Important Conversation

There is a very vital and interesting conversation going on over at a blog called “Natalie’s Narrative” (  She is reading a book by Viola and Barna called Pagan Christianity.  I have not read it yet, but I want to pick it up soon!!  From the two posts she has put up so far, I think these authors are hitting on some of the most important issues in American Christianity…

the phenomenon of the average pew-sitting Christian, the separation of salvation/relationship with Jesus from commitment to a faith community, and even the issue of church=building. I’m sure there is more to come as well.

Can we be flexible? Can we learn to read the Bible differently? Can we step outside ourselves for a few moments and examine our presuppositions about “church” and what that word means?


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mike
    Apr 15, 2008 @ 16:13:20

    Popped over to Natalie’s Narrative, and found the ideas there interesting…. probably not on the same level you did, of course, for me they’re personally interesting, for you it’s professional. It did get me thinking, though.

    The whole idea of “salvation” sparing us from Hell, or adding us to the ekklesia (bonus points for the Greek word), though, arguing in favor of the latter, strikes me as as slightly discordant, however, with arguing against Church=building.

    And here’s what I mean. I think there’s just as much problem with Church=congregation as there is with Church=building, it’s what leads a lot of “non-denominational” evangelicals to think that their congregation is the only bunch in the world who get it right.

    Don’t get me wrong, having a faith home is important. Much more important than having a “Get out of Hell Free” card in your pocket, which probably isn’t surprising given that you know how I feel about Hell. But having faith itself is the most important thing of all. While I wish I had a faith home, here, like I did before I moved, not having is not the same as not having faith, nor is it the same as being parted from the ekklesia.

    The ekklesia means, literally, the one(s) called out. Of the world. We are not called into a building, in to a congregation, into a special group, or into Heaven. We are called out. To live a life in line with our faith. Some might question how well I do that. I don’t. I live in line with my faith every day, and I won’t lecture (further) on how that works. It just does.

    But I really enjoy thinking through these things, and I’m really glad you bring such thought-provoking ideas to the fore in your blog.


  2. Pete Wilson
    Apr 15, 2008 @ 16:55:16

    Thought provoking. Thanks so much!


  3. krisanneswartley
    Apr 15, 2008 @ 16:57:44

    Agreed…. mostly. The things is, one never finds, biblically, a Christ-follower living WITHOUT a faith community. I’m not saying a “church” or “congregation” per se… but a community in which to learn, grow, be encouraged and taught. I think it’s possible to not belong to a particular church, but still be committed to a faith community– it could be just a few friends who share a commitment to following Christ daily. Because if a Christian doesn’t have that commitment, who pushes them to grow, to be transformed, to continue learning? Who challenges them to be called out, set apart, holy? Lonely Christ-following may very well lead to apathy… perhaps… just wondering.


  4. Robert Martin
    Apr 16, 2008 @ 08:18:35

    I agree, Kris. I have a friend that, while he occasionally comes to church, he doesn’t regularly participate, at least not at a seriously committed level, to a Christian community. It’s a veneer he puts on his life and then he wonders why nothing is happening to change his life. And I’m not talking necessarily about “going to church”, but the deliberate submission to a community with the purpose of encouragement, instruction, and accountability.

    Makes me sad sometimes….


  5. Jason
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 11:32:15

    Depends on what you mean by “reading your bible differently”. But you knew I’d say that 🙂

    Keep blogging!


  6. krisanneswartley
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 12:07:24

    Jason, what I meant was, that we have inherited certain presuppositions, certain translations of words and phrases… the “interpreted Bible” that Pete Enns talks about, that is stuck in our heads. What I hope is that we can learn to continually check ourselves, ask ourselves questions about what we’re reading, so that we can hear the Bible again in a fresh way that challenges us. I’m talking about letting the Bible speak to us, instead of putting a certain understanding ON the Bible.


  7. krisanneswartley
    Apr 18, 2008 @ 12:19:07

    But I definitely hear your caution, Jason! 🙂 Any traditions we have received, we have received for a reason, and we shouldn’t just discard them. Thanks for stopping by!


  8. Jill
    Aug 01, 2008 @ 16:59:10

    The sequel to “Pagan Christianity?” is out now. It’s called “Reimagining Church”. It picks up where “Pagan Christianity” left off and continues the conversation. (“Pagan Christianity” was never meant to be a stand alone book; it’s part one of the conversation.) “Reimagining Church” is endorsed by Leonard Sweet, Shane Claiborne, Alan Hirsch, and many others. You can read a sample chapter at It’s also available on Frank is also blogging now at


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