Excerpts from "Reimagining Church"
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Excerpts from "Reimagining Church"

Posted: 2009-02-28 12:04:37 by: Frank Viola

(I (David Nelson) do not necessarily agree with all that is said in the above book but I am very encouraged by much that Frank Viola has written in this book).

The following is a very important message for the Church with some of my own thoughts in parenthesis.

Quote by Shane Claiborne (thesimpleway.org): The prophets call us back to our (true) identity (as the Church). We shall not settle for anything less than God’s dream for (the Church).

Quote by Charles J. Wilhelm: What if the word church in ordinary conversation called to mind…’where God has His way’ instead of pews, parking lots and preachers? What if church were not a place to learn religion but the best tangible proof of God’s existence?

Page 11:  I (Frank Viola) left the institutional church (or institutional Christianity) in 1988 and have never returned. Instead, I’ve been meeting in what I call “organic churches.”

When I am asked, “So where do you go to church?” It seems awkward but I say, “I belong to a church that doesn’t have a pastor or a church building, we meet very much like the early Christians did and we are consumed with (focused on) Jesus Christ (as our Head).” When they hear this they often look at me as if I came from one planet beyond Pluto.

Page 12:  When you hear what is said in this book some will say, Thank goodness, I’m not crazy! I thought I lost my mind. I’m grateful there are others who feel the same way I do about church. This book has (put into) language the feelings and beliefs I’ve had for years. 

Page 16:  We are in quest for a church experience that better fits the deepest longings of our hearts.

Just as Copernicus surprisingly said that the planets revolve around the sun (and not around the earth) we are now in a paradigm shift to show that the church revolves around a living Christ and should be organic (led by the Lord) not institutional (led by men).

Page 19:  Quote by Hal Miller: The Institutional Church is like a train on a track that can’t stop (very easily) or change direction even if the people on board wanted to. And they hope they are going in the right direction. Organic churches are like a group of people out for a walk. They can turn at a moments notice. They are genuinely attentive to the Lord and to each other.

Page 51:  Today “church services” are designed for worship, the hearing of a sermon and in some cases evangelism. But in the 1st century church the purpose of the church meeting was for mutual edification. “What is the outcome then brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” (I Cor. 14:26)

Page 52:  Each Christian had something to say by the Holy Spirit… with their own unique gift. “For all can prophesy in turn (one by one) so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.” (I Cor. 14:31)

Page 53:  Christ is to be the center of every meeting. He is to set the agenda and direct what takes place. Although His leading is invisible to the naked eye, He is clearly the guiding agent. In this type of gathering, the Lord Jesus is free to speak through whomever He chooses and in whatever capacity He sees fit. (He is not to be boxed in or pushed out). It is a “round table” principle not a church with a pulpit (at one end) and a passive audience (at the other end).

Page 54:  The Holy Spirit so governs the gathering that if a person receives an insight while another is sharing, the second speaker is free to interrupt his or her thought. (I Cor. 14:29, 30) What would happen today if you interrupted a pastor in the middle of his sermon with your insight?

Page 55:  Ask yourself…are you free to stand up at any time in your church services (when all the members are present) and give a word of testimony, a teaching, an exhortation, a song, or whatever else the Lord has laid on your heart? More importantly, are you encouraged to do this?

Page 56: So what is the theology here? All believers in Christ are spiritual priests called to offer up “spiritual sacrifices” unto the Lord. We must pour out of our hearts what God has poured into them as a functioning part of the Body of Christ.

Past revivals came to be, preachers stopped giving sermons for months. Instead, God’s people would gather and sing and testify and share from the Lord for hours. These were open meetings led by the Holy Spirit with little or no human control.

Page 57:  We will grow when each part is working properly (Eph. 3:16-19)

Page 60: God’s goal is to manifest His Son to us and to all (make Him visible). The church is the Body. The purpose of the Body is to express the life that is within it. We gather together so that the Lord Jesus can manifest Himself in His fullness.

The scriptural way that Christ can be properly and fully expressed is when every member of the church freely supplies that aspect of the Lord that he or she is meant to give in their particular gifts.

The Lord Jesus is not to be fully disclosed through a few members (pastor, song leader, elder). He is far too rich for that (Eph. 3:8)

So if the foot or hand or eye cannot function or is not encouraged to function we see a lop-sided, blind, limping body.

With each piece of a picture puzzle added, the entire picture comes into view. Not only is Christ seen fully but we are fully encouraged and edified.

Page 62:  Have you ever received an insight about the Lord or had an encounter with Him that filled you spiritually to the point where you felt you were going to burst if you didn’t share it with others? If so, just imagine an entire church experiencing this.

If the Spirit of God were to leave an institutional church the “business as usual” program would forge ahead. Singing would continue, sermons would continue and the liturgy of the service would continue.

