Viola on Five Fold Ministry

"What is needed, then, is the restoration of the experience of the Body of Christ."

Frank Viola just sent me his latest article which tackles the idea of "Five Fold Ministry" – something that has cropped up a number of times in the comments section. 

Frank is great. He has some kickbutt books – "Who is Your Covering" deals with apostolic abuse and Rethinking the Wineskin is a must read for house church folk and others getting into organic-simple church.

As I mentioned in April, Frank wrote a criticism on the emerging church earlier this year called Will the Emerging Church Fully Emerge? But so many of us agreed with it – and have been saying the same thing as Frank – that it didn't get as much coverage as other criticisms that caught the public eye. Nor did it have had a catchy title like . . . say . . . "Emergent Church is Satan's Deception"

Franks main criticism is that the emerging church, as he sees it, has not gone far enough to bring the church back to what it needs to be. Fair enough.

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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.


  • Jeff says:

    Excellent paper on “Five Fold Ministry” (and what a shock to see it here!?!?!). It would help if every EC-leaning person would read it, discuss it, pray about it, and ask God to help them live it.

  • andrew says:

    thanks jeff.
    it shouldnt be a shock to see it here. Our family have been involved in the house church movement for 10 years and i consider it one of my favourite corners of the church emerging – and the corner that i have chosen for our family to hang out in with most of our decisions on church structure.

  • john umland says:

    i’ve been curious why you blog about buying buildings if you are a house churcher? maybe i’m reading things incorrectly…wouldn’t be the first time.

  • andrew says:

    good question
    i would not call myself a house churcher for the same reason i cannot call myself an emergent churcher or traditional churcher or cyberchurcher – because the organizations and denominations i consult for and partner with are involved in many different models and i need to train leaders for all of them – thankfully, most of that is emerging church and organic models – like house church – but i cannot afford to be exclusive.
    Here in UK, we need a building for a monastic base in the same way the Celts set up a monastery to support the distributed network of communities
    – a place for conferences, technology, training, retreat, prayer, accomodation for those coming to learn.
    not a large building – but at least a dedicated room and some parking for caravans and space for tents
    if we owned a large house – or any house – then that would probably suffice but we dont.

  • papa g says:

    andrew — loved your comment on being an “-er”. I find that the body of christ find it easier to place believers in a category so as to find you for quicker reference … or for fodder in conversation with others. After leaving the organized, cell, contemporary, non-traditonal church nearly a year ago after 30 years of full time paid ministry … I often get this question … when are you “getting back” into the ministry. I used to want to get into this mess of a discussion with them about “ministry” and “callings” … now I just smile and say, ah maybe someday. I immeadiately catch the gleam in their kind eye as they postulate how I could have gone amuck. i do enjoy your comments and insight. whatever you are.

  • andrew says:

    papa g
    i find this is also an American thing – to categorize people culturally by what they are “in to”
    like skating or being a “skater”
    or surfing and being a “surfer”
    or being a “french fry person” or a Mac person.
    other countries dont seem to have the same problem with it.

  • john umland says:

    i’m an american speech shortcutter who doesn’t like to spend the time writing out, one who enjoys housechurching, as opposed to housechurcher. 😉
    Merry Christmas
    God is good

  • jerry richardson says:

