It has been interesting and educational to read through these primary volumes of Viola and to see the traditional ecclesiology (study of the church) not just challenged and deconstructed but an alternative lain down that provides first a Biblically derived and defended perspective and then a culmination in this book of how to practically begin to build an Organic Church.
Appropriately enough, Viola outlines the growth of an Organic Church through the metaphor of a growing plant and divides his approach into four sections.
1. Planting the Seed. 2. Tilling the Ground. 3. Cultivating the Soil. 4. Pulling the Weeds.
Common criticisms of Viola that I've observed in the past usually focus upon the theme that he tears down without building; or that he advocates the "easy path" of walking away from the institutional church rather than the difficult work of reclaiming and restoring. Anyone who reads this book with a degree of objectivity will have to conclude that the path being advocated here is far from easy. The dropping of the walls that preclude sincere fellowship brings about a path that is bittersweet and Viola is not shy in relating from his experience and observation the multitude of pitfalls, difficulties and risk that a path like this invites.
As would be expected from Viola's past works, the writing is strong. Biblical references are plentiful and great pains are taken to place them into context. References to other writers as well abound with care taken to quote them at length and in context as well. Anecdotal stories from Viola's 20 plus years observing, participating and assisting organic churches to grow take things from a purely theoretical perspective and provide credibility to the statements made.
Make no mistake about it. This is a dangerous book. It flies in the face of much of what churches and clergy have assumed to be true about the body of Christ. It flies in the face of traditional hierarchical power structures. It is no easy path. There is little middle ground and as such, as is the case of much of Viola's prior works I expect it will generate no small amount of reaction, both positive and negative.
In terms though, of providing a biblical and hopeful path for the growing segment of Christendom that is observing the mess of institutions built upon the traditions of men, this offers hope that there is more than the occasional breeze of revival and reform to those either trapped within or unwilling to enter rote religion. There is life. There is a return, not to culture and traditions of old, but to the life of pure and undefiled relationship with Christ that can course again in a living organism of relationship, sacrificial love and a willingness to take a risk upon God and one's brothers and sisters in Christ.
This book is life-changing and worth reading again and again.