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Older Book Reviews by Steve Eastman (Forum Locked Forum Locked) Forum : Older Book Reviews by Steve Eastman
Subject Topic: A Review of Frank Viola’s Rethinking the Wineskin Post Reply Post New Topic
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News Room
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Posted: 11/27/2005 at 2:08pm | IP Logged Quote News Room

A Review of Frank Viola’s Rethinking the Wineskin

By Steve Eastman


             “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined.  But new wine must be put into new wineskins” — Jesus in Mark 2:22, NKJV


             Frank Viola takes these words of Jesus and applies them to church structures.  While many are hoping the new wine of the Holy Spirit can revitalize the traditional churches they grew up in, Viola and others are saying the very structures are an obstacle to manifesting Christ.  No mere theoretician, Viola’s books stem from living out church in a different way in his Florida town.  He has discovered that hope for the church’s future lies in the New Testament past where buildings and titles were unimportant and Christ was allowed to be head of the church.


             Again and again throughout Rethinking the Wineskin Viola reminds us that the concept of church that most Western Christians embrace today is a phenomenon of our culture and history.  “Many evangelicals have embraced the benighted idea that only those things that are ‘explicitly commanded’ in Scripture are binding.  Everything else is safely ignored.  …Equally problematic is the notion that only the ‘principles’ of the early church are to be heeded while its ‘practices’ are irrelevant and antiquated.  This idea has deluded many Christians into embracing humanly-devised practices that violate spiritual principles.”  Viola takes aim at these practices which he says include salaried clergy, single pastors (as opposed to plural leadership) and pulpit-styled services.  “At bottom, the tendency to reject first-century styled church meeting unearths a lack of trust in the Holy Spirit.”


             Viola advocates house church.  His idea is not a slavish devotion to patterns, which would be another form of legalism, but a corporate sensitivity to the Spirit.  “Perhaps the Holy Spirit has led and will lead some to assemble in a building from time to time.  But the Spirit will only do so if it truly suits the Lord’s purposes.  And let it be clear that if God leads a church in this direction, it will not be driven by human zeal, energy, and advertising machinery….”  Viola distinguishes between ministry meetings, which may be evangelistic and involve large numbers of people, and church meetings which are for the edification of believers.  “Should not the house church meetings be more the rule than the exception due to the benefits that are bound up with them?”  He gives a compact list of advantages:


·        The home testifies that the people comprise God’s house.

·        The home is the natural setting for One-Anothering

·        The home represents the simplicity of Christ.

·        The home reflects the family nature of the church.

·        The home models spiritual authenticity.


             It is possible for a house church to be a traditional church in miniature.  That is not what Viola is after.  His vision is of the priesthood of all believers.  There are no big names.  If the church has elders, they provide oversight but do not make decisions on behalf of the church nor monopolize the teaching, prophesying and exhorting.  They lead by example, not by office. “The startling reality is that Paul’s favorite word for describing leadership is the opposite of what natural minds would suspect.  It is diakonos, which means a servant.”   Jesus is the real head and wants to express Himself through each member of His body.  Viola goes into detail explaining leadership by consensus involving all the brothers and sisters.


             Scripture often makes a point through riveting pictures.  One such picture, almost universally recognized by Bible scholars, is the young woman in the Song of Solomon, symbolizing the bride of Christ.  Viola borrows from this imagery in the initial pages of Rethinking the Wineskin:


“This book is dedicated to a beautiful girl ....  This corporate woman embodies the truths found in this book.  By her life, she proves them to be heavenly realities and not the theories of men.”


Read Steve Eastman's interview with Frank Viola


Note: Rethinking the Wineskin is no longer in print. Frank's new book, Reimagining Church has replaced it. Reimagining Church is the sequel to Pagan Christianity which was authored by George Barna and Frank. Reimagining Church is a detailed theology of organic church, over 300 pages. Endorsements by Leonard Sweet, Shane Claiborne, Alan Hirsch, Tony Dale, Felicity Dale, Jon Zens, John White, Rad Zdero, and others. You can read a sample chapter at


The book is also available on

Edited by Steve Eastman on 07/29/2008 at 2:10pm
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Ron McGatlin
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Posted: 12/29/2005 at 6:37pm | IP Logged Quote Ron McGatlin

Blessings to all of you posting on or reading this thread.

Frank Viola is indeed bringing us much understanding and diligent research exposing the trek of perversion from the plan and purposes of God to the monstrosity of religious structures of today. We are only beginning to grasp where we have really come to over the past couple of thousand years. Getting off course by only a few degrees has caused us to wind up far from the original planed course two millennia down the road.

Exposing this journey and causing us to stop and look at where we are standing and where the road should have led if we had stayed on course is shocking. We need Frank's bare bones no punches pulled look at practical reality and function to awaken us. However, the answer to regaining the desired course is not found in practical attempts to redefine. And to, through the thinking process, alter our direction to an angle toward the intended course. Man's thinking replacing the Spirit's leading is what drove us off course in the beginning. We must move from understanding and reasoning of the things of God to Spiritual revelation and impartation. The change that will bring us back on course is to become one with God through intimate relationship that enables us to hear clearly what God is saying by the Holy Spirit. Thinking and reasoning are intellectual terms from the tree of knowledge. Waiting on God and hearing Him are spiritual terms from the tree of life.

It will never be enough to know how to do meetings and to implement techniques and methods. There must be the reality of the Head (Christ Jesus) functioning by the Holy Spirit in every aspect of direction and leadership. Man cannot learn or think his way to the kingdom of God reality. It is only by Holy Spirit impartation of the Truth (Jesus).

Even as elders (spiritually mature ones) we have no right to make decisions either by ourselves or as a group. To do so is to become the head. The Body of Christ must have one Head. Our part is to become cleansed of self and religion and saturated in the Holy Spirit. And become so one with God that we can clearly hear what Christ Jesus decides regarding any direction for ourselves, the group, or the Body. Decisions are made by the head. If we make them, we are the head. If He makes them, He is the head.

More than "rethinking the wineskin" we must receive or become a new wineskin by the Spirit. We must receive from the Holy Spirit bringing the things of our True Head and not rehashing thoughts and principles in our own head. Walking in the Spirit means being led by the Spirit. There is no substitute for hearing God. The kingdom is relational.

We must have the transforming input from many gifted servants of God. Kingdom of God apostles (foundational servants) of God all carry the basic revelation of the kingdom of God coming forth in the Body of Christ on earth by the Holy Spirit, but they also each have different emphasis or parts of that revelation to impart by the Holy Spirit to the Body. To adhere too closely to one apostle's ministry at the exclusion of the additional impartation of others leaves the Body incomplete.

Apostles are sent ones with foundational impartation of the kingdom of God. They have a much broader part than only starting local groups and nurturing them. That is indeed part of what church planting apostles accomplish. Apostles generally have the gifting to function in all five servant gifts. They can function as prophets, evangelist, shepherds, and teachers but in addition carry a foundational reality of the kingdom and may be more involved in imparting their portion of the kingdom than only starting groups.

Pursue Love, It Never Fails,

Lots of Love,

Ron McGatlin
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