Frank Viola author is a writer, speaker, and blogger. Given his prolific, scripturally-based and highly acclaimed work, Some regard Viola to be a theologian and scholar.
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An in-demand conference speaker and bestselling author who communicates the deeper truths of Scripture and the themes of God’s eternal purpose, the indwelling life of Christ, and the supremacy of Jesus, Viola has authored over six bestselling books. In 2010, he began writing a series of books on Christology with Leonard Sweet. He’s also coauthored books with George Barna and Mary DeMuth.
Frank’s podcast, “Christ is All” is often quoted and ranked in the top 2 of Christian podcasts on iTunes in both Canada (#1) and the USA (#2). He currently facilitates the Deeper Christian Life Network, a resource for those who wish to deeper their spiritual lives and connect with others who are on the deeper journey.
Frank’s blog, “Beyond Evangelical,” has ranked in the top 5 of all Christian blogs on the Web. He also writes for Patheos in the evangelical channel, one of the most widely read blogs in the world.
He has spoken in conferences throughout North America and Canada as well as South Africa, Chile, Brazil, Germany, Holland, Ireland, and Switzerland.
Author of more than 900 published articles, 120 podcast episodes, and over 20 books, Frank Viola’s publications include From Eternity to Here, God’s Favorite Place on Earth, Revise Us Again, Reimagining Church, Jesus Now, Jesus Manifesto, Jesus: A Theography, Jesus Speaks (with Leonard Sweet), Pagan Christianity (with George Barna), The Day I Met Jesus (with Mary DeMuth) as well as many other volumes on radical discipleship.
Viola was born into an American-Italian family in New Jersey in 1964. He moved to upstate New York where he grew up and then to Florida where he’s been living since he was a teen. His parents are second-generation Italians, finding their roots in Naples and Sicily.
Frank is a passionate and electrifying speaker. Part of this is due to his Italian heritage, part is due to his passion for the Lord.
When he was 16, he had a groundbreaking encounter with the Lord that left him hungry and thirsty for Jesus. From that point on, he immersed himself in Scripture. He was also baptized in water, publicly proclaiming his faith.
At 17, his Christian elders recognized his gifting to teach and preach. But he opted not to go to Bible school or seminary, however, feeling the Lord wanted him to enroll in college at the University of South Florida.
During his college years, Frank was part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which had a strong spiritual presence on campus. He later was instrumental in forming a new campus group called Full Gospel Fellowship with several friends. The Lord moved in powerful ways among the students during this time, resulting in healings, salvation, and deliverance. It wasn’t a revival, but the students experienced a taste of community with God present among them.
After graduating at the age of 21, he became a public school teacher. And on the side, he began honing his writing skills. During his tenure as a teacher, Viola led students to the Lord. He also led a Christian group on campus which led to numerous students being baptized in the name of Jesus.
Sometime later, Frank was engaged in debating atheists and witches on the pre-cursor to the Internet, the Bulletin Board system. During this time, he was asked to moderate a BBS discussion group, at which time he began writing articles on the church. The articles were thought-provoking explorations on what the church was in the first century compared to its present form. These articles formed the basis of his 2008 book, Reimagining Church, written many years later.
In the Church of God where he attended, Frank taught a class for young adult singles for several years. At age 23, he made the decision to leave the institutional form of church and began meeting in a simple form with a number of others. This group sought to find the expression of church as found in the New Testament. This church community met for 8 years.
In the midst of this time, two men visited the church and prophesied over the members. They gave prophetic words over Frank saying that one day he would plant churches that didn’t look like the typical church form. This word would come to pass in 1998.
In 1995, the church laid hands on Frank and sent him out to the Lord’s work (per Acts 13). For the next three years, he sought to build relationships with pastors in the town in which he lived. In April 1998, he laid the first stone of the foundation of a new church plant. His first message was “All Things in Christ.”
He would lay the groundwork for this new church plant, made up mostly of Christians in their 20s, for 17 months. Then he left it on its own for six months, following the pattern of Paul in the book of Acts. He didn’t take a penny from the group, but mended tents as a school teacher.
In 2005, Frank released his first book with Destiny Image, entitled The Untold Story of the New Testament Church (which will be revised and expanded in 2018).
Since then, he’s written over 20 volumes. His books integrate theology, spirituality, history, sociology, narrative, devotion, and vision.
In Pagan Christianity (2008), Viola and Barna trace the origin of contemporary church practices, asking the question, “are these practices a development to God’s ideal or a departure from it?”
The book has sold over 130,000 copies. The book is not a stand-alone title, however, but the first part of a series called ReChurch.
Reimagining Church (2008) is the constructive sequel to Pagan Christianity. Using history, scripture, experience and observation, it compares and contrasts the first-century church with the institutional form of church.
