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Christian Living

We Need an Emergent Mindset

Seek Ways to Make Our Faith Communities Relevant to a Postmodern World

In the early 2000s there was much talk about the emergent church. The idea was to address shrinking church attendance by taking steps to be more pertinent to a younger audience, many who dismissed the religious practices of prior generations. These people weren’t turning their backs on Jesus, however, just the institutional church. Therefore, churches need an emergent mindset.

Though this need is even more pronounced now than ever, we don’t hear much about the emergent church movement anymore. But this wasn’t a fad that died out. It’s more likely that the people doing this aren’t talking or writing about it. My post, “What Happened to the Emergent Church?” addresses this.

Even so, for churches to remain pertinent to changing demographics, they need to embrace an emergent mindset. First, we need some background. In my post I wrote:

“The emergence movement seeks to reimagine church in fresh, new ways to connect with a disenfranchised society that is open to spirituality, albeit apart from the traditional church.”

What does this emergent mindset mean for today’s churches?

Avoid the Status Quo

If churches do the same things they’ve always done, they’ll get the same results. This means that for churches that want to reverse their decline in attendance will need to reverse their practices. This doesn’t mean they must change, or even should change, what they believe and teach—providing that it’s biblical. Instead, they need to reevaluate everything else they do that surrounds it.

Many churches today struggle with declining attendance and an aging congregation. For most of them, the only time they grow is when another declining church closes and those members seek another place to attend.

Advocate Change

To move away from status-quo church practices means to embrace change. Most people, however, don’t like change. This is especially true with long-time church members who have fixed expectations. They may oppose needed changes by threatening to withhold donations. They may even follow through.

In short, they use money to selfishly manipulate the church into doing what they want her to do.

To avoid this unproductive response as much as possible requires teaching about the need to adapt to meet changing societal expectations. Becoming what future generations need and will be drawn to requires an emergent mindset. This can help churches grow numerically and not shrink.

Launch New Initiatives

After about ten years of existence, churches move toward becoming institutions. As they do so, self-preservation becomes key and most other activities become secondary.

If you think your church is the exception to this truth, look at your numeric growth. If it’s stagnant, you are an institution. If you’re seeing healthy, Jesus-focused growth, you may have overcome this generalization. It’s also likely that you have an emergent mindset.

For everyone else, know that doing what’s required to attract the next generation is most difficult from inside an institution. Instead of attempting to do this from within, an alternative is to launch a new initiative that comes from your established church but is not a part of it.

Just make sure that this initiative your launching is truly something fresh and not merely repackaging what already isn’t working.

Make sure your church is around and viable to help future generations encounter Jesus in meaningful ways. Click To Tweet

Embrace the Emergent Mindset

Make sure your church is around and viable to help future generations encounter Jesus in meaningful ways. Doing so will require you to stop doing what you’re currently doing, embrace change, and start a fresh way for people to experience God.

It won’t be easy, but it is essential.

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Peter DeHaan News

For Unto Us

40 Prophetic Insights About Jesus, Justice, and Gentiles from the Prophet Isaiah

In a world of distractions, this devotional Bible study on Isaiah reminds us where to put our focus and what this faithful prophet can teach us.

Isaiah’s powerful words in the Old Testament look forward to a time when the Messiah will come, the much-anticipated king who will rule over Israel.

For Unto Us, by Peter DeHaan

Although Isaiah’s key message was directed toward the Israelites, his words still bring hope and comfort to a weary world today. For Unto Us: 40 Prophetic Insights About Jesus, Justice, and Gentiles from the Prophet Isaiah reminds us that Jesus not only came to dwell among us, but is still our wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting father, and prince of peace.

For Unto Us offers forty days of practical teaching and inspirational encouragement as we study the Old Testament prophecies of Isaiah and their connection to Jesus and how we live today.

This devotional Bible study offers a compelling look at Isaiah’s prophecies concerning the Messiah—the promised one of Israel who brings hope and peace.

For Unto Us will help you to:

  • hold on to a strong faith when times are uncertain
  • foster a sense of awe of who Jesus is and what he has accomplished
  • pursue justice for the vulnerable
  • embrace the coming savior who will welcome all people of all nations
  • inform our life today for a better tomorrow

For Unto Us gives accessible and no-nonsense insights into God’s most prolific prophet. You’ll learn how to connect his writing to your life and apply his words to your world today. With practical application questions and additional resources, you’ll discover an amazing prophet whose words can still inspire us.

