Pagan Christianity


Have you ever wondered why we Christians do what we do for church every Sunday morning? Why do we “dress up” for church? Why does the pastor preach a sermon each week? Why do we have pews, steeples, and choirs? This ground-breaking book makes an unsettling proposal: most of what Christians do in present-day churches is rooted, not in the New Testament, but in pagan culture and rituals developed long after the death of the apostles.

Coauthors Frank Viola and George Barna support their thesis with compelling historical evidence and extensive footnotes that document the origins of modern Christian church practices. In the process, the authors uncover the problems that emerge when the church functions more like a business organization than the living organism it was created to be.

As you reconsider Christ’s revolutionary plan for his church—to be the head of a fully functioning body in which all believers play an active role—you’ll be challenged to decide whether you can ever do church the same way again.

Key Topics or Truths

Supremacy of Christ
Church Leadership

This Book is Good For...

This book is good for anyone leading in any capacity or starting a church.

How I Use this Book to make disciples

I use Viola and Barna’s book to push disciples towards Kingdom Mindedness away from flairs, fads, and traditions. I push disciples to think about why we do what we do as we gather together and the impact of practices that do not reflect God’s heart and teaching for the body of Christ.

I take the broad sense of the world’s influence on “church” and ask, “How is the secular world impacting or altering your faith and God’s directions?” These times where liberal theology and woke thought are heavily influencing the church and younger Christians make this book even more important. Being a disciple is about following God, adjusting ourselves to God — doing it his way. I use the discussion times to raise these issues again and again.

Based on the reading level of the group, we read several chapters a week and review them the next week. We discuss and think along the way.

I love this book because it dares to ask, “Are we doing ‘church’ the way God designed it?” bringing answers from research, not just opinion or experience.

Real Life Story

Did you know that Luther didn’t entirely reform the church? It was shocking to me to find out that even such a great reformer could keep a few things that weren’t entirely Biblical when he challenged the state church. “Pagan Christianity” caused me to think through why our church, our denomination at the time, was doing what we were doing. Everything from Deacon Boards to church votes was challenged by the thoughts, research, and scriptures in Viola and Barna’s book. This was a compelling read that pushed me back to my roots of being Biblically based in all that I did.

Know Issues or Controversies

This book was so unsettling to “the Church” that in its first printing it carried a disclaimer from the publisher asserting that this did not necessarily reflect their views. Barna is well known and conservative. Viola loves the church but is not afraid to challenge it. This is a difficult but needed read.

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Viola and Barna
Book Details
Reading Time
Two to Three Weeks
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