    I bought and read a book co-authored by Viola and felt very cheated. From a review at
    1. Primarily, I am concerned about the lack of balance found in the book. For instance, the existential is pushed to the exclusion of the Scriptural. This is dangerous ground upon which to tread. Paul warned of false Christs. We are to worship the Christ of the Scriptures. The written Word tells us about the Living Word. A naive person or neophyte would conclude from this book that systematic bible study is to be avoided. That message is clear. And, once divorced from the Scriptures, the worship of a false Christ, of a God of one’s own imagination, can quickly follow. For instance, on p. xix, a visitor is approvingly quoted as saying, “As to doctrine, I don’t know what they each believe. And they don’t ask me about mine!” An understanding of the true person and work of Christ is about as doctrinaire as one can get. Yet that is not discussed? Is Jesus God in human form or a lesser being? Is his death of the cross propitiatory or merely the result of human sinfulness? Was his resurrection literal or spiritual? The book makes it sound as if such things matter not, for “As to doctrine, I don’t know what they each believe. And they don’t ask me about mine!”
    Another example of imbalance is found in that the “organic” church is pitted against the Biblical church. For instance, p 56 states, “beware the man bearing verses. A person who has known genuine church life will not be bearing verses or theory. He will be bringing you Christ.” If the authors had written that a person bringing Christ would not be “merely” bearing verses, I would agree. But that is not what was written. A false dichotomy was presented of either Christ or verses.
    Another case of imbalance lies on p. 61 wherein we are told we must “quit cold turkey” such distractions as “Bible study, evangelism”, etc. Of course I agree that these things must not replace pursuing Christ. But again the problem is that no balance was given: “Lay aside ‘it’ and pursue Him.” It is one extreme or the other.
    More instances of this false dichotomy abound on pages 104 – 105. We are told that, “The New Testament does not give us a blueprint to glue together a church.” Organizational structure is contrasted with that which is organic, biological, and natural: “She” versus “it.” If preaching Christ is all that is necessary to raise up functionally healthy churches, then what is the purpose of all the letters of the New Testament that deal with such taboo topics as elders, teachers, teaching, obedience, holiness, family relationships, and yes, even church order? Despite the truth of the chapter, the problem lies with the continued false, extreme contrasts that are drawn.
    More attacks on knowing the Bible are launched on pgs. 122 – 124. And again the trouble is with the extremes painted. It clearly sounds as if we ought not study the Scriptures and that we should reject anyone who does. Where is the balance? Remember when Toto pulled back the curtain to reveal the old man using trickery to conjure up the “Wizard” of Oz? A lot of smoke and balls of fire designed to impress people, all created by a mere man hiding behind a curtain. And his comment when exposed? “Ignore that man behind the curtain!” It is almost as if the book is painting a fantastic picture of our glorious Lord, all the while pointing to the Bible and saying, “ignore what that Bible says and listen to me”. Buying into that is a recipe for disaster.

  • Chuck Ryan says:

    Jerry Richarson’s post was pretty informative and descriptive of the problem that I have with Mr. Viola. I just finished reading “Pagan Christianity” and, for the most part, found it truly thought-provoking. Of course I did not agree with everything, but an honest read over controversial topics will rarely does produce complete agreement. The problems I had did not come until I began to reflect.
    There really was a kind of “feel” to the book that it had more authority than others, which is not too hard to imagine since the point of the book is to speak with authority about the problems with the insitutional church. But it had a kind of “gnostic” flare to it; like Mr. Viola has discovered the secret to developing a real church, and for $19.25 you too can do what Frank did.
    I also find it ironic that, if Mr. Viola has indeed discovered the secret behind developing a New Testament church, he does not exactly quote the New Testament a whole lot. It is as if he felt it necessary to write an addendum to God’s Word: I know it said this, but what it meant was this, and this is how you people tend to misinterpret this again and again.
    Isn’t this the tactics used by the Pharisees? “Here is the law, but you people obviously are too dense or you wouldn’t have any trouble with it, so here is our list of how you are to be doing the law.” “Tradition of the elders” ring a bell?
    And if it is truth, and it is so vitally important to the church, shouldn’t it be free? I mean, never mind the fact that there are publishing costs and such. If it were a groundbreaking vision from God on high, wouldn’t Mr. Viola be willing to “take a hit” and not make any money from it or at least break even? If he has such a problem with clergy getting paid to give their message, why is he so willing to get paid for his?
    He ends his book with a few “practical” suggestions as far as “what do I do now that I am ‘convicted’ in my beliefs against the institutional church?” Now, if he truly believes his thesis and convictions are from God as to what the church of Jesus is supposed to do, I have issue with his suggestions:
    1) “Leave quietly and do not take anyone with you. In other words, do not cause division.”
    REALLY? Leave quietly and do not take anyone with you? Even though the “Titanic” is sinking, we should simply not tell anyone? And then to use the biblical principle of not causing division after reading a book that is designed to rock you create within the reader a distinct feeling of division from this “institutional” thing that apparently is NOT from God, his final instructions were to try and preserve it?
    2)”Resist becomming bitter against the institutional church.”
    NICE. Here’s my book about how you’ve all been duped for 1700 years, but don’t sweat it. Mr. Viola took 269 pages to talk about how wicked and “pagan” the church actually is, how clergy are wrong, worship is phoney, and how everyone in the institutional church is pretty much going apostate if they disagree with Mr. Viola, but don’t become bitter…or mention my name as to why you have problems. Keep it all hush hush!
    3)”Actively seek Christians to fellowship with around Jesus Christ.”
    THANKS, Frank. For the past 34 years I have surrounded myself with devil worshippers in an attempt to truly love Christ.

