Christian Living

The Value of a Short-Term Mission Trip

Not Everyone Can Be a Missionary, but Everyone Can Support Missionaries

We’ve talked about four places—or ways—to be a missionary for Jesus. How does the idea of a short-term mission trip fit into Jesus’s command to be his witness (Acts 1:4-8)? Or his instruction to go make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20)?

It doesn’t.

At best a short-term missionary trip is an ineffective response to Jesus’s instructions to his followers—and to us. Though it may address the part where he says to go—albeit for a week or two—it’s fully inadequate to make disciples.

Making disciples is a long term, even lifelong effort. It’s not possible to do in a few days.

Does this mean we shouldn’t go on short term mission trips? No. Even though a short-term missionary trip falls short in achieving Jesus’s Great Commission, there’s still value to it.

Here are the two key benefits of short-term mission trips:

Get a Taste for Missionary Work

Going to another country, culture, or environment for a week or two is a wise move to explore the possibility of long-term missionary work. It gives a brief glimpse into what it means to prepare for and fund a missionary initiative.

It provides the experience of leaving home to go someplace else to tell others about Jesus.

For this reason, a short-term missionary trip is a smart way to test the feasibility of responding to God’s call to go into all nations to be Jesus’s witness and make disciples.

Therefore, I’m in favor of people going on a short-term mission trip. But only once. Going on repeated excursions, even turning it into an annual practice, accomplishes little to determine whether missions work should become a long-term or even lifetime adventure.

Develop a Passion to Support Missionary Efforts

A secondary reason to go on a short-term mission trip is to spark a lifelong interest in supporting missionaries. Though this may appear as an ancillary benefit, it’s an essential outcome.

Long-term missionaries need support. This support is not just monetary. Yes, funding missionary efforts is critical, which looms as an ongoing struggle for many if not all missionaries.

Critical support also has an emotional and spiritual element. Emotional support for missionaries comes in the form of encouragement.

Spiritual support is even more important. It means praying for missionaries and their work. For maximum effectiveness, this prayer support should occur on a regular basis, even daily, not just when a prayer letter goes out or an imperative need arises.

The Truth About Short Term Mission Trips

Though not everyone is called to or wired to be a long-term missionary to all nations, everyone can support missionary efforts. If it takes a short-term mission trip to cultivate a desire to support missions, then that’s a great result.

But never think that going on a short-term missionary trip—even annually—is obeying Jesus’s commands to go into the world as his witness and to make disciples. That requires a long-term commitment.

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.

Visiting Churches

Quakers: Unplanned and Spontaneous, Church #70

A few years ago, I stumbled upon a group of Young Quakers online. Their faith, their passion for community, and their desire to make a difference in their world drew me in. They even invited me to their annual gathering, halfway across the country.

Though I had never met one of them in person, for a time I considered going. That’s how desperate I was to be part of a vibrant faith community—even for a weekend.

They were all about half my age, which may explain their zest and their appeal to me. After serious consideration, however, I opted not to go.

Local Opportunities

Being ever practical, I looked for a gathering closer to home. Some of their group met on the other side of the state, but that was still too far away.

Casting a wider net for Quakers in general, I found a gathering some forty minutes from my house. They don’t meet every week, but instead get together the first, third, and fifth Sundays of each month.

According to their website, their meetings are unplanned and spontaneous. They use different wording, but my take is they spend a lot of time listening to the Holy Spirit, responding as appropriate.

Sometimes this means sharing insights and other times it entails keeping it to themselves. With no minister, everyone can participate in an egalitarian manner.

This is quite different from my normal Sunday practices, yet I have often experienced this, albeit without my bride, in other settings. There we would quiet ourselves and wait for the Holy Spirit to speak to us.

If his words were for the group, we would share them. Otherwise, we would keep his insight to ourselves. I wrote what I heard in my journal.

I know Candy would go to this church without complaint, but I also worry that their format would make her uncomfortable. I never resolved this dilemma, so the Quakers also kept moving down the list as we visited other churches. 

