When Pagan Christianity first released in January, Family Christian, the largest Christian bookstore chain in the country, refused to carry it. It was just too controversial for their liking.
When the book hit bestseller status, however, they rethought their decision. Today, most Family Christian Stores in the country carry the book. This is also true for the sequel, Reimagining Church.
With that said: Here are more reactions from pastors to Pagan Christianity.
Read the first batch of responses.
I find these emails from pastors amazing to say the least.
Dear Brother Viola,
Your book, Reimagining Church, explains so much of my life experiences. For the past 25 years, I have wondered why God set up such an odd organization that we call the church. I am a Seminary Graduate (M. Div.) and have served the Lord in almost every capacity within the institutional church. I know so many good men who are Pastors who have settled for so much less than they dreamed of when they were young. They have exchanged the Glory of God for the Wizard of Oz. I now realize that God’s plan is not defective, it is man’s invention, the institutional church that does not allow God’s people to function the way the New Testament describes.
Thank you for explaining my world so clearly. You mentioned that when you first started your journey that you thought at times that you might be going crazy (my paraphrase), you have not been alone. Your book has been a source of unspeakable JOY!
I feel like the blind man Jesus healed. The religious leaders are not interested in hearing “I was blind, but now I see”. I am done with the old system. It is too restrictive and rigid for me. I want to have the soul liberty to respond to the Holy Spirit’s work around me. I believe that God has taught me some very hard lessons about the institutional church that I worshipped for so long. I will not go back to that place of spiritual bondage, spiritual stagnation, and pastor worship.
God Bless You a Million Times Over!!!
Your Brother in Christ,
Your books came at an opportune time. As a pastor I have always been aware of the difference between what I’ve read in the New Testament and what I was practicing as part of the institutional church. I thought my role was to help raise my congregation to the level I read about…but it never seemed to happen. In 2004 God lead me to read church history where I concluded that what I was doing and what I was in was not church, but a corrupted and deceived form of the church God initially established.
I came to the same conclusions you outline in Pagan Christianity and Reimagining Church. In December 2007 I told my wife we could no longer be part of a system that was corrupted and obviously not God’s will. After much discussion we agreed to step down from our career as professional pastors, though there were still questions in my wife’s mind. Then you published Pagan Christianity in early 2008.
All questions my wife posed to me were already assumed and answered in your book, she was convinced now with no questions about the concept that church as we know it is not church as God would have it. And then you publish Reimagining Church, and though my wife has heard me speak of the concepts in the book over the years, now we have a nice little handbook which solidified her thoughts on the direction we are now headed.
I am fifty-five years old and we are presently in the process of moving to our new home having given up my career as a pastor. My life is now on a path that at this point seems very insecure, without a job, health insurance and for the first time in my life uncertain about what the future holds. The great confidence and thrill that spurs us on is that God is leading and He goes before us. In the minds of most we speak to they also think we have given up on church (equated to God). I thank you for Pagan Christianity as it is a great resource to refer to others as to why we made our move out of the institutional church and forReimagining Church as it is a great resource to refer to others as to why we haven’t given up on church, but are now beginning to experience real church.
Again, thank you for both books and letting us know that there are many others like us who are going through a radical change in their thought processes and lifestyle.
In the movie The Matrix, Neo is offered the Red or Blue Pills by Morpheus. If Neo takes the Blue Pill he wakes up in his bed and believes whatever he wants to; if Neo takes the Red Pill then Morpheus will show him just how deep the rabbit hole goes. Like Neo, I took the Red Pill. I am a former associate pastor of a large XXX church that took the Red Pill and my eyes have been opened up to church as we know it.
My journey into seeing Church As We Know It has been a long one. My first memories are from when I was around 15 years old sitting in a church service where my father was the pastor and “preaching” a sermon. I remember asking myself, “Why do we come here week after week and listen to the same person give us a monologue?” As I looked around the congregation I also thought to myself, “We come here week after week sit in these pews; I know these people, but I don’t really know these people; what are their struggles are, their celebrations, their stories, their journeys.” Those thoughts were crowded out by other competitions.
In Bible college I would gather with a select few friends and talk about Church As We Know It, but none of us really understanding what was at the heart of the issue we would discuss. I interned, worked and was employed and numerous churches and Christian organizations and these thoughts basically faded into the business of church as we know it work.