  • Brad says:

    I thought George Barna and Frank Viola’s book “Pagan Christianity” was awesome. Lots of Scripture and church history to back up their thesis. Here are some great interviews on the book with Barna and Viola,

  • Leo says:

    For the first several chapters in “Pagan Christianity,” I thought there would be some “There” there. I mean, I attend a Plymouth Brethren assembly, with no clergy, elder-rule, Lord’s Supper weekly, but literally everything I have ever seen at a church (including church of christ and “local” churches, which heavily inform Viola)is all completely wrong. Just ALMOST made a case for baptismal regeneration.
    The bulk of the book sets up “Straw men” and he breaks them all down.
    Went to his web page. He keeps himself very well guarded.

  • Don says:

    Thanks for that link Brad. I found the answers and interviews to be really solid. Great resource on top of the book. I will be reading Barna’s Revolution soon. There’s more stuff on this site,

  • Perhaps this 4 part expose of articles on the fivefold ministry and spiritual abuse will spark further thought .. and help.

  • April says:

    I’ve been really blessed by these comments because I have heard of Frank Viola in house church groups and am seeking to discern where he is coming from . I feel a sense of warning because I see many places where he departs from the Word…which builds a house on sand as Jesus IS the Word. The Holy Spirit leads us, after you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit but never contrary to the Word…Jesus came to fulfill the Word not to abolish it. Whenever I read his articles I think “new wineskin over old wine.”
    In other words…does the Lord desire to change HOW church is organized or rather pull people out of religious babylon- with it’s sects, confusion, love of the world (which is harlotry) and unto Himself? When they say they desire to meet around Christ- I wonder- WHICH Christ? Because there are many in religious babylon- each with a part – but frequently denying the real Christ of the Word.
    I actually fellowship online right now at the Unleavened Bread Bible study…and I see that there are legitimate elders in the body. They are the more mature brethren- who are called and sent by the Lord- not themselves, not bible colleges- and not men. Not sure if Frank fits that category because being a gifted writer does not qualify you to be sent of the Lord to be an apostle or teacher.
    These signs shall follow them that believe: In my name they shall heal the sick, cast out demons…etc..
    I find in the Word that the most mature are the most Christ like- His name in in them so they act like HIM. Jesus only said what the Father said and did what the Father did. He did not add His own words. He died to his own desires.
    And in the Word we are clearly prohibited from charging for sharing the word in any form- be it a book or whatever. If you are walking in faith- that does not trouble you.
    Satan is a deceiver- and there are religious spirits and false Christs that keep sincere people in bondage when they are not safety in the Word abiding in the only true Christ.
    Any thoughts on this?

  • Mike H says:

    Anyone who’s ventured out to explore life outside the institutional church will quickly find themselves in largely uncharted waters. I’ve read a couple of Viola’s books and strongly agreed with some points, while disagreeing on others just as strongly. I think
    the previous posters Jerry Richardson and Chuck Ryan have given excellent reasons why everything needs to be tested by God’s Word. If you don’t know God’s book, how can you ever know if a book some man has written is true or not? People like Viola are pointing out an aspect of church life that has been lost and overshadowed by centuries of manmade traditions. It doesn’t mean he’s right about everything. I expect that when I read a book like his I’m probably not going to agree on every point. At least the issues are being brought up. (I got shot down for even questioning one time if the rapture was pre, mid, or post trib. A man who knew me, and had me minister at his church over a period of years, basically told me if I didn’t agree with his view on the subject maybe I shouldn’t come back to minister to the church there!) Books like Viola’s aren’t “gospel” to me, they simply challenge me to think. That’s a good thing! I take it back to God’s Word, (as Jerry and Chuck have done), and come to my own conclusions based on what I find in scripture.

  • andrew says:

    sounds pretty BEREAN to me which is a good thing. I notice that Franks books are literally STUFFED with references to the Scriptures. he must be on the right track.

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