I am making my way through “Pagan Christianity” by Frank Viola and George Barna. Sadly, I am struck by the myriad of ways that the world converted Christianity, instead of the opposite.
We have absorbed the values and practices of our world. PG quoted Will Durant (page 119), Christianity “grew by the absorbtion of pagan faith and ritual; it became a triumphant church by inheriting the organizing patterns and genius of Rome…When Christianity conquered Rome the ecclesiastical structure of the pagan church, the title and vestments of the pontifex maximus…and the pageantry of immemorial ceremony, passed like maternal blood into the new religion, and captive Rome captured her conqueror.”
We are getting converted by the world still today; church constitutions, pastors as CEO’s, churches as political campaigning places, billions in building budgets, and missions as western cultural conversion.
What now? Where do we go from here to regain the purity of Jesus’ mission of healing the brokenhearted and saving those crushed in spirit?
First off I believe books like Pagan Christianity remove centuries of film from the glasses we wear and allow us to look properly at the New Testament church. Secondly we must allow God’s Spirit and His word to remind us that we are not to pattern ourselves after this world.
The adoption of pagan practices into the church like the sermon, religious architecture, and professsional ministry (clergy vs laity) have had a crippling effect on the church. God is still, and always will be, changing lives from the poorest of offerings. But we will not see the spontaneous expansion of the church until God’s bride is unburdened from millenia of capitulating to the cultures around us.
In short we must unconvert from that which is not of the holy faith given to us in the New Testament. Our additions and adoptions of pagan culture may have seemed beneficial and expedient at the time, but cumulatively they have created a modern institutional church that bears little resemblance to the early church.
Which begs the question: who is converting who?