From Eternity to Here (2009) considered by many to be Frank’s opus, a titanic explications of God’s eternal purpose, the mystery hid in the Godhead from before time. A robust work of narrative theology.
Finding Organic Church (2009) is a elaboration of apostolic ministry. Church planting is dissected through spiritual principles and on-the-ground experience. A contemporary form of Allen’s Missionary Methods and Nee’s The Normal Christian Church Life for the 21st century.
Jesus Manifesto (2010) with Leonard Sweet addresses the problem of Jesus deficit disorder (JDD) and incarnates a solution.
Revise Us Again (2011) is a compilation of unique articles on the subject of transformation and spiritual growth.
Jesus: A Theography (2012) is a comprehensive unfolding of the Jesus story from Genesis to Revelation. This volumes blends Jesus studies with Christology, an accomplishment rarely attempted.
God’s Favorite Place on Earth (2013) is the first book in the new genre of biblical narrative. The story is told from the viewpoint of Lazarus and the meaning of Bethany, both for Jesus then and for us today.
Jesus Now (2014) is a fresh look at the 7-fold ministry of Jesus today. It answers the question, what is the Lord’s present-day ministry? What is Jesus up to today exactly?
The Day I Met Jesus (2015) is the second book in biblical narrative. The story is told from five women in the Gospels. Mary DeMuth is the coauthor.
Frank is working on three more published books and a number of new eBooks. Those volumes will be unveiled on his books page when they release.
Perhaps Viola’s most distinctive contribution is to articulate the deeper things of God, most notably, the deeper Christian life and radical church restoration. By probing the more difficult questions of the Christian faith, Viola seeks to give fresh answers, eschewing the canned answers offered by evangelicals.
While Viola is an evangelical himself, holding to the orthodox creeds of the faith, he holds to what he describes a theological points that go “beyond evangelicalism.”
Those points have to do with living by the indwelling life of Christ, the eternal purpose of God, the body of Christ in practical expression, and the centrality and supremacy of Jesus.
Viola isn’t an advocate of human made movements, but of genuine moves of God. He’s pointed out that there have been two great movements in North America over the last two centuries. The revival in 1048 to 1952, and the revival in 1968 to 1972.
The word “movement” is used trivially today in Christian circles, and holds little substance when examined closely.
Viola’s theology is rooted in the orthodox creeds of the faith. This has garnered criticism from progressive Christians. Viola is not a fundamentalist and has decried the hateful spirit that marks many fundamentalists today and historically. But his theology is in fact conservative. Some of his theological influences are F.F. Bruce, N.T. Wright, T. Austin-Sparks, Dietrich Bonheoffer, A.W. Tozer, C.S. Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, and Craig Keener (who is a friends with).
Viola believes that at the center of the gospel of grace and the gospel of the kingdom is the truth that Jesus is Lor. Viola asserts the Christology (which includes Jesus’s incarnation, life, teachings, example, saving and redeeming work in cross, resurrection and return) should define all spiritual activity and ministry.
He reframes disciple making in the context of church planting and living by the life of Christ, which indwells every believer.
For Viola, the church’s missional-incarnational impulse—which embodies the actions of Jesus incarnationally in the world—must be rooted in God’s Eternal Purpose. A theme that’s been lost to us today. Virtually of Viola’s work has the Eternal Purpose as its subtext.
Apostolic ministry—here Viola builds on the teachings of Watchman Nee, Howard Snyder, and Roland Allen, and Robert Banks when it comes to the apostolic calling and how it’s fleshed out in the New Testament. Primarily, apostolic workers preaching the gospel and raise up churches, then leave them to the Holy Spirit without erecting a clergy system to rule and run it.
Organic churches—in contrast with a centralized institution structures, the ekklesia is an interconnected organism that is void of hierarchical organization. Organic churches are those which are fueled by the life of Christ. Since 2010, Viola has since abandoned the term “organic church” which originates with T. Austin-Sparks because it’s been misused, muddied, and therefore has no coherent or consistent meaning today.
Viola’s theology is based in a narrative form rather than in a systematic form (which goes back to Aristotle’s method of thinking). The Bible is an eastern book, thus theology is narrative, built on story rather than linear, abstract thinking. This is why the truths in the Bible are paradoxical and seemingly contradictory to Western ears.
Christ is at the heart of Scripture, and in His life—being both divine and human—He embodies the paradoxical nature of Scripture.
Viola’s heart for the poor and the oppressed is well-known. He’s written many articles on the topic and has spoken about it in his podcast.
