Frank Viola on Em. church

Frank’s email: “I am writing this letter to men and women I respect who are influential in the emerging church conversation. Some of you are authors, highly-read bloggers, conference speakers, and pastors/teachers.

As you know, we are witnessing a remarkable phenomenon: The emerging church. I happily consider myself to be part of this phenomenon. I both applaud its contributions and fresh accents. At the same time, I am concerned that we may be missing a once-in-our-lifetime opportunity. What is more, I am concerned that we might possibly miss out on at least a few vital aspects of what our Lord intends to come out of this phenomenon. . . .”

Will the Emerging Church Fully Emerge? is a piece by Frank Viola whose books are highly valued – esp. among house church/ simple church folk. Worth a read. Interesting that all his books on house church are now all labelled under “emerging church” – will this be a trend?

(Hat tip to Marc)


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Joe says:

    Well actually it appears to be mostly fair comment (need to read it in more detail though).
    I went to a British town this week, where there were obviously more than a handful of ‘new’ churches – and following a brief look at their websites, one has to ask why they think they are offering anything different.
    So I guess I’m asking what is this amorphous thing we are talking about (ok I’ve tried to understand but I’m not sure I get it)? Are we just talking about more charismatic groups who have groovy names, use a few projected lights, drink coffee and whatnot…
    Or are we talking totally counter-cultural (like those you’ve found in Germany)?
    Sorry to sound ignorant, everyone. Keep up the good work.

  • + Alan says:

    Hey Andrew – I got the same letter and have seen it on the web. I’ve been a little hesitant to comment but I’ll briefly do so here I guess. I have read two of Viola’s books and gleened a good bit from them. He seems a smart man. For me, and many of us now, though, they go a bit too far into being a strict way of having to be a church, otherwise, you’re not legitimate (ala Watchman Nee).
    Although some of the things Frank says are definitely true, it seems odd to me – like another critique “from without” for what reason I’m not sure. You mentioned the labelling of “house church” materials as “emerging church” – this may be getting at what I’m talking about. The “old school” house church movement is not exactly what I’d think of as emerging church (of course, whatever that means) unless it’s just as a part of the church constantly emerging. But they have some very definitely stong ideas about how church is to be “done” and these are very much in this letter. It sounds to me almost as if he is inviting “us” (whoever we are) to come the whole way on over to that part of the house church movement and we’ll be good.
    Hopefully that didn’t come off sounding too negative. I know very well that none of us have figured it all out and are working out our goofiness. I have no problem with being called on things that are legitimate. I’m just giving my honest reaction on this one. Seems a bit odd.

  • Daniel says:

    Just for clarification… Watchman Nee was not very legalistic about church form, it was his pupil Witness Lee that took their movement in that direction after Watchman passed.

  • OUCH!! Frank viola on emerging Church

    I always liked Frank Viola’s stuff even if sometimes I found too much legalism and condemnation in his writings but He brought some interesting criticisms on the emergent movement in this article. I,especially like that one bellow (via Andrew and

  • I did read (not just scan) the article and agree with most of his comments. Let’s not judge Viola on his tendency to become a bit legalistic about house church; he does, but this not what his article is about. It’s a challenge to rethink certain aspects of the so-called ’emerging church’. And interestingly, also groups that call themselves ’emerging’ or ‘postmodern’, tend to be legalistic about certain aspects of they way they are or do church. But the Church (capital C) is always bigger than ourselves, and the Kingdom of God is bordered only by unpredictability.
    Some ’emerging churches’ are just postmodern versions of church-as-we-know it, mostly dominated by Anglosaxon blogging white males in their forties and thirties, talking about issues of theology, missiology and arts, and thinking they’re very innovative. I appreciate many good things in the ’emerging church’, and feel at home in this circle of friends, but also find a good number of the discussions boring and rational rather than inspired. And where is the power of God in the emerging church, when it comes to the gifts of the Spirit? (does post-charismatic also mean post-anointed and post-obedient?) How are believers equipped to disciple and multiply themselves in others?
    For me the ’emerging church’ simply is the Body of believers committed to Christ (rather than a church system), and inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit, making a difference in this world. ‘Emerging’ is the pure Bride for which the Bridegroom is eagerly waiting.
    Let’s dig wells, rather than build fences. What I hear Viola say is: “Thanks God for this emerging well. Hey guys, there are still a few stones in the well, do you see them? Then get them out, so the water can flow.”

  • Joe says:

    Hmm interesting…
    So are you saying that emerging church is just an excuse to cover over some out-of-control internet habits?
    Only joking 😉

  • Frank Viola – entering the conversation?

    Viola’s critique is not very well-supported, and not helpful.

  • Mike Morrell says:

    Andrew, what I love about you (besides your audacity in working with Baptists and yet owning up to your listening to Green Day’s _American Idiot_) is that you see the best in people and their intentions…almost always…even when I, in times past, haven’t (like, say, George W Bush)…its a trait that I hope to have when I grow up.
    In this case, I see the positive that you and Marc see. Frank is a part of my (very) loose-knit intentional community network, and I know his heart for initiating this dialog…he really wants to learn (“Not only do I applaud this [emerging church] emphasis, but I shamelessly admit that I have a great deal to glean in this area. Thus, I would like to learn more from those who have plowed further in this field”), and he really wants to challenge…but don’t worry, Frank is no D.A. Carson!
    On a very personal note, I have found myself in somewhat the position of an amphibian for several years now, breathing home church air and emerging church water (or is it vice-versa) every since I transitioned from more staid, safe, terrains. My heart is so full of all of y’all’s truths I could just explode. I find that ECers and HCers have some lovely, valid PO Vs, and I see the fragrance of Christ in all of you…as well as some specks in your eyes that I pompously desire to pluck!
    From you all!!
    On that note, brethren, I bid you a fond good night. : )

  • + Alan says:

    Of course we all have manner of specks in our eyes. I would never want to suggest otherwise. And my caution regarding Frank’s critique is stemming from my own experience and thoughts on the matter. Of course we should always be aware of our still being on the journey and not being “there” yet. I would much rather fully accept the “wounds of a friend” though – of someone who has time invested in me. I know you have a connection to Frank, Mike, but like, in this case, I’d rather take it from you, having breathed both air and water, etc. Anyway, that’s more where I’m coming from. Peace to all in this house.

  • Maybe It is Time for Lay-Led Postmodern Emerging Churches?

    As I read through Frank’s article I was excited (as if God led me to the article and said: read). Many of the points he mentioned are exaclty what I’ve been thinking/dreaming of the last couple of months. For me it’s more like a vision, a direction, an…

  • kyle yoakum says:

    Man, am I out of it. I just heard of the emerging/emergent church movement. I have been trying to understand it, reading some. I have read some critiques as well. But I’m not sure what to think of it all.Can anyone give me a cliff notes version?
    Kyle Yoakum

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