For Unto Us is a great resource for those searching for an accessible and clear devotional on Isaiah that won’t overwhelm. Open the pages of this book, and uncover the truths of Scripture that bring comfort and hope each day. 

Get your copy of For Unto Us today.

[For Unto Us was originally published at Dear Theophilus, Isaiah.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Visiting Churches

Saturday Evening Mass

A few months ago, we went to church on Saturday morning. Now we head off for a Saturday evening mass.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #50

1. The worship leader directs us to “page one in the white book,” but what we find doesn’t match what they say. We’re confused and can’t follow along. 

How can you make it easier for people to participate in your service?

2. For the Eucharist, the priest says nothing about nonmembers, though I know we’re excluded. Still, I can have the spiritual encounter of Holy Communion without physically taking part. 

How can you serve Communion in a way that includes everyone?

3. The tradition of sharing the chalice still disgusts us. Most participants receive the wafer and bypass the cup. I suppose some must avoid alcohol, while for others it’s a sanitary issue. 

What traditions should you change to address the concerns of today’s visitors?

4. Afterward I chat briefly with the priest. He knows we’re visiting but doesn’t ask our names. This might be because a member hovers about, anxious to talk to him. Though I don’t feel slighted, many people would. 

What behaviors do you need to change to be more visitor-focused?

[See the prior set of questions, the next set, or start at the beginning.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

What Should You Do on Sunday?

Celebrating the Sabbath

People have different ideas about what you can and can’t do on Sundays, how you should and shouldn’t act. This ranges from Sunday being the same as every other day to it being a solemn set-apart time when you go to church, rest, and do nothing else.

Though I have never pursued either of these options, my treatment of this special day has varied over the years, covering much of the area in between.

Old Testament Sabbath: The Seventh Day of the Week

The Bible tells us what to do and not do on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the end of the week, the seventh day—when God rested after he finished his creation.

God tells his people two key things about observing the Sabbath. First, keep it holy. Second, do no work. That’s it.

Note that he doesn’t mention anything about going to a church gathering to worship him each Sabbath.

Whatever you decide Sunday looks like for you, may you do it well. Click To Tweet

New Testament Sunday: The First Day of the Week

The New Testament describes what the early church does on Sunday, which is the first day of the week. Yet the Bible is short on instructing us what we can and should do today for our Sunday observances.

Jesus gives us the best guideline when he says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” When we factor in biblical concepts of rest and worship, we have a framework from which to form our Sunday routines.

There is no one right answer. We are each left to contemplate this on our own and determine a Sunday practice that is true to what God calls us to do.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Mark 1-4, and today’s post is on Mark 2:25-28.]

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Fear is the Beginning of Wisdom

In my last post I noted that the Bible says we are to fear God—and I confessed confusion over precisely what that means. The next step in my progression of thought is to recall that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and of understanding.

God is almighty and all-powerful. Click To Tweet

I think that means it’s okay I don’t fully know what it means to fear God, but as I contemplate it, I can begin to understand.

I realize that God is almighty and all-powerful, that he is our awesome creator, our loving savior, and our ever-present guide. For these things I can revere him, worship him, respect him, and perhaps have a bit of reverent fear.

But there’s more…so come back next week to find out.

Until then, what wisdom do you have as a result of fearing God?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalms 110-113, and today’s post is on Psalm 111:10.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

The Mystery of God

If We Can Fully Understand God, Then He’s Not a Very Great God

Some people are confused when they hear about Jesus or read the Bible. Because they don’t fully understand everything, they dismiss him, waiting until everything makes sense. It never will. At least not during our existence here on earth. This is the mystery of God.

Though I want to comprehend everything the Bible says, I know I never will. But that doesn’t mean I should stop trying. In the same way I want to fully know everything about God. Yet in my lifetime, I never will, but I will persist in pursuing him and drawing closer to him each day for the rest of my life.

In many respects, God is a mystery to us. And, for me, the mystery of God thrills me. It’s an allure that attracts me, that draws me to him.

He is the creator, and we are his created. Who are we to presume that we can ever fully comprehend an all-powerful, all-knowing, and always present deity who lives outside of the space-time reality he created for us? See Isaiah 29:16.

