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Interview with George Barna and Frank Viola: Four Years Since “Pagan Christianity”

Interview with George Barna and Frank Viola: Four Years Since “Pagan Christianity”

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Published by Frank Viola
George Barna and Frank Viola Reflect on Four Years Since “Pagan Christianity”
George Barna and Frank Viola Reflect on Four Years Since “Pagan Christianity”

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Published by: Frank Viola on Jun 04, 2012
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Interview with
George Barna and Frank Viola: Four Years Since “PaganChristianity”
It’s been four years since George Barna and I released 
Pagan Christianity.JoeMiller from More Than Cake recently caught up with George and I, giving us our first exclusive interview in four years.
Joe’s questions were excellent.Here’s the interview.
(Note: Reposting this interview is not permitted. But you arefree to place a link to it on your blog or share it on Facebook or Twitter via theshare buttons below. Click here to review our copyright policy.)
1. Before we get to your current life, can you tell us, what has been the mostenduring and positive legacy of your book, "Pagan Christianity?"George Barna:
The book has helped many people to open their minds to the factthat the organized, localized, congregational form of ministry commonly known in
the west as “the church” is a human construct that was neither dictated by God
nor described or found in the Bible. In that sense I think the greatest legacy of the
book, based primarily on Frank’s extensive research, is giving p
eople anawareness of the truth about the history of the modern local church body and thetremendous possibilities for more meaningful ministry experiences andexpressions.
Frank Viola:
One of the most enduring qualities (and effects) of the book is that ithas given millions of Christians permission
biblical and historical permission
toquestion cherished church practices and traditions
in the light of God’s
writtenWord. It has effectively driven many believers
to reexaminethe way they practice church in view of New Testament principles and churchhistory. Since I have a very high view of Scripture, I count that as a positive thing.
It’s a
lso given many Christians a new appreciation for those believers in the past(like the Anabaptists) who dared to challenge the religious establishment of theirday on the basis of Scripture. In this regard, the Reformation has never ended,including the Radical Reformation of the Anabaptists. As John Stott famously said,
“The hallmark of an authentic evangelicalism is not the uncritical repetition of old
traditions, but the willingness to submit every tradition, however ancient, to freshbiblical scrutiny and, if necessary,
I believe the local church is highlyimportant to God and His purpose. Our book merely demonstrates that the local
church has (in many cases) been redefined and reinvented outside of scripturallines. Thus restoration is needed.
2. I wonder if there are things you wrote four years ago that do not reflect yourthinking today. Is there one thing you can point to in your current writing orministry that reflects the biggest change from the man you were four yearsago?Frank Viola:
With respect to the content and research, I am more convincedtoday than I was four years ago that what we wrote was accurate. Part of thatconviction is based on the fact that thousands of reviews and critiques tried torefute the book, yet none of them were successful in discounting it. Instead, manycritics had to resort to personal attacks and/or misrepresentations.We dedicated an entire page that answers questions, objections, and critiques to the book. With respect to writing,
I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my own
work. Thusone of the worst punishments that can be inflicted upon me is to force me to lookat one
of my books after it’s been
published. I immediately see all the flaws andweaknesses. That said, I would do three things differently:(1) I would have announced in the beginning, all throughout the middle, and atthe end that
Pagan Christianity 
is not a stand-alone book. The book is only thefirst part of a fuller argument
. As such, it doesn’t seek to solve the problems we
address. It only deconstructs. In the original release of the book, this was stated insome of the footnotes and in a big advertisement at the end for the upcomingconstructive sequel, Reimagining Church.But many people missed these announcements
despite that it’s been
repeated all over the Web. The recentprintings have a new preface in it that makes this point loud and clear.(2) I would have added more
Question and Answers
” sections
to some of thechapters. But we were limited by page count.(3) I would have removed all the exclamation (!) points. Not too long ago anexclamation point denoted emphasis and passion.
And that’s how I’ve always
read and used them. Today, however, it denotes anger in the minds of some
readers. There’s no anger in the book at all, but some people read
anger into the
book due to several exclamation points
that we used for emphasis. So I’d
probably remove those if I wrote the book today. Hindsight is 20/20, of course.
George Barna:
It’s not repudiation or change of content from what we wrote, but
my primary focus has shifted away from corporate religious structures andbehaviors to the means of personal life transformation that God uses to enable us
to become who He intended us to be. That’s a natural progression for my work if 
you assume that religious institutions are not supposed to have a stranglehold on
people’s faith experience and expression.
3. Can you summarize for my readers what you have been doing these past fouryears? Where have you been and what have you been writing that we shouldknow about?
George Barna:
In 2009 I sold the Barna Group to David Kinnaman. That has freedme up to write a more diverse range of books and other pieces about theChristian life and experience, including some books I have written for others. Themost significant book I have done recently
perhaps ever
is Maximum Faith,  which took six years of research, identified the process by which God transformspe
ople’s lives, and describes what we can do to get on board with His process.
I have also had some involvement in the 2012 presidential campaign, haveinvested a lot of time in family challenges (addressing some serious health issuesfacing our three daughters), have been much more heavily involved in playingmusic, and will soon start writing my first novel.
Frank Viola:
Up until recently, I was busy establishing and working with organicmissional churches in the trenches. Last year, however, I changed the focus of myministry to the other aspect of my calling for a season:The deeper Christian life.As such, I
ve been speaking(free of charge as always)at various conferences and churches (of all types) on the deeper Christian life.
I’ve also been burdened to help the poor
more and develop relationships with
those who don’t know Jesus.
In addition,
forged relationships with pastorsand others in different types of ministry. My convictions on the unity of the bodyof Christ are quite strong. To my mind, Christians should join arms in the greater

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