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Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity Paperback – August 1, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1434768759
  • ISBN-13: 978-1434768759
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (196 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Viola (Pagan Christianity), a leader in the house church movement, believes the church as we know it today is nothing like what God intended it to be. According to Viola, the first-century church, which should be our pattern, met in homes without any official pastor. All members of the church were involved in worship, spontaneously breaking out with teaching or song as they were moved. Decisions were not made until everyone reached consensus. There were no official leaders or elders, but there were men who served and taught and helped others, thus leading by example. Viola believes that to bring the church back on track, both clergy and denominations must be completely abolished. Churches should not have buildings nor should they worry about doctrinal statements. Such radical ideas will best be received by Emergent and postmodern readers. Skeptics will cringe at Viola's strident tone and all-or-nothing approach. More concrete examples of what Viola has seen work well in his 20 years of house church work would have greatly strengthened the book. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

10 years ago I began reimagining everything. Fresh out of high school, I encountered a New York-trained chef working as a short order cook in an out-of-the-way country buffet restaurant, all to be part of an experimental community of Christians who had no paid ministers, no top-down structure and who practiced their own priesthood with open, participatory gatherings. This guy gently coaxed me out of denominational Christianity into the wild and wooly world of house churching. I had tons of questions. Reading was as crucial in this period of questioning as the flesh-and-blood connections I was making between bodies and church; paper guides could carefully lay out where the nascent North American house church movement was going. Two newly-self-published tomes by a Florida house church planter named Frank Viola were crucial reads: Rethinking the Wineskin and Who Is Your Covering?. In them Frank carefully laid out why authentic church might have more to do with bodies than buildings, and mutuality than mortar. As the Quakers say I was "convinced," and began a journey into shared life with other friends and followers of Jesus in intentional community. A decade later I'm still involved in house churching but my questions persist. (I'd have it no other way.) My questions have changed, too - they probe deeper than the "what" of church and move into the "why."

Thankfully, Frank's writing has matured along with my questions, and "Reimagining Church" is the result. Rewritten and, well, reimagined for the 21st century, Frank remains a champion of church in the 1st century. But at its best, his is not a wooden literalism verging on fundamentalism, but an evocative appreciation for the peculiar genius of Jesus and his earliest followers for the ways Way-farers can arrange ourselves to most beautifully reflect God's in-breaking kingdom. Let's face it: Viola's earlier 2008 release Pagan Christianity was a rampaging bull in an ecclesiastical china shop. Called simplistic and mean-spirited by detractors and a prophetic call for renewal by its champions, all readers had this in common - we wanted more. Okay, Mr. Deconstructor, we said. We see how you can tear down someone else's sand castle with gusto - now let's see how you'd build your own. And build he does.

Has anyone read The Shack? If this 2 million-plus selling spiritual adventure novel shows us anything, it's that the Trinity is hot. No, I'm not talking about Carrie-Anne Moss (but her too...my wife agrees). I mean the divine interplay between Father, Son, and Spirit. In an era captivated by the possibility of discovering The Secret and fascinated by A New Earth, G-D can still hold G-D's own, especially when conveyed in the mystery of a loving God-as-community that's the heart of Trinitarian spirituality. So the super-cool thing about "Reimagining Church" is that it doesn't open up with a dry discourse on why the New Testament church is better than First Baptist on the corner - instead it opens with a depiction of the Godhead in fellowship. Taking a cue from Stanley Grenz, Miroslav Volf and others, Frank puts flesh on conceptual bones by showing how it's within the DNA of the church to reflect the mutually-indwelling nature of the Trinity. How can we harness this innate spiritual energy? How does this look in everyday, practical example? This is what the first part of "Reimagining Church" fleshes out.

Part two is a comprehensive re-visioning of what leadership, authority and accountability in a Trinity-rooted, organic church. If you've always had an inkling that you don't need denominational "covering" or hierarchical authority fencing you in to be right with God (as an individual or church body), "Reimagining" will fund your biblical imagination with an alternative reading of Scripture that points to the dignity of each person in the church, encouraging relational and shared authority responsive to the leading of Christ alone. Sometimes I feel like an amphibian, breathing the air and water of two worlds - the house church movement and the emerging church conversation. Sometimes my friends in each misunderstand the Other - that is, when they're not amphibians like me. Being kind of a book guy, I keep an eye out for books that occupy liminal space - that are bilingual, that breathe air and water. "Reimagining Church" is one such book - it has something to offer both conversations, and maybe even move us all forward. You might not agree with all the author's conclusions, but your creative capacity to return afresh to Christian faith's sources will be enlarged as a result of reading. Here's what some others are saying about the book too.

