Anyone who has carefully read Pagan Christianity and Reimagining Church (both published in 2008) knows that the following ten statements are false. We state so much in the books themselves and in other places such as the Answers to Objections page.

Nevertheless, it’s been rightly observed that if an argument cannot be refuted on its own ground, applying a blow-torch to straw man city is the only option for dismissing it, despite the fact that this technique is deceptive and intellectually dishonest.

(One pastor was fed some of these falsehoods by his leadership team along with some others I didn’t list. As a result, he didn’t read Pagan Christianity for a long time. When he finally did read the book, he told me it changed his life. A remark I’m always humbled and surprised by.)

Proverbs 18:17 says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (ESV).

We hope that this list helps to separate fact from fiction.

Myth #1. Barna and Viola believe that if a practice was invented by a pagan, it’s bad and shouldn’t be observed.

Truth: This statement is not only false, but it’s just plain silly. If we believed this, we wouldn’t be using computers or blogs. Barna and I argue against this idea in the beginning of Pagan Christianity, citing pile carpets, chairs, and our Western calendar as examples of things that were created by pagans, but are useful and approved today. What we are arguing in the book is that many practices that countless Christians deem to be biblical did not originate with Jesus or the apostles, but instead, with the Greco-Romans, thus they are not sacrosanct. Secondly, some of these practices contradict the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, thus they should be discarded in favor of what Jesus and the apostles actually taught (much of which is ignored today). See also page xxix in the free sample of Pagan Christianity.

Myth #2. Barna and Viola don’t believe in preaching.

Truth: We not only believe in preaching, but in both books we clearly talk about the importance of preaching, teaching, exhorting, and prophesying. In addition, George and I practice these things. However, in Pagan Christianity, we distinguish New Testament preaching, teaching, exhorting, and prophesying from the modern sermon. They are not the same.

Myth #3. Barna and Viola promote “house church” as the only correct model for church.

Truth: We do not. I’ve stated numerous times in my other books, audios, and my blog, that I’m not an advocate of house church. Instead, I advocate the “organic expression of the church,” which is the church we find in the New Testament. In Pagan Christianity, Barna and I actually state that house church and organic church are not the same. Reimagining Church does the same.

Myth #4. Barna and Viola believe that God doesn’t use the institutional church and never has.

Truth: We believe that God has and is using all forms of church, even those that He doesn’t approve. This point is stated in both books.

Myth #5. Barna and Viola are against pastors and believe that God doesn’t use pastors.

Truth: In Pagan Christianity, we assert that the ministry of the shepherd/overseer/elder is in fact biblical and continues today. Our point is that the modern office/role of pastor has little in common with the shepherd of the first century. Despite this fact, we state clearly our belief that most pastors are good men/women who love God. And the Lord is using them despite that we believe the form of the office isn’t derived from Scripture. In addition, George and I have good friends who are pastors, some of whom we have co-worked with recently in different capacities.

Myth #6. Barna and Viola believe that 2,000 years of church history has been wrong on every count.

Truth: Not so. We acknowledge that there have been many helpful discoveries over the last two thousand years in the Body of Christ. I state this again in From Eternity to Here and use the gold vessels of the temple that were taken to Babylon as an example. Yet like the Reformers and (more closely) the Radical Reformers, we believe that the church is still in need of radical reform and restoration. And God still wishes to fulfill His Eternal Purpose concerning it.

Myth #7. Barna and Viola are against “church” and believe that folks shouldn’t be part of a believing community.

Truth: Nothing could be further from the truth. We state in Pagan Christianity that we wrote the book precisely because we love the church. Also, in both books, we assert that face-to-face community is God’s perfect will for all believers, and it is the Christian’s native habitat. In this regard, both books militate against the post-church perspective.

Myth #8. Barna and Viola believe that the first-century churches were perfect and we should imitate everything they did just as they did them.

Truth: We believe no such thing. The early church had many problems. However, despite the problems it had, the principles that guided the early church were often much closer to what Jesus and the apostles taught than what we have on the earth today. In addition, we stand with those early church practices which fleshed out the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. My book Reimagining Church goes into this in great detail and contextualizes those practices for our 21st-century context.

Myth #9. Barna and Viola believe that a church must meet in a house to be legitimate.

Truth: We never assert that the church must meet in a house. In Reimagining Church, I argue that the idea that says a church must always meet in a home is specious and without biblical merit.

Myth #10. Barna and Viola don’t believe in any kind of church leadership.

Truth: We believe very strongly in leadership. Almost half of Reimagining Church is dedicated to the subject. However, we believe that the hierarchical form of leadership and the concept of a single, CEO-type leader in the house of God is unbiblical and contrary to Divine life. And Jesus Himself taught directly against it. In Pagan Christianity, we trace where this form of leadership came from and how it became absorbed by Christians.