Page 63:  If in the “organic church” people were getting cool spiritually it would first be noticed in cool, chilly meetings with more silence than usual. What is more, if the Spirit of God left the meetings for good, the church (which is supposed to be completely dependent on Christ) would collapse altogether. 

Page 65: If some say it wouldn’t work in “my church” to let every one share, this may be because the people have not been taught and prepared and acclimated to this type of open leading of the Holy Spirit.

Page 66:  (There also) may be a need to help those who over participate to step back a little and those who under participate to be emboldened to share a little more.

Page 83:  If someone asks, “So where do you go to church? And your answer is, “I attend a church that meets in a home.” Here is what people may think: “Well, that’s strange (or different). He must be a religious misfit of some sort. Or he’s probably part of some cult or flakey fringe group. Or there must be something wrong with him. If there wasn’t, he would be going to a regular church. Or he has to be a rebel of some sort, a loose cannon on the deck-unable to submit to authority. Else he would be attending a normal church-you know, the kind that meets in a building.”

Page 84:  The church of Jesus Christ met in the homes of its members for the first 300 years of its existence. (Graydon F. Snyder, Archeological Evidence of Church Life Before Constantine)

Page 85:  When the assembly got too big it split up and met in more than one house.

Pages 86, 87:  They could have built synagogues but purposely didn’t to conserve the idea that we are a building of living stones built together into a temple for the Lord.

Page 90:  In big buildings people can hide from each other, in a living room you get to know each other. In a building an audience faces the place where they get their input (they receive, the pulpit gives (but only a few members of the Body give)). Also, the pulpit and stage are elevated to portray a show that you are to watch. Pews are not set up for interaction with each other but for facing one direction.

Page 98:  A chief metaphor for the church (in the scriptures) is Family. (Gal. 6:10 family of believers, Rom. 8:29 many brothers, Eph. 2:19 members of God’s household, I Tim. 5:1-2 Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters).

Page 100:  Three points to be made here:  (1) Do members take care of one another like a family? Isn’t it true that you take care of your natural blood relatives? And they take care of you? The early church did. The church is to be a close loving family. (2) Do we spend time with each other beyond gatherings? Do we eat together and fellowship like the early church did? Every day they continued to meet together…they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. (Acts 2:42, 46)

Page 104 A real family (brothers and sisters) knows how things are going in one another’s lives.  (3) Do we have affection for one another? Do we salute fellow church members from across the street and yet don’t even want to be with them? Are the hugs and kisses we give real as it would be for a blood family member?

Page 106:  People are looking for authentic community and they don’t see it in the Church. (people who genuinely love and care for each other). People are looking for genuine organic Christianity (as it is supposed to be).

Page 118:  If God has accepted you as a member of His Body and Family then you belong to the Church and I must accept you. All the believers in a city should accept one another. (But the way it is now, we must go to a particular church and fit in to be accepted by them.)

Pages 128, 129:  If Jesus has accepted you, I must accept you despite how lacking in light you may be or how incorrect your views of the Bible are. And you must accept me on the same basis. Other wise I would have had to disfellowship with myself 15 years ago (for I still am learning and changing, we all see in part).  Ask this: has God accepted this person? Does the life of Christ reside in him or her? Is he or she part of the Body of Christ? They may not be clear on many spiritual things. Their personality may conflict with ours. Their worship style may be distasteful to us. They may be immature and have struggles in areas that we’ve surpassed. They may be painfully eccentric. Their understanding of the Bible may be poverty stricken. They may make mistakes that they regret. They might just hold to some false ideas. Yet the fact that Christ dwells in them obligates us to accept them as family members. Not just in word but in deed and in truth (I Jn. 3:18).

Page 136:  Some have made this comment to me, “It is each person’s transformed life that is the key, the church is really secondary, right? We should not separate the individual’s life from the Church corporate life because it is what God wants and what He wants to create. It is His eternal purpose. God the Father is after a Bride for His Son and a house and family for Himself. This is the heart of God. (Yes, you as an individual are everything to Him as though you alone lived, but He wants more than you alone to show the fullness of Himself, and that we might learn love for each other also. That we might love one another and be one as the Father and the Son are one and how they love each other, so that the world will see this and be drawn to Him).

Page 140:  God has an eternal purpose that humans were to fulfill before sin entered the scene. And He has never let go of it. He has a purpose not just for us but for Himself.

Page 142:  We are to become a new man (like Christ) that doesn’t build things like Babel for himself or of his own making  but looks for things that God builds (organic things, living one day at a time, entering His rest, ceasing from our labors, receiving His manna daily, not trying to save manna for our own use and our own security, a perfect walk with Him trusting in His love and in His providing, etc.)