Upon graduation from Seminary I applied to for an Associate Pastor’s positions and was hired at a church in PA. Even while interviewing I was having doubts about being a pastor and being paid to do that job. However I went ahead and accepted the job. I began immediately to meet once a week for breakfast with my friend who I had been discussing church as we know it with via email, because we now lived close to each other. After a year of discussion I asked my friend, “So what do we do? I mean if all of this, the church as we know it today is holding us back as Believers, what do we do?” My friend gave me great advice at the time he said, “Don’t do any knee jerk reactions. Let God round off any edges that may need rounding off.” Great advice for me at the time.
I continued to search. I found a few books and read them with fervor, books such as Pagan Christianity, Going to the Root, Who is Your Covering, Houses that Change the World, etc. I thought I was basically alone in my thoughts; until I was leafing through a book catalogue and found a brand new released book by George Barna called Revolution. I immediately ordered the book and read it in two days. I was encouraged and realized that I wasn’t alone in my thoughts; there were millions thinking and taking action.
After being baptized and serving in many different areas of the “church”, I received a degree in Biblical studies, felt called to preach, was “ordained” in 1996 and have since served as “Pastor” in 3 XXX Churches. I knew (in my soul) things were terribly wrong. The few times, I attempted to communicate my concerns about our idea of “church services”, though it was a discharge of my conscience: was not well phrased nor well received.
In short, your book (Pagan Christianity), has opened my eyes so wide-they hurt. To finally read in print the scattered thoughts of my heart was both exciting and alarming. For as you warned, many (those whom I hold the dearest) respond only angrily to any mention of the truths presented in the book.
In the seventies and early eighties I was the worship leader in a
nationally significant charismatic church. In this time we were the only
mainline denominational church in Australia to be 100% charismatic in
its membership, which was large by Australian standards, tipping about
1000 people. In this period I lived in a radical Christian community and
became convinced of the importance of some form of community being what
koinonia was about. I was also convinced of the ministry of the ‘laity’,
so I was immensely surprised when I heard and tested a call by God to
enter ‘ordained’ ministry!
This I did, and I pastored two churches, the first a regional rural centre, and then a growing suburban church in XXX. All through this time my endeavour was to liberate the laity, but I was frustrated because (a) the structures given in the denomination were a ball and chain, and (b) the laity were very
happy not to be liberated!
I am now discovering that what I had seen from a distance about organic
church actually has substance – indeed is the movement that I had
suspected was always there but hidden ‘below the radar’ of the
institutional church. Barna’s and Viola’s book “Pagan Christianity” was
a great help in adding substance to what I already knew or suspected.
Locally there are Australia authors in this area also including David
Newby and David Orton, as well as, of course, Robert Banks.
I am quite keen to learn more about organic church, and see this as my
next step – and possibly the drawing together of all of the strands of
my life’s experience so far. I need to belong to and experience the
dynamic of an organic church before I can help anyone do anything
towards this end.
I have been doing the preacher thing since 1970 while in bible college. I’ve always had issue with justifying my position. I am believing now it may be one of the most devious forms of torture ever inflicted upon the church. Now at age 60, I have very little retirement, very low likelihood of being able to get a job that will pay living expenses, etc. I’ve been with this present group for 15 years, yet I’m not convinced I have a home. My greatest desire for them now is to help them establish a congregation that more closely resembles the NT church. (Acts 2:42, 1Cor 12-14). I am in a major paradigm change with more questions than answers.
I just finished reading your book “Pagan Christianity” today. I told my wife that if I had the chance to write a book, that’d probably be the one but you beat me to it. I have read Mr. Barna’s materials for years. I’ll add you to the favorites list as well.
I am one of the over 1400 pastors a month who either resign or are fired in the U.S. and I have a journey that led up to it and one that continues to go beyond it.
Having lived and been a professional clergyman in XXX for 15 years, my discipleship journey took me places that simply went against the grain of everything I was immersed in. As I prayed, met with my young adult ministry people and tried very diligently to lead them in a Christ-centered experience guided by the Holy Spirit, I felt that, in your words even, I was going toward an organic Christian experience. Then it finally happened. This “ordained”, full-time, professional pastor in a church of almost 2000 people broke down at a staff retreat. I confessed to my fellow staff members and my lead pastor in a sharing time through tears that I was fed up with the repeat ritual. I hated the rote repitition of our services and longed for something more. The response I got was, (in private after the retreat of course), and I quote, “XXX, what the hell is wrong with you? I now have a board member that thinks that there is something wrong with one of my staff members.” I had to write an email telling a board member that I was OK emotionally and spiritually and everything was all good. I knew then that I was leaving.
That experience was one factor that started my exodus from professional clergy. It’s been two years and one day later and God has led and directed every step for me and my family.
Thank you for writing your book and making me feel like there are others out there that share some of the same priorities that I do.
Godspeed to you.