the weblog of Alan Knox

A quote from Reimagining Church

Posted by on Nov 13, 2008 in books, edification, gathering, spiritual gifts | 16 comments

I’ve been slowly reading through Frank Viola’s latest book Reimagining Church. So far, in my opinion, this book has been much better than Pagan Christianity. In fact, I think this book should have been published first in the series.

But, before I write a full review, I thought I would share this quote because it expresses my own view on the church meeting as well:

Perhaps the most startling characteristic of the early church meeting was the absence of any human officiating. Jesus Christ led the gatherings by the medium of the Holy Spirit through the believing community. The result? The spirit of “one anothering” pervaded the entire meeting. It’s no wonder that the New Testament uses the phrase one another nearly sixty times. Each member came to the meeting knowing that he or she had the privilege and the responsibility to contribute something of Christ…

Some may object and say, “But in my church, I’m allowed to do some ministry.” My question is, are you allowed to carry out such ministry in the major gatherings of the church when all the members are present? Are you free to stand up at any time and give a word of testimony, a teaching, an exhortation, a song, or whatever else the Lord has laid on your heart? More importantly, are you encouraged to do this?

Let’s be honest. The idea of mutual ministry envisioned in the New Testament is a far cry from the pinched definition of “lay ministry” that’s promoted in the typical institutional church. Most organized churches offer a surplus of volunteer positions for “laypeople” to fill. Positions like cutting the lawn of the parsonage, ushering the aisles, shaking hands at the sanctuary door, passing out bulletins, teaching Sunday school, singing in the choir, participating on the worship team (if you make the cut), flipping transparencies, turning PowerPoint slides, etc.

But these restricted “ministry” positions are light-years away from the free and open exercise of spiritual gifts that was afforded to every believer in the early church gathering. An exercise that benefited the entire church when it gathered together. (pg 55-56)

Like I said, I agree with this statement. I think we have lost the desire and opportunity to truly serve one another through the gifts of the Spirit when the church meets, and we have tried to delegate our own responsibility to others – primarily our leaders.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 11-13-2008

    Have we lost the desire and ability to serve or have we given it away to be performed by a professional staff?

    The early church didn’t have levels of staff like we do, and we seem to have placed them to do the ministry we may have felt stretched us too much to be comfortable with doing week in and week out.

    Any organization that puts a paid infrastructure in place to perform some functionality loses some of the independence and willingness to do those functions at a grass roots level. It is the downside of a managerial class existing within an organization. This front line ability is replaced with a desire to have the work done at what is hopefully a consistent and high level of performance on our behalf.

  2. 11-13-2008

    Thanks for the review. It has some great insight.

  3. 11-13-2008

    Three sentences from Robert Bernard Dann’s “Father of Faith Missions, The Life and Times of Anthony Norris Groves”: “The chief aim was to exhibit, in a scriptural way, the common brotherhood of all believers. They recognized no special membership. That they belonged to Christ was the only term of communion; that they loved one another was the power of their fellowship.”

  4. 11-13-2008

    I too have slowly worked my way through “Reimagining Church” and even posted my own review of the book a couple of days ago. For me, RC, is a summation of “The Best of Frank Viola”. I have been reading his published writings for about eight years now, and feel this is Frank at the top of his gifting.

    While not always agreeing 100% with what he writes, I do think the Lord has greatly used Viola to help give shape to what is today an ever growing movement of organic/simple churches who are taking a second look at the 1st-Century church.

  5. 11-13-2008

    “Perhaps the most startling characteristic of the early church meeting was the absence of any human officiating.”

    What NT examples do you cite in support of this blanket statement that there was ABSOLUTELY NO human officiating?

  6. 11-13-2008


    I know some believers who are often given the opportunity to serve others through their gifts and choose not to do so. So, I think it is both given away, and also that some have lost the desire to serve.


    I will write a more complete review later.


    Was that for the Book Meme post?


    Like you, I don’t always agree with him 100%. In fact, I talked to him this afternoon about an item that I disagreed with him. I found out that we actually have the same opinion in that area.

    Joe (JR),

    What NT examples demonstrate that there was no human control (“officiating”) during church meetings? I think that the fact that none of the authors of the NT call on any humans to take control or officiate during the church meeting is the primary example.


  7. 11-13-2008

    ‘I think that the fact that none of the authors of the NT call on any humans to take control or officiate’

    So your argument is that from the silence of Scripture you can make an absolute statement that you know exactly what the church did?

    Can you share with me any passages where the NT writers told people to stop officiating at the worship service?

    Finally, It seems to me the church in Corinth was fairly out of control and Paul gave some specific instructions on how to run their service (tongues, prophecy, food distribution during the “love feast”, etc…. As best I can tell, he wrote those instructions to humans on how to run the service to ensure all was done in proper order. So if Paul was not writing to humans, who was he writing too? :-)

  8. 11-13-2008

    Joe (JR),

    Paul was writing to all of the believers in Corinth, or Phillipi, or Collosae, etc.

    I would ask your question from the other direction:

    Can you share with me any passages where the NT writers told people to START officiating at the worship service (church meeting)?


  9. 11-13-2008

    “Paul was writing to all of the believers in Corinth, or Phillipi, or Collosae, etc.”

    Agreed, and since they were humans, Paul was asking them to officiate among themselves to resolve these issues. That is quite different than your assertion that there is NO human officiating at any point or at any time in the community of church.

    Alan, I am not arguing for one person to officiate over all decisions in all things, what I am suggesting is that it is not good practice to argue from silence when we don’t actually know many of the details.

    You asked, “Can you share with me any passages where the NT writers told people to START officiating at the worship service”

    Yes, I can. First, let me give a definition of “officiate” from the dictionary

    “ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from medieval Latin officiare ‘perform divine service.”

