Reimagining Church (Preface / Introduction) (Frank Viola) – An Interaction.



Cover of the book Reimagining Church by Frank Viola
Cover via Amazon

[This post is in large part thanks to Andrew Hess, who has pushed my thinking on organic church and ‘forced’ me to do more reading and thinking about underlying church philosophy.]

In this post I will attempt to summarize and respond to many of the main thoughts in Frank Viola‘s work Reimagining Church which argues that church is not as it should be and requires a radical abandonment and re-imagining. If you, like me, “love the church” Viola’s writings can be quite inflammatory. Yet, we must admit that the issues he raises are the same issues we talk about over meals, in classes, and bring before God in our prayers. Let’s see if we can pass over the broad generalizations and take to heart the specific errors and admonitions that may be useful to us.


  • “After thirteen years of attending scores of churches and parachurch organizations, I took the daring step of leaving the institution church.”
    • Red Flag. I am not surprised Viola didn’t find “church” in these thirteen years, one has to be the church to find the “church” – and moving between churches this much (unless this is significant hyperbole) does not allow one to be the church.
  • “…the spiritual growth that I myself experienced seemed to occur outsideof traditional church settings.”
    • I’d agree, the church is not a replacement for our personal spiritual growth but a facilitator of this growth.
  • “…something deep within me longed for an experience of church that mapped to what I read about in my New Testament.”
    • I’m expecting him to develop this idea further…what exactly does he want to experience that the NT church had? The order of service? The community? The passion?
  • “By no means am I criticizing the church. In fact, I’m writing this volume because I love the church very much.”
    • I know, I know, we might feel a little skeptical about this statement – but Scripture tells us that loves “hopes” and “believes the best” – so let us apply this metric to Viola.
    • I think Viola does desire the best for the church, the question is whether the best he conceives is always the best in all places, everywhere, for all people and whether the manner of the discussion is helpful or harmful to the furtherance of the church – as it truly is and should be.
  • “Please note that my aim in writing is constructive rather than controversial.”
    • Ahh, now that is an attitude to work with, it will take one far in making progress – whatever arena of life one may be working in.


  • “We are living in an age hopelessly below the New Testament pattern–content with a neat little religion.” – Martin Lloyd-Jones.
    • Ouch! Viola that’s not fair! You can’t quote people within our own “church” circles to undermine our ideas! Ouch!
  • “Countless Christians…have come to the conviction that the institutional church as we know it today is not only ineffective, but it’s also without biblical merit.”
    • On the one hand, “church” can be extremely ineffective…on the other hand – how does one define the “institutional church”?1Yes, I am purposely participating in the revolt against including punctuation within quotations. Viva la Geeks! Can one broadly stroke so many various churches with one broad brush?
    • I like to encourage specific criticism, rather than generalizations. Tell me what is wrong specifically, not generically, I am a little concerned, thus, by the general broad strokes…but, hey, we are just at the beginning – give Viola some time.
  • Viola suggests that the church is an organism not an institution, and notes that most Christians agree with this statement but “as they formed those very words, they continued to be devout members of churches that were organized along the lines of General Motors and Microsoft.”
    • Yes, I agree the church is an organism…No, I don’t attend a mega-church, so it’s not like GM or Microsoft, but might be a bit like the mom and pop store on the corner…
  • “The ‘institutional church’ is a system–a way of doing‘church.'”
    • I’d suggest that everything organic (in movements, etc.) has a tendency to move towards instititutionalism, and that this is not necessarily (in and of itself) a bad thing, rather that when the organic is sacrificed on the altar of the institution (and this is a natural tendency), then one has a bad thing.
  • “…I am referring to those churches that operate primarily as institutions that exist above, beyond, and independent of the members that populate them. These churches are constructed on programs and rituals more than relationships. They are highly structured, typically building-centered organizations regulated by set-apart professionals…who are aided by volunteers…They require staff, building, salaries, and administration. In the institutional church, congregants watch a religious performance once or twice a week led principally by one person…, and then retreat home to live their individual lives.”
    • I like this definition, though the first sentence sounds nice, I found it lacking in preciseness. I cannot conceive of a church that exists in this manner…at least not any growing/thriving church…I think even businesses realize that they exist b/c and by the participation of their customers.
    • “programs” – yeah, we have those…not sure if that is a bad thing in and of itself? Programs can facilitate or destroy organic life.
    • “rituals” – yeah, we have some of those…and again, I’d say these can be bad, or not. It depends on whether we are intentional in our execution – individually and corporately. Do our rituals facilitate interaction with God? If not, by all means throw them out the window.
    • “highly structured” – yeah, and this can be a problem…unless the structure facilitates rather than restricts.
    • “building-centered” – yeah, that can happen too…but I don’t think many church leaders are building-centered…and, yet again, buildings can facilitate or inhibit organic life.
    • “set-apart professionals” – CCC doesn’t have those right now…we are all volunteers – but I’d love to see us have one! I can’t tell you how much work it is to do while working full-time! So, I’m not sure that I see this as being an issue either, necessarily.
    • “congregants watch a religious performance” – Yes, this is oftentimes true…and this is bad…but I do not want “church” to be this, and I don’t think most other ministry leaders do either – spot-on criticism.
    • “led principally by one person” – Spot on again, but again, not how it needs to be, should be, or how most ministry leaders want it to be.
    • “retreat home to live their individual lives” – Yes, this is very true…but the “church” can encourage this behavior or it can encourage life in community, life as part of the body.
  • “In short, this book reimagines a vision of church that’s organic in its construction; relational in its functioning; scriptural in its form; Christ-centered in its operation; Trinitarian in its shape; communitarian in its lifestyle; nonelitist in its attitude; and nonsectarian in its expression.”
    • Yes! Yes! YES! I don’t know many who would object to this reimagination of church…so what is all the hubbub about? Its about implementation. I think people generally agree with Viola’s essential evaluation of the issues and ideas of what church should be, but the means by which this is accomplished – and whether it can be accomplished within church bounds is what is the rub.

