Reimagining Church by Frank Viola
3 Bullet Book: 2020, book #52: “The only church we as believers can claim, is the one Jesus Christ began… this body receives and accepts all who believe in Jesus. Only those whom Christ has accepted belong to the body; only they make up his church.” — Frank Viola
Finished on July 18, 2020
This book was strongly recommended to me by a great friend and mentor, Brian Rivera. It was a nice shift from some of the typical things that people look at when it comes to church and living out faith. The author did a really nice job outlining the main points in great detail so that the readers could simply and coherently understand what was being explained. I like reading books like this where maybe I don’t agree with 100% of what’s shared but I can still learn from it. The author also put together a very extensive comparison of Institutional Christianity and Organic Christianity.
The 3 Bullets
1. The author went deep into the types of apostolic meetings that were held by the apostles. This was something that I had not previously studied, and especially not at this level. I found that section of the book to be particularly impactful as it provided some great insight into the goals and objectives for the gatherings, meetings, and conversations that the apostles held on different occasions.
2. Another area of the book that jumped out to me was a section about God’s purposes in our lives. The author emphasized that while God had an eternal purpose for each of us before sin, redemption is not the end. That was an important thing to hear and reflect on. Many times I think that we determine our value based upon some of the things that we have or haven’t done. But, God is the judge. We all have a specific purpose and reason for being on earth, it’s our responsibility to seek God and let Him in so He can direct us.
3. The third takeaway that was most impactful was the following concept, “The Bible never assigns accountability to human beings but always exclusively to God.” This is incredibly humbling when we spend time reflecting on it and thinking about why we are here. No matter what our past is, no matter what our sin is, God takes accountability. We are responsible but He takes accountability. Jesus exemplified this by taking accountability for our sins and paying the price so we don’t have to. We can be forgiven and made new.
The apostles had 4 main types of meetings:
1. Apostolic meetings which had the goal of planting a church or encouraging an existing one.
2. Evangelistic meetings which took place in areas that unbelievers frequented.
3. Decision-making meetings which involved all leaders and elders and allowed everyone to participate.
4. Church meetings which had mutual edification as the main goal.
Everyone in your family has a distinct role. It’s no different in God’s family. Everyone works together for the common good of the family. 1 John 2:13–14 highlights this.
“The only church we as believers can claim, is the one Jesus Christ began… this body receives and accepts all who believe in Jesus. Only those whom Christ has accepted belong to the body; only they make up his church.”
Having multiple denominations runs contrary to the organic church of Jesus Christ.
God had an eternal purpose for humans BEFORE sin. Redemption is NOT the end.
The Bible never assigns accountability to human beings but always exclusively to God.
Institutional Christianity (modern day) paradigm vs Organic Christianity (1st century Christianity) paradigm
I: Sustained by a clergy system.
O: Knows nothing of a clergy system.
I: Seeks to energize the laity.
O: Does not recognize a separate class called laity.
I: Limits many functions to the ordained.
O: Makes all members of the community functioning priests.
I: Renders the bulk of their congregants passive it in their pews.
O: Allows and encourages all Christians to engage in whatever ministry God has called them to.
I: Associates church with a building, denomination, or a religious service.
O: Affirms that people do not go to church, rather affirms that they together are the church.
I: Rooted in unifying those that share a specific set of customs.
O: Rooted in unreserved fellowship with all Christians and based in Christ alone.
I: Thrusts ordinary Christians out of the holy of holies and chains them to a pew.
O: Liberates all believers to serve as ministers in the context of a nonclerical decentralized form of church leadership.
I: Places its priority on programs and rituals that keep its congregants at arm’s length, insulating them from one another.
O: Places its priority on face-to-face shared life relationships, mutual submission, openness, freedom, mutual service, and spiritual reality.
I: Depends on forced tithing and huge budgets.
O: Depends on the spirit of God to bring about generous, grace-based giving among members.
I: Spends most of its resources on building expenditures and pastor staff salaries.
O: Spends most of its resources on the poor among you and traveling workers who preach the gospel and plant new churches.
I: Operates on the basis that the pastor/priest is the functional head while Christ is the nominal head.
O: Operates on the basis that Christ is the functional head through the invisible guidance of the Holy Spirit through the believing community.
I: Extols and protects the clergy-dominated program centered system that serves as the driving machine of the organized church.
O: Rejects the clergy system because it quenches the sovereign exercise of the Holy Spirit yet lovingly embraces every Christian in that system.
I: Recognizes and affirms hierarchical leadership.
O: Rejects hierarchical leadership but recognizes and affirms the organic leadership of the whole body.
I: Builds programs to fuel the church, treats people as cogs in the machine.
O: Builds people together in Christ to provide momentum for the church.
I: Encourages believers to participate institutionally and hierarchically.
O: Invites believers to participate relationally and spiritually.
I: Separates church (ecclesiology) from salvation (soteriology). Views the former as a mere appendage to the latter.
O: Forges no link between personal salvation and the church. Sees the two as inextricably intertwined.
Organic represents the winning back to God of things ordinary and the desacralization of things made sacred by human hands.
Organic church is a wedding of glory and gore. This is the way to transform us into God’s image.