Four Closing Points

1. Pagan Christianity is not a stand-alone book. It’s only the deconstructive, first part. If someone reads it, they’ve only heard the first half of the argument. Reimagining Church is the constructive sequel and gives the second half. It discusses the issue of contextualization and culture in detail. Both books go together. One is not complete without the other.

2. Neither “Pagan” nor “Reimagining” are my most important books. I regard my most important to be God’s Favorite Place on EarthFrom Eternity to Here and Jesus Manifesto. Those books present the motivation and grand theme that stands behind all my other work.

3. If you know anyone who has critiqued these books using any of the 10 straw-man myths listed above, by all means, invite them onto this blog to a civil debate with me. I’d be more than happy to dialogue with them. Of course, this assumes that you can actually comment on their review. If their negative review doesn’t allow comments, that speaks volumes. The attitude of “don’t confuse me with the facts” isn’t a Christian one as it only perpetuates false information. As always, I could be wrong in what I’ve written, but we won’t really know unless we dialogue.

4. Finally, take a look at the spoof video. It’s in the spirit of “agree with your adversaries.” :-)

For more details, see . . .

Jon Zens Punches Holes in Ben Witherington’s Critique of PAGAN CHRISTIANITY

Response to Mark Driscoll

Answers to Objections and Critiques about PAGAN CHRISTIANITY 

House Church vs. Organic Church




  1. Dave White says

    it would be really good if there was a summary-style overview of your position instead of making it a requirement that everyone plough through two books. Forgive me if you’ve already done this.

    • says

      Hi Dave. I will have to think about it some more, but I can’t off hand think of a summary of my older books on eccclesiology. That may be something I can work on when I’m finished with my newest book on Jesus. So thanks for the idea. But like most authors I know, we do have sample chapters of most of my books.

      The best summary of all of my work – including my stuff on ecclesiology – is in my talk EPIC JESUS and THE ETERNAL PURPOSE. Both are on my podcast and can be heard freely. http://frankviola.info/podcast To see other books I recommend on the church, see http://frankviola.org/top100 – those are all better than my stuff.

      By the way, there’s some guy named Francis Chan, who I’m told by many people, has taken a lot of my previous work on the church and is preaching it to people. So you may want to see what he’s saying on the subject of rethinking the church as he’s talking about it presently where I’ve moved on from the subject quite a while ago. (I still hold to everything I’ve written and spoken on it, but I’ve said all that I want to say on the topic and have moved on to talk about God’s Eternal Purpose, Jesus Studies, and Living by the Indwelling Life of Christ.)

  2. Tobias says

    Hi Frank.

    I just finished PC and wanted to follow your advise to read the NT chronologically. I found out that scholars divide on the authorship of Paul on some of his letters. DO you have any rescources on this topic?

    BTW your book realy hit me – i liked it and want to go on this journey as the lord leads us (me and my wife).

    Thank you.

  3. Joe says

    For too many Christians, this is like finding out(as kids).. there’s no Santa Clause. Or, don’t bother me with facts, I’m enjoying my fantasy just fine thank you. We need to ‘get over it’ and find out what the Bible has to say about things. And also, just because grandpa did it, that doesn’t canonize it! For critics of the book..strange but before this book ever came out I had already researched much of this stuff myself,and frankly you have to be blind to NOT see how much of this Christian mish mash evolved into what we hold sacred today. Now, i realize some will forever be in denial (who likes to admit they’ve been living with a lot of mumbo jumbo comfortable though it is?). More than anything, the book pointed out to me again how we SO miss the true mission of the ecclesia, by getting wrapped up in religious hocus pocus . I mean..the little mouse in the wheel cage is content enough… never mind that the longer he runs he still goes nowhere! That reminds me of the average carnal Christian and the average church today. Frank’s other books helped me get out of that mindset once and for all. (I’d already walked to the cliff, i just needed a push)…Thanks.

  4. David says

    At the top of page xxxi in Pagan Christianity? the author clearly states that pagan culture or habits are not always bad or evil, thereby throwing Myth #1 onto the ground!

    I bleieve, just like every book, it needs to be read with great caution and guidance from the Holy Spirit! I need to read this book as part of my Diploma in Theology, otherwise I wouldn’t have noticed it.

    God bless,

    • says

      Thanks for citing page number. The same can be done for each of the 10 myths. I find it amazing that even though we clearly make certain points in the book, some Christians choose to ignore those points and state and spread the myths anyway. Even after this post was published, some believers continue to write negative reviews without coming to George and I first to respond and ensure accuracy (see my post on misrepresentations). Those reviews simply perpetuate these 10 myths. Unfortunately, some Christians just don’t want to be confused with the facts. :-) To quote Paul, “we have not so learned Jesus Christ.”

