This was a book I never rushed to finish. Partly because I have been reading other books and working on my theology assignments. The other part of it is that I wanted to be careful to take as much in and reflect on some of the things put forward by Frank Viola and George Barna.
It is apparent that Pagan Christianity? is well thought out, researched and crafted. It was not “slap dash” work. Frank and George do communicate a heart for the Church as God intended. It is clear they have a sound understanding of the Church and her purpose.
Thus they wrote the book to explore practices that have been or are compromising the Church. This is a worthwhile endeavor. How the Church does things can detract and or compromise her identity and mission. Pagan Christianity? highlights the birth of some practices.
Frank and George highlight how they can and do compromise the identity and mission of the Church. They highlight some practices as originating from pagan worship. Man-made.
They are upfront with not being agreed with. The publisher also gives a disclaimer. They make it clear that by publishing the book they’re not endorsing nor do they necessarily share the same opinions as the authors.
With that, there are areas that I don’t agree with Frank and George. They believe in the Church, the ecclesia, or gathering and community of believers to be organic. On this I agree with. However, I almost get the impression that “organic” is synonymous with house Church.
House churches are the story of the early church. They are not irrelevant now, but my take is that they may not be practical in all contexts. The object, for me, is not the venue, it is what the gatherings should produce, the purpose of the gatherings.
They must produce Christ mature Christ followers. This means that they are like Christ in both likeness and works. For example, Pagan Christianity? discourages a lack of Church buildings. One of the reasons is that they end up consuming a significant amount of funds and placing an undue burden on congregations.
I believe there must be a balance here. In some instances buildings, as venues and not sacred spaces, enable permanence, and consistency. In some instances due to modern life, it is difficult to run house Church or use other buildings or venues such as community halls etc.
With this my take is that the purpose of everything must remain clearly visible. (I am not saying Frank and George advocate ambiguity).
I’m a strong believer in the priesthood of all believers. I believe everyone in the Church, the body of Christ, has a role to play in her edification, so that as a collective and individuals, we become more like Christ.
There are principles on the identity and the mission of God through the Church that cannot and must never be violated.
I could go on and highlight a few more things. However, it might be more pertinent to communicate what I feel makes the heart of the book.
The most important take away from the book is that we look at the expression of our relationship with God. As individuals and community of believers.
We must constantly assess how and why we are doing things in the light of God’s word. We must be clear about the impact of all our practices and make sure that it enables community and maturity in the faith, producing Christ like people. A scripturally sound Church.
We must examine the origin of some practices against the backdrop of whether it enables growth of Christ followers, the mission of the Church and the glory of God.
I would recommend reading Pagan Christianity. However, that it must be read with openness to challenging thought and practices for the sake of making sure that the heart of all practices as Christ followers and the Church is as God intends.
I’d recommend reading it in a non-prescriptive way but facilitating conversation and reflection. Frank and George present their case and rest at saying readers must discern for themselves steps they need to be taking.
Ultimately an important thing to do is listening to what God’s Spirit says to you. Ultimately, and most importantly, no one’s opinion or perspective must eclipse God’s.
Again, I recommend reading Pagan Christianity with an openness to challenging thought and practices for the sake of making sure that the heart of and our practices as Christ followers and the Church is as God intends. Read in a non-prescriptive way but for the purposes of facilitating conversation and reflection.
[affiliate link to book]