Ask one sometime. He might listen to a podcast or read a book to learn, which is certainly a wonderful thing, and now that you think about it, well, you could just do that, too, right?
No, not really. Then, someone might say, you'd be acting as a spiritual "free agent", be spurning "solid biblical preaching", and resisting true authority. So why does it apply to you, but not them...? That's a thorny one.
On second thought, maybe you shouldn't ask. Bottom line, for a lot of us, as we've grown up: Attend The Thing, sit down, listen to the presentation, go through the flow-chart, and now you're truly under authority.
Frank Viola doesn't buy it. In his new book, Reimagining Church, he makes it clear: He doesn't believe in "spiritual covering". He doesn't think there's a special class of person, the clergy-person. He doesn't think the way we conceive of "authority" -- in any kind of hierarchical, up-and-down terms -- is prescribed at all in scripture. He says we not only read our modern understandings back into the scripture, many translations, themselves, do the same. The KJV, for example, "Anglicanizes" the original text, to retro-fit the status quo.
Of course, there are perfectly legitimate scriptural objections. How can Viola say elders aren't "in charge" of the church? How can he say "spiritual covering" isn't a requirement? How can he say there is no office of "pastor"? Viola defends his case biblically, and takes on the anticipated what-about-this-verse-arguments. For those who care -- even disagree -- it's fascinating.
Is he convincing? Well, yes. Or, very likely, no -- if you're heavily invested in the status quo. This should be obvious: You're simply more likely to be convinced "there is no office of pastor"...if you're not currently holding the office of pastor. We're human. We all operate that way.
Oh, there will be others who will hate this, too, including the managers of mega-church bookstores who, in an exceptional case, didn't find space recently for a bestselling book from a mainstream Christian publisher. That was Viola's last one.
The discomfort with, and dismissal of, Viola and his book will extend well beyond the "traditional" church, too. He rightly points out that many in the "emergent" movement will talk about doing away with sacred cows, and "re-imagining" the church, but will not -- no matter what -- do away the paid pastor-speaker-guy and Sunday attractional-worship-event-thing once a week. No matter what, regardless of scriptural warrant.
Funny how we often "emerge" into the same thing, just in a hipper locale.
Did I mention a lot of people who aren't going to like this book?
Conscientious people care about authority. People with good hearts desire it. (Ironically, since we quit "going to church", we're now encountering FAR more authority in very real and uncomfy and maturing ways, but that's another post.) We all know the world's idea of authority, the corporate idea, the military one, the western one -- but what does authority look like, in the Kingdom of God?
And -- get this -- if the Kingdom authority looks drastically different from the way we conceive of it, would the people currently in "office" in churches welcome this change?
What if people weren't given offices, but just became influencers simply because of the way they showed spiritual maturity through serving people?
While Frank Viola is more soft-spoken and circumspect in this book than his last, will that win friends?
By stressing that a living Jesus is not just theoretically, but actually, truly, in practice, for reals, not in just in motto, to be each church's Leader, will Viola actually be threatening to people who think he's taking the Jesus thing to far?
Will people who criticized Viola, in his previous book, for not offering a "positive solution", another way of "doing church", be thrilled to see him here unpack it?
Is our commitment to our own ideas of authority so strong that people will reject Viola's scriptural arguments without actually engaging them?
Will people still equate critique of the-way-we've-always-done-it with heresy?
Will Viola get hate mail?
And what's with all my rhetorical questions, all of a sudden?