Here are some things Scripture says about the mystery of God:

Accept Our Position

“Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? (Job 11:7, NIV), but then consider 1 Corinthians 4:1.

Love Others More Than Knowledge

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing,” (1 Corinthians 13:2, NIV).

Know the Mystery

“He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:9-10, NIV). Also see Ephesians 3:2-5 and Colossians 2:2.

Declare the Long-Hidden Mystery

“We declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began” (1 Corinthians 2:7, NIV). Also see Colossians 1:25-27, Ephesians 3:8-9, and Romans 16:24-27.

Let Everyone Hear the Mystery

“This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:6, NIV). Also see Romans 11:25-26.

Pray for Missionaries of This Mystery

“Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ” (Colossians 4:3, NIV). Also see Ephesians 6:19-20.

Utter the Mysteries

“For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:2, NIV).

Embrace the Mystery of Jesus and His Church

“‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32, NIV).

Anticipate Being Changed

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, NIV).

Look Forward to the Mystery of God Being Accomplished

“But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished” (Revelation 10:7, NIV).

We don’t need to fully comprehend the mysteries of God. Instead, we should allow them to draw us closer to him. Click To Tweet

Mystery of God

These verses are the starting point into pursuing the mystery of God. We’ll do well to contemplate what they mean and how to best move forward.

We don’t need to fully comprehend these awesome mysteries. Instead, we should allow them to draw us closer to God.

Here’s one more verse: “Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16, NIV).

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Reviews of Books & Movies

Movie Review: Silence

A Thought-Provoking Look at Faith, Persecution, and Navigating Right and Wrong

Reviewed by Peter DeHaan

The movie Silence is a fictional account of two Jesuit priests from Portugal who seek permission to travel to Japan in 1639. They desire to investigate what happened to their mentor. His written communication had stopped, and a rumor circulated that he had turned his back on his faith and his missionary work, having committed apostasy.

The story takes place in seventeenth century Japan, one with open, state-sponsored hostility to Christians and their faith. Seeking to end conversions to Catholicism and wipe away the church, an inquisitor is tasked with finding believers and forcing them to commit apostasy. He resorts to extreme measures—including torture and executions—to do so.

The inquisitor, however, makes a startling discovery and changes his tactics.

Silence is a can’t-miss movie that every Christian should consider watching. Click To Tweet

Silence is a riveting portrayal of extreme religious persecution and torture. It is faith-friendly and thought-provoking. It’s a can’t-miss movie that every follower of Jesus should see.

Though critically acclaimed, the movie Silence was not a financial success. This may be in part to its long two hour and forty-minute runtime. It’s also rated R for its graphic portrayal of persecution, torture, and execution—though not excessive nor gratuitous.

The movie Silence is based on the 1966 acclaimed novel by Japanese author Shūsaku Endō and took Martin Scorsese nearly three decades to complete.  It stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Visiting Churches

A Large and Anonymous Church

This church is huge, the largest so far.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #49:

1. I wonder if I’ll find a space in their packed parking lot and fight off the urge to flee in panic. Large churches need parking attendants. 

What can you do to help people find a place to park and not drive away?

2. The large lobby has hundreds of people milling about. Just inside, a man approaches us. He’s wearing an ear mic. I wonder if he’s the pastor, but he simply introduces himself as John. Unfortunately, he’s the only one to talk to us. 

What can you do to greet visitors?

3. Candy spots a coat rack and we head toward it. It’s full, and so is the next one. The third one has room. Just as it’s hospitable to leave spaces for visitors to park near the entrance, leave space in the coat racks too. 

How can you make room for guests?

4. During his message, John instructed members to look for visitors to greet. But no one makes any effort, not even the man sitting in front of us who wears a deacon nametag. He looks past us. 

What can you do next Sunday to better greet people you don’t know?

This was a large and anonymous church, were people can show up for church, sit through a service, and leave without ever talking with anyone.

[See the prior set of questions, the next set, or start at the beginning.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Who Teaches You?

Do Sermons Belong in Church?

We go to church to learn about God, right? So sermons belong in church, right?

Who told you that? It was likely the minister at your local church. That’s who I’ve heard it from, and church is always the place where I heard it.

Isn’t that self-serving?

