This is Part 2 of my response to your questions from the 2013 Blog Survey.
I know that several years ago you paused your ministry of planting organic churches to focus on helping the poor and give attention on your more general ministry of the deeper Christian life. Are you still in that season or have you resumed your work with organic church?
For those who are new to the blog, two years ago I announced that my ministry was shifting focus. I’ve not been involved in “organic church” since that time. That includes planting new churches, encouraging and equipping existing ones, and writing books on the subject.
In fact, I’ve not written a book on ecclesiology since 2009. And the last church I planted was in 2010, four years ago.
Instead, my writing focus has been on “The Deeper Journey.”
Much of my time “on the ground” is spent helping the poor and developing relationships with non-Christians, which takes a lot of time.
So Frank Viola shouldn’t be considered “the organic church” guy. Most of my books aren’t on that topic, and the same is true for my podcast episodes and blog posts. In fact, I’ve only written 3 books on that topic!
Jesus Manifesto really sumps up the heart of my ministry and my contribution to this generation.
My burden is for evangelical Christians to learn the deeper things of Christ — moving beyond the shallows of the faith — and to treat one another the same way they want to be treated in all situations (Matt. 7:12). That’s why this blog is called “Beyond Evangelical.” My book by the same name goes into detail on this topic.
Someday I will return to planting organic expressions of the church and working with Christian communities, but I’m not sure when that will be. It could be 5 to 10 years from now.
What is your view of universalism?
If by “universalism” you mean that God will save everyone in the end, without repentance and faith in Christ, then I disavow it. I hold to the orthodox creeds of the Christian faith.
What would your advice be to someone who left the organized church but for certain reasons has been called back to it for a season? Looking for some perspective. Trying to be obedient and love the people, but finding it easier said than done in a setting I find difficult to handle.
I’ve never encouraged a person to leave the institutional church nor have I ever encouraged someone to leave a non-institutional church. I’ve always maintained that leaving or becoming part of a local assembly — regardless of the type — is a decision that you (and your spouse, if you’re married) should make before the Lord.
I add more to this question in my post How (Not) to Leave a Church.
I’ve always been impressed with your ministry since I found out that you don’t profit personally from your books and don’t require an honorarium when you speak. This is pretty much unheard of today. What do you do for your personal income then?
I’ve done different things over the years from construction work, teaching high school, to writing software for a mortgage company, to real estate investing. At the moment, my part of the family income today comes from advertisers and affiliates on my blog, something that any blogger – no matter what their faith persuasion is – can do if they have enough readers. (I only allow advertisements on the blog for products and services that I believe are valuable to others or that I use myself.)
I also do seminars to help bloggers and writers (of any type or faith genre) to earn income from their writing passion. While I don’t profit personally from my own book sales, I have no problem with the Stephen Kings, Anne Lamotts, Max Lucados, etc. who do. I’m also involved in an electronics business with a friend. It helps people save money by buying quality (reliable and enduring) electronics at a discounted price.
As a Christian businessman, I’ve grown weary of Christians who have a distorted idea of money, marketing, and selling. Have you ever written on this topic?
Yes, and the problem is pervasive. I’ve addressed it in the following:
If anyone goes over the above links with an open mind and heart, it will do a lot toward solving the problem that you speak about.
What do you say about the current trend to return to “Hebrew roots?”
If by “Hebrew roots” you mean the trend for Gentile Christians to begin observing Jewish customs and rituals, then I have two points to make.
1. Learning the story from Abraham to Jesus . . . and learning Second Temple Judaism . . . helps us to understand the Jesus Story. I’ve argued for and even demonstrated this in Jesus: A Theography and The Untold Story of the New Testament Church.
2. But when it comes to making the observation of Jewish customs obligatory based on a notion of “Hebrew roots,” I believe this is misguided. As I explained in From Eternity to Here, the Christian’s roots precede Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They go back to eternity past where we were chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world.” We are part of a new creation, which is neither Jew nor Gentile.
Jesus of Nazareth, our founder and head, was Jewish in His physical body. But His roots are eternal. He is the head of the new creation, which is neither Jew nor Gentile.
So for the Christian, our roots aren’t Hebrew. They are part of something that extends far before. “Before Abraham was, I Am,” Jesus said. Those are the true roots of the Christian. The book of Hebrews addresses this as well. Our high priest is after the order of Melchizedek, not Aaron.
Anyone who is into “Hebrew roots” needs to get immersed in the letters of Ephesians and Colossians. See also A letter that dropped out of heaven.
Have you written on how to conduct a new gathering or even how to start one?
Yes, in Finding Organic Church. That’s one of my 3 books on body life.