Range of Quaker Practices

Of note: In my online research about Quakers, I gather there is a wide range of Quaker practices. On one side are those gatherings that focus on the leading of the Holy Spirit, as this church seems to follow. In contrast, other Quaker meetings are quite different.

[See the discussion questions for Church 70, read about Church 69, or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of More Than 52 Churches 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.

Christian Living

7 Things Church Is Not

We Must Correct Some Wrong Perspectives about Our Religious Practices

We’ve looked at how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament to provide a new way for us and our churches to function, replacing the temple, paid clergy, and tithes. Then we explored ten New Testament practices and five New Testament examples to inform our church behavior.

Yet today’s church has characteristics that come from our culture and have no scriptural basis. We need to identify these unbiblical practices and remove them from our perspectives—and our churches. We need to pursue what Jesus wants.

1. Church Is Not About Membership

Membership in a business promotion or club implies privilege. There are qualification requirements to meet. Often there is a fee. Because not everyone can meet these barriers to entry, membership becomes a status symbol.

It separates those who are in from those who are out.

Church does the same thing when it touts membership. To become a church member, there are hoops to jump through: attend classes, agree to certain teachings, follow specific rules, or commit to give money, possibly even at a certain annual level.

Once we become a member, the church accepts us as one of its own. They fully embrace us, and we become one of them. We are elite, and, even if we won’t admit it, we swell with pride over our special status. Now the church and her paid staff will care for us.

To everyone else, they offer tolerance but withhold full acceptance. After all, church membership has its privileges.

There’s one problem.

Church membership is not biblical. We made it up.

Having members separates church attendees between those on the inside and everyone else. It pushes away spiritual seekers. Membership splits the church of Jesus, separating people into two groups, offering privileges to one and holding the other at a distance.

It is a most modern concept, consumerism at its finest. (More on this in the next section.)

Although perhaps well intended, membership divides the church that Jesus wants to function as one (John 17:21). Jesus accepts and loves everyone, not just those who follow him or give money.

Paul never gives instructions about church membership, Peter never commands we join a church, and John never holds a new membership class.

2. Church Is Not for Consumers

When we join a church by becoming a member, we expect something in return. In addition to acceptance, we seek benefits. That’s why we go church shopping, striving to find the church that offers us the most.

We look for the best preaching, the most exciting worship, and the widest array of programs to meet our needs.

This is consumerism—and it doesn’t belong in the church.

When people feel free to leave a church, often over the smallest of slights, they view themselves as a customer shopping for the church that offers the most value. This is a consumer mindset, not a godly perspective.

We shouldn’t shop for a church that provides the services we want. Instead we should look for a faith community we can help.

When people go church shopping, the church becomes a service provider. Which church offers the best services? Then the focus shifts to programs, service styles, and preaching power.

Instead of asking, “What can the church do for me?” the better question becomes “What can I do for the church?” Don’t seek to be served but to serve. (See Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45.)

This idea of receiving services influences our church selection process. Seldom do people look for a church that gives them the opportunity to serve. Instead they seek a church for the benefits it provides: the music, the message, and the ministries.

They’re church shoppers, pursuing church selection with a consumer mindset.

The result is a retail religion. These people shop for a church the same way they buy a car or look for a gym. They make a list—either literally or figuratively—of the things their new car, gym, or church must have.

Then they draft their wish list of what they hope their new car, gym, or church could have. And then they create a final list of deal breakers, detailing the things their new car, gym, or church can’t have.

Then they go shopping.

They tick off items on their list. With intention they test drive cars, check out gyms, or visit churches. In each case, they immediately reject some and consider others as possibilities.

Eventually they grow tired of shopping and make their selection from the top contenders, seeking a solution that provides them with the most value.

A better, and more God-honoring approach, is to seek a church community that provides opportunities for us to serve. We need to stop thinking of church for the things it will provide for us and instead consider the things we can do for it, that is, for the people who go there and the community surrounding it.

We should look for a church that provides opportunities for us to serve, according to how God has wired us, ways that make us come alive. This includes service within the church and to those people outside the church.

