Sunday, June 23, 2013

How Frank Viola Became an Author

Frank Viola became a published author in 2005 with the book The Untold Story of the New Testament Church.
In the 1980s, Viola was a public school teacher. He would write tracts in the style of Last Days Ministry on various topics he was learning about. Influenced by Watchman Nee and T. Austin-Sparks, the tracts would contain higher teaching on many different subjects.
In those days, Viola told us he was using an advance type writer and then he’d get the tracts printed at a local print shop.
In the mid-90s, Frank was asked to host a bulletin board discussion group. This was the precursor to the Internet. It was way before Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.
An article by Frank Viola would be written once every two weeks on the subject of ecclesiology. At that time, Frank had been exploring a simpler way of being church beginning in 1988. Each of Viola’s articles would reflect that way of being church.
For example, in one week, Frank would write an article on the purpose of the church meeting. Another would be on church leadership. Another would be on the Lord’s supper. Another on the meeting location of the church.
People would respond and ask questions on the Bulletin Board.
Even in those days, Viola was a provocateur.
When the series was finished, many of the readers wanted copies of the entire series of essays. So Frank stapled them together and mailed them to those who asked.
Then, Frank says a friend of his recommended putting the essays into a book. When he checked into this, he discovered that you had to print 1,000 copies of a book to get a decent rate.
Frank’s feeling was, “If I printed a book containing these essays, I may be able to get rid of 100, but then I’d have 900 in my attack collecting dust.”
Given his reservations, Viola figured out how to typeset the essays into book form and he had Devern Fromke’s publisher print 1,000 copies of the book. So it was his first self published work. Looking back on it, he sees it as immature, rough, unseasoned, and something he can’t stand by today given the nuances that weren’t present.
At around the same time, he discovered the Internet and his friend Hal Miller put together a website for him.
He gave away the first 1,000 copies in a few month.
Then, he reprinted the book, and on the first day of its released, it had 400 orders.
Eventually, he couldn’t keep paying for the costs of printing and mailing, so he charged a fee for the book.
Frank tells us that a few people criticized him for making the book for sale, but ironically, none of them weren’t willing to pay for the cost of printing and mailing.
In 2005, Destiny Image approached Frank to publish his first officially published book. Frank agreed and so The Untold Story of the New Testament Church was published. This was the first published book by author Frank Viola and it still sells well till this day.
A year later George Barna found Frank’s self published book, Pagan Christianity, loved it and wanted to get it into a wider audience. So Tyndale House offered a deal for Frank to revise the book with the help of George Barna and release the revised version.
Frank prayed about the offer and after feeling it was the Lord’s will, he agreed to have the book published by Tyndale after Viola and Barna revised it.

Click here to read the rest of the article, How Frank Viola Became an Author.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Wisdom from Jon Wesley

“I will not quarrel with you about my opinions; only see that your heart is right toward God, that you know and love the Lord Jesus Christ; that you love your neighbor, and walk as your Master walked, and I desire no more. I am sick of opinions; am weary to bear them; my soul loathes this frosty food. Give me solid and substantial religion; give me a humble, gentle lover of God and man; a man full of mercy and good faith, without partiality and without hypocrisy; a man laying himself out in the work of faith, the patience of hope, the labor of love. Let my soul be with these Christians wheresoever they are, and whatsoever opinion they are of.”
John Wesley

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The High Call of God by Frank Viola

     God has called you to be a participant, not a spectator!  May you heed this upward call—and be forever delivered from your slated occupation of “layman,” kneeling before an altar, sitting under a pulpit, and having your hand in a purse! May you rise to your God-called, blood-bought, Spirit-endowed right to be a functioning member of a functioning Body.
     Regrettably, few have had the courage to respond to this higher call. Admittedly, the deck is stacked against those of us who’ve left the religious system for God’s higher purpose. Despite it’s horrible flaws, the institutional church continues to succeed on a certain set of terms. It succeeds because it provides a much more convenient and predictable way for people to get their needs met.
     Let’s face it. It’s much easier to have someone else worry about the problem of creating an environment where we can worship God together. It’s much easier to just plug in rather than having to be responsible for direction yourself. It’s much easier to make use of an in-place “children’s ministry” than to figure one out ourselves. And it’s much easier to passively listen to a sermon that someone trained in oratory has prepared than it is to handle the Scriptures ourselves.
     At bottom, leaving the institutional church to gather around the Lord Jesus Christ (alone) means being responsible. It means having no one to blame but yourself when things go wrong. It means testing your ideals in terms of real relationships rather than escaping into non-floatable theories.
     It also means inciting the wrath of the institutional church. Some benighted pastors will invariably see the end of the gravy train in you and your kind. The discovery that you don’t need their “professional” help is quite threatening to them. So expect the authority-mongers to intimidate you with tall tales about the horrible consequences that follow those who throw off their “covering.”
     Yet for those of you who can’t abide the bondage of the institutional church system, leaving is not an option. It constitutes an honor, a right response to God’s revealed will, and an act of spiritual survival!

