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Pagan Christianity ~ Frank Viola and George Barna

Reimagining Church ~ Frank Viola 

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Frank Viola – Author – Schreiben & Lektorat | XING

God’s Favorite Place on Earth: An Interview with Frank Viola | Logos

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Award Winning Writer and Author Frank Viola Releases His New Book

Christian Leaders Beth Moore and Frank Viola Defend Rick Warren

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Websites for Jon Zens, friend and co-worker to Frank Viola

Jon Zens | LinkedIn

View Jon Zens’s professional profile on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the world’s largest business network, helping professionals like Jon Zens discover inside 

What’s with Paul and Women?: Jon Zens, Wade Burleson 

 as a clear mandate to silence women in the church for over 1500 years. In What’s With Paul & Women? Jon Zens exposes the fallacies of this interpretation.

Istoria Ministries Blog: Searching Together, Edited by Jon Zens

Sep 21, 2010 – One of my favorite theologians is Jon Zens. Jon edits the quarterly periodical called Searching Together, formerly known as the Baptist 

Is Paul sexist? (with Dr. Jon Zens) – YouTube

Adam Zens and Bo Bennet interview Dr. Jon Zens. Jon explains why he doesn’t think that Paul is sexist and 

Gatherings In The Early Church. By Jon Zens | house2housemagazine

Oct 17, 2013 – Gatherings In The Early Church. By Jon Zens. Sharing Christ with One Another, Not Listening to a Pulpit Monologue. Although I have problems 

Jon Zens Talks About His New Book: No Will of My Own

May 7, 2011 – Author Jon Zens joined in earlier today at Jocelyn Andersen’s Blog Talk  In his Introduction to No Will of My Own, Jon states, “In this case, 

Four Tragic Shifts in the Visible Church | Jon Zens – Granted Ministries

Read “Four Tragic Shifts in the Visible Church” by Jon Zens. Download for free. See our review.

Jon Zens: The Pastor Has No Clothes | 5 Pt. Salt

Aug 15, 2011 – This is the kind of thing that makes you go “Hmmm….” Or…. “Are you kidding me?” Related Post: The Pastor-Teacher: One Calling, One Office



Frank Viola Author Meets CoWorkers of Watchman Nee and T. Austin-Sparks

From the bio of Frank Viola Author

      1993 was an extraordinary year. I began devouring all of Watchman Nee’s books that I could get my hands on. I also began reading the works of T. Austin-Sparks, Nee’s friend and mentor.

      In my personal judgment, T. Austin-Sparks and Watchman Nee had the most profound revelation of God’s eternal purpose in Christ since the apostle Paul. Perhaps what impressed me most about both men was that each had a tremendous grasp of Scripture, theology, and church history. At the same time, they both had a unique experience with the Lord and a deep knowledge of His ways. To put it in Biblical terms, both men “knew the Scriptures as well as the power of God” En. Matthew 22:29.

      Biblical scholarship is important. But one shouldn’t drink it on the rocks. It goes down much smoother with a mixer. The best mixer for Biblical scholarship is the deeper Christian life (also called “Christian spirituality”). Both Sparks and Nee held both in beautiful tension.

      (Incidentally, I’ve met people who tried valiantly to polarize these two elements, suggesting that those who are students of Scripture and theology couldn’t possibly know the Lord very well. And those who know the Lord well don’t give a hoot about Scripture or theology. This is spurious thinking at best.)

      Reading both Nee and Austin-Sparks sent me on a spiritual odyssey. I wanted to find out all I could about both men. I wanted to learn what they learned. And more importantly, I wanted to experience what they experienced of the Lord.

      So I began writing letters to people in England who were part of the Honor Oak Fellowship where Austin-Sparks ministered. I heard wonderful stories. Some were flat out fascinating. A number of years later, I flew up to Louisville, Kentucky and met Austin-Sparks’ daughter. An interesting experience to say the least.

      I followed the same path with Watchman Nee. I got my hands on every biography of his that was written in English, and I sought out those who knew him personally.

      In this connection, I met two men who would greatly influence my life. In meeting them, I discovered that our little non-traditional church wasn’t alone in our quest to recover New Testament simplicity.

      I met both men in the summer of 1993. One man was trained by and had co-worked with Watchman Nee. The other man had co-worked with T. Austin-Sparks.

