Responding to False Rumors | Is Viola Emergent Church, Emergent, Contemplative Prayer, NAR, Existentialist, and a Co-Author to a New Age Advocate (Len Sweet)?

This site is not operated by Frank Viola. The answers are given by someone who has been following Viola’s work for many years. Viola’s direct quotes in books and articles appear in the answers. October 2013.

question: isn’t Leonard Sweet a new age emergent and why does Frank write books with him?

answer: like so many other rumors on the Internet today, the rumors about Sweet being new age and emergent are false. Here is Sweet’s direct response to them. Leonard Sweet is perfectly orthodox and he is criticized for his orthodoxy by some liberal professors. Jesus Manifesto (2010) by Viola and Sweet has been endorsed by many orthodox Christian leaders including Reformed leaders. The strongest critics of the book have been emergent and liberal Christians.

question: is Frank Viola part of the emergent church?

answer: no, it’s the opposite. Frank is a critic of emergent. He criticized it in his book Jesus Manifesto and again in Beyond Evangelical. Viola’s fiercest critics come from liberal Christian quarters who take issue with his belief that the Bible is fully reliable and inspired, that Jesus is fully God and fully man and the only way to salvation, and his adherence to the Nicene Creed and Apostles Creed including God’s triune nature. Viola has written about all of these themes on his blog making his views clear. Like N.T. Wright, Viola has spoken in a few emerging church conferences in the past, but neither Wright or Viola are part of the emerging church even though they have friends who are part of it.

question: has Frank Viola ever been part of the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation)?

answer: no, Frank has never been part of it and knows little about it. Alan Hirsch has been falsely accused of the same thing. Viola has little interest in modern day self-proclaiming “apostles” and doesn’t profess himself to be an “apostle” as he dislikes the the word. His book Finding Organic Church goes into his views on this subject.

question: does Frank Viola believe that house church is the only way to do church?

answer: no, Viola is critical of the modern house church movement. He’s written about the shortcomings of many house churches on his blog and his podcast. One of his well known lines is “meeting in a home doesn’t make you a church anymore than eating at a donut shop makes you a police officer. God isn’t passionate about the living room.”

question: does Frank Viola control the churches he’s planted?

answer. Not at all. If anything, he’s too hands off. He plants a church then leaves it on its own. In recent years Frank hasn’t been involved in church planting but has been working with the poor and making relationships with non Christians. He’s discussed this on his blog in his FAQ page.

question: is Frank Viola like Gene Edwards?

answer: no. the two men spent a brief time working together in the year 2001 but they separated because their views, methods, and ways of dealing with problems was very different. Frank has been working with the author and scholar Jon Zens for more than eight years. Since 2008, Frank has coauthored books with L. Sweet, George Barna, and other authors.

question: who is Frank accountable to?

answer: other than God, Viola is mutually submitted to Jon Zens, Tony and Felicity Dale, Milt Rodriguez, Hal Miller and some other people who are lesser known all of whom have known Frank personally for many years. They can all vouch for Viola’s character and integrity. Interestingly the people that talk about “accountability” the most are not accountable to anyone.

question: does Frank teach contemplative prayer?

answer: no,  Viola has only used the term “contemplative” once or twice in a newsletter he wrote many years ago; however, he was not referring to new age-ish, mystical kinds of chants and prayers. He was referring to deep fellowship with God as John Piper describes in this video.

question: what does Frank think about mysticism and Christian mystics?

answer: Frank has answered this on his blog here.

question: what is Frank’s view of the Christian creeds and orthodoxy?

answer: Frank has answered this on his blog here.

question: Does Frank believe the Holy Spirit’s gifts are still active today?

answer: yes, but he explains how he understand the gifts in his blog series on the subject.

question. Does Frank believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation?

answer: yes, he wrote a blog post on this.

question: What is Frank’s view of the Bible?

answer: He has a very high view of the Bible. He explains and defends his views on scripture here.

question: is Frank approachable if I have any questions for him?

answer: Absolutely. Viola is known to be one of the most accessible Christian authors of our time. You can reach him on his blog at

question: is Viola a unorthodox?

answer. no. Viola is orthodox and evangelical. Pick up God’s Favorite Place on Earth and Jesus Manifesto and you will see Frank’s theology.

question: Viola quotes a lot of people. Someone tried to say Viola believes what they believe because he quoted them. Is that true?

answer: no. Christian authors quote many people, some who are believers in Jesus and some who aren’t. That doesn’t mean that the authors agree with the theology, practices, and views of everyone they quote. Paul quoted some heathen philosophers to make certain points in Acts and the epistles, but that doesn’t mean Paul agreed with those philosophies. It’s irrational to associate people by mere quotations in a book.

question: is Frank an existentialist?

answer. no. He disagrees with Bultmann and Tillich on this. He would agree with Kierkegaard that it takes faith in Jesus to encounter God and not simply rational persuasive arguments alone, but this view is held by most evangelicals. But he doesn’t believe that experience should be taken over against scripture.

question: does Frank believe the Bible is God’s Word.

answer. yes, this is clear in this writings. He also believes it’s inspired, authoritative, accurate and reliable.

question: I’ve seen Frank quote a few people who aren’t Christians and some whose theology I disagree with. Does this mean he’s supports everything they believe?

answer. no, Paul quoted heathen philosophers in Acts. That doesn’t mean Paul believed all of their ideas. All authors quote people who believe things they don’t agree with. If the quote is good and makes a good point, it’s used. Only someone who has an agenda to create dishonest associations tries to use this method of quoting = supporting everything.

question: Have all the organic churches Frank planted have disintegrated. Is this true?

answer. not at all. Every year there is a conference that is well attended by the churches that Frank, Milt Rodriguez and Jon Zens have planted. While Frank hasn’t planted churches for awhile to focus on his broader ministry to the body of Christ, only one group he started in the 90s disbanded six years later as many of them relocated to other cities. A number of them relocated to be part of other churches that he or his coworkers started. One person mistakenly confused the track record of one church planter who Frank knew many years ago with Frank’s work, but this is a misrepresentation.

question: are the churches that Frank works with insular and ingrown or do they reach out?

answer: the latter. They are known for seasons of evangelism and helping the poor. Frank speaks against being insular in his books and podcasts. See his spoken message called “Living in the Divine Paranethesis” (on his podcast) and his book “Finding Organic Church.”

question: has Frank experienced organic body life himself?

answer. yes. he experienced body life community for many years as a non leader. He was sent out to plant churches by a local organic fellowship he was a part of for 8 years in November 1995.

question: is Frank trying to build a movement? He used the word “tribe” a few times right?

answer. no, he’s against movement building and has written about this on his blog. He instead advocates moves of God. He has used the word “tribe” a few times, but he’s made clear that he possesses and leads no “tribe.” The word “tribe” is in the general population to describe any group of people with a set of beliefs and where the people are connected to each other. “Evangelicals” and “Christians” are tribes for instance. There’s nothing evil about this word except what a person brings to it themselves.

For more information, see Frank Viola’s FAQ page. Please read DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR OR READ.

Too many Christians believe whatever they read if it’s negative without going straight to the person being rumored about (this is a sin according to Matthew 7:12). Slander and gossip are serious that are condemned in the Bible.

Do you have questions that are not addressed here? Go straight to the source himself.