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...]

Encountering Christ in Colossians

As promised, we’re restarting the podcast with a series of messages I delivered several years ago on Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

The first message gives the historical background, and then it’s off to the races as the curtain is pulled back and Christ is unveiled in Colossians.

Some scholars have rightly called Colossians “the high watermark of Scripture” (along with Ephesians). When you finish the series, I think you’ll agree.

Click here to subscribe via iTunes and other ways to receive all the talks, including all previous episodes.

There is a lot more in store for the podcast in the days ahead. I will not be announcing each new episode, so you’ll want to subscribe.

One last thing:[Continue Reading...]

Interview with My Favorite Worship Artist

Those who know me well are aware that I’m a monumental music fan. However, I’ve never been terribly impressed with contemporary Christian music.

There are a few exceptions. And David Ruis is one of them.

In fact, David Ruis is my all-time favorite worship artist, hands-down, walkin’ out.

If you’re not familiar with Ruis’ work, then follow my suggestion.

Head over to Pandora and create a “David Ruis Radio” station.

Then start listening to all of his tunes. Feel free to skip the tunes from other artists.

David is the man.

On that note, here is my interview with Ruis.[Continue Reading...]

Getting Rid of a Sectarian Spirit Once and For All

When I was in my early 20s, I had wonderful fellowship with an older brother in Christ who was part of the Plymouth Brethren.

We disagreed on a few doctrines (I didn’t buy into the pretribulational rapture theory, and I believed that God still healed people supernaturally). That aside, we both held to the orthodox creeds of the faith (The Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, etc.) as I still do today.

Never having stepped foot in a Plymouth Brethren chapel, I was interested in visiting his church. So I did. But I was shocked when he told me that I couldn’t partake of the Lord’s Table.

This both surprised and saddened me greatly.

He received me as a brother in Christ, but because I didn’t toe the line on PB doctrine, I wasn’t allowed to partake of the bread and wine with the others in his church.

When I shared my feelings with him — that this action was a flat-out denial that I was part of the Body of Christ — he retracted his position and said I could partake of the Table.

However, his initial sectarian decision left its wound.[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...]

Your Favorite iPhone Apps

Since it’s Memorial Day and much of the Internet will be inactive, we’re not going to delve into anything heavy.

So today’s post is about iPhone apps.

Several months ago I purchased the iPhone 4S, and I’m quite happy with it. (Siri is a trip.)

Especially after using a 3G (which gave new meaning to the word “slow”) for several years.

Right now my favorite apps are:

Voice Assistant



Tip Calculator




I’m on the look-out for more apps.[Continue Reading...]

How Jesus Reaches His World

I have often stressed that the church’s calling to continue the ministry of Jesus in the world (a la, Luke 4:18-19) is just as much a part of God’s Eternal Purpose as living as a face-to-face community that makes a home for the Lord to lay His head.

(I’m speaking here of the church in local expression . . . a tangible, touchable, locatable body of believers in a locale, in whatever form or shape it may take.)

We Christians seem to fall off one side of the horse or the other on this subject.

Some make the church a shallow “soul-winning” / “world-improvement” station with little depth, relational life, or spiritual substance. Others make the church an insular, isolated, navel-gazing community.

I believe the church must know both inreach and outreach . . . it must know what it means to be “built together” as well as “being Christ” for the world. And it must learn how to discern the season for each.

As I’ve argued in From Eternity to Here, the ekklesia is called to embody Jesus Christ as a bride, a house, a body, and a family. This is God’s Eternal Purpose.[Continue Reading...]

Why Calvinists Live Like Arminians & Arminians Pray Like Calvinists

Announcement: We plan to publish a series of never-before-released messages on Colossians on the podcast very soon. If you’re not yet subscribed, click here and subscribe (it’s free). You don’t want to miss these talks; they are unique.

The great theologian Karl Barth once wrote that truth walks the razor edge of heresy. Indeed, the road to truth is surrounded by a ditch on either side.

Be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left (Deuteronomy 5:32). 

Sectarianism and elitism have been in the drinking water of the body of Christ ever since the fault lines of the Corinthian church began to fracture over their favorite apostle.

“I’m of Apollos . . . I’m of Peter . . . I’m of Paul” still lives in our bloodstreams. We simply exchange the names for that of others.

I’ve met some Christians who promoted the idea (though not in these exact words) that “unless you receive John Calvin into your heart, you cannot be saved.”

While others preached the gospel of “unless you receive John Wesley into your heart, you cannot be saved.”[Continue Reading...]

Rescripting the Christian Life: Part II

Jen Wise, over at Restoration Living, recently interviewed me on the subject of rescripting the Christian life. This is part 2 of a 2-part interview. Click here to read Part 1 which includes Jen’s unique introduction.

Jen: In Chapter 3 of Revise Us Again you exhort readers to resist making all things ‘religious’. At Restoration Living we exhort readers to see all things as spiritual. The difference between these two is important. How do we help move Christians from ‘making everything religious’ to ‘seeing everything as spiritual’?

Frank: It depends on how one defines these terms. In the book, “religious” means being pretentious and/or legalistic. (I define legalism in the book and here as well.)

In the NT, the word “spiritual” has to do with that which is governed by the life of Christ, i.e., the Holy Spirit. Elsewhere, I’ve spoken a great deal about living by the indwelling life of Christ. This reality is central to Christianity.

A spiritual person, according to Paul, is a person whose soul and body is governed by the Holy Spirit through their regenerated spirits. We’re not talking about perfection here. But the overall pattern of one’s life.

Being “religious” is the fallen soul’s way of trying to duplicate the job of the Holy Spirit. [Continue Reading...]

Rescripting the Christian Life: Part I

Jen Wise, over at Restoration Living, recently interviewed me on the subject of rescripting the Christian life. This is part 1 of a 2-part interview. The interview follows her introduction:

I recently had the honor of interviewing author Frank Viola on his recent book, Revise Us Again. I am delighted to share with you an in-depth look at the experiences behind the words, the theology that shaped the book, and his journey to understanding the issues within.

Revise Us is a timely book that approaches many issues that often go untouched, but deserve our attention. It is a ‘must’ for anyone entering theological studies or ministry (possibly in the same way ‘A Little Exercise for Young Theologians’ is used) as it touches on issues of Spiritual Conversation Styles, Christ as our chief pursuit and the pitfalls to avoid as a mentor (or mentee).

This is also a compelling read for those outside of vocational ministry. Chapters exploring God’s three-fold voice and His felt presence are both compelling and stretching on a personal level. A close look at ‘The God of Unseen Endings’ will be a comfort for anyone who has traveled through rough waters in life.

Join us below as we dig in to all these issues from a unique Restoration Living perspective.

~ Jen Wise

Frank Viola 

[Continue Reading...]