In a day when Christianity is shallow, trivial, and surface, the ministry of Frank Viola has lifted many believers to a higher view and experience of the Christian life, delving deeper into what’s available to the believing community.
For questions to Frank, email him at TheDeeperJourney@gmail.com
You can learn more about him through his official blog: FrankViola.org
So I’ve been watching the Star Wars saga, from the 1977 debut to the upcoming release just around the corner. This tidbit accounts for the opening paragraph below.
Even though it’s been “a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” since Pharisees were running around in Century One causing trouble for God’s messengers, Pharisees and Pharisaism are still here.
They’re like the poor. They’ll always be with you.
While Pharisaism is in sharp decline today (experiencing advanced stages of rigor mortis), the pharisaic spirit still exists. And it’s the chief reason why so many non-Christians want nothing to do with Jesus.
When I was 18 years old, I spent a lot of time in a group that bred Pharisees like rabbits. And I will shamefully admit that I was one of them.
Thank God, however, I experienced the washing-machine of life and it drained much (or all, hopefully) of the Pharisee out of me. Regrettably, that doesn’t happen with everyone. Many Christians waste their sufferings. And so they remain just as hardened, callous, self-righteous and judgmental as they were in their youth.
What follows are 8 characteristics of a “Christian” Pharisee . . .
Check out the new Deeper Christian Life Network which launches in October 2015.
From Lazarus …
Our home smelled of the fragrance for days. When Mary poured the perfume upon the Teacher, some of it splashed on the table. And it even left a stain.
In the days to come, many of the Jews in Jerusalem believed in the Teacher because of the seismic miracle He performed on me.
But the chief priests, led by Caiaphas, were so threatened that they hatched a plot to put me to death. I was a living witness to the resurrection power of Jesus. The priests feared that if the Jews began believing in Him in larger numbers, the Romans would remove their established place in the city. So they wanted me dead to protect their real estate.1
My sisters and I scrambled to gather my belongings and pack them up. Under the cloak of darkness, I left Bethany in hiding. I went to Bethsaida in Galilee and stayed with the family of Philip—one of the Teacher’s disciples.
Several weeks later, I received word that the Romans had put Jesus to death outside of Jerusalem, and I quickly made my way home.
The journey was long. The smell of donkey dung on the side of the roads filled my nostrils. My body was covered in gritty dust. Eventually, I rounded the corner, and our house in Bethany glimmered in the afternoon sun.
I staggered to the courtyard. Martha’s hand stilled over her mixing bowl. “Lazarus!” she yelled.
My bags dropped to the floor. The sight of her calloused hands undid me. Tears burned my eyes. “They killed Him,” she said.
I wrapped my arms around her. Our tears dripped to the ground.
In the days that followed, we could still smell the fragrance of Mary’s perfume in the house. And whenever we looked at the stain on the table, we remembered.
We remembered all the times He visited our home and how He broke bread with us.
We remembered how Mary wiped His feet with her hair, anointing Him for His soon-approaching burial.
We remembered the many things He taught us before He visited the holy city one last time.
We remembered … and we wept.
But what happened next was the most surprising of all …
– Adapted from “God’s Favorite Place on Earth” by Frank Viola, author.
Living after you have died is strange.
You appreciate life like never before. Martha’s lentil soup never tasted so good. Even the capers, which I have never relished, were suddenly exquisite.
It had been months since Jesus brought me back to the realm of the living. And as was His custom, the Teacher visited us once again on His way to Jerusalem.
We did not know it at the time, but this visit would mark the last week of His earthly life.
That entire week, He would visit the holy city in the day and retreat in the evening to our home, where He and His disciples lodged overnight.
When we received word that Jesus was coming, my father decided to host a private dinner party to celebrate my resurrection. Jesus would be the guest of honor.
As usual, Martha served as hostess and Mary assisted.
Before the banquet began, Martha insisted that I sit next to Jesus, which I gladly did. My father sat at the head of the table with Jesus at his right hand in the place of honor.
Our house was packed to the brim that evening. Voices rose to the roof. Bright colors of clothing dotted the public room. Some of our closest friends were present, including relatives from Bethany and Jerusalem. It was a reunion of everyone we held dear.
The dinner party was held six days before Passover. And Jesus brought all of His disciples.
“Welcome!” my father boomed, greeting each person as they arrived. His eyes brightened with excitement. “You know my daughters, and you are in for a real feast tonight!”
Jesus complimented Martha’s cooking as usual. “Your flatbread has no rival, Martha,” said the Teacher.
Martha and Mary prepared an elaborate feast. A large plate of mixed meats was placed on the table. Another plate featured assorted vegetables with fish, turnips, beans, and a delicious brine sauce. Aged wine was also served.