"In Reimagining Church, Frank Viola is at the top of his game, showing a serene, soaring mastery of the theology of church as organism rather than organization."
- Leonard Sweet, author of Soul Tsunami, Soul Salsa, and 11

"Dissent is a gift to the Church. It is the imagination of the prophets that continually call us back to our identity as the peculiar people of God. May Viola's words challenge us to become the change that we want to see in the Church ... and not to settle for anything less than God's dream for Her."
- Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistable Revolution, activist, and recovering sinner

"True to form, this book contains a thoroughly consistent critique of prevailing forms of church. However, in Reimagining Church, Frank Viola also presents a positive vision of what the church can become if we truly reembraced more organic, and less institutional, forms of church. This is a no holds barred prophetic vision for the church in the twenty-first Century."
- Alan Hirsch, author of The Forgotten Ways and The Shaping of Things To Come

"For those who are not threatened by the idea that church must change, Reimagining Church is an absolutely timely and much-needed perspective, delivering a solid biblical vision for the body of Christ. Using the entire scope of New Testament church life, Frank Viola lays out the core values and the essential principles that must form the foundation of life together as the body of Christ. The book delivers an exceptionally hopeful, visionary picture of all that church can and should be.
- Grace, blogging at kingdomgrace

"The body of Christ has been stifled by human traditions for far too long. Reimagining Church charts a fresh course for the church that recovers the simplicity of Christ and listens seriously to what the voice of the Great Shepherd is saying to His people."
- Jon Zens, editor, Searching Together and author of A Church Building Every ½ Mile: What Makes American Christianity Tick?

"If Pagan Christianity? exposes the reality that much of our current church practice has little basis in the Bible, Reimagining Church takes the next step to establish what truly biblical church life looks like. With the inner life of the Trinity as the starting point, Viola paints an amazing picture of organic church life."
- John White, community facilitator, LK10: A Community of Practice for Church Planters

- Mike Morrell -- The Ooze

In Acts 2, Luke described a church where everyone shared their possessions, had everything in common and was devoted to practices like fellowship and prayer. If you've looked around the modern Church and wondered where that kind of gathering is hiding, we suggest you read "Reimagining Church," which will help form your convictions into revolutionizing thoughts. Frank Viola, a leader in the home-church movement for 20 years, lays out the complicated issue of "redoing church" in a tangible and practical way, never skimming over the hard issues like unity, authority, and spiritual status quo. Spilling over with relevant scriptures and illustrations, Viola's convictions are sure to challenge and excite you. -- Relevant Magazine (September/October, 2008)

Viola, co-author of Pagan Christianity, continues his discussion on the non-institutional church in Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity. Having left an organized church in 1988 for a home -- or "organic"-- church model, the author draws comparisons from the early church to the way modern churches operate.

Through chapters that focus on "reimagining" the Lord's Supper, the family of God, church unity and authority and submission, Viola, who doesn't believe in clergy, denominations or doctrinal statements, argues that most churches are set up like corporations, while those in the early church were overseen but not controlled by apostles.

In the foreword, Viola warns that offense could rise from readers with sacred loyalty to their churches. However, even though he presents what some might consider an extreme position, there are points anyone could glean when it comes to being members of the church -- institutional or not -- truly caring for and serving one another.

-DeWayne Hamby -- Christian Retailers


More About the Author

FRANK VIOLA AUTHOR has helped thousands of people around the world to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and enter into a more vibrant and authentic experience of church.

Viola's books help serious followers of Jesus to know their Lord more deeply, gain fresh perspectives on old or ignored subjects, and make the Bible come alive.

His blog - frankviola.org - is regularly ranked in the top 5 of all Christian blogs on the Web today. His podcast - Christ is All - has ranked #1 in Canada and #2 in the USA on iTunes.

Frank Viola, author, lives in Florida.

Customer Reviews

I would highly recommend this book; in fact I did to all my friends.
Derek Kirkman
It will challenge him/her to think more seriously about what it means to be the Church and it will provide way that we can get back on track.
Amazon Customer
This book is the follow-up to "Pagan Christianity" by George Barna and Frank Viola.
Christian W Pickup

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 59 people found the following review helpful By David D. Flowers on July 31, 2008
Format: Paperback
"Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity" by Frank Viola, is sure to send every "clergy-laity" member scratching around for a biblical defense to the claims made against the 1700 year old institutional form of church. And according to Viola, they will not find a "shred of biblical warrant" to support its existence.