     Only then will the future course of church history begin to map to its first 200 years—when there was a church without clergy or laity—a church completely in the hands of God’s people! 

For more, see Frank Viola tv

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Historical Roots of the Laity by Frank Viola

      The last 1800 years of church history is mostly the story of two categories of people: those who “do” ministry and those to whom ministry is “done.”
     First, there are those who are the objects of ministry. They’re called the “laity.” These are the untrained, unqualified, unequipped, second-class Christians. They “laity” are the isolated consumers of “ministry.” They promote it. They pay for it. Sometimes they even aspire to it.
     (Albeit, most who aspire to it still can’t seem to transcend their rank-and-file sub-class. So they’re usually restricted to becoming lay-preachers, lay-pastors, lay-worship leaders, etc.)
     Second, there are those who “do” ministry. They’re called the “clergy.” These are the hired professionals. The spiritual gurus. Those specially endowed mortals that God has granted the exclusive right to minister (so we are told). The clergy are the certified distributors of “ministry.” They process and package it for lay-consumption.
     But here’s the striking truth. The clergy/laity division has no basis in the New Testament! We look in vain to find it there. In fact, it’s impossible to construct a Biblically defensible justification for the clergy profession. The same holds true for the laity class. Scripturally speaking, clergy and laity don’t exist! There’s only the people of God.
     The word laymen (laikoi) first appeared in the Christian vocabulary with Clement of Rome at the end of the first century. In the second and third centuries, the clergy/laity fault line widened to the degree that it infiltrated the Christian mindset. It has been depressingly familiar ever since. Today, the clergy/laity dichotomy is as readily assumed as the belief that the Bible is God-breathed. Few people ever think to question it.
     More pointedly, the clergy is a highly overrated institution. It’s both unnecessary and self-defeating. It keeps the people it claims to serve in servitude. Instead of equipping the saints, the clerical profession debilitates them.
     The clergy also changes face. Sometimes its the Protestant pastorate. Sometimes its the Catholic priesthood. But the message is always the same: “you need us-and-our-class to please God.”
     But such a message is not from God! And it has the net effect of paralyzing the Body of Christ. Yet despite this fact, Christians love being dependent and insistent upon the clergy profession.
     In sum, to be part of the laity is to be a spectator. To be part of the clergy is to be a performer.

The Power of Performance

     In our culture, the power of performance is most readily seen in sporting events.  We observe these (in part) to appreciate the performance of others—whether it be professionals or our own children. We enjoy what they do. We get caught up in their attempts, their successes, and their failures.
     The difference between being a spectator and a participant is profound. Only the participants sweat. Only they actually try. Only they succeed. Only they fail. Spectators may “participate” vicariously. But it’s a rather thin participation.
     Nonetheless, enjoying the performance is a positive thing. Sports are highly contained and choreographed. People who execute that choreography well (Mark McGuire, Edgerrin James, Allen Iverson, Tiger Woods, etc.) are great pleasures to watch.
     Is there not a place for this kind of performance in the church? I believe there is, but...
     Drama is another sphere in which the power of performance is clearly observed. Movies and plays are entirely constructed from performances. Not a shred of it is “real” in any simple sense. And yet drama is an important entry for us into “the real.”
     For instance, do you believe you understand more or less about Roman gladiators after seeing the movie Gladiator? Do you think you could have obtained that understanding from a history book?
     The same applies to plays like Les Miserables. When such plays are acted they can be a door to something very real—even though they’re entirely performance-based.
     Is there not a place for such performances in the church? Performances that

might give us an opportunity to walk through a door to a new spiritual reality or a deeper insight into God? I believe there is, but...
     Musical performances have many things in common with sports and drama. The excellence of the performers are one attraction. But another is the inherent power of what they communicate through their craft. Music can be magical in several ways (either for good or evil).

     An excellent performance of a profound piece of music can be touching and memorable like few other things. Even if a performance is fleeting, it often leaves a deep impact on those who witness it. In fact, for many, a major turning point in their lives was catalyzed by some musical performance.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Frank Viola's Toolbox

Frank has recently written an article on the tools he uses for his work. Writing and blogging and podcasting.

The list is detailed and descriptions are given.

You can read Frank's toolbox here - it's great for authors and bloggers and speakers.