Why Does Everything Revolve Around the Sermon in Church Services?
The answer to this question and many others of more significance will be found in Pagan Christianity. The authors have painstakingly dug into the archives of history and shown the origins of the most striking features of the institutional Christianity that emerged in post-apostolic times -- things like the church building, the order of worship, the sermon, the pastor, dressing up for church, seminaries, the altar call and tithing.

This book is a fascinating read just from a historical vantage point. For example, you learn that Christians were in the catacombs not because of persecution, but because they wanted to be near the dead. The church service in France is called "aller a sermon" (go to a sermon). There are a myriad of details drawn from church history that help one understand how certain traditions became entrenched in the way church was done.

While there are certainly allusions to organic New Testament perspectives in the course of the book, it is not ultimately about solutions. Pagan Christianity is about documenting the Greco-Roman origins of many church practices that stand in open opposition to the New Testament revelation. "The sermon" is one tradition that arose from pagan, not biblical soil. In a book to come out later in 2008, "Reimagining Church," Frank will unfold more specific pathways to practicing community that would contribute to untangling the churchy mess we find ourselves in.

Because this book challenges ecclesiastical motherhood and apple pie, it will no doubt be a hard pill for many to swallow. But it must be stressed that the major points in PC are confirmed by the historical research of scholars from all across the theological spectrum. Emil Brunner concluded in 1952:

"...what was known as ecclesia in primitive Christianity -- [is] so very different from what is to-day called the Church both in Roman and Protestant camps . . . . Many theologians and Church leaders are . . . So much the more painfully aware of the disparity between the Christian fellowship of the apostolic age and our own 'churches,' and cannot escape the impression that there may perhaps be something wrong with what we now call the Church . . . . It is in fact the opinion of the author that the Church itself, in so far as it identifies itself with the Ecclesia of the New Testament, rests upon a misunderstanding" (The Misunderstanding of the Church, London: Lutterworth Press, 1952, PP.5-6).

Likewise, one of the foremost New Testament theologians of our times affirmed with clarity some of the central theses of of PC:

"Increasing institutionalism is the clearest mark of early Catholicism -- when church becomes increasingly identified with institution, when authority becomes increasingly coterminous with office, when a basic distinction between clergy and laity becomes increasingly self-evident, when grace becomes increasingly narrowed to well-defined ritual acts. We saw above that such features were absent from first generation Christianity, though in the second generation the picture was beginning to change" (James D.G. Dunn, Unity & Diversity in the New Testament, Westminster Press, 1977, p.351).

The quest for authentic, organic ekklesia must begin by an examination of the key components and pillars of what people have come to associate with church. Pagan Christianity has done a superb job of demonstrating that most of what we assume is necessary to practice church is of very suspect origin, and comes into conflict with the simplicity of Christ found in the pages of the New Testament.

I would strongly encourage anyone who hungers for the expression of Christ in his body on earth in our day to read Pagan Christianity and explore the implications for their lives. I was greatly blessed by working my way through this material.
It is of interest to note a very strange phenomenon that has occurred with the publishing of Pagan Christianity: it has provoked numerous "reviews" by people who haven't read it or just skimmed it! 

Jon Zens, Editor, Searching Together