Page 143:  We are to be Image Bearers: man in corporate can show the corporate image of God to the world, to angels, to principalities, to the animals and creation. We are to rule over creation (have dominion). A garden or an interface of two realms. Two realms touching, where God’s sphere and man’s sphere intersect. A marriage of two realms. A wedding of the spiritual and the physical, divinity and humanity.

Page 146:  Ultimately God will bring heaven to the earth as it was in the Garden of Eden. (this would include healing for the sick, setting the captives free, helping the poor, healing the broken hearted, etc.)

Page 148:  We are a colonial outpost for the coming kingdom. We are a spiritual “Bethany” where Jesus is received, obeyed, adored (and where He can find rest with His own) in the midst of a rejecting world. We are a willing vehicle for Christ’s manifested presence. We are the torch bearers of the testimony of Jesus. We are the spiritual environment where face to face encounters between the Bride and the Bridegroom take place. We are the colony from heaven that bears the image of its Ruler.

Pages 154-163:  The Word says that we should not be like the Gentiles (Nations) in the way we conduct ourselves as leaders. (The world loves to have position and power over others). But God values childlike meekness and sacrificial service and godly character. My leaders, says the Lord, are to be as the younger. For the nations greatness is position, in the kingdom greatness is humility and servitude. Don’t be called Rabbi, Teacher, Father, don’t be called Leaders, for you have one Leader. The congregations are at fault too for “they have set up kings, but not of Me; they have made princes, and I knew it not.” (Hos. 8:4) (they did this so that they could relax more, a buffer between them and God). Clergy have become to their congregations like parents whose children never grow up, like therapists whose clients never become healed, like teachers whose students never graduate.

Pages 171, 172:  The church doesn’t belong to the elders. The Lord Jesus alone has the right “to walk in the midst of the…lampstands.” (Rev.2:1) Decisions in the church should be made by consensus of all the brothers and sisters. In one group that I met with 3 men emerged as elders but were never named “elders,” and if you attended one of their meetings you couldn’t tell them from anyone else.

Page 176:  Elders would emerge in the Scriptures usually some years after the church started (when they were appointed, they were just being recognized). Until they emerged and were recognized  Apostles would help them get on their feet. Also elders are always a plural in a church. (Page 190) 

Page 193:  Consensus was how decisions were made. ”It seemed good to the elders and the apostles and the whole church.” A lack of unity and cooperation among the members reveals a failure to embrace (the mind of the Lord).

Page 195:  The meaning of consensus: all have come to the place where they have set aside their objections and can support a corporate decision in good faith (albeit not always with full enthusiasm).

Page 198:  Leadership is characterized by the ability to weld the church together to reach individual judgments on critical affairs. Any person who does this at any given time is leading at that moment.

(Spiritual leaders, elders, apostles, etc., all have a place in God’s plans (and should not be thrown out). We should respect true leaders and consider what they say. But leaders are equal with all the other brothers and sisters, it is just that they have a different gift (they are not to be better than others). Whatever gift each has we can make mistakes in giving our gift or in whether we should have accepted others gifts or not. We will all have to answer to God as to how we gave our gifts or whether we followed another’s gifts or not. Was it God’s will that we followed what they said or was it God’s will that we dismissed what they said? It is for each of us to decide, and each of us alone will answer to God for our decisions. No one is to make us do anything. If we obey or disobey a spiritual leader, a husband or wife, a policeman, the advice of another even if the idea comes from a child, we will either be rewarded as right or wrong according to whether it was of God or not).


Pages 199-205:  Who is our covering? Who are we accountable to? Our accountability is exclusively to God (even when there are spiritual leaders). Who is the covering for a pastor, a church board, or a denominational board? (They are accountable directly to God as we all are). Here are some verses that teach this: “We shall all stand (alone) before the throne and give account for what we have done. So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Rom. 14:10, 12) “It is before our own master that we stand or fall, so do not judge others.” (Rom. 14:4) “My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me. The voice of a stranger they will not follow.” “They shall all know Me from the least to the greatest.”

Page 201:  Quote by Jon Zens: “While the ‘clergy/laity’ distinction is embedded and assumed in religious circles, it cannot be found in the New Testament. The ‘clergy’ practice is a heresy that must be renounced. It strikes at the heart of the priesthood of all believers that Jesus purchased on the cross. It contradicts the shape that Jesus’ kingdom was to take when He said, “You are all brethren.” Since it is a tradition of man, it nullifies the Word of God. The clergy system stands as a monumental obstacle to genuine reformation and renewal.”

Page 216:  Organic authority is when the Head (Christ), who is the source of all authority signals the hand to move, then the hand possesses the authority of the Head. The hand, however, has no authority in itself. It derives authority only when it acts in accordance with communication with the Head. Insofar as the hand represents the will of the Head, to that degree the hand is an authority. (It is the same with secular authorities or spiritual authorities, if they tell us to do what we know is against God’s will we must obey God first).

