Pagan Christianity?

This is a book I’ve  had in my Amazon cart for a very long time.  Recently I ran into an article online about the book and I decided to add it to my list of books to read in the coming weeks.

Here is some information courtesy of Amazon about the book in case you want to look for a copy at your local library or purchase it. 

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, and choirs? This ground-breaking book, now in affordable softcover, makes an unsettling proposal: most of what Christians do in present-day churches is rooted, not 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 and extensive footnotes that document the origins of modern Christian church practices. In the process, the authors uncover the problems that emerge when the church functions more like a business organization than the living organism it was created to be. As you reconsider Christ’s revolutionary plan for his church—to be the head of a fully functioning body in which all believers play an active role—you’ll be challenged to decide whether you can ever do church the same way again.

Many Christians take for granted that their church’s practices are rooted in Scripture. Yet those practices look very different from those of the first-century church. The New Testament is not silent on how the early church freely expressed the reality of Christ’s indwelling in ways that rocked the first-century world.

Times have changed. Pagan Christianity leads us on a fascinating tour through church history, revealing this startling and unsettling truth: Many cherished church traditions embraced today originated not out of the New Testament, but out of pagan practices. One of the most troubling outcomes has been the effect on average believers: turning them from living expressions of Christ’s glory and power to passive observers. If you want to see that trend reversed, turn to Pagan Christianity . . . a book that examines and challenges every aspect of our contemporary church experience.

Here are a few commentaries courtesy of the Publisher from people that have read the book :

“Most contemporary Christians are massively ignorant as to how the church got to where it is today and of how much current church practice is due simply to accumulated tradition, with little or no roots in Scripture. This book provides a useful service in peeling back the layers of tradition, showing the origins of much that we today call “church.” Christians who want to be biblically faithful, regardless of their particular tradition or church form, can learn and benefit from the book.”
Howard Snyder, Professor of History and Theology of Mission, Asbury Theological Seminary, author of “The Problem of Wineskins” and “The Community of the King.”

“PAGAN CHRISTIANITY is a landmark, a true milestone in the overall task of bringing in a new style of responsible, interactive Christianity to replace the old, severely paganized ecclesiastical forms. Frank has done us a great favor, drawing together revealing tidbits from hundreds of sources to create a continuous picture of the formation of today’s institutional church. There’s nothing like it in print. It is now THE book on church history from the point of view of the underground, open church.”
James Rutz, author of “Megashift” and “The Open Church.”

“PAGAN CHRISTIANITY contains a wide variety of interesting and helpful historical information of which most Christians – or non-Christians – will be completely unaware. The book identifies – in part or in whole – the pagan roots of many of our current church practices, as well as indicates some borrowed from earlier Jewish or, occasionally, more recent Customs.”
Robert Banks, New Testament scholar, author of “Paul’s Idea of Community” and “The Church Comes Home.”

“This feisty book attacks the incipient paganism that has been absorbed into historic Christianity over the years. It exposes the syncretistic weak spots in what we assume to be basic in our way of doing church. Thoroughly iconoclastic, it is also at the same time a good apologetic for the house church movement which has strong restorationist impulses. My guess is that it will anger some readers and thrill others. I am one of the latter. Whatever, it won’t be too easy to dismiss as it is really well researched and substantiated. I think it is definitely worth the read even if I do think it is a tad purist in tone. Just don’t drop it-it is likely to explode.”
Alan Hirsch, author of “The Forgotten Ways” and “The Shaping of Things to Come.”

“Driving out demons is easy – compared with changing habits and traditions of man that develop into idols, to give us what only God should give us: identity, security, destiny. As in a child, the original God-given conscience is clean and clear. Many new born Christians feel the same and have an automatic feel for what is right. But in the case of organized Evangelicalism in the West, they are swiftly taken into a religious system that basically believes everything that Mom and Pap says — and happily embrace “church practices” that are not in the Bible. Many just “know” at some point something is terribly wrong with Church-as-they-know-it. PAGAN CHRISTIANITY not only substantiates these ill feelings in millions of Christians with hard facts, but it provides us with a road map for the journey ahead. Once we know where we went wrong, repentance and finding the right way forward comes much easier.”
Wolfgang Simpson, author of “Houses That Change the World.”

“Anyone interested in the worship of the New Testament church and how that was altered through the centuries will find Frank Viola’s PAGAN CHRISTIANITY very useful. The authors’ position is clear and quite well documented.”
Graydon F. Snyder, Professor of New Testament, Chicago Theological Seminary, author of “Ante Pacem: Church Life Before Constantine.”

“As a Christian Artist/Musician I’ve had a chance to experience many different kinds of churches all over the world, from huge cathedral services to bizarre charismatics and strange Third World stuff to stiff denominationals– and good and bad “house churches”. For nearly 35 years in North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Australia I’ve been involved with almost every conceivable kind of Christian expression. I’ve even served on staff as Worship Pastor at a large church here in the U.S. The result? I’ve already learned from study and experience what Frank Viola and George Barna have proven by historical documentation in PAGAN CHRISTIANITY: The traditional model of how we “do church” is very wrong — and it’s strangling Christ’s Body. No matter where you are in your Christian journey, you need to read this book. It’s truth whose time has come. Those who have never experienced His tangible presence as a regular occurrence when they meet will find it hard to believe that there is something more than what they know: It’s very hard to walk away from what you’ve invested your life in when you don’t know anything else. And the very grace of God Himself can be confusing: He’ll fill whatever cup we lift to Him, no matter how small.”
Don Francisco, Christian musician/songwriter.

“It’s a great read and my copy has already been STOLEN by my neighbor who is probably just as fascinated in its contents as I was. PAGAN CHRISTIANITY by house church guru Frank Viola and researcher/author George Barna who have teamed up to give us the most thorough treatment yet of the pagan origins of many of our most cherished Sunday church traditions. Actually, Jim Rutz nailed a few of these in his book “Open Church,” but Viola and Barna have gone far beyond Rutz, or anyone I know, in exposing more elements of Protestant church traditions to the scrutiny of historical research. Like dressing up for church. Pulpits and 3 point sermons. Clerical dog collars. Church steeples and seminary training. PAGAN CHRISTIANITY lets George Barna unpack his argument why the new Revolutionaries mentioned in his previous book are not rebelling against God by setting up organic house communities. And it gives Frank Viola the chance to put forward his best thinking yet in a series that has already assisted thousands of people in dealing biblically and historically with accusations of “lack of covering” or “neglecting church” or more recently, of adopting “pagan” practices in starting emerging churches. Ha! Watch as Franky and Georgy turn the tables! Controversial? Yes . . . DUH! . . and the backlash has already started.
Andrew Jones, tallskinnykiwi

“Why do we ‘do church’ the way we do? Most folks seem to assume that our Christian religious trappings can be traced all the way back to the first century. But they can’t. The things we hold dear-sacred buildings to meet in, pulpits, sacramental tables, clergy, liturgies, etc.-were unknown among Paul’s assemblies. PAGAN CHRISTIANITY looks at our major church traditions and documents when and how they appeared in the ages long after the apostles. Haven’t you ever wondered why people dress up in their best clothes for the Sunday morning service? PAGAN CHRISTIANITY unfolds the answer to this and numerous other questions looming in the back of many folks’ minds. Reading PAGAN CHRISTIANITY will open your eyes to the fact that the ecclesiastical emperor really has no clothes on.”
Jon Zens, editor of “Searching Together.”

“In recent years, an increasing number of us pastors have recognized a major blind spot in the living out of our commitment to a Biblical lifestyle. That blind spot is ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church). As a former Presbyterian pastor, I believe PAGAN CHRISTIANITY will play a vital role in shaping the growing conversation on this subject now and in the future. Well researched and well written, this book is accessible to both church leaders and those formerly known as the laity.”
John White, former Evangelical Presbyterian pastor; Community Facilitator for LUKE TEN: A Community of Practice for Church Planters.

“PAGAN CHRISTIANITY documents specific areas where contemporary church life violates Biblical principles. It is painful to read because it requires taking a journey beyond the comfort zone of our present paradigms. Whether you agree with all the conclusions the author draws or not, you will have no argument with his documentation. It is a scholarly work with an explosive conclusion. Particularly for those of us in the modern cell church movement, this is a valuable tool to force rethinking the meaning of the word “ecclesia.” The Holy Spirit is not pleased with churchianity as we practice it, nor is the watching unchurched world.”
Ralph W. Neighbour, Jr., author of “Where Do We Go From Here?” and founder of the Cell Church Movement.

“Frank Viola and George Barna have teamed up to create an intelligent, readable, and yet challenging work about the historical roots of the many unbiblical modern church practices that hinder Christian growth in quality and church growth in quantity. Anyone who reads Pagan Christianity with an open mind and heart will never see the church the same way again. May those with newly-gained spiritual eyes not stop there, but go on to do something about it.”
Rad Zdero, Ph.D., Author of “The Global House Church Movement” and Editor of “Nexus: The World House Church Movement Reader.”

“Frank has done a masterful job both researching and then weaving together the threads that have made modern church practices what they are – pagan substitutes for authentic church life. One nice thing about PAGAN CHRISTIANITY is that it provides the history behind a perception that many of us Christians share: The way the modern Western church does things has little to do with the organic life we see in the New Testament. The difference is so great sometimes that one wonders how one could possibly have transmuted into the other.”
Hal Miller, author of “Christian Community: Biblical or Optional?”

“This is an important book which demonstrates that many of the practical aspects of contemporary church life, ministry and structure have little or no biblical basis and are, in fact, inspired by a wide variety of non Christian patterns and ideas most of which are inimical to Christian life and growth. Many readers will find this book challenging in the extreme but all who are concerned with the future of the church should read it.”
Dave Norrington, Lecturer of religious studies at Blackpool and the Fylde College, author of “To Preach or Not to Preach.”

Here is an excerpt from the book:

I Need to Get this Off My Chest

As I mom and just a plain old gal, I feel the need to stand up and speak out about the world’s concept of beauty and our own superficiality, emptiness, identity and broken hearts.  Most concerning is the message the world is sending to our girls.  “Buy this and you’ll be beautiful.”  “Use this lipstick and you’ll be desirable.”  Everyday a young girl and or grown woman decides to take her life because of the feeling that she is not worth anything and that she doesn’t fit the mark of perfection drawn out for us by mainstream society.

However, we (men and women) are not defined by fashion, money, beauty or social status. Our worth and value comes from the loving Father in heaven that created us in His sight and according to His image and likeness! But there will always be people who take extreme care of their bodies and freak out about every single calorie that is eaten. Or they indulge in every single calorie in an effort to satisfy a deeper hunger.  

Being a health and wellness educator and researcher I understand this all to well because before God transformed me I found myself really consumed with my physical appearance.  I recall going to the gym every single day and spending 2 or more hours a day just to have the perfect body. At times even if I was sick I just could not skip going because in essence my work outs were one of my idols.  And behind those idols were lots of things that I had not yet confessed and given up to my savior. Not that working out is bad, on the contrary, eating healthy, exercising and resting is good for our bodies but has very little impact on our souls.

Too often we are fixated with appearance and how we look on the outside. We try and compensate for how we feel on the inside by how we dress and act on the outside. That’s why so many people overeat, vomit their food and starve themselves, because there is a deep wound on the inside, a scared child that has been masked by external things like food or lack of food which has no impact on the real problem. I must say that it is good to keep your body healthy, because by doing so you will live longer and be able to accomplish whatever God has placed you on this earth to do. But no, your body is not everything because one day it will be eaten away by worms when you leave this earth.

It is unfortunate how many girls both young and old struggle with the feeling of not being beautiful and accepted in society and even in their own families.  They go through life aimlessly wandering trying every new clothing item, makeup, relationship and fad all in an effort to try to satisfy a need that only our heavenly Father can fill. This breaks my heart.

If I had a loud speaker where the whole world could hear me, I would say the following:
It’s only when we understand the purpose for our lives and we remove the blinders, the need to be perfect, have financial status, the obsession with fashion for the wrong reasons, and superficiality that we are truly gorgeous in Gods sight.  And these changes can only come about by allowing Gods love to pour into our souls and by giving Him all that ties us to the worlds concept of how we should live our life.  After we accept His love and give him all that we are, we must repent for our sins so he can restore us and make us new.  Only then are we able to receive all that was planned for us to have from the day we were created; and once that beauty is discovered and accepted it will radiate from the inside out.

So please pay attention to the deeper more important things. Seek the help and of a friend or counselor. Pray and ask God to reveal any hidden idols keeping you tied to the worlds standards. Remember, we are called to be in the world but not of it. We are also told: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world.”

Regardless of where you are spiritually, know that those things which you can’t handle, you can give to God, the handler of all things ugly and difficult!
Lots of Love Mariana

God is Searching for Extraordinary Disciples – Are you One?

The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9

God is looking for men and women whose hearts are firmly fixed on Him and who will continually trust Him for all He desired to do with their lives.  God is ready and eager to work more powerfully than ever through His people, and the clock of the centuries is striking the eleventh hour. 

The world is watching and waiting to see what God can do through a life committed to Him.  And not only is the world waiting but God Himself awaits to see who will be the most completely devoted person who has ever lived: willing to be nothing so Christ may be everything; fully accepting God purposes as his own; receiving Christ’s humility, faith, love and power yet never hindering Gods plan but always allowing him to continue His miraculous work. 

There is no limit to what God can do through you, provided you do not seek your own glory. 

George Mueller at more than 90 years of age, in an address to ministers and other Christian workers, said, “ I was converted in November 1825, but I didn’t come to the point of total surrender of my heart until four years later, in July 1827.  It was then I realized my love for money, prominence, position, power and worldly pleasure was gone.  God and he alone, became my all in all.  I him I found everything I needed and I desired nothing else.  By Gods grace, my understanding of His sufficiency has remained to this day, making me an exceedingly happy man.  It has lead me to care only about the things of God.  And so dear believers, I kindly ask if you have totally surrendered your heart to God, or is there something in your life you refuse to release, in spite of Gods call? 

Before the point at which I surrendered my life, I read a little of the scriptures but preferred other books.  Yet since that time, the truth He has revealed to me of Himself has become an inexpressible blessing.  Now I can honestly say from the depth of my heart that God is an infinitely wonderful being.”

My prayer today is that God would make me an extraordinary Christian.  

 

Source Streams in the Desert

Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me? John 18:11

To “drink the cup” was a greater thing than calming the seas or raising the dead.  The prophets and apostles could do amazing miracles, but they did not always do the will of God and thereby suffered as a result. 

Doing Gods will and then experiencing suffering is still the highest form of faith, and the most glorious Christian achievement. 

Having your brightest aspirations as a young person forever crushed; bearing burdens daily that are always difficult, and never seeing relief; finding yourself worn down by poverty while simply desiring to do good for others and provide a comfortable living for those you love; being shackled by an incurable physical disability; being completely alone, separated from all those you love, to face the trauma of life alone,: yet in all these, still being able to say through such a difficult school of discipline, “Shall I not drink the cup the father has given me?” – this is faith at its highest, and spiritual success at its crowning point.  Great faith is exhibited not so much in doing as in suffering. 

In order to have a sympathetic God, we must have a suffering Savior, for true sympathy comes from understanding another persons hurt by suffering the same affliction.  Therefore we cannot help others who suffer without paying a price ourselves, because afflictions are the cost we pay for our ability to sympathize.  Those who wish to help others must first suffer.  If we wish to rescue others, we must be willing to face the cross; experiencing the greatest happiness in life through ministering to others is impossible without drinking the cup Jesus drank and without submitting to the baptism He endured. 

The most comforting of David’s psalms were squeezed from his life by suffering, and if Paul had not been given “a thorn in the flesh” we would have missed much of the heartbeat of tenderness that resonates through so many of his letters. 

If you have surrendered yourself to Christ, your present circumstances that seem to be pressing so hard against you are the perfect tool in the Fathers hand to chisel you into shape for eternity.  So trust Him and never push away the instrument He is using, or you will miss the result of His work in your life. 

The school of suffering graduates exceptional scholars. 

 

Source: Streams in the Desert

 

Why Fast?

The bible speaks about fasting in the Old and New Testament but more often than not we have a blurry view on why we fast.  Many churches today hold a fast with the goal of obtaining an answer from God or to see Him work or simply to seek His face.  We see an example of this correct type of fast in the Book of Esther chapter 4 where a strong and fearless queen Esther asks Mordecai to tell the Jews to fast for three days while she and her maidservants do the same.  Queen Esther’s response to Mordecai about fasting comes after he challenges her spiritually by saying that she may have been placed as queen “for such a time as this.” 

Although what he was asking her to do went against the law per se, she had a higher calling on her life and was to be used as an instrument to save the Jews from annihilation. 

Her call to fast is one of faith while actively waiting in anticipation to see how the God of Israel will work to deliver His people.  Esther knew she could die in the process but she continues with Gods plan and fasting anyways. 

This is a beautiful story on how and why fasting is done.  If you finish reading the book of Esther you will see that after the 3 day fast the story takes an amazing turn that only God could have planned. 

However there are those that fast for selfish reasons or to show others how spiritual they are.  By doing this type of fast, they violate everything Jesus says in the book of Matthew chapter 6 about fasting.  It reminds me of a favored quote from John Chrysostom where he says: “What good is it if we abstain from eating birds and fish, but bite and devour our brothers?” 

If that does not sum it up then I don’t know what will.  Fasting therefore is not just skipping out on meals, but it consists of denial of all of our worldly passions for the Father to be glorified in and through us.  If we fast and mistreat others in the process then that is not the type of fast that God wants of us. 

Like Esther, we may fast to heed the Fathers calling and pray for His strength and His will to be manifested in us. 

Here are some great scriptures you can read and meditate on that speak about fasting.  I list the whole chapter because its important to always read scripture within the context of the chapter and the book it is written in. 

Isaiah 58

Joel 2

Matthew 6

Acts 13

Lots of Love – Mariana

My Prayers are with you Aurora Colorado

We are a family that stays away from TV.  We have a TV but if it gets turned on, it’s usually to watch a movie on DVD or an old VHS movie.  

Yesterday when we were shopping at WholeFoods the gentleman in the meat area asked my husband if he had heard of the news about a shooting in Colorado.  My husband turned to me as I looked through the things in our cart.  I only half heard what he was asking and shrugged my shoulders and head as if to say no. 

The kids were carrying on asking: “Mommy can I have this, look mommy, look over here” so I really did not understand what he was asking me at first… 

“Shooting” I said to him, “no I did not know of anything like that.”  The gentleman in the meat area then went on to explain to us what happened. 

How tragic I thought to myself, my heart sank for moment.  But it was not until this morning as I was driving into work, amidst rain and slow traffic that it hit me.  I felt a deep pain in my heart and started to cry.  I kept thinking of the mother of the young man who is responsible for shooting and killing 12 people and injuring over 50 in Aurora Colorado. I thought about the dear parents who lost children and all of the people who lost someone or who are caring for someone who was injured the day of the shooting.  I thought about my own children, their sweet innocence and how I would feel if at this moment they were no longer here.  I cried even more. 

It’s a hard thing to grasp and understand.  So many questions remain unanswered about why this young man did what he did.  There are no words of consolation I can offer for those that have lost someone they love.  However, I can pray and will continue to pray for Gods healing balm to cover the broken hearted.  Brothers and sisters in Aurora Colorado, I don’t know who you are but know that you have a sister in Florida that is praying for you. 

I know how it feels to loose a loved one tragically and without warning.  It’s a crippling sensation in your gut that can leave you broken and angry. 

My prayer is that Gods peace which surpasses all human understanding would be with you and guard you.  My deepest condolences go out to those who have suffered through this tragic event.  I will continue to pray for you in the days to come. 

And for the rest of us who stand by and watch as this story unfolds, let us not forget for a moment that our life on this earth is like a vapor.  One moment its here and another moment it’s gone.  We know not the day when our clock will tick its last bit and we will be summoned home. 

News like this reminds me to stop majoring on the minors and truly live each day as God has planned for me, not wasting any time in selfish arguments and unimportant tasks.

Life in our physical bodies is God’s gift to us if we accept His redeeming love and salvation.  It’s life for our soul and a promise of his eternal love for us.  Let us not waist time on the foolishness of the world that surrounds us, let us instead seek to know God truly, understand His will for our life and commit to following Him so that through his Spirit and by His grace we can impact a hurting world that is desperate to know of His love.

The words from 2 survivors of this shooting sums this post up beautifully.

With a heavy heart for those who are now suffering,

Mariana