We arranged two clusters of three couches around the table. Jesus, my father, some of the Teacher’s disciples, and I reclined around the low table, propping ourselves on cushions. The rest of the party sat on stools and benches in the open space in front of the table.
We all ate together, and Martha served.
Jesus was more solemn than usual that night. I kept watching Him while we ate, and He seemed to be deep in thought much of the time. His mouth pulled downward.
Near the end of the meal, I caught a whiff of an exotic scent. Others could smell it too, but none of us knew from where it came.
With dramatic suddenness, I looked down and saw my sister Mary kneeling at Jesus’ feet. She snapped the narrow neck of a flask containing nard from India. The nard was an enormously expensive fragrance, worth the financial equivalent of three hundred days of labor.
Before her passing, my mother gave the nard to Mary as a gift. Mary was only seven years old then. One pound of the exotic perfume was sealed in a beautiful flask of alabaster. Candlelight flickered over the white jar.
I was shocked because this was Mary’s future security.
The house fell silent as we fixed our gaze on Mary. What was she doing at Jesus’ feet?
After breaking the fragile seal, Mary poured the nard on the Teacher’s head. She did so liberally and profusely. So much so that it ran down His beard, droplets beading down over the fine hairs.
She removed His sandals and poured the rest of the nard on His feet, anointing them with it. She wiped them with her long black hair.
The immaculate head that would soon wear a crown of thorns was first crowned with the exquisite scent of my sister’s perfume. Mary’s flask of alabaster was the tangible token of the thankful outpouring and willing surrender of her heart.
The nard was, very simply, the most treasured possession she owned.
Mary had saved the nard for years. But the hour ripened for her to use it in a way that no mortal could predict.
I watched Jesus and a subtle smile streamed across His face. The fragrant beauty of Mary’s act touched Him with quiet joy.
The Lord who had wept with my sisters at my tomb now rejoiced with us at our table.
The scent of the perfume, now completely exhausted on the Teacher, silently flooded the room.
The pleasant aroma matched the spiritual fragrance of my sister’s act. And it left an indelible mark upon all of us. Especially Jesus.
Martha looked on with mild surprise. I saw tears running down her face as Mary anointed Jesus with the perfume.
At that moment, it dawned on me how much Martha had changed. She was still serving, but not anxiously. She was still hospitable, but no longer distracted. But even more than this, she had begun to understand the love that our sister had for the Teacher. And she affirmed it in her actions.
The sight of Mary unbinding her hair arrested the room. To those who did not understand what she was doing, it was a scandal. Some of our relatives glowered at her. Others recoiled in horror.
Embarrassment was written on the faces of some of the Teacher’s disciples.
But to those who understood Mary, it was an act of extravagant love.
I glanced over at John. His eyes welled up with tears. The other disciples seemed irritated. A few of them turned their heads.
I have no words to adequately describe the sweetness of Mary’s act that day. I knew my sister well, and she was motivated by the ardent love she had for the Teacher. It was a visible exhibit of unselfish worship and heartfelt devotion; a supreme tribute of her pure affection for Him.
None of us realized it at the time, but Mary outshined all the other disciples in her grasp of the Lord’s worth as well as His imminent death.
Somehow she knew that the One who had raised me from the dead would soon take His own place in the tomb.
Years later I would reflect on this incident, remembering how Jesus would often tell us how He would be taken by the Gentiles and led to die. We did not understand what He was speaking about. But my sister, with her sensitive heart, understood.
— adapted from God’s Favorite Place on Earth by Frank Viola, author
It’s interesting to contrast Martha with Mary in John 11. What Martha said to the Lord was doctrinally correct.
I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day… I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.11
Her confession almost sounds like a creed.
By contrast, Mary fell at the Lord’s feet and wept bitterly. And Jesus acted.
Martha didn’t seem to understand that she stood in the presence of the One who wasn’t just a great Teacher, but the Author of life.
While her almost creedal confession was doctrinally accurate, her doubt bled through when she protested after Jesus asked for the stone to be rolled away.
Jesus’ words to Martha about His being the Resurrection and the Life evaporated before the reality of the tomb.
His response to her was telling: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
We cannot fault Martha. She’s too much like us. Faith often takes a nosedive when we are on the brink of tragedy. At such times, we forget the Lord’s words.
Sometimes confessions and creeds, as important as they are, are not enough to move God to act. Only falling at His feet and weeping will suffice.
At the same time, when we are standing on the raw, bleeding edge of tragedy, our spiritual instincts can become paralyzed. And the only thing that we can hold onto is our confession of faith. As Watchman Nee said “The best prayer of all is not ‘I want,’ but ‘Thou art.’”
Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Take from Frank Viola, author’s book God’s Favorite Place on Earth