  5. Don says

    I haven’t read either book but formed an opinion not from any critics (I haven’t read reviews) but from advocates and disciples of the teaching in the books. I have experienced personally and watched elsewhere church splits, disunity, animosity, hurt and anger as a result.

    Im not blaming the authors but recognizing that its not only the critics who are at fault with their myths but the disciples of these teachings with their lack of grace, accusations and extremes. I will be reading the books and forming my own opinions and hopefully make changes myself.

    • says

      Unfortunately, there’s always a small segment of people who will use a controversial book for their own agenda that runs contrary to the intent of the authors. Knowing this, we say the following at the opening of the book:

      “At this moment, all the rebellious hearts are applauding and are plotting to wield the above paragraphs to wreak havoc in their churches. If that is you, dear rebellious heart, you have missed our point by a considerable distance. We do not stand with you. Our advice: Either leave your church quietly, refusing to cause division, or be at peace with it. There is a vast gulf between rebellion and taking a stand for what is true.” (Pagan Christianity, p. 5)

      Despite this remark, which is repeated throughout the book, some people do the very thing that we warn against. George and I have found that these same people (1) never read the follow-up books, including “From Eternity to Here,” and “Jesus Manifesto,” both of which have been endorsed by many pastors, and (2) many of these same people have *attacked us* because we don’t attack pastors personally and don’t take aim at things like Easter and Christmas. Despite this fringe reaction, we are thankful that the majority of the fruit that has come from these books has been positive. And much of it has come from pastors themselves who have written to us. See http://frankviola.org/2008/07/03/pastors-weigh-in-on-pagan-christianity

    • says

      Tom: I guess you didn’t read the post.

      Read it all the way through. You will see two things. 1) Many of Driscoll’s critiques are discounted in the 10 points, and 2) there’s a link at the bottom that clearly says “Response to Mark Driscoll.”

      Mark never showed us the misleading critique before he published it, and he’s never approached me or George Barna to discuss the issues even though many have wanted him to.

  6. says

    I am fixing to read this book and have one comment: If this book is incomplete without the second one, why release them separately? If one gets only a partial picture of the position from this book, the authors do the readers a disservice. Or were the books separated for a reason? This leads to speculation, which is not beneficial.

    • says

      Two different publishers and publishing schedules. They couldn’t be released at the same time. It’s quite common for books to have sequels. And each book points to the other for the reader’s benefit. Note also that these books are part of a 6-book series called “ReChurch” http://www.ReimaginingChurch.org – they all build on one another. The issue of church restoration is too complex to treat everything in a single volume.

  7. Monte Helen Shaw says

    Good morning Frank, You are so right about these straw-man myths the pastors are trying to keep there people from reading any of your books. They are putting fear of reading any of your books in the people. We have been into House Church for two years now and so thankful that the Lord took us out of bondage into the freedom of His grace. Monte Helen

    • says

      Monte: Not all pastors are against the book or are responsible for spreading these myths. In fact, many pastors support the book – see “Pastors Weigh-In on Pagan Christianity” in the Archives. A great deal of the misrepresentations of the book have been spread by non-clergy.

      While I’m not a “house church” person, I hope your group is doing well and discovering Jesus Christ.

      • Thomas Simmons says

        One immediate response to the book is that the authors control the lexicon: the words, the ideas behind them – e.g. ‘pagan’ is all bad/unacceptable, ‘Jewish’ is not Christian – ergo these are not scriptural and not what the “Church” is really supposed to be. While the authors are entitled to their opinion and their understanding, the enquiry they are insisting we make is not one they make of themselves.

        Their perceptions are based on their version or view of the traditions that have evolved and the cultures which developed the church – a perception that is as much as 1900 years after the fact. I do not know of any Orthodox Priest or clergy who does not readily note the Jewish origins of much of the liturgical and architectural influences that are clearly apparent. The Church was born in the Roman Empire and so their organisation reflects what they knew and now tradition holds things together. That the environment is designed to instill a sense of awe and worship is testimony to the success of the ancient church.

        Back in the days it was propitiations and oblations and offerings to idols and wild dancing and washing in bulls blood etc. Going into a quiet space – without the horrid smells of death and orgies – and being encompassed in a vast space designed only for the focus on the God with the smell frankincense and myrrh was a welcome relief and a necessary distinction.

        Still is when one compares this to the market place and the Sunday-go-to-meting fashion show that many have decided is appropriate for worship.