Page 255:  Quote by T. Austin Sparks: A very heavy price must be paid to solve the great problem of the Church. The essential light may not be given to many, for the Lord knows they won’t be willing to pay the price. It may only be a “remnant”-as of old-who will be led into God’s answer because they will meet the demands at all costs.

Page 257:  Is the Mega church the answer? The latest advertising, marketing techniques, something for everyone, seeker friendly, big screens, multi media worship, comedy,  prominent charisma of the senior pastor, choreographed drama presentations, minimal commitment, you don’t have to know anyone, corporate business paradigm. Doesn’t this seem worldly and secular? Does this look like Christ’s group or the early church meetings?

Pages 259-261:  Is the “third wave restoration” the answer? Here we see Charismatics and Pentacostals who want to restore the apostolic and the prophetic. They may emphasize the power of the Spirit before the death to self message of the cross. But the Spirit cannot do His deepest work through uncrucified flesh. Are we questing spiritual power rather than spiritual character? Mystical experience without godliness or holiness? Unrestrained, soulish excitement without sound discernment? Demonic counterfeit without divine reality? And they go to the “Christian Meccas” desperately wishing to be touched by God. We want phenominational experiences. There is also “Christian guruism” where prophets and apostles are revered as spiritual icons who bask in the limelight of fan-club followings. But where is the mutual ministry, relationship, community and freedom in these “new wine” but old wine skin formats? They emphasize the five fold ministry but where is the priesthood of all believers?

Page 263:  Some churches have one big meeting a week and cell groups during the week. But this still has the big leader with little leaders of his own making over each cell group. This model might be described as a “longer leash” church. The big leader is still running the show. What is being hampered still are relationships, the direct leading of Christ and the full expression of the Body.

Page 267:  God may be using all of the above but is it His best? The good is often the enemy of the best. T. Austin Sparks says, “God has used what has been but do we not feel in our spirit that much delay, limitation, and weakness due to departure from the first and full position of the first years of the church’s life and do we not have a heart-burden for a return thereto? We cannot accept the present “disorder” as all that the Lord would or could have.”

Page 269:  Quote by Arthur Wallis: If we try to do the new things that the Lord wants along and beside the old ways there will always be a quiet struggle going on between the new measures and the old structures and you may be sure the old structures will win in the end. The new patch will never blend in with the old garment. It will always look incongruous.

Page 271:  Here is what we must do. In the book of Haggai a few came to lay a foundation for a new temple (a remnant) and they were hoping for a measure of revival. (Ezra 9:7-8 and Hag. 1:14) There was a call of God to Israel to leave “Babylon.” This foreshadows the present cry of the Spirit to His people. But who has despised the day of small things (or small beginnings)? (Most people do turn up their noses at what seems like feeble attempts to change the world) But what if God was in it? So Haggai the prophet instructed them to build the new temple (Hag. 1:2-12) and in verse 13 Haggai the prophet says, “I am with you, says the Lord.” Then the people worked. But after a time they looked at what they accomplished and said to themselves, “This is nothing.” But God was in it! They compared what they were doing with what had been before and it looked like “nothing.” But God sent them His word again through the prophet Haggai saying, “Be strong all you people of the land, says the Lord, and work; for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts. I will fill this temple with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts.” (Hag. 2:1-9)

Page 272:  We must abandon the old, we must begin on entirely new ground. We constructed our own house, now God wants to construct His house only on the ground of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pages 276, 277:  We need not renewal of the old but a new wineskin, a new garment. (Lk. 5:36-38) Fredrick Buechner says, “What goes on in (support groups) seems to be closer to what Christ meant His Church to be, and what it originally was, than much of what goes on in most churches I know. These groups have no buildings or official leadership or money. They have no programs. They make you wonder if the best thing that could happen to many a church might not be to have its building burned down and to lose all its money. Then all the people would have left is God and each other.

Page 278:  Everyone’s normal till you get to know them. Relationship Church with the Lord and with each other is not easy. Our flesh gets exposed, our spirituality gets tested. And we quickly find out how deep the fall goes. It is much easier just to go to church and get “our obligation to God” over with. But it is in this new Body life that broken lives are revealed, and iron will sharpen iron. We must go outside the camp (in this new adventure with the Lord) bearing the disgrace He bore. (Heb. 13:13) (As people will criticize us, misunderstand us, yet we are pioneers of what the Lord is now calling us to). It is there that we meet the Savior’s heartbeat for seeing Him, knowing Him as never before, and seeing each other and knowing each other as never before. The world must see this (Jn. 13:34, 35 and Jn. 17:21-23) that they may see Him as never before.


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