Service is not an isolated activity. As we serve, we do so as a group. Church service and community matter more than church programs and benefits.

3. Church Is Not about Division

We’ve talked about how church membership divides people. Some carry the special status of members, while others are relegated to second-class status as attendees. Membership segregates people into two groups. This divides Jesus’s church, the body of Christ.

Sadly, there are nuances within membership too.

There are those who serve on boards and committees and those who don’t function in a leadership capacity. There are those who teach classes and those who don’t. There are those who volunteer and those who don’t.

Each distinguishing characteristic elevates some and devalues others.

We also divide by race, ethnicity, and social economic status. More God-dishonoring segregation. Shame on us.

4. Church is Not About Theology

Another way we promote division is through our theology. Yes, theology divides us.

At its most basic level, theology is the study of God. But the modern idea of finding the right theology piles layers on top of this basic understanding, and the subject gets murky.

The result is too many multi-syllable words that few people can pronounce and even fewer can comprehend.

Turning God into an academic pursuit of the right theology pushes him away and keeps us from truly knowing him.

As people pursue theology, they amass information. Much of this forms a theoretical construct, turning God into an abstract spiritual entity. They gather knowledge at the risk of pushing the Almighty away.

This knowledge of who God is generates pride. It puffs up. Instead of knowledge, we should pursue love, which builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1).

The pursuit of theological learning is a noble task, but it’s not the goal. Chasing after a theology of God isn’t the end. It’s the means to the end: to know who God is in an intimate, personal way.

Instead we take our theologies and divide Jesus’s church. We cite certain beliefs as immutable. We fellowship with those who agree with us and disassociate from those who disagree. We dishonor Jesus in the process and serve as a poor witness as a result.

5. Church Is Not for Networking

Some people become part of a church to make marketing contacts or achieve status as a member of a high-profile congregation. Their goal in attending isn’t spiritual. It’s business. It’s closing sales.

Once they’ve sold all they can to those who attend that church, they move on to another one. For them attending church is a business strategy, and God takes a backseat.

6. Church Is Not a Business

A church is not a business, and we shouldn’t run it like one either. Many churches today, however, think like a business and operate like one. A church should not have a profit motive, that is, maximizing donations.

Nor should a church adapt current business world concepts such as having a CEO, a board, marketing strategies, customer experience, and incentive programs.

Yes, a church should be fiscally responsible and manage its money—God’s money— with the highest integrity. And a church needs some degree of leadership, but remember Jesus modeled the idea of servant leadership (Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45). So should today’s church leaders.

And we shouldn’t track the achievements of our church the same way a business would.

Today’s church measures success by attendance, offerings, and facility size. This is because the world values increased scope: the number of people, amount of money, and square footage of a building.

We’re more like the world than we care to admit. More people showing up for church each week is good. A larger campus impresses. Bigger offerings allow for more of the same. Churches with a sizeable attendance or grand edifice garner attention.

They receive media coverage. Books celebrate them and elevate their leaders to lofty pedestals. This is how the Western world defines success.

The church buys into it without hesitation. These measures of success become the focus. But this focus is off, even looking in the wrong direction.

The triple aim of most churches—attendance, offerings, and facility—doesn’t matter as much as most people think.

Said more bluntly, most church leaders today focus on the three B’s: butts (in the chair), bucks (in the offering), and buildings.

I doubt God cares about the size of our audience, offerings, or facility. Instead of an unhealthy, unbiblical focus on the three B’s, what if we and our churches looked to the three C’s of changed lives, community, and commitment?

Changed Lives: First, Jesus wants changed lives. He yearns for us to repent (Luke 13:3) and follow him (Luke 9:23). Then we can reorder our priorities. In fact, most all he says is about changing the way we live.

Community: Next, Jesus wants to build a community—to be one—just as he and Papa are one (John 17:21). He wants us to be part of the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Instead we have become a church.

Commitment: Last, Jesus expects our commitment. He desires people who will go all in. He wants us to follow him, to serve him, and to be with him (John 12:26).