    So, yes, there are many passages where individuals are gifted to perform divine service to the community.

    Here is one where prophets officiate for the other prophets
    1 Cor. 14:32 “and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets;”

    One human instructed to officiate on behalf of another.

  10. 11-13-2008

    Joe (JR),

    You said, “Here is one where prophets officiate for the other prophets
    1 Cor. 14:32 ‘and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets;’

    One human instructed to officiate on behalf of another.”

    Actually, that’s not “one human”, but many prophets.

    If you’re talking about believers serving one another with their gifts, then I agree that Scripture instructs all believers to serve the church – that is, other believers.

    I guess I understood “officiate” to mean one person or a group of people being in control of the meeting.

    By the way, I think that Scripture tells us that all beleivers “are gifted to perform divine service to the community”.


  11. 11-14-2008

    I am confident that we agree on the substance Alan. I just find the wording of the part I quoted to be exaggerative and misleading

    Read again what Frank V. says, “Perhaps the most startling characteristic of the early church meeting was the absence of any human officiating. “

    This is patently false.

    If anything, it should say “Perhaps the most startling characteristic of the early church meeting was the IMPERATIVE THAT ALL HUMANS HAD SOME RESPONSIBILITY TO OFFICIATE.”

  12. 11-14-2008

    I believe my wife has (though which primarily?) the gifts of administrations (governance) and utterance of wisdom. We have attended several churches in the time we’ve been married, and I’ve seen her essentially disenfranchised in relation to these gifts in more than one church. 1. Could you provide some insight on what her gift should look like during (or surrounding?) the church service, besides the obvious one of making sure members exercise their gifts in turn? I’m leaning toward thinking that, at the least, she should have input as to what it means to do things not merely in order, but also, as the Bible says, “decently.” Thanks in advance.

  13. 11-14-2008

    Joe (JR),

    I would state it a little differently:

    “Perhaps the most startling characteristic of the early church meeting was the IMPERATIVE THAT ONLY THE HOLY SPIRIT OFFICIATE THE MEETING through all of the believers.”


    My suggestion is that your wife should not start by determining what gift she has (although she may not have done this). Instead, your wife should speak or serve as prompted by the Spirit, motivated by love, with the purpose of building up the body. Exactly what that “speaking or serving” is called is not as important. I hope that makes sense.


  14. 11-14-2008

    My response was for both posts. Our fellowship rests primarily in the life of Christ, not in the light of Christ. Without light, there is no life. But then life must be nurtured and grown.
    In the church today, we put the guy out front who has the most light, and give him all the glory. Why are we surprised when this doesn’t inspire fellowship? But does the guy up front, or the guy most recognized in the home meeting have life? Has his learning lowered him? Or puffed him up? If you’ve been entrusted with my soul, why don’t you know my name? Life takes place in a family when those who have more “light” humble themselves, and make themselves available to those who have less “light”-maturity.It should be this way in the church also. Jesus lowered himself voluntarily. His most stinging rebukes were for those who had the most advancement in the law (light), but who had no inward understanding, or fruit of it. In the quote from Dann’s book, he is describing the sentiment of many learned men in the early plymoth brethren movement, many “clergymen” who had discovered the joy and freedom of being “common brothers”.
    It seems the problem in the early church became too much input. Today, in many “open meeting” situations, you find the same thing. The purpose of our gathering is to build the church- Christ’s church. Are we hearing what the Spirit is saying to us, as his body, and being led by His Head? Or when we come together are we just spewing out our spirit in an undisciplined way? Yes, reimagining is desperately needed in the institutional church, but I think you can take this message and method too far-making the gospel all about the body, with no focus on the Head. I find many in the “housechurch” community losing their focus on the gospel, and turning inward, and consuming one another, rather than being a light to the community and world. Paul makes it clear that it is the mind of Christ we are to seek, not our own selfish preferences. So yes, the meeting is a “shared” meeting, but it is to be one that is orderly, the whole purpose of which is to know the will of God for ourselves individually and corporately. Only then are we able to truly edify one another. I believe the Lord wants to communicate with His bride intimately, but it seems that intimacy is lost when we rush ahead and make assumptions about what our local assembly should do. When there is a lack of life, we run ahead to fix it. We assume the church should have a bible study, or a seminar, or a revival meeting etc. We complicate the thing so much. Much of the problem in the “IC” and HouseC” is one and the same. We surrender our priesthood to the most intellectually gifted among us, assuming it’s the great “light of the mind” God is after, and little ole me couldn’t possibly be responsible for anybody. What type of man, may I ask you, usually delivered Israel and the church in it’s time of need? The mighty minded, or the mighty hearted? Zeph 3:12. I wonder what would happen if we decided to limit our gatherings to 12 people, or 12 families? Well practically, there’s no way we’d have enough “teaching” elders to go around. But what if the hearts had burden, and the minds had vision? I think something like this will happen in the lord’s timing.

  15. 11-14-2008

    In fact, that is essentially what my wife attempted to do. Unfortunately, the leadership within the group did not seem to see the importance of her contribution. I’ve noticed an attitude among some who teach, that in effect says, “We can’t put a time limit on the Spirit.” But in fact, this seems to translate to a meaning of, “we can’t put a time limit on the most important thing here in this meeting, which is teaching.” To me, that’s simply one member saying to another (member) whose forte is not the teaching gift, “I have no need of you.”

  16. 11-15-2008


    Thanks for the explanation and the comment. You should start a blog… I think you have something to say that others should hear.


    Unfortunately, there are many leaders who still want to control the meeting of the church. I’m sorry that you and your wife have been through that. I pray that God will give you and her other opportunities to serve him by loving and serving others.