Think about it. A church hires a preacher. The church pays the preacher. The preacher tells us we need to be in church every Sunday to learn about God and that he is the one to teach us. One of the things he teaches us is to give money to the local church, often 10 percent of our income.

Why does the local church need money so badly? In large part, it’s to pay the preacher. The greatest expense at almost all churches is payroll, usually over half of their total budget, sometimes much more.

We don’t need preachers to teach us; that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Click To Tweet

So we hire someone who tells us we need him and then asks for money so he can stick around. If we didn’t revere our preachers so much and cling to our sacrosanct practices, I’d call this a racket.

As I read about the church in the New Testament, there is plenty of preaching. But I wonder if sermons belong in church. In the Bible, the preaching is always directed at those who are not following Jesus, the folks outside the church.

Yes, there is teaching inside the church, but I’ve not yet found any passage that says it happens every Sunday or is given by paid staff. In the examples I see, missionaries do the teaching when they come to visit or the congregation instructs one another as they share with each other.

John writes to the church and tells them plainly: “You do not need anyone to teach you.” Then he clarifies: “His anointing teaches you about all things.”

So it is God’s anointing, the Holy Spirit, who reveals truth to us. Therefore, we don’t need anyone to teach us, especially a paid preacher. John says so.

I suppose, then, if we go to church to learn, what the preacher should be telling us is how to listen to the Holy Spirit. Once we’ve learned that, the preacher’s job is done; we don’t need him to teach us anymore.

God’s anointed one will teach us and reveal truth to us. Then we can spend Sunday mornings sharing with each other what we’ve learned through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

But that will never happen. Preachers need to be needed, and they need us to pay them. They would never say anything to work themselves out of a job.

They want their paychecks too badly to tell us plainly what John said and what his words truly mean for the church of Jesus: We don’t need preachers to teach us; that’s the Holy Spirit’s job.

[1 John 2:27]

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Great Is Our God

We Must Remove Anything That Threatens to Push God Aside

Asaph writes that God’s ways are holy, and that no other god is as great as he. Great is our God. In the context of that day, other gods refers to idols or made-up deities aside from the God revealed in Scripture.

Today bowing down to idols and making up gods to worship doesn’t often happen in a literal sense. But in a figurative manner we do this all the time.

Here are some modern-day gods that many people effectively worship and serve as their lord:

Money

In many cultures, people pursue money as if it’s the only thing that matters. They don’t just want money to live, but they live for money and love money. They treat their investment portfolio and their bank balance as a scorecard for success.

Their priorities are wrong. What the world values is seldom what God values. Instead of trusting in money, they should trust in God.

We cannot serve both God and money (Luke 16:13).

Possessions

In developed countries, people are materialistic. Having more than enough money to supply their daily needs, many use their excess wealth to accumulate possessions. They buy stuff with the expectation that it will make them happier and more fulfilled. It never does.

My dad often said, “You don’t own things. They own you.” He was so wise. Remember, God blesses us so that we can bless others.

Instead of seeking solace through possessions, we should first seek connection with the Almighty (Matthew 6:33).

Influence

Another thing some people elevate too highly in their lives is the ability to influence others. Influence isn’t necessarily bad. We can influence others to follow Jesus (see Matthew 5:16). And we should.

Yet for some, the unbridled quest of influence has surpassed their quest for God.

Respect

Others pursue the god of respect. I see this happen too often among church leaders who insist their followers addressed them using their credentials, such as Reverend, Doctor, or Father. This was prevalent in Jesus’s day, too, and he warned against it (Matthew 23:9 and Mark 12:38-39).

Though descriptive titles can aid in understanding, they can also become a sense of pride. Examples I often hear include senior pastor, lead pastor, and teaching pastor.

Approval

Another consideration is seeking the approval of others. We may have a psychological need to earn someone’s approval. But this isn’t God’s intention. Paul warns against this and writes that we should only seek God’s approval (Galatians 1:10).

Great is our God. Everything else is secondary. Click To Tweet

Great is our God

None of these pursuits—money, possessions, influence, respect, or approval—are necessarily bad. But when we chase after them like gods, we run the risk of them becoming more important to us then God.

Great is our God. Everything else is secondary, if even that.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalm 76-80 and today’s post is on Psalm 77:13.]