My Book Review of Revise Us Again by Frank Viola

I was given Revise Us Again to review and am not obligated to give a positive endorsement. My hope is to clearly communicate what I thought of the book.

Who is Frank Viola?
According to the first paragraph on his bio, “Frank Viola has been pioneering in organic missional church life since 1988. He brings over 20 years of experience to the table in what is now a growing phenomenon. Beyond planting organic missional churches, he is a Christian author and speaker. Frank’s public speaking covers a wide range of topics including the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ, the deepening of the spiritual life, Christian community, church planting, God’s eternal purpose, mission, and church restoration.”

If you have never read anything by Frank Viola, I suggest you read Jesus Manifesto (co-authored by Leonard Sweet) and Pagan Christianity (which was my first introduction to Viola). I consider those two required reading in today’s missional church tract but I don’t consider them to be prerequisites for Revise Us Again. I should also mention that Church Reimagined is pretty good too and I have not read his other works (but I’m sure they’re good reads too).

What I LIked
Frank calls himself “post-charismatic”. He offers an explanation of what that is and quotes someone that claims there are 92 million of them. Since I’m not part of these circles, reading this is as close as I have come to one. I’m up for a conversation with anyone who calls themselves “post” something. It’s usually reflective and worthy of discussion. And as just alluded to, I could use a few more (post-) charismatic voices in my life.
The last two-thirds of the book.
I like Frank’s tone. It’s a bit aggressive, I imagine he writes similarly to how he speaks and for much of the book, I pictured that these were conversations that could be shared over coffee/beer over.

What I Wasn’t Sure About
While I enjoyed and agreed with the first third of the book, it was a bit lost on me since I have had this conversation too many times. Obviously a legitimate conversation, one that evangelical church ought to have, but I’m not sure if I could have handled an entire book (even if it was short) on it.  I felt that since I was outside of this conversation that I was eavesdropping and a this was therefore a reminder that I may not be the target audience here (which is ok).
I felt Chapter 4’s Spiritual Conversation Styles (SCS) was a bit too simplified and systematized. I did agree that understanding this would be helpful for the church at large but felt it would be a natural outworking of communal life. I wasn’t sure I saw the need for this chapter but that’s probably because of my SCS ;)

Who I Think It’s For
Playing off the classic quote, the title says it all – Revise Us Again. While I was a bit confused by the cover art of the book (the illustrated page is blank; shouldn’t there be some text to “revise”?. If it’s genius, I’ll admit it was lost on me), there is clearly a place for revision in the church.
All in all, I recommend it especially if you already appreciate Frank. I especially recommend the book for those who feel lonely in the church and see the faults of the Chrisitianese subculture. It is lonely if you are a pastor not in a ministry network or a pastor/involved church member that at least doesn’t have an online network. (This is part of the many blessings of social networking by the way but this post isn’t the place for that discussion.  It can also be lonely as a congregant if you feel that you are the only who thinks like this.
For those of you who do not appreciate Viola, already burned out of the Christianese sub-culture and already have an endless “To Read” shelf, it’s hard for me to consider this “required reading” (Again, I would more readily suggest Pagan Christianity and Jesus Manifesto). That said, I could see this book being used in a small group led by a person like this for “busy church-minded but a bit disenfranchised” folks (Did that make sense?).
I could also see it being used in a young adult ministry, especially by those who had an akward church/youth ministry experience, are frustrated by organized religion but still search for God and a more robust Christianity.