At last, the sequel to the highly controversial book, "Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices," has arrived! And it is for certain that not all will applaud its arrival to the bookstore. No doubt, many readers are still trying to grapple with the favorable recognition and popularity of the first book to this series of 4 books (2 not yet released) on organic Christianity. The first time, Viola had the help of George Barna and Tyndale in gaining a few listening ears. Now that he has the attention of no small number of readers... he has set off to propose serious answers to an audience that is filled with sincere questions. And "Reimgaining Church" will not leave readers dissatisfied in their quest for the normal Christian church life. In fact, it will leave them hungering for authenticity in the New Testament fashion.

As the saying goes, "You can't judge a book by its cover." Many readers have learned that from PC. So let the reader first understand the title. Viola states, "it's the present practices of the church that I'm seeking to reimagine, not the church itself" (p.13). He clearly outlines his purpose so that there is no misunderstanding. He writes that the purpose of the book is: "to articulate a biblical, spiritual, theological, and practical answer to the question, Is there a viable way of doing church outside the institutional church experience, and if so, what does it look like" (p.12)?
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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Eric Wilson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 16, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Three years ago, I too "pulled the plug" and stopped attending institutional church. I know the real deal. I've youth pastored, done missions in four continents, and gone to Bible college. Sorry, but I can't fake it any longer. I've struggled, however, in knowing how to be part of the solution, and so I picked up Viola's book in hopes of finding some direction.

"Reimagining Church" doesn't have the bitter edge I expected, but neither does it get as practical as I'd hoped. What it does is establish the biblical description of a New Testament church, minus the clergy system and the church polity that have grown up around that. It points out the way western Christianity has become a reflection of its society, basing church structure on secular business systems. I can verify this, having gone through four years of Bible college, during which I grew sick of hearing CEO terminology applied to the vibrant life of organic church.

Viola does a great job of driving home his points about the church's purpose, it's headship (under Christ alone), and its ability to function without sinking millions into building projects while the poor among us remain unfed. I've seen the things he exposes here, and he does not exaggerate. He also tries to point out the errors of recent church movements (mega-churches, emergent churches, etc.) while underlining the good they've set out to do. I sense a heart of love behind this strident call back to biblical, organic church through homes. I'm with Viola one hundred percent.

In studying Scripture, I'd come to many of the same conclusions about fellowship, accountability, and such, but a few questions remained unanswered. I hope Viola addresses some of these in his next book, already in the works.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Howie Cruthers on August 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
A great follow-up to Pagan Christianity. As I am beginning a new experience of organic church, Reimagining Church brought answers to some nagging questions, like "How do you celebrate the Lord's Supper without it being a ritual?", "What about biblical church leadership?", and "What does an every-member functioning church look like?". The last chapter is worth the price of the whole book. In it, the author outlines various recent solutions to problems typical to the Church, and gives an insightful and inspiring alternative. I was left with an appetite for more. If you're searching for the kind of church life you see in the New Testament, this book will show you that it is not only possible, but it is happening in our generation. Read it!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jill Scales on September 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
"Reimagining Church" sets forth a beautiful vision of the church based on the eternal purposes of God. I found it to be insightful and right on target. It is controversial, but sometimes it's necessary to shake things up a bit when the Body of Christ has veered off course (think Martin Luther).

I would certainly recommend reading the book before jumping to conclusions about the author's intent. I believe he addresses leadership, clergy, buildings, etc. in a biblical and compelling way. Viola is not out to dismantle the institution, but to call us to a higher vision-one based upon the eternal purpose of God Himself. He makes it clear in the preface that he is not criticizing the church, which is the people of God. He desires to see the Body of Christ express itself as God intended from the beginning (p.12). He states, "the church, therefore, should not be confused with an organization, a denomination, a movement, or a leadership structure....Therefore, it's the present practices of the church that I'm seeking to reimagine, not the church itself" (p.13).

God loves the Church, but He is certainly not married to its nonbiblical practices and rituals.

In his chapter entitled "Reimagining the Church Meeting", Viola clears up what I believe has been a major point of confusion during much of the church's history: the purpose of the church meeting. He explains that the first century church had various types of meetings-among them apostolic meetings, evangelistic meetings and church meetings (pp. 49-50). The modern church typically attempts to roll all of these up into one weekly meeting. Viola demonstrates here that the church meeting was primarily a believers' meeting; evangelism was not the focus.
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