        Meanwhile the rich life of the Church as it exists in so many places in the Orthodox Church is not evident in the book. In fact, the church edifice that is only functional twice a week is not the one I remember as a child growing up in the Protestant churches and it is certainly not what I see in the Orthodox Churches of numerous countries I have visited. These buildings are used daily for worship and in many cases 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Can’t do that too well in someone’s house.

        The focus on the priest and the other liturgical clergy who are absorbed in their focus on God and worship is an excellent way to place the entire purpose of the church in any materialistic society on a firm footing. You are there to worship – Not be entertained .

        It is not for an audience. Orthodox Churches look for participants to take part in the liturgy. Choirs are another important part of that participation. There is also a time for sitting together and socializing while breaking bread. It is an integral part of the church life. Just as there are large cathedrals for major feasts and events such as Lent and Easter, there are many many more small churches for distinct communities where the day to day worship takes place. With buildings and incense and intricate vestments. The message is clear, we are there to pray and worship the Lord.

        As in all critiques, it is easier to note the excessive aspects – in their view it should be noted – of certain elements but this does not succeed in arguing that we can reasonably discard these ancient traditions.

        • says

          Thomas: Did you actually read the book and the sequel, “Reimagining Church?” I ask because right off the bat you make two false claims. “E.g. ‘pagan’ is all bad/unacceptable.” Wrong. Read the actual definition of “pagan” that comes straight from the book. The definition and page number is listed here: http://www.ptmin.org/answers.htm – we do not define it the way you have misrepresented us to have defined it.

          Second, your point about the influence of the Roman Empire is misdirection. We argue in the book that what the church picked up from the Greco-Roman world that *violates the teachings of Jesus Christ* should be discarded. The top-down, hierarchical leadership is just one of them.

          I’m afraid your review doesn’t deal with our actual arguments, nor does it take into account that PC is not a stand-alone book, but part I of a series. If I was a betting man, I’d say you haven’t read any of the other volumes. Interestingly, many of them resonate with Orthodox and High Church people and theologians. See them all and how they work together here: http://www.ReimaginingChurch.org

      • says

        First of all a would like to say I have enjoyed your work. Especialy Pagan Christanity, wonderful work; However,must say I am a little confused at this time regarding your statement “I m not a house church person”. I believe the Lord Jesus has allowed me to see that I was in the wrong place ( institutional church) for a long time. I was very unhappy their and wasn’t good for me to be in the local building church any longer. It was too much that I disagreed with therefore, I left without causing any problems. There is more to the story but I will hold that for now:) I was very incuraged by your work to know that there were other people that felt the way I do regarding a very large amount of the church pratices that I have witnessed over the past 30 years. I thought you was a avocate for Organic house churh that is practicing church as it is laided out in the Testament. For me to hear you say that you are not a house church person was not good for me;although,I will not be moved from what I have learned from your writing because I know I’m on the right track. May the Lord Jesus Christ keep you heading in his direction. Looking forward to hear from you when you can.

        • says

          You’re confused because you equate “house church” with “organic church” while I do not. They are not the same thing. See this post for an explanation as well as the related links at the bottom: http://frankviola.org/2010/10/12/house-church-vs-organic-church – it was linked in the blog itself on that statement that I’m not an advocate of house church, so I’m not sure why you didn’t click and read it. I even point out in “Pagan Christianity” that not all “house churches” are organic churches.

        • says

          You are absolutely right; I did have the different between a house church and the organic church confused. Thank you so much Frank, I pray I didn’t seem accusatory. I love and admire your work and I have learned so much from reading Pagan Christianity and some of your books. I have a request if you don’t mine; have you ever thought about doing some (Rethinking the Rapture of the Church). I believe your audience would love it, I know I would. Please forgive me for not proof reading my last note to you, it must have been bad for you to read, “Sorry.”

  8. Bob Romanelli says

    Thank you, Frank, for your list of must-read books. This is the sort of instruction we are not receiving in the institutional church that too often blocks the parishioner from coming into contact with truth about the nature of “pagan Christianity.” Reading The Jesus Manifesto is such a blessing, for it does away with this heretical merchandising of the blood of Christ in American-business “Christianity” and focuses upon the one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. I am saddened as I see institutional churches grow because of charismatic teachers and professional musicians and the “entertainment” they provide, while at the same time they offer only an excuse for parishioners not to follow the plain teachings of our Lord and Savior, who had not where to lay His head. God bless you, Frank.

  9. Armageddon Thru To You says

    Is there a cliff notes version to this book? I also couldn’t locate a “What We Believe” or similar link on the author’s site. I see this book and some of the author’s sermons available for download and the attention it’s getting, and my natural knee-jerk reaction is to ask myself, “is this just another message to tickles one’s ears”.

