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.