I link you to a book review of "Pagan Christianity" by Kruse Kronicle.
I have not read the book. I link it because the review provides a pretty good summary of the content of the book, and is material worthy of discussion in and of itself. I also link it because I have a little history with Frank Viola, and it's just funny to see a review of a book by a guy you know. Not enough history to really guess at the quality of this book, but he tied into the group I left about a year before I quit. We never really met, but we heard about each other and have talked since.
If you read the review, and read the list of pagan elements that have been added to Christianity over the centuries, you are reading my history. These were the things I learned in 1983 that put me off the organized church for a quarter century. As I read the list again, for about the hundredth time, I really don't know what to think. I was willing to do anything to see the church cleansed from those pollutions. I was aching to die on that mountain for decades, and I still see all those additions to the word of God as mistakes. But the passion is gone for me. And that's usually a bad place for me.
I think, this time, it's the right place for me.
The shift started when I took my latest position at work. I was made responsible for coming up with processes that worked for 400 really smart, regular people. Over 4 years of dealing with these folk, I learned that esoterica is completely ineffective. Nobody cares. Nobody. Not one person. Everyone wants to be part of a team that works. They don't care why it works or the hidden subtleties that play out in the background. I have been a high idealist all my life, and have always wanted all the subtleties to come together in a perfect picture of elegance. Learning that most people don't even see the things I treasure was a shock. Learning that they tend to be more successful than me was a crisis. But learn I have.
I'm currently taking a course in ITIL. You don't even care what that means, believe me, but it's a massive framework of subtleties. I should be able to take this back to my job and make all sorts of tweaks and tunings, but I cannot. No one could. If I'm going to introduce new ITIL concepts at work, I need to prove that they'll work. Nothing else matters.
Pagan Christianity seeks to tear down a bunch of stuff that is working for people.
I sought to tear down a bunch of stuff that was working for people.
Neither Frank nor I is going to have much luck.
I'm sure Frank has his eyes wide open to that fact. I know I did. But it didn't matter, because that was the hill I was tasked with taking. I had these truths, so I was responsible to shout them from the rooftops - the watcher who sounds no alarm, and all that stuff. I was looking forward to dying on that hill. (You know how it is - I was young.)
Then, about 2 months ago, I had this radical change of perspective. All we need to do is bloom where we're planted. Leave the pastors and the sermons and the church buildings where they are, and focus on fellowshipping deeply with those closest to us. The idea is radical to most of you, because it means being of one mind with a church with which you may not completely agree. It's radical to me because it means leaving behind years of ranting against everything those churches stand for.
This may or may not make sense to you, but seeing Frank charging up that hill spurs a little soul-searching. It's more than nostalgic, but less than melancholic. I've given up exactly the fight Frank is carrying forward with this book. And it's impossible to see that without questioning whether I've made the right decision.
Sally-Jane says I have.
Sally-Jane wants to love her Lord and serve Him successfully. I will always believe she would be best served to do so in the way Frank is presenting, but Sally-Jane cannot make that jump. She cannot. She cannot imagine a Christianity without buildings, sermons and services and every time I try to describe it to her she battens down the hatches and waits for the storm to blow over.
Frank's Christianity necessarily becomes elitist. It becomes a gathering of people who are curious about esoterica. It becomes a disorganization in opposition to the organized religion around it.
And in the end, who cares? The bible does not forbid church buildings, sermons, and sacramentalism (yes, I know some of you hold that it explicitly orders all these things - that's fine.) So, why spend time fighting them? I can make the smart people at work start doing ITIL if I can show them that their current methods are not successful, and my new methods will be. I need both a stick and a carrot. Frank believes he has both. I have to disagree.
The home church movement elevates the practice of gathering to a division-level doctrine. This has to be a step in the wrong direction.
This was way more than I meant to write on this subject, and it is more disjointed than I like but I'm not going to edit it. I hope it makes sense.