Recovering the Departed Glory

“Another cause back of our top-heavy and ugly over-organization is fear. Churches and societies founded by saintly men with courage, faith and sanctified imagination appear unable to propagate themselves on the same spiritual level beyond one or two generations.

The spiritual fathers were not able to sire others with courage and faith equal to their own. The fathers had God and little else, but their descendants lose their vision and look to methods and constitutions for the power their hearts tell them they lack. Then rules and precedents harden into a protective shell where they can take refuge from trouble. It is always easier and safer to pull in our necks than to fight things out on the field of battle.

In all our fallen life there is a strong gravitational pull toward complexity and away from things simple and real. There seems to be a kind of sad inevitability back of our morbid urge toward spiritual suicide. Only by prophetic insight, watchful prayer and hard work can we reverse the trend and recover the departed glory.”

~ A.W. Tozer[Continue Reading...]

Warning: Christian Community Doesn’t Work Without This

Registration for my online discipleship course LIVING BY THE INDWELLING LIFE OF CHRIST just opened. It will be open until March 15th. Click here to learn how to register.

I don’t care what form in which it comes . . . be it organic church, simple church, house church, para-church organizations, or traditional churches that are strong on community . . . what I address in this conference message is off the radar screen for many Christians today.

And even if they’ve read or heard about it, when pressure is put upon them or their expectations aren’t met, they forget all about it.

Failure to lay hold of this element is why groups divide, split, and why members sometimes even begin attacking one another.

I could have entitled this talk “how to prevent a church split” as that title applies also.[Continue Reading...]

10 Reasons Why I Left the Institutional Church & Sought the Ekklesia

It’s funny. We still live in a celebrity culture. Even Christians have chewed hard on it.

Whenever a celebrity Christian author or blogger talks about “leaving church,” all of a sudden masses of Christians think a “new conversation” has suddenly began and people left and right start firing off opinions.

[Cough.]

A few words about “leaving church.”

Virtually every time I catch wind of the phrase — “leaving church” — almost always, the person using the phrase never explains what he/she means by “church.”

This is how I put it in Christianity in Crisis:[Continue Reading...]

5 Marks of a Spiritual Pioneer & A Famous Megachurch Pastor Steps Down

Two things have happened recently that you may be interested to know.

1) For about two months now, a well-known megachurch pastor who is piped into the homes of millions of people all over the world each week has been writing me privately “Nicodemus style.”

We’ve talked on the phone and he’s shared with me his frustrations with being a pastor, with asking his congregation for tithes, and the rest that goes with it.

Someone put in his hand a subversive book entitled Pagan Christianity, and it’s confirmed his own spiritual senses and deepest feelings.

I am not at liberty to mention this person’s name. But presently, his parents and siblings are baffled and hugely upset by his decision. And they are now reading “the little red book” that George Barna and I wrote.

We’ll see how this turns out, but right now, this man has joined the 1,500 to 2,000 pastors who leave the clergy system each month in the USA. And most of them have left for the same reason: A crisis of conscience with their position and how church is “done” today.

2) A well-known author and blogger has made public his decision to no longer attend a traditional church. Strangely, he’s gotten a big backlash, great misunderstanding, and criticism for his decision.[Continue Reading...]

Start a Book Discussion Group & I’ll Be at Your First Meeting to Kick It Off

One of the most enriching experiences a group of Christians or a church can have is to begin a Book Discussion Group.

Fellowship, a sense of community, mutual encouragement, giving, and learning are all experienced in this context.

It is for this reason that I’ve made sure that all of my books can be purchased at a very low bulk discount.

That said, I’ve decided to do something I’ve never done before.

If you begin a new Book Discussion Group around one of my titles, I will meet with your group by phone to kick off the first meeting.

In that call, I’ll discuss some of the behind-the-scenes of the book, share why I wrote it and some “back story” behind some of the chapters, and then suggest a reading and discussion plan to go through the book.[Continue Reading...]

You Are Amazing! (Just the Way You Are)

Last month, I had the privilege of speaking at a conference with my close friends and coworkers Jon Zens and Milt Rodriguez.

In addition to seeing them, the highlight for me was meeting so many of my dear friends from different parts of the country that I haven’t seen in years along with meeting people that I’ve only met on this blog.

It was a precious time.

Here’s a song that was written by one of the groups that attended the conference. It’s a re-write of You’re Amazing (Just the Way You Are). The lyrics follow the video.


[Continue Reading...]

Pagan Christianity: Preface to the New Edition

Yesterday, George Barna and I did our first interview together since Pagan Christianity released four years ago.

Recently, Tyndale House released the paperback (softcover) edition of Pagan Christianity. I love that the softcover edition is the same size as the constructive follow-up books, Reimagining Church, From Eternity to Here, and Finding Organic Church.  So they look nice on a bookshelf. :-)

Frank Viola

After the hardcover edition of Pagan Christianity sold 100,000 copies, Tyndale sent me a special leather-bound, gold-leafed edition of the book commemorating the sales mark. This was very classy of Tyndale to do, and I wanted to thank them publicly for this thoughtful gesture.

What follows is the new preface to the softcover edition followed by a list of free resources for the book. I’m publishing the preface here because it’s so important to the conversation.

As many of you know, Pagan Christianity is not my favorite book. It’s simply a curtain raiser for my other volumes. [Continue Reading...]

George Barna and I Reflect on Four Years Since “Pagan Christianity”

It’s been four years since George Barna and I released Pagan Christianity. Joe Miller recently caught up with George and me, giving us our first exclusive interview in four years. Joe’s questions were excellent.

Here’s the interview. (Note: Reposting this interview is not permitted. But you are free to place a link to it on your blog or share it on Facebook or Twitter via the share buttons below. Click here to review our copyright policy.) 

Pagan Christianity

Joe Miller: Before we get to your current life, can you tell us, what has been the most enduring and positive legacy of your book, “Pagan Christianity?”  

George Barna: The book has helped many people to open their minds to the fact that the organized, localized, congregational form of ministry commonly known in the west as “the church” is a human construct that was neither dictated by God nor described or found in the Bible. In that sense I think the greatest legacy of the book, based primarily on Frank’s extensive research, is giving people an awareness of the truth about the history of the modern local church body and the tremendous possibilities for more meaningful ministry experiences and expressions.

Frank Viola: One of the most enduring qualities (and effects) of the book is that it has given millions of Christians permission – biblical and historical permission – to question cherished church practices and traditions in the light of God’s written Word. It has effectively driven many believers – including pastors – to reexamine the way they practice church in view of New Testament principles and church history.[Continue Reading...]

How (Not) to Leave a Church

Once in awhile, people will ask me questions about leaving their church. They want my advice and opinion on it. This happened again very recently.

Because I’ve received this question countless times over the years, I’m posting my general response here. Before you read what follows, I want you to get clear on this: there are always special circumstances and exceptions to what I’m about to say.

What I’ve written here is merely my personal opinion for those who desire to hear it. It’s based on the last 30 years of watching people leave churches (of all different kinds) and the results I’ve witnessed . . . both good and unmentionable.

Five points to begin with:

1. I have never asked anyone to leave a church nor have I encouraged a person to leave one. It’s simply not my place to do so. Except in rare situations where someone was being abused, I actually encourage people to stay in their church. Unless God specifically and clearly leads them out. Or it violates their conscience to stay involved.

2. I’m of the opinion that you shouldn’t leave a church unless the Lord clearly directs you to leave and your family has come to a consensus on the matter. I’ll simply add that I will never understand why some people leave beautiful churches while others stay in abusive or dead churches. See my post on What Ever Happened to Perseverance? where I give examples.[Continue Reading...]