We need to maintain our focus on Jesus and not look back to what we left behind (Luke 9:62). That’s commitment, and that’s what Jesus wants.

If Jesus focuses on changed lives, community, and commitment, so should we. Let’s push aside butts, bucks, and buildings, because these things get in the way of what Jesus wants for his followers.

7. Church Is Not an Institution

Most churches—and especially denominations—become institutions over time. As institutions they seek to perpetuate themselves regardless of the circumstances. In their struggle for survival, they lose sight of why they existed in the first place.

Instead of seeking to serve their community and share salvation through Jesus, their focus grows inward. Their priority is on self-preservation at all costs.

People expect a church—their church—will last forever. They forget that a church, which comprises people, is a living, breathing, and changing entity. It’s organic. That means a church is born, grows, thrives, and dies—just like the people who are in it.

The only way to avoid this is for a church to become an institution, but once it does it loses its original purpose. It’s no longer alive. It’s dead and can do little to advance the kingdom of God.

Church shouldn’t be a business, institution, or club. We must rescind membership, stop thinking like consumers, and start pursuing unity over segregation.

Finally, we need to stop dividing ourselves by our theology. Jesus has one church. We must start acting like it.

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.

Bible Insights

Balance Freedom of Speech with Being Careful in What We Say

The Tongue Is a Dangerous Tool that We Must Tame

In one of his Psalms, David writes that he will be careful in what he says so that he doesn’t sin. He talks about putting a muzzle on his mouth (Psalms 39:1). He says nothing about having freedom of speech.

James is clear about the dangers of an uncensored tongue. A small part of our body, the tongue can do great harm, setting a whole forest on fire from the single spark of a careless word.

What we say can corrupt our whole being, setting our life on fire, a fire born from hell (James 3:3-6).

Jude likewise warns about us saying too much. He writes about people who slander what they don’t understand, operating on instinct like irrational animals. In doing so we destroy ourselves (Jude 1:10).

Freedom of Speech

Today too many people assume that freedom of speech gives them the unfettered right to say whatever they want. In the process they often hurt others and risk making themselves look foolish. Or worse yet, their tongue causes them to sin.

They—and us along with them—will do well to put a muzzle on our mouth, to tame our tongue. We should use our words to praise God (Psalm 40:3) but never to cause harm to another.

Watching our words with care will keep us from sin and setting our souls on fire.

Responsibility of Speech

As a society we will do well to follow David’s example, as well as James’s and Jude’s wise counsel. Instead, too many people grasp the concept of free speech that we can say whatever we want, however we want, whenever we want without a thought given to the consequences.

Yet freedom of speech carries a responsibility. Our freedom of speech is not without limit. As followers of Jesus, we have a duty to speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), to muzzle our mouth so that we do not sin, and to not say things that may harm others.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalms 36-40, and today’s post is on Psalms 39:1.]

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.

Bible Study

John Bible Study, Day 16: Rule Followers

Today’s passage: John 9:13–34

Focus verse: “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” (John 9:16)

The Pharisees come up often in the four biographies of Jesus, over eighty times altogether. From our present day, we look back two millennia, dismayed at the hypocrisy and closed-mindedness of the Pharisees.

While we might claim we’d never act like they did, we can’t point a finger at them without risking pointing at ourselves too.

To their credit, the Pharisees are a most righteous group—more righteous than most any other, then or now. Their behavior is exemplary, and their adherence to the Law of Moses is unshakable. They are rule followers to the extreme.

Not only do they obey the 613 commands of what to do and what not to do as found in the Torah, they also constructed thousands more rules to guide them in the proper application of the original 613. They had a rule for everything. 

They pursue these statutes with legalistic fervor. If nothing else, we can respect them for their painstaking dedication to following the rules of right behavior.

One of their key laws regards the Sabbath, to keep the seventh day holy and not do any work (Exodus 31:14–15 and Exodus 35:2). As you might expect, many of the rules they created guide them in deