Reimagining Church and Life
Have you ever read something and you just keep nodding your head, and saying to yourself, “Yeah, that makes sense”? I find that some writers are more persuasive than others and while initially I may agree with what I read, upon further contemplation and critical thinking I may change my mind. But how does one go about coming to such conclusions about whether what an author says is reasonable or not? Honestly, I am influenced by the opinions of those I respect, and while I do not blindly adopt other’s opinions as my own, certain people in my life do have more influence than others. Here’s my dilemma with Frank Viola’s Reimagining Church – people who have high levels of influence on my thinking have differing opinions. One influential professor of mine has endorsed Frank’s book while another refuses to recommend it for ecclesiological reading. While it would be great if I could say that those conflicting opinions don’t affect my thinking in this matter, that’s not true. The reality is that those conflicting opinions help me to think even more critically and remind me to take responsibility for my own opinions and to think for myself. So, here’s what I’m thinking and I hope my thoughts inspire your own critical thinking on this matter.
Frank Viola, in Martin Luther King Jr. – like fashion, introduces his book with “I Have a Dream” statements. Viola’s dreams are worthy of attention and reflective of the types of captivity Frank percieves the church has fallen into. While MLK’s dream was “deeply rooted in the American dream,” Viola’s dream is rooted elsewhere. I join with Viola in hoping for the fulfillment of such a dream, but I am not convinced the House Church movement is the only way for such a dream to be fulfilled.
I have a concern with giving such power to a form for God’s people to gather. While the places and types of gatherings certainly have an influence on our spiritual formation as followers of Christ, I do not believe it is impossible for larger gatherings to embody the elements of Viola’s dream.
Viola is a very persuasive writer, yet has not persuaded me to abandon all hope for the mega-church. I have been involved with mega-churches most of my adult life. I have my concerns, as I have voiced in previous blogs. But I do not believe the mega-church is the problem nor that the house church is the answer. Viola’s point of view is worthy of consideration, but so is Ben Witherington’s critique. I have chosen to remain committed to my mega-church and trust Christ’s transforming power to be active in our midst. Viola critiques the division that exists because of denominationalism but I fear such a strong stance promoting house churches as the preferred way of dong church will lead to more of the very same division Viola dreams will go away as he dreams “that God’s people will no longer be obsessed with spiritual and religious things to the point of division.” He goes on to dream “that their obsession and pursuit would be a person – the Lord Jesus Christ.” In this dream I join Viola and many others who are committed to Christ and the Church.
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