tom: And, I’ve given this example--if I’m telling you my understanding of a verse from Scripture just based on how I feel, you can’t argue with me, can you? [laughs]
Gary: No, no!
Tom: And if I’m way off base from just objectively what the Scriptures say, I’m in trouble! I’m going down not just a slippery slope; I’m going off a cliff here, because I can’t know the Word of God. Now, that’s the heart of the contemplative, mystical approach in Scripture. They tell you point-blank, “You can’t know God objectively. You’ve got to experience Him.” Well, guess what? If you’ve got a hundred people, you’ve got a hundred different experiences probably, maybe some similar. But we’ve been talking about this—we did last week and certainly today—it’s the undermining of the Word of God that’s a serious issue here.
Jesus said, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and you don’t do what I say?” Well, if you don’t know what He said, you can’t do what He said, and I think that’s the huge problem here.
Gary: Kind of to reinforce that is Dallas Willard--who’s one of the spiritual formation guys-- [He] wrote a whole book called Hearing God, and he says pointblank, direct quote, that if God speaks to us today apart from Scripture, how do we know when God is speaking to us instead of something else? He says, “It’s experience.” So experience becomes the arbitrator, the final authority, not Scripture.
Tom: Sure. And that is the huge problem today if--we talked about this earlier--if the Word of God is not your authority, okay, but now it’s some new thing…Gary, I don’t know if you’re aware, but I did two articles based on Keith Gibson’s book Wandering Stars…
Tom: …and the issue is--the title of the articles were, “They Claim to Hear from God.” And then they set up--these who promote this idea--they set up a methodology in which you can’t challenge them. So you have to either follow men—women, in many cases--with what they say God is saying. Boy, we’re in serious trouble! But that is the way it’s going and it’s not diminishing by what you write, by what we write, by what we say, even though, the Lord willing, we’re rescuing some people from these false ideas, false teachings.
Gary: I think there always are some who are searching who are helped. The big movements continue on. But, you know, I would mention, too, the terms “emerging” or “emergent” church”are pretty much kind of gone away. You don’t read much about them anymore. Some people say, “Well, that’s gone.” But it’s not. What has happened--and this is important to note--is that this has simply become mainstream in evangelicalism now…
Gary: …to such a degree that you don’t need to use those terms anymore, and it’s just what most people think biblical Christianity is. But it hasn’t gone away; it just has kind of become part of our…
Tom: I don’t see Brian McLaren, Campolo, those others who promote this stuff, I don’t see them going away. No, it’s also like a--with all of these trends and a lot of them that you’ve named, maybe they’re popular for a time, and then they seem to…”Well, that was the end of that.” They’re like sets of waves. The wave comes in, it dumps its debris on the beach, draws back, maybe takes something with it, and then comes the next set. But we keep seeing these things reappearing, because the heart of it all--it goes back to Genesis 3, the first couple of verses, where the adversary, Satan, through the serpent, is speaking to Eve, and he says, “Yea, hath God said…?” So the whole process here, all the things that we’ve been talking about last week and this week, have to do with the denigrating, undermining, of the Word of God, God’s truth, which will set us free.
Tom: But it won’t set us free if we don’t know about it, which, Gary, we’ve got a few minutes left, but look. Is there an antidote, a prevention program, for protecting believers in this? And I’m talking about truly born-again believers who can get caught up in this. This isn’t just professing Christians who don’t really know the Lord but are excited about one thing or another within Christianity. What can we do today? What can we tell our listeners? What’s the protection, the prevention program, the protecting device, that they need to follow?
Gary: Well, it still goes back to the simple things we’re talking about: the authority of the Word of God. The thing is, people who do claim to believe in the Word of God, they don’t see truth, the final authority of truth, God’s truth, emerging from the Word of God. That’s--to me, that’s the key. That’s the kind of thing I press everywhere I go and the things I write. It’s not just if there’s something--if something doesn’t contradict the Bible, then it’s okay. I don’t think that’s enough. I think people have to go to the Bible itself and see what emerges from the Word of God. And that was a big help, by the way, a sermon Dave Hunt preached years, and years ago that I heard on this type of subject, on truth. It was very helpful to me to realize that I needed to pull from the Bible truth, and that’s a mindset. I’ve got to be convinced from the Word of God that it has final authority. God is not unable to meet my needs or unable to explain truth to me. It’s there, and once I’ve decided that the Word of God contains these things, that’s my source, not all these other things. So everything else anybody else says has to be kind of taken to the grid of Scripture to see what is true to the Word of God, not the other way around, and I think that’s where people go astray.
Tom: In John:8:31,32, Jesus said, “If you continue in my Word, then are you my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Gary: That’s right.
Tom: You can’t have one without the other, thinking, Well, all truth is God’s truth and I have my truth, you have your truth. No. It’s an important thing, and, you know, the thing we preach and promote here, Gary, is familiarity with the Word of God, and discipline, and getting into the Word of God, reading it every day. And not just reading it, but, by God’s help, doing it, living it out. Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” That’s available for every believer, and it will see them through trials, tribulations, and so on. But it will also reinforce the joy that the Lord has for all of us, and it is the ultimate--the ultimate prevention program, the antidote to…well, Gary, would you call these last days apostasy? Is that the way you see it?
Gary: Well, it’s certainly headed that way, and we don’t know what the Lord’s going to do, but it isn’t heading the right direction here. And once you lose your foundation, it’s very hard to get it back. That’s what we’re facing, if we’re not very careful, or have maybe already lost it, in many cases.
You know, another thing too, Tom, that I think is important here is that people--many Christians simply do not realize that there is an enemy out there to deceive us. Everybody wants to think positive today, and have positive messages and not be warned about things, but I was just reading this week on Wednesday night at our church service here a passage in 2 Cor. 11, Paul says, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, do not be surprised when these people disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.”
People don’t believe that! They go out there kind of gullible-like, and anybody that writes a book or goes to a conference or preaches or whatever, [if] they’re famous, they must be okay. And I think we need a good healthy dose of reality that Scriptures gives us here: there are false teachers out there and they look like the real thing. We have to recapture that.
Tom: Yeah. Well, that’s why we call our ministry The Berean Call. We encourage people to search the Scriptures daily to see if what you’re saying is true, what I’m saying is true. So that’s our encouragement to our listeners. Well, Gary, we’re out of time now, but I really appreciate your input, and I know that folks are going to be blessed by this program.
Gary: Well, thanks, Tom.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 with T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of materials to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019, Bend, OR, 97708. Call us at 800-937-6638 or visit our website at thebereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for tuning in, and we hope you can join us again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.