    I haven’t read the book, but would like to know what the basic premise is about.

  10. marc goodman says

    My spirit keeps tells me that religion in America is full of good ideas on “how to do” Christianity and many are good concepts. However they leave off altogether the best “idea” and that is Christ. I’ve seen my 18 year old son depart from our home and be greatly influenced by the culture and we followed all the “rules” and “concepts” that the church put forth. What we did not focus on was the two ton elephant in the middle of the room which is the indwelling Christ. He is the only thing that can heal and make a difference everything else is rubbish………

  11. Nolan Rowdy Morgan says

    I didn’t read everyones post above so this could have already been said but, I believe these straw man ideas are often the result of people’s comfort circles being threatened. In the western world of America, we like traditions, routine, and comfort all too much. When our traditions are questioned it’s usually met with misunderstanding and hostility. Like Myth 10, church leadership. When we begin to ask questions or make points on church leadership, it can be easily misunderstood as being against church leadership altogether. Asking questions isn’t the norm anymore.

    • says

      Jordan, there’s nothing new in the critique. The points in it are simply a rehashing of the same points made by scores of others critiques over the last two years.

      You can see the response to these arguments by George and I here: http://www.ptmin.org/answers.htm

      Be sure to check out the two scholarly debates which were made public because the author of one of the critiques came to me and invited me on his blog to respond and posted my response on his blog so all readers could see both sides of the argument. May his tribe increase!

      I find it quite interesting that after two years of the book’s release, people are still trying to refute it, but without success. After hundreds of attempts to knock it off the shelf, the points in the book still stand, as does the sequel “Reimagining Church.” “Pagan” is not a stand alone book; most critiques never bring this out interestingly enough.

      Btw/ over the last two years, the authors of every critique on the book to date have never come to me directly to ask for my response. There’s only been on exception to that. I find that curious.

  12. says

    once when interviewing another author we had a sidetracked conversation about any construct of church being flawed because all constructs are human constructs. (construct, btw, is my new fave word…not Construct, but cahn-strukt…ok, vocab rabbit trail finished)

    it is a thought that has held my attention for a little while. aren’t all constructs of church destined to become corrupt because church is people and people eff it up all the time?

    this kind of circular argument gets me dizzy.

    I have no idea how to do church let alone how to be church. I just live my life, ordinary woman that i am, and try to love those within my reach and view. sometimes i have modest success, much of the time i fail. and yet there lies within a kind of relentless loyalty to a kingdom that is visible and yet shadowy. it’s like believing a conspiracy. there must be a holy form of church in the earth somewhere? if i could only find it… oh yeah. i did find it. and she is staring right back at me.

    I am Church.

    • says

      Pam, I personally don’t believe in pushing a certain “construct” or “model” of church, hence why I never have. The church is organic and she comes out of a corporate life in Christ. Body life will always have problems as it’s made up of fallen people. Most of the NT letters were written to churches in crisis in fact.

      However, to say that the practice of church life doesn’t matter or that any model/form of church is fine with God because people are fallen doesn’t fit the teachings of Jesus or the apostles. The church — as God conceives it — is God’s ultimate passion; she’s His eternal purpose. That statement will raise eyebrows for those who do not have a revelation of the Bride and God’s passion for her. But she remains God’s highest priority, and Christ died to win her hand. Not long ago I wrote an article about the whole postchurch idea that each individual person is the church. I can’t find that in the NT. The church is the body of Christ; we are but members of that body. I thank God that “me, myself and I” — the unholy trinity — aren’t the church :). I need my brothers and sisters, and the ekklesia is my native habitat. For that reason, I’ve physically relocated to be part of her and so have many others. Hope that helps.

  13. Vince says

    Hmmm… sometimes, people really don’t understand what they are reading. I can still cite a baptist denomination who overemphasized what John Calvin said in his “Institute of Christian Religion”. In effect they have become hyper-Calvinists.

    I think the same thing is true here. Some people have misunderstood what they are reading. Instead, they make their own “exegesis” from the “exegesis” of others. Funny but foolish….

    I haven’t read your book yet coz it’s hard to find it here in the Philippines. But once i get accross of it, will surely buy it. I can tell you that my Church is living as organic, and promoting this form of Church.

  14. Daniel M says


    In light of point number 3, in Why the Organic Church Is Not Exactly a Movement, how do you balance the great commissioning of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15) with the goals of the church in Acts? Does 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 supercede Jesus’ commissioning? In other words, should Paul and his doctrinal teaching supercede Jesus’ commandment?
    I am in agreement that a severe lack oc genuine community exists in the average American church (as I have experienced them) and that the body has been stifled; however, are genuine expressions of orgainc church mutually exclusive of the commissionings of Jesus?

