EXPLORING THE ROOTS
OF OUR CHURCH PRACTICES
By Frank Viola & George Barna
What would worship look like if you did not enter a church building, follow a typical liturgy,
listen to a sermon from a seminary-trained pastor, or listen to special music? Viola and Barna
dedicated Pagan Christianity “to exposing the traditions that have been tacked onto God’s will for His Church (p. xx).” Further, “We are also making an outrageous proposal: that the church in its contemporary, institutional form has neither a biblical nor a historical right to function as it does (p. xx).”
What makes their critique of the traditional Sunday morning worship sequence interesting is their review of the origins of the familiar service outline. Aside from the pagan origins, they note the missed opportunity for spiritual transformation that could occur in a more active and participative format.
There are more traditions for readers to discover. The authors strip away holy costumes, plumb the depths of baptism, and study contemporary Christian education. In the end, they call readers to consider what is left after extra-biblical traditions have been removed. They sketch the outlines of the primitive church in the new Testament and advocate house churches where believers actively participate in worship, employ their gifts, and share their resources.
I believe these authors have been successful in exposing the roots of many favored traditions within contemporary Christian churches. At the very least, they provide a trove of research to
support the major themes. At times, I thought the authors over-reached. I had a so-what response to some exposures that regardless of the lack of foundation in scripture still serve a useful purpose. For example, I do not mind that there were no great painters or orchestras in Acts. I still appreciate the work of great artists to enhance spiritual experiences.
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