Reimagining Church ~ by Frank Viola

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        The sub-title for Reimagining Church by Frank Viola (author of Pagan Christianity) is "Pursuing The Dream of Organic Christianity."  Frank Viola is striving for a version of Christianity free from much of the bureaucratic restraints that Western society has grown accustomed to.  In this pursuit, Viola promotes a movement away from established institutions of local churches towards the planting of house churches wherever people live.  The Church Jesus intends is one that grows developmentally just as a living organism. 
        Viola considers modern local churches to be encumbered by properties, bills, hierarchal governments, and denominational traditions that have obscured and even perverted the expression of true Christianity as Jesus intended.  At times, Viola can certainly overstate his aim.  This book could actually alienate many of the "traditional" people that perhaps could otherwise have benefited from it's emphasis.  For instance, in a valuable chapter on "reimagining leadership", Viola states: "The modern clergy system is a religious artifact that has no biblical basis" (160).  His point is that the "positional" role of clergy in so many modern local churches does not reflect the New Testament "functional" intentions for leaders.  But to say that there is "no" biblical basis for the clergy system today is an exageration.  Countless statements like this in the 300+ pages of this book will most likely serve as obstacles for the reimagination of the church.
        But a thoughtful introspection of this book reveals some quality affirmations of many of the new directions of emerging church thought over the last 20 years.  This is a worth-while book for those who love the Church but recognize the tensions strainting the current institutional expressions of the local church.  If the 15 chapters are too much to digest straight through, they also serve as useful resources on their own.  Viola's reflections on the Lord's Supper (chapter 3), Gathering Place (chapter 4), Leadership (chapter 8), and "Objections and Responses about Leadership" (Appendix) are very engaging.  Further engagement on organic issues facing the Church today are available at Viola's website: http://www.reimaginingchurch.org/

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