It's a book that is attempting to start a conversation about the current practices of Christianity, mostly focusing on Protestant Christianity. (Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy are briefly mentioned occasionally.) The authors claim that pretty much everything about how Christianity is currently practiced (church buildings, professional clergy, the modern sermon, seminaries, method of sacraments, etc.) is based on pagan practices, does not represent the New Testament Church practices, and should be abandoned. After reading the book, I'm relatively convinced of the first two points, but not the third. They back up all of their claims with copious footnotes and encourage the reader to check their sources (I didn't) to confirm that they're not making these things up. Because I wasn't convinced that their conclusion was the logical or necessarily reasonable product of their thesis, I didn't care to research their claims and try to confirm them.
It was really interesting reading about how many of our current church practices are rooted in non-Christian culture. I'm just not convinced that's a good reason to abandon the practices. It did, however, make me think about how the Church does things, and whether any of those ways should be changed. I think the obvious answer is, yes, there are definitely things that should be changed. So, in that respect, the book did what it sought out to do -- it started a conversation with me about what proper church practices should be. It just didn't pull me all the way to agreeing with their conclusion.
Because I wasn't convinced, the book started to get somewhat tedious about halfway through. It just came across to me as though they were trying to hard to convince me of something that I just wasn't going to buy into.
Viola is a proponent of the house church and/or organic church movement, and this book really does a great job of explaining a lot of reasons that those movements should be embraced. That is, if you buy into the conclusion that pagan-inspired practices of the church must be abandoned.
Should you read the book? Even though I found it tedious at times and disagreed with the conclusion, I'm glad that I read it. If you're interested in how the Church does what it does, you might want to give it a read. Pick it up from the library, though, 'cause unless you agree with their conclusion, I don't think it's the kind of book that you'll be coming back to after you've read it once. After yarbiedoll reads it, I'm giving my copy away.
There's a sequel, Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity (website) that recently came out. I may check it out from the library eventually, but it's not high on my list right now....
Next up on my reading list: The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith and Politics in a Post-Religious Right America by Jim Wallis.