I thought Viola's book was very thought provoking and helped me to think differently about how the church functions and why it needs to change. Viola makes a solid presentation about certain practices that would benefit the church if they were practiced as they were in the first century rather than through the traditions that we have grown up with. While it is a good book to read for anyone who loves the body of Christ, Viola hammers on the leadership structure in the church that he refers to as "hierarchical leadership". Much of this is based off of his own experience within churches and from those who have been burned by the traditional church. He constantly goes back to his belief that leadership within the church is a very bad thing. The book could have been about 100 pages shorter if he would have given his two cents about the issue and let the reader come to his/her own opinion. The "objections" section in the back of the book was somewhat helpful in seeing how Viola interprets those passages that we traditionally cite for church leadership. But many of the objections seemed very generic and was almost a repeat of much of his book.
One thing that also bothered me was that he spent very little (maybe once sentence in the whole book) about the problems that face house/organic churches. He made them out to be groups of people who have zero problems and are in eternal bliss. I would have appreciated a candid application of how organic churches have overcome those difficulties, but nothing was said. Apparently they are the bee's knee's. We all have sinful tendencies, and even in organic churches. He also harped on people in traditional churches, almost labeling them heretics because they were are apart of the "institutional church." I happen to know many pastors who genuinely want to "shepherd" the peple that they have been put in charge of and have no desire for personal gain or recognition. So his research was slightly flawed and seemed to only include churches that Viola did like and then lumped every "traditional church" along with it. All of that to say that the book was thought provoking and caused me to think differently about how the church can function better.
Traditions, customs, ceremonies, and rites all plague the conscience of most who currently hold to dissenting opinions of modern church practices. For those who indeed seek to reevaluate the data available, a fresh start to 'doing' church almost seems unfathomable. What would one do? What does the scripture suggest a Christian is to do about church practices? Frank Viola suggests that we start by Reimagining Church!
Frank Viola's writing has in part as the voice of the Organic Church movement. Following up his previous book Pagan Christianity, Viola takes this entry and attempts a more constructive dialog while providing answers to the question readers were left with in Pagan Christianity? Viola writes to describe a New Testament church in its infant state while gleaning the beauty that came from it. While conveying the narrative of the beauty Viola observes in his interpretations of the New Testament he believes he is able to discern how the earliest assemblies glorified Christ through their meeting habits.
The book is divided into two major sections. For pragmatic purposes, Viola breaks down Community and Gatherings first. Introducing readers to the various views of the 'Church' itself, he gives fairly accurate explanations of the various paradigms of meetings, mostly focusing on those in the 'organic' strain. With the view of the church itself as a living organism, the foundation Viola operates from is always quick to remind you that they all share a common DNA. With the establishment of the various kinds of meetings made, Viola gives practical advice for typical Church meetings, the Lord's Supper, Gathering Places, and even when and how to interact with believers outside of scheduled meetings. Overall, you are not likely to get a hermeneutic that produces high liturgy or fenced communion tables from the likes of Frank Viola. What you will get is a very different approach to the traditions that this books predecessor establishes as rooted in unbiblical practice. Some would call it a community or organic hermeneutic, but to those who are unfamiliar with it, it will be very challenging.
The second portion of the book is devoted to the ever troublesome topic of Leadership and Accountability. The organic church camp often draws criticism for being rebellious, non-submissive, and divisive. Unfortunately, I am not sure that Viola's work on these topics are going to vindicate those accusations anytime soon, but I do believe they will help formulate a more honest picture of what many see as a biblical approach to such a vital component of church life. Without giving in-depth details of each portion this section covers I will emphasize that leadership and accountability is not a possession of one singular pastor or bishop in Viola's lens. The transference of the previous sections community hermeneutic prevails here as well and we see a re-imagination of leadership, oversight, decision making, spiritual covering, authority and submission, denominational covering, and Apostolic traditions. Essentially, each venture of re-imagination brings with it the delight of seeing an organic community coming together as a church, a collection of believers who all see Christ as head, acknowledge each others vital roles, but establish no hierarchical preeminence amongst each other outside of Christ.
With predictive response to all the questions that will most certainly arise from those who read this book from the institutional camp, and thus decide they wish to pursue alternative trajectories, Frank Viola provides a short but useful chapter that lends insight on where do we go from here? The appendix is also helpful in providing some information in response to the heavily debatable topic of leadership, and he includes objections and responses for your perusal.
Frank Viola relies very heavily on his many years of experience in the organic church culture. His writing style is engaging and his intention if often very clear throughout this book. The question I often found myself asking was "did he really get all that from one verse?" This is not a systematic exposition of each ecclessiological topic ever known to seminarians, but it sure does touch on many hot buttons sure to rub any fundamentalist wrong. Whether you are seeking to learn more and implement organic church practices, or you are looking to read up on Frank Viola to prove those 'organic church' dissenters wrong, this is good place to start.
I personally enjoy listening and reading Frank Viola's materials and visit his website from time to time. I am still interested in purchasing a few of his other books for personal reading pleasure. Those include The Untold Story of the New Testament Church: An Extraordinary Guide to Understanding the New Testament and a new book recently co-authored with Leonard Sweet, Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ. This book itself was not a 'easy' read for me. That is likely due to the digging into the references and the mulling over the ideals Viola sets forth. This book is not similar to Pagan Christianity with all of its weighty footnotes and references, but I still dug deep on these topics. Frank remains consistent in his thesis and stands on his soapbox promoting what he calls his dream for the church. Embodied in his philosophy of the church, and in the print of this books cover, Frank Violas writing always screams his desire,
"I have a dream that Jesus Christ will one day be head of his church again. Not in pious rhetoric, but in reality."
Whether I disagree with Frank Viola or not, I enjoyed reading this book because he is always careful to ensure what he says emphasizes his belief of the above.
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Review 4 for Reimagining Church - eBook
Holy Spirit is calling
Date:October 5, 2011
I believe the Holy Spirit is calling this generation to question what we've been doing for so long just because of tradition. This book describes how we can get to the next level of unity of the brethren. Finally, a book to support and articulate what I've been feeling for so long. I'm beginning to experience what this book is describing and I'm addicted!!
Through this book I have come to relish my promotion from Church Leader to run-of-the-mill brother. It is a small step for man but a giant leap for eternity and no doubt of greater benefit to the church. Had I not read Frank Violas Untold Story of the New Testament Church and Pagan Christianity I might have been put off by the Title of Reimagining Church simply because in my view, much of the malady of the church today is as a result of too much imagination and too little sound doctrine. Thankfully inside the cover of this book the only imagination is in the skill, simplicity and very readable style of the writer, the doctrines presented are soundly based on Scripture and the freshly imagined church is very true to her original design in the New Testament.The transition from Institutionalised Christianity, with its dedicated ordained professional leaders to the Headship of the unseen but very present Christ in the midst of the twos and threes gathered in His name is sometimes a scary and unnerving prospect, which exposes and belies our dependence upon these men rather than the one who alone is worthy to be the Head of the church.Reimagining Church is a masterpiece providing a loving, well researched, spiritually insightful transition from religion to a life in Christ and provides a fresh view of the power, glory and simplicity of the church of Jesus Christ. This book is an essential follow on to Pagan Christianity, which dealt a death blow to a lot of Christianized pagan practices in modern Christianity and left the reader standing in the Garden of Eden with no fig leaves. Reimagining Church, provides spiritual insight into the true covering that God has provided those He redeemed from the Garden of sin, by unpacking the simple but profound operation of the New Testament church, with its organic leadership,the centrality and supremacy of Jesus, its Head and the practical operation of the priesthood of all believers.
Frank Viola is an influential leader in the modern House/Organic/Simple Church movement, and as such, has written a number of books encouraging readers to reexamine what it means to be the church. Viola's latest book, Reimagining Church, may be his best yet. The book is written for the nonprofessional; for people who are leaving or are considering leaving more traditional forms of church. This is a strength, in my judgment, and will insure a wide readership. Viola's insights are accessible to everyone, unlike much missional church literature today, which is often written for seminary-trained church leaders. This is good because Viola has much to say. Viola has spent some twenty years in simple or organic churches, and has some incredibly keen insights into how these churches can and should function. Issues of leadership, relationships, sacraments, church unity, decision-making and more are addressed frankly and thoughtfully. There is real wisdom in this book -- wisdom born of experience. In my judgment, this book represents the best-articulated case for simple or organic churches I've read.
One of the best books on church that I've ever read. This is truly a fresh vision. I loved how it ties the nature of God into how the church is to be expressed. The part about leadership and covering was brilliant. Great book!
This is an awesome book! I have felt this way for a long time, and I encourage anyone, who has felt that church run like a business is not the way God intended for His church to be, to buy this book. May God lead you in pursuit of His presence and His ways.
In Reimagining Church, Frank Viola has crafted a powerful and engaging book that combines theological precision, spiritual depth, and practical demonstrations which together offer a new vision of church for the twenty-first century. No one can read this book without discovering something fresh about the many texts in the New Testament that describe church and leadership as well as being provoked to look at both in an entirely new way. I found the book's consistent emphasis on the orthodox teaching of the trinitarian nature of God and how it relates to church practices to be refreshing and insightful. The experiential stories the author presents after each chapter make this a functionally practical book as well as a theological savvy one. Viola deals with such topics as the role of culture on church practice, the so called doctrine of "covering" and its abuses, the different models of church leadership, apostolic tradition, God's eternal mission and purpose, recent movements that have sought to reform the church, and the organic nature of church all in a brilliantly provocative and winsome manner.Since I have been a Christian I have always heard that the church is an organism, but this is the first book I have read that develops the implications of that statement and shows why it is relevant to every follower of Jesus.Some books are timeless in the issues they address. Others are timely. "Reimagining Church" is one of those rare books that are both.
One of the best books on ecclesiology to date. I couldn't put the book down. I've read all of Frank's books including The Untold Story of the New Testament Church and Pagan Christianity. This one is the best in my opinion.
For everyone who initially finished reading "Pagan Christianity?" and still had questions about leadership and how something like "organic church" was even possible, this book is a must have! "Reimaging Church" is the 3rd book in Frank's new 5(Two are left to be released I believe) part series. The first was "The Untold Story of the New Testament" which helped many of us finally make sense of the NT. The next book was "Pagan Christianity?" which traced the roots of the question back to reveal many startling conclusions. Now, "Reimaging Church" takes our breath away as Frank helps us make sense of the concept of organic, first-century church life in today's world. From the stories of organic church life at the book to the answers to tough questions at the end, "Reimagining Church" continually answers questions that we were left with at the end of "Pagan Christianity?" I'll admit that I personally had tears come to my eyes when I thought of how beautiful the church really is and now my heart is constantly burdened when I think of the bondage the church has allowed to come on herself. If you read "Pagan Christianity?", this book is the next puzzle piece needed to help complete the picture. I'm sure that the next few books will help complete the picture one piece at a time. One thing's for sure, you can never view the Bible, church, or our Lord the same way ever again. In fact, with a mural this beautiful, you wouldn't ever want to turn your eyes from it.
I just finished reading Frank Viola's new book: Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity. You've got to read it! Frank has done an excellent job putting together the theological and practical aspects of organic church. This book's message will transform the Christian who has left the institutional church as a reaction to their pain, their offenses, and their disgust and will turn them towards the theological, biblical reason why they need to do church organically. Frank does not pull any punches, and anyone whose life is tied up in the business of churchanity may have trouble with his conclusions. But be careful - truth changes hearts of clay, but will harden hearts of stone. He is also truthful when it comes to the errors seen throughout the house church movement. In fact he even goes as far to say that some of the institutional models are being used by the Lord more than "so-called house churches that are elitist and sectarian." (pg. 267) If you choose to read "Reimagining Church", (and I hope you do) you will certainly be challenged and encouraged by what the Lord is doing as he builds His Church. Frank's observations and wisdom shines through his attention to detail. This book will serve the Church for ages to come and serve as a tool to keep us focused on real Church. It is truly a benchmark for the body of Christ. Thank you Frank!
This is Viola's best book yet -- a masterpiece on the organic nature of the church. Every objection is answered. The examples from life experience are compelling and add to the book's strength. The writing style is inviting and fresh. Bravo on a great book!
This book was like, so awesome. I read it in 3 hours, that's how good it was (and I'm a slow reader). I never liked church before, but now I can see why. I need to get involved in the Christian community, man. Like, wow! Definitely read this book, it'll change your light bulb!
I bought this book a week ago and finished it the other day. Wow! I'm so excited right now. I've always longed for a church experience like this but have never found it. This book spoke to the longings in my heart. I recommend it to anyone who wonders if there's more to church.