    Daniel M.

  15. Marc Goodman says

    Christians that out of hand reject what Frank and others have unveiled reminds me of the Pharisees who rejected Jesus because they knew he was undermining their authority. But this is just the issue. Who gave them this “authority”in the first place”? If we are ever to really see Jesus we must stop placing ourselves on His throne and allow Him to take His rightful place. Only Jesus has the authority and He never gave it to anyone

  16. says

    Hi Frank,

    I’ve been “in the ministry” for many years and “out the ministry” for many years. I had come to realize that the pieces of the puzzle didn’t fit and were “made to fit” by the “powers that be.” And I had had enough. However, I didn’t have the answers to my questions. A dear friend said that God would supply the answers. And I believe that He is doing it.

    As I started to read “Pagan Christianity,” I started to thank God for answering my questions. I’m halfway through “Reimagining Church,” and “Finding Organic Church” is waiting.

    Firstly, I want to thank you for your courage and obedience to write these books. Secondly, even though I admire and appreciate you, I’m still a follower of Jesus and not one of Frank (no offense intended). Thirdly, I don’t know if “organic” is the correct word to use, but I fully agree with the logic behind it. Thus for lack of a better term it has to suffice. My fear is just that the multitude may jump on the “organic bandwagon” and we’re stuck with another movement or craze.

    Finally, as an illustration, the following: when my friend’s wife’s cat scratched him, he kicked his neighbor’s barking dog. What’s the point? When something inside the house upsets one, it’s far easier to attack something on the other side of the fence. I believe that most of the creators of the myths you address in this blog have either not read your book properly or are looking for a convenient dog to kick to vent their own frustrations or hide their fears.

    God has not appointed me to be you advocate, but let the truth be told. As from page one you have made your position clear regarding all these myths and accusations. Therefore, let the accusers be confronted by the words of your books. And the verdict will be “not guilty.”

    May God bless you as you continue to bless many.

  17. Dave Lloyd says

    Thanks, Frank, for your love for the body of Christ. As a ‘pastor’ of a church that meets on Sunday mornings in a public location, I can say that its the truth in your message (and brothers like you) that keep guys like me honest. No longer can we do it because thats the way its done. Rather, we have the freedom to make choices and to be deliberate in what we do. Thanks, brother.

    Dave Lloyd

  18. Susan Lavoie says

    Just a thought from a former “pew sitting elder” … perhaps these myths originate from:

    (a) People who have exited the “institution” hurt, disappointed or bitter and haven’t taken time to go through what I call “spiritual detox”, so what they read is filtered through their experience and taken out of context or to the extreme.

    (b) Leaders who are dependent (financially/relationally/emotionally) on the current system fear questioning what they’ve been taught to believe. It is easier to challenge your books instead of challenging the status quo and risk losing control over people and finances.
    For the most part the current system is EGO (Edging God Out) driven and not Holy Spirit lead (as you describe the recent gathering of believers). Those who want to see it change either don’t know how or figure it would cost them too much … so they keep doing business as usual.

    Your books have confirmed so much of what had been churning within my heart for many years. I am grateful for the countless hours you spent in research and writing. Thank you!

  19. Craig Hardinger says

    I could not agree with you more concerning the whole pew thing Frank. The arrangement definitely inhibits the gifts and lends to a cleric centered focus. But the meeting you described at the coffee shop is one that happens in thousands of churches all over the world and is not exclusive to an “organic church.” And, obviously, there is nothing sacred about a coffee shop any more than pews are sacred in a church. But here’s the thing – and you do a great job addressing this in one of your books, don’t know which one – first meetings are almost always that way. Momentum is up, enthusiasm is up, participation is up, everything is up. The rub comes with the fifth and then the tenth get together. Unless there is some type of, gasp, organization, leadership will arise that may or may not be godly. Alpha personalities can often times quench the Spirit without anyone even knowing it. So, to curb the problem of poor leadership, the people refer to Paul’s instructions to Timothy concerning appointment of deacons and elders, they then pray and decide together who should lead. Two weeks later a family joins the fellowship with unruly children that disrupt the meeting. Sister so-and-so insists on reading some really bad not so Christ-centered poetry. Brother so-and-so decides he wants to speak for 20 minutes and everyone agrees he doesn’t have the gift of teaching. So roles are assumed or appointed to deal with these kinds of problems and bingo bango bongo you got yourself and institution minus the pews hopefully. Bottom line, whether you blame Constantine for all the present woes or not, there are good reasons why Christians have enjoyed getting together in large groups even if they are facing the same way. I do not disagree with your assessment of modern day problems with the church. I do disagree with your attack on (and it is an attack) what you call the institutional church. And know, believe it or not, I’m not concerned about my salary or job security.

