Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Pagan Christianity" and "Reimagining Church"

I firmly believe that Christ instituted the Church as his body/family/flock on earth. What earth’s inhabitants see when looking at expressions of the Church around the world is a frequent misrepresentation of what the bible prescribes. What they see is disillusioning. It astonishes me how my own view has adjusted by standing back and gaining vital objectivity. Involved in the church as I have been for over forty years as a pastor and a denominational executive I have always been high on the church, defensive of it against critics and cynics. After all, it was my calling and it paid my bills. I sought to upgrade various aspects of church life and operations. My assessment of church has been chiefly positive but spectator observations of pain, dysfunction, legalism,inflexibility and entrenchments within too many churches has informed my opinion now that I have retired from active church work. Now I have to concur with those who dare to critique the church, that there is a lot of room for improvement.

George Barna and Frank Viola have written a prophetic critique of the prevailing forms of church and a positive vision of what the church can become if Christians discard institutional forms of church and embrace more organic forms. "Pagan Christianity" by George Barna and Frank Viola, and "Reimagining Church" by Frank Viola are two books that belong together. Although one preceded the other (January and August 2008), the first was never meant as a stand alone book since it is deconstructive and the second book is the constructive argument. With Pagan Christianity the authors were saying that “the picture on the box has been wrong, and that's why the pieces haven't been fitting together.” With the second book Viola presents a fresh vision of the picture on the box that's rooted in the teachings of Jesus and the apostles.

Evangelicalism has often proudly viewed itself as the correction to lifeless dead formalism and sacramentalism. How scandalous is it for evangelicals to admit that something is wrong with church as they know it. But how redeeming can it be to introduce a new style of responsible, interactive Christianity. These books are easily worth a read.

GPS Application
Luke reported in Acts 2 that 42 …” they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved." God, help us to be today what you intended back then.

* a great site with so much provocative info to challenge your thinking.
* An audio file of an interview with George Barna and Frank Viola


  1. I suppose it's becasue I'm still involved in pastoral ministry that I get defensive of the church against critics and cynics. I haven't read the Barna/Viola dianosis/prescription. I actually grew tired of Barna's books awhile back. Perhaps I shouldn't be so cynical of the cynics.

    I was wondering if you might want to flesh out what you mean by introducing a new style of interactive Christianity.

  2. If I could just read one, would you then suggest Reimagining Church? Or should I just bite the bullet and get/read both?

  3. From what I understand,
    Interactive Christianity is a response to the weariness some feel with church and the longing for something other than traditional church or big church, or slick church all summarized as ‘spectator’ church. So the weary try ‘house church’ or variations called ‘simple church’ or ‘organic church.’ These might be as interactive as follows.

    The composition of interactive Christianity may not be unfamiliar to us at all and it relates to the corporate experience. In terms of the worship experience itself IC employs relaxed environment with refreshments to meet & get to know people before worship begins; seating that allows you to see & connect with everyone; songs & prayers initiated by anyone in the group; time to read & reflect on scriptures collectively as a group; participation freely at your own comfort level: from sitting in quiet meditation or kneeling in prayer to playing instruments and other forms of expression; sharing on a deeper level & prayer with others individually & collectively; sharing a meal with one another after the gathering, as desired; leaving feeling you genuinely communed with God and everyone at the gathering.

    IC takes an all-inclusive, familial approach wanting everyone of every age and background to feel welcome. Rather than dividing families by age group, all ages are welcomed and encouraged to participate together in true family style. Child care is also provided, as needed. Every participant has a voice and is integral and may serve as both minister and one being ministered to. Each person is creating the worship and experiencing it. It is open, unafraid.

  4. Chad, choose Reimagining Church


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