Whew! I had intended to write on the first chapter as well, but this post is quite long already and its 1:00 a.m. and I have to work in the morning! Pahh! Well, there ya go. Feel free to give me your feedback and I’ll try to post on Chapter 1 soon.

Verizon Fios – The Ugly Side.

I’ve talked about how great Verizon Fios is previously. And at that time I noted a few downsides that hurt the service quality but still noted the ISP was the best I’d used. Today I’m going to rant a little longer about the ugly side of FiOS, mainly because I have just gone through/am still going through an excruciating experience1I rant in part about these types of situations because the bureaucracy in these large companies makes it almost impossible to get help. Oftentimes a blog posting is the most effective way to get real help.. That said, I still recommend FiOS2I recommend more the technology than the service. At this juncture there is no alternative provider with the same technology available in this geographic region. On a similar note, the use of traditional DSL through alternative providers does not actually circumvent utilizing Verizon as these providers operate over Verizon’s lines. Satellite/Cable are true alternatives and WiMax (Sprint’s Xohm) when it becomes available will be another real alternative.

On Thursday, 10/16/08 I tried to log onto the internet. No connection. Between 10/16-10/17 I would make seven major phone calls to Verizon in an attempt to resolve this issuing totaling approximately 250 minutes (over 4 hours). Verizon for an unknown reason3Not only unknown to me but also unknown to them. They did not know why I was disconnected, just that they had done it. disconnected my FiOS service4Second time this has happened since establishing service with them.. Okay, no big deal – reestablish the service5Unfortunately it takes hours for this to occur. As a Network Engineer I am still unable to comprehend what could possibly take so long in the assignment of an IP address when all the physical wiring actually exists and has for some time.. They create an entirely new account and inform me at the same time that I can no longer have my less-expensive 5 Mbps/2 Mbps subscription but must upgrade to a 10 Mbps/2 Mbps. Again, not a huge deal – $10/mo. – but doesn’t make an unhappy customer happy when you screw up and then demand he pay a higher price for the service.

The installation was supposed to be completed by the end of that day. At the end of the day I called back, ohh – somebody screwed up the order. I would talk to approximately three people between that call and calls the following day attempting to get the order straightened out. They placed at least two new orders and finally one of them kicked through. In all, it was around 48 hours without internet access.

Then the internet access finally returned. Great! I’m a happy man…Till its slower than DSL. I run some speedtests. Yup, certainly slower than DSL – and ping tests against Google/Yahoo’s servers revealed that occasional timeouts where occurring and response times were slow (over 100 ms typical). More phone calls to Verizon6Unfortunately my cell records have not updated to show me the length of those calls, so I cannot report their exact duration – but it was several and the time was significant.. Yes, my service is now working. No, the service is very slow. How do I know? Well, I used a bandwidth test. Run through the normal diagnostics – resetting wireless router, plugging directly into FiOS connection, resetting the FiOS box outside my house – sending the issue over to a tech. to look at. The pings drop down – Google/Yahoo now in the 10 ms range, but the speed is still horrific. Maybe its the bandwidth tester – well, I trust Speakeasy’s test but, sure, let’s try Verizon’s. Verizon shows even more dismal speeds. Ahh, forget Verizon’s speed test let’s try Now if I go to the server in Newark I get 10 Mbps, but almost everywhere else its slow as anything. Will I run the FiOS settings optimizer7Glorified IE/TCP optimizer.? Sure. Still nothing. I’m tired, I’m going in circles. I talk to a supervisor. Same thing. They want to send me a new router. Sure, you can do that, but since I’m plugging directly into the connection and bypassing the router it’s not the router. Okay, we’ll have a technician look at it. Great – never hear from them again.

The connection has slowly improved. Dropped packets have decreased, but overall the network is slow. Streaming video doesn’t work well – unless you happen to hit 1% of the servers that seem to be operating on Verizon’s network at high speeds.

So, that is my situation as of today. Two days without internet – now extremely slow internet. Calling into technical support is an exercise in frustration. I can’t speak to someone who understands the problem is a technical issue on Verizon’s side. My guess? Either my circuit settings where entered wrong or they have a bad router somewhere along the line. 99% of my traffic is going through the bad router – if I happen to hit a server that takes another route (doesn’t use that router) then I get good speeds.

Anyone else having this problem? The phone support from Verizon has improved in that I don’t spend 15 minutes dialing through automated voice support – but the help desk support doesn’t have a clear escalation path beyond themselves and so I am at an ends. Vague promises of a “network tech.” looking into it and no followup leaves me with little hope of a long-term solution.


Spoke to a technician at Verizon who knew what I was talking about and again submitted a ticket to the network tech. guys. His name was Dan…If any Verizon people do read this, he needs a promotion – his networking knowledge is far beyond most of his peers. In any case, he agrees the issue is one with the route being taken to reach the final website. To give everyone an idea here is a tracert to (note the length of the route, its extremely, ridiculously long):

1 1 ms <1 ms <1 ms Wireless_Broadband_Router.home []
2 4 ms 4 ms 4 ms []
3 7 ms 6 ms 7 ms []
4 7 ms 6 ms 7 ms []
5 7 ms * 7 ms []
6 13 ms 12 ms 11 ms []
7 13 ms 11 ms 12 ms []
8 22 ms 49 ms 99 ms
9 88 ms 86 ms 87 ms []
10 580 ms 576 ms 724 ms []
11 580 ms 484 ms 96 ms []
12 115 ms 97 ms 96 ms []
13 87 ms 87 ms 86 ms []
14 88 ms 87 ms 86 ms []
15 99 ms 99 ms 99 ms []
16 88 ms 86 ms 87 ms []
17 87 ms 86 ms 87 ms []
18 98 ms 96 ms 117 ms
19 111 ms 96 ms 97 ms
20 103 ms 98 ms 89 ms
21 91 ms 92 ms 91 ms
22 92 ms 92 ms 104 ms
23 93 ms 106 ms 117 ms
24 102 ms 94 ms 104 ms
25 105 ms 104 ms 104 ms []

Unfortunately 99% of the sites I visit appear to be routing in this same, obtuse method. 1% take a different router and operate at blazing fast speeds.