    • says

      Craig: There’s a huge gap between theory and reality. And then there’s the problem of filters (which I’ve posted about before). People filter whatever they read through their experience.

      Two quick points:

      First an observation: Every institutional leader who has said “there are thousands of meetings like the one you described going on all over the world and not in organic churches” (implying these are going on in institutionalized churches). In every case where a pastor/leader/paid staff of an IC said this and I asked them to point me to just one where me or my friends can observe it firsthand, it’s turned out that what they were talking about and what I’m describing are two VERY, VERY, VERY different things. This is the problem of filters.

      Second: In my books, I explain how these problems are handled in organic expressions of the church. Not from theory, but from 21 years of experience. It’s what I call “the clerical objection.” It goes like this: “We MUST have official leaders or else such and such.”

      There are elders/shepherds that handle certain problems in organic church life (see Reimagining Church), but they look and function very differently from the institutional form. There are extra local church planters that do also (see Finding Organic Church). And then there are the brothers and sisters who handle things together. (Look carefully at the book of 1 Corinthians, the problems, and what Paul did and didn’t do to resolve them. And *who* he exhorted to handle them.)

      Organic church life and the institutional system are two very different worlds. And it’s hard to communicate the difference to those who haven’t lived in both worlds. Sometimes it’s like trying to explain what chocolate tastes like to a person who has only consumed vanilla.

      Yes, George and I do challenge conventional thinking in our books on the basis of Scripture, church history, and experience. If someone wants to use the word “attack” to describe that challenge, that’s their choice. But the entire message is constructive and up-building. “Pagan Christianity” is just the first book. It’s purposely deconstructive. Reimagining Church, From Eternity to Here, and Finding Organic Church (the “ReChurch” series) are the constructive parts of the argument — the most important in fact. And the motivation of all of it is to peel back everything to bring the supremacy and headship of Jesus Christ back into view and into real expression.

      Thanks for the kind words about my books 😉

  20. Marc Goodman says

    The idea that has captured me more than any other is that for twenty-five years I believed that Jesus was directing the affairs of the church and now I can see plainly that this is just a slogan for most if not all churches. Now my eyes are opened and I can actually see that one day I’ll meet with brothers and sisters where Jesus is actually leading. This is more exciting than anything I’ve experienced in all my years as a Christian. The Bible has new meaning to me as Jesus is impacting my life is increditbly positive ways.

    • says

      David, lol. I prefer padded 😉

      Actually, I’m not “against” pews, pulpits, or any of such things. They are all neutral in themselves. BUT … to have a church meeting the way it’s envisioned in the NT (not an apostolic meeting), rows of pews all faced the same way grossly inhibits body functioning. Recent example: Two weeks ago one of the churches I’m presently planting had a meeting. They met in a coffee shop (not a home). There were about 30 believers who gathered. For almost 2 hours straight, the believers shared one by one the Lord Jesus Christ. There were no pauses. In fact, the meeting was so full of life that they were interrupting one another (not in a chaotic way, but in a decent way) – see 1 Cor. 14:30 for this dynamic. The meeting was very rich. And this is an infant church. The Lord was glorified and the saints edified. No one facilitated that meeting. I wasn’t even present. It was led by the Spirit, and the saints had prepared that week by seeking the Lord together.

      Rows of pews in that sort of meeting just don’t work.

      Interestingly enough, many Christians live their entire lives without ever witnessing a meeting where every member shares the Lord Jesus without a human head present directing or facilitating, or as is most often seen, dominating the ministry. It’s a sight to see. But this is one of the things that “equipping the saints” is designed to produce.

      • Noel Johnston says

        Shortly after coming out of the institutional church, I and a group of other ‘fed up with religion’ folks, whom I had not previously known, where brought together and began a NT style gathering, 4 weeks into this I read all of your books and knew this was God led. I, as the pastor of this gathering soon heard the Lord’s leading as to the worship He requires, which is Spirt and in Truth and now have discovered He will not receive half-truth, so I believe that unless we have come out from amongst them and are separated, we still in spirit have a foot in both camps, which is not pleasing to God. He does not allow Egypt to function in the NT church, no matter how we follow the pattern of the early church style, if we don’t follow the one way, the one truth, we worship in vain. The church must have ALL truth, because we have a ALL HOLY GOD. Anything less, which may be mixing His worship with pagan festivals: Christmas, Easter etc. is displeasing to the Father God. There is no ‘grace’ for following Babylonian/Roman traditions and believe its acceptable to Father God. So let’s get the worship right (righteous) as well as the pattern. Yeshua said before He was murdered: “You say that I am a king. (Here comes His true purpose) For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” Answer: Psalms 119:151. (He was dressed in them, kept them, taught them and will judge by them). I checked all of the 100 best book listed. My I suggest one, which will revive the lukewarm, half-baked, pew warmers into True worshippers which the Father is seeking: ‘Only A Few’ by Tadzik Zdan.

  21. Javi says

    Like most argentinians I was brought up as a catholic. My great grand mother used to pay for “indulgences” (i.e. she paid for God’s forgiveness) It was that very same thing what triggered the Reformation. Today protestants are compelled to pay Tithes, wich basically is paying for God’s blessing (in their twisted exegesis of Malaquia 3 8-11). Ministers tell You to have faith (and give), but, at the same time they are afraid to go without the assurance of getting their salaries. What’s the difference…???
    This is just a small example that something is depply wrong with Christendom. Barna’s and Your’s is a monumental contribution to the restoration of the Church. And a vital understanding so desperatly needed by christians. Keep on marching, brother

  22. says

    What happens is that people either get their info second-hand or they skim an article/book they don’t want to read. They come away with assumptions rather than anything resembling facts.

    I once wrote for a small-town newspaper, but not everyone recognized me. People sometimes would “quote” my own articles to me as proof that I was wrong about something. This amused me on a couple of levels.

    First, I knew what I had written (I’d check, just to be sure), and they obviously hadn’t read it.

    Second, I wrote it. I’m no more reliable than anyone else. I did my best to be accurate and unbiased, but the fact that this or that was purported to have appeared in print made it unassailable truth to some people. Very funny.

    I know you’re not surprised, Frank–but it is frustrating. Never-the-less, those the Father leads will learn what He wants them to know.

    Love, Cindy

  23. Philip says

    Frank, thank you for being a risk taker and willing to speak boldly. I was one of those critics for a season. I had an early released copy of Pagan Christianity and before I had ever read a single page was already reading reviews and formulating my attack strategy. It’s hard to step outside of yourself long enough to realize you’ve become what you fought so hard to not become. I think for most pastors, fear is the basis of their attacks. Frankly, fear of loosing their paychecks. It’s hard, they have families, bills, and a “community” of people. When someone writes something as bold as Frank has written you can become defensive. Defensive of loosing your little “Kingdom”. change formats, packaging, times, days, music, etc., and it is very difficult, mention changing the system and it is deadly. Changing a paradigm is a painful process. Just be careful on which side of the stones you’re sitting.

    • says

      Philip, I totally respect you for admitting you formed an opinion before reading the book. I think that a lot of reviewers don’t read enough of the book to form a well-made critique or with a non-biased eye. Bravo!

    • says

      Jared: thanks for the laugh, bro. 😉

      Philip: I admire your courage and your honesty. I’ve received a number of emails like your comment; but it’s rare for a Christian who has been defensive and gone on the attack to apologize or to say they were wrong. You’ve got my admiration. May your tribe increase, brother.

  24. says

    Brenda, tru dat. Sometimes myths get birthed simply because someone will read partially or sloppily, draw some conclusions, spread ’em, and not complete the series. So it’s not always a dark motive behind it. “Pagan Christianity” for instance isn’t a stand alone. “Reimagining Church” is the other volume. They go together. If someone just reads the one, it’s easier for them to miscalculate where the arguments are all headed.

    Bill, you couldn’t be more correct. We believe in shepherds (pastors) also, for instance, but feel that the NT ministry of “shepherd” that Scripture envisions is quite different from today’s popular form. What’s fascinating to us is that we state most of these myths in the books themselves as “are-you-saying?” *objections* and counter them as clearly as we can. Yet people will believe what they want to believe.

  25. Bill says

    Great post Frank. I heard just about all of these myths until I read your books for myself. You certainly believe in leadership, just not the way it’s traditionally done. I love your book “Finding Organic Church” that talks about leadership in a new way. Solid. As for preaching, I kept hearing that you and Barna don’t believe in preaching. When I read the books, you make a clear difference between preaching/teaching and the contemporary sermon. I just heard your message VantagePoint and it’s outstanding. Great preaching! I’m sure you knwo that people who have their minds made up will continue to spread the myths, but it’s good for the open minded.

  26. Brenda Corey says

    I believe some people are afraid to think outside the box. :) Also, that out of personal fears and religous activities, things like the 10 aforementioned myths are birthed. I remember one preacher use to say: Ignorance gone to seed. Whether ignorance is not knowing any better, or just ignoring, still one acts like a farmer planting all these seeds to raise a crop of myths! I wish we could just follow the pattern JESUS and obey Him and respect one another.

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