      Both men would become personal friends and mentors. What impressed me most about them was not only their extraordinary revelation of Christ and the depth of their walk with the Lord. It was their character. Both men emitted the meekness, the graciousness, the honesty, and the humility of Jesus Himself.

      These men not only spoke of a glorious Christ; they lived Christ. And that’s what separates sheep from sheep.

      Since then, I’ve met others who were Christ-centered in their message, but who were also egocentric, self-indulgent, disingenuous, sectarian, cruel and harsh in their characters. And the latter betrays the former.

      In my opinion, these two men are giants in the land, and I am privileged to know them. Only the Lord knows how much they have contributed to the Kingdom of God. They are mostly hidden vessels, but choice servants of the Lord worthy of emulation.

      They taught me a great deal. I shall always be grateful for them and for the two men—Watchman Nee and T. Austin-Sparks—whose shoulders they stood upon.

      In knowing these two men—both of whom are in their 90s and 80s respectively—I learned the immense value of drawing from experienced Christian workers who know the cross deeply and who possess the riches of Christ to build the church. I also discovered that churches that gather outside traditional lines need outside help from such Christians if they wish to grow in the Lord’s fullness.

      The truth is that organic church life is a high-maintenance undertaking. It requires continual energy from lots of people over an unmercifully long period of time.

      Science gives us a wonderful illustration of this. The second law of thermodynamics says that all things left to themselves tend toward entropy. Entropy is disorder, breakdown, and disintegration. This law applies not only to physical systems, but also to people groups.

      In time, entropy degrades every human endeavor. Every person runs out of steam over time. We all burn out of fuel. The persistent energy that’s required to keep a group of Christians moving forward without an institutional structure is immensely taxing.

      When entropy sets into a non-traditional church, the Type A personalities begin to fill the vacuum. This is the pattern of church history, and it’s how we got the so-called “institutional church.” As a result of the powerful force of entropy, the early church moved from an organic, shared-life community to a hierarchal, one up/one down, top-heavy organization. It’s also the reason why organic churches, over time, tend to lose their first love. En Revelation 2:4.

      I’ve concluded that an important remedy to the on-going threat of entropy is to restore the place of itinerant Christian workers. Having someone spiritually mature to visit the church who is not part of the local mix can have a tremendous effect on defying the second law of thermodynamics, recentering and reenergizing the church toward Christ, and giving it fresh direction.

      If you gather outside the traditional church, your group will take a nose dive. And when it does, it’s infinitely wise to bring someone in from the outside to raise Christ before the church’s eyes and help turn the tide. Those who are part of the local group typically can’t see clear enough to identify the root problem. So an outside view is needed.

      Point: Do not make the mistake of underestimating and undervaluing the role of outside help from other brothers and sisters who are more experienced than you are. That’s what I learned from meeting Stephen and DeVern.

For more, see Frank Viola Author

Our First Lord’s Supper

      I remember our first Lord’s supper. Some of us were terrified because there was no one “officiating.” As time went on, we discovered that the Lord’s supper was a Christ-centered fellowship meal rather than a token ritual. This moved it from a high-and-lofty clergy-authorized religious rite to a pot luck dinner shared by lesser mortals.

      Thus we began taking the Lord’s supper as a meal regularly. It was an important part of many of our meetings. What did it look like? A simple yet joyful potluck dinner that included the bread and the cup. A celebration feast remembering and honoring the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, participating in His body and blood.

      In the early years, we faced the problem of some believers contributing a great deal to the meal, while others contributed nothing at all. One brother in particular had a ministry to young people. So he would often bring a bundle of young people to the meetings without bringing any food for the Lord’s Supper. Many sisters in the church were quite troubled by this, and they eventually gave voice to it. (When the sisters are unhappy, the church had better do something quick or else. I won’t finish that sentence.)

      We eventually ironed the problem out. However, it was encouraging for us to know that the early Christians faced this same challenge. En. According to 1 Corinthians 11, there was tension between the rich Christians and the poor Christians in regard to the Lord’s Supper. This was but one example of a principle I learned early on: That if you gather in a New Testament fashion, you will begin to have New Testament problems.

      I also remember when we started baptizing people. It was a scary thing because we didn’t have a pastor or a clergyman overseeing us. A Scripture that helped us a great deal was in 1 Corinthians where Paul said that the brothers and sisters in Corinth did most of the baptizing in that town. He, the great apostle, baptized few. En. 1 Corinthians 1:14-17.

      So that first year was wonderful. But in the year that followed, things started to get dicey. We began to grate on one another’s nerves. At one point, churching together became so difficult that I resolved to leave. But on August 18, 1989, something happened that would prevent that. The Lord gave me a dream which revealed that I was not to entertain thoughts of leaving the group. So I stayed. Part of me was glad I did. Another part of me wished the dream was the result of bad pizza the night before.

      From 1988 to 1990, we sought to discover how to meet. We had two things going for us—a love for the Lord and a spirit of experimentation. We had hearts that were very open to learn. I later discovered this one thing. That if a group of people have open hearts toward God, and they are willing to be stretched in their views, beliefs, and practices, the Lord will have a clear path to work among them. If your heart is truly open to learn, He’ll actually teach you more than you wish to know.

      Throughout the years of 1990 and 1992, a specific burden for the poor began to grow within us. We helped one of the brothers purchase a home to house and minister to homeless men. More than a few homeless people were brought into Rodney’s house during those years.

      During that season, I learned everything I wanted to know (and what I didn’t want to know) about working with street people. It was a world I didn’t know existed. The church grew pretty quickly as a result. We brought a number of homeless men to the Lord, baptized them, and had special meetings where we instructed them in the faith. Not to mention doing all we could to rid them of their drug habits and helping them to land work (some of our efforts failed miserably).

      Two major lessons came out of that experience. The first was that it dawned on me that so many contemporary Christians separate individual piety from social concern. Yet the two go hand in hand.

      Echoing the words of Paul in Galatians 6:10, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Interestingly, many Christians have focused on clause B “especially to those of the household of faith” and have ignored clause A “let us do good to all.” En. See also Titus 2:14. Significantly, Paul’s words to the Galatian Christians are the same that Luke used to describe the ministry of Jesus while He was on earth:


“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” En. Acts 10:38, NKJV.


      In the gospel of Luke, the ministry of Jesus is clearly outlined. En. Luke 4:18-19, NKJV


“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”


      The above words came out of the Lord’s own mouth. He was referring to His unique mission on earth. En. Luke 4:20-22. The interesting thing is that Jesus Christ hasn’t changed. He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” En. Hebrews 13:8. Consequently, a church cannot boast that it is expressing Christ if it has no concern for the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind, the oppressed and if it’s not engaged in “doing good to all.”

      The reality is, Jesus Christ hasn’t changed. What He did on earth reflects His unchanging nature. He still wishes to do the same things through His Body today. Please notice that I didn’t say that He wants us to do these things. Not so. He wants to continue to do them through us.

      Doing good is not an activity. It’s the expression of a life form. Only God is good, and what He does is good. When the church lives by the Divine life that inhabits her, she also does good. So when a church truly lives by Christ, it will express Him in the same way that He expressed His Father on earth.

      The second lesson I learned had to do with the affinities and antipathies between the “ministry” and the “church” (albeit, some of these lessons came out of much conflict and dialogue over the issue).

      Once a week, we would go out to a park in the city to play butler to the homeless. We would feed them and share Christ with them. As time went on, one of the brothers became increasingly passionate about ministry to the homeless. So much so that he felt it should be the central focus of the church. Most of the other saints didn’t agree. This created a conflict, and it grew more tense as the days passed on.

      I learned a valuable lesson from that experience. It was this: People in the church need to feel free to pursue their dreams and their callings.

      If your dream is to feed the homeless, you should be free to pursue it. If your dream is to share the gospel on the streets, you should feel free to pursue it. If your dream is to work for social justice in your neighborhood, you should feel free to pursue it. If your dream is to help pregnant teens, or to help curb abortion, you should feel free to pursue it. If your dream is to engage in apologetics with college students, you should feel free to pursue it. If your dream is to care for children or bless the elderly, you should feel free to pursue it. If your dream is to fight pornography, you should feel free to pursue it. And as much as it lies within the other brothers and sisters, they should support you.

      But here’s the rub. Not everyone in the church may share your specific burden. And that’s okay. They should be free not to pursue your dream. And if they don’t, that doesn’t make them less spiritual than you are.

      This poses a serious test for many devoted Christians. Your reaction to those who don’t share your specific passion could mean the destruction of your church. It could also mean a bloody split. Or it could mean that the Lord will get His way in you.

      Point of advice: Be faithful to your burden, but never pressure others to embrace it. And never present ultimatums over it. Your reaction is everything. It will either build the church or destroy it.

      Pursue your dreams in the church. But do not demand or pressure your brothers and sisters to share those dreams. They may not. Just as you have the freedom to pursue your burden, they have the freedom to pursue theirs. And they may not be the same. It took us a long while and lots of hurt feelings to learn that lesson.

      (Years later, I learned a related lesson that had to with the seasons of an organic church. We’ll discuss that lesson in Chapter 12. I also discovered what I call “servant groups.” A servant group is a group of two to six people in the church who share the same burden to serve a specific group of people in the community or to take on a specific redemptive mission. A church, therefore, may have a servant group for the elderly, a servant group for the homeless, a servant group for pregnant teens, etc.)

      During that season of ministry to the homeless, I discovered another important principle. There’s a beautiful illustration of it at the end of John 21. In that passage, we find Jesus charging Peter with some specific responsibilities. In so doing, He also mentions how Peter will die. Peter’s response is all too human. He points to John and asks Jesus, “What about him?”

      The Lord’s reply is telling. He essentially says, “What I do with John is not your concern. You have but one concern—that you follow me.”

      These words have echoed within me virtually every time I’ve been tempted to concern myself with what others are doing (or not doing) for the Lord. Especially in those areas where I felt wronged or where I was shouldering the full responsibility for something, when others were shirking it.

      I am the steward of my own obedience to the Lord, not the steward of someone else’s. You and I are the master of our own obedience. The lord of our own self-denial. Our part is to follow Christ. That should be our concentration. What others do (or not do) is the Lord’s business, not ours. As Paul said, “But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.” En. Of course, this principle doesn’t apply to situations when someone is committing gross sin in the church. The New Testament is clear that in such cases, it is the responsibility of the members to take responsibility for such problems (1 Corinthians 5; Galatians 6:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 3:13-14). 

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A Tale of Two Mentors

Early on in my Christian walk, I sought out those who were ahead of me in the Lord and made myself an apprentice, learning all I could from them.

In total, I’ve had about five spiritual mentors in my life.

In this post, I want to talk about two of them.

To keep their identities anonymous, we’ll call the first one David and the second one John.

The Story of David

David was one of the most gifted people I’ve ever met. He was a talented writer, speaker, and he had a keen mind littered with uncommon spiritual insight.

At one time, David was utterly sold out to his Lord and God used him mightily.

His ministry was powerful and those who received from him grew close to Jesus.

However, he had an inflated ego that never went to the cross, but only increased with his age. So much so, that he was threatened by anyone who was more or equally gifted as he was.

This created jealousy on his part toward others.

His insecurity and enormous ego prevented him from having peers who could speak into his life. Every attempted co-worker he had eventually broke ranks with him after they got a good look at his character. (All of them tried to talk to him about his character patterns, but their words weren’t heeded.)

To protect his self-image, David was deceptive and dishonest. And he would quickly trash anyone of whom he was jealous.

Sometimes he’d cloak the trashing under the guise of humor. Other times he was outright mean-spirited, yet he’d justify himself as being concerned for the person.

For this reason, David was never interested in my life. I couldn’t talk to him about my struggles and when I would ask him questions, he resented it.

Especially questions that challenged his presuppositions.

He was often short with me and others on the phone, having better things to do.

David was only interested in one thing: David and David’s ministry.

That said, he would use whomever was in his life — including their gifts and talents — to further his own ministry and bolster his legacy (something with which he was obsessed.)

At one time, David’s ministry was well known and looked upon favorably by the general body of Christ. Today, however — many years after I first met him — his ministry has dwindled to the point where few people even know who he is.

In addition, virtually everyone who followed his ministry at one time has removed themselves from it.

Worse still, the anointing of God that was once upon David’s life left. I remember the year that “the glory departed” from him, after he was urged by the Lord in various ways to repent.

Regrettably, he refused to change.

Not long after, I ended my relationship with him.

When the anointing left him, he could repeat the same words, but the unction behind them was gone.

I wrote about the dilemma of mentors turning on their mentees here. What I wrote there can be applied to this situation as well as many others, I’m sure.

Enter now my other mentor . . . John.

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