Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Thoughts from a Christian Zombie

Spent the morning at Barnes and Noble after dropping Pierce off at therapy. Looked around the Christianity section for a while, aimlessly wandering the aisles for something that might waken me from my zombie-like trance. Max Lucado... yawn... Chuck Colson... sigh... Latest hip pastor with a gotee... snooze... New book by George Barna... Hmmmmm... "Pagan Christianity"? Must look at book... May find interesting stuff... Feeling blood flow again...

So, I open this book and find a very interesting thesis:

"Have you ever wondered why we Christians do what we do for church every Sunday morning? Why do we "dress up" for church? Why does the pastor preach a sermon each week? Why do we have pews, steeples, choirs, and seminaries? This volume reveals the startling truth: most of what Christians do in present-day churches is not rooted in the New Testament, but in pagan culture and rituals developed long after the death of the apostles. Coauthors Frank Viola and George Barna support their thesis with compelling historical evidence in the first-ever book to document the full story of modern Christian church practices." - taken from the "publishers description"

Only got about 30 pages in before I had to go, and I didn't have any money to buy the book. First reaction: Duh! Of course the church today doesn't look anything like the church of the New Testament. That's probably a bi-product of the fact that 2000 years has gone by since the inception of the church. Anyone who is naive enough to think that what we do on Sunday's is anywhere close to what was going on in the New Testament is fooling themselves. So what if we aren't "doing church" like they did it in ancient times? As long as we're focusing on the glory of God and the magnification of Christ, I'm not sure methods matter much.

Second reaction: Wow, we really have made up some crazy stuff. Not sure Jesus would like us too much.

Final reaction: OK, so now what? Say we're doing it all wrong... what do we do about it now? Do we just blow the whole thing up? And if we do, how can we be certain that what is put in its place will be any more true to the ancient church than what we've done so far?

Not sure where I'm going here, but you might want to check out the book. It raises some interesting questions, but it kind of smacks of the same kinds of ultra-literalism of the fringe elements of religion.

At least that's the opinion of this Zombie..


All This Monotony said...


I'm about 1/2 way through the book myself. It is actually really good. I think he goes over-board in a number of ways. I do think Viola wants to scrap the mega church concept and thinks house churches are the way to go. I agree with him on the 2nd point...that house churches are the way to go, but don't agree that we should scrap what is presently known as "church" to the majority of our culture. It might need some serious tweaking through to bring back intimacy and the full functioning of all the parts of the body.

I think one major thing that everyone can take from reading this book is that we should not proclaim from the roof-top that our way of "doing church" is the only biblically correct one. We've all been influenced by 2000 years of pagan culture mixed. To deny this is foolish, but so is asserting that we should shut down all churches that don't fit the 1st century model.

I'd recommend you read the rest of the book. It's pretty eye-opening. You just have to take some of his points with a grain of salt. Reading it will make you more aware that we need Christ to redeem us even from our own religion!

Hope all is going well at IBC. We miss it and you.

Grace and Peace,
matt winquist

Steve Hayes said...


Thanks for staying in touch. I hope all is well in Las Vegas!!

I heard someone the other day refer to George Barna as "Bad News Barna." Although I enjoy his take on things, and find his views very challenging and enlightening, I am a cautious reader with his stuff because I think he is personally at a very cynical place in his life. He's disenchanted with the church (who can blame him?), but I am very hesitant, as you have stated, to throw the baby out with the bath water.

I'd like to finish the book, but I have to be careful with stuff like this. It makes me even more cynical than I already am, and it makes me fail to see that there are sincere Christ followers who are mature God-lovers within this crazy stew of Christianity. They haven't scrapped it all and gone to the home church model, but they are still, I believe, pleasing the Lord in their service of the local church.

I'd like to read something that defends the other side of this deal. I'm sure there's something out there.

Grace and Peace, brother! Tell your wife hello!!

Jilliefl1 said...

The sequel to “Pagan Christianity?” is out now. It’s called “Reimagining Church”. It picks up where “Pagan Christianity” left off and continues the conversation. (“Pagan Christianity” was never meant to be a stand alone book; it’s part one of the conversation.) “Reimagining Church” is endorsed by Leonard Sweet, Shane Claiborne, Alan Hirsch, and many others. You can read a sample chapter at
It’s also available on Amazon.com. Frank is also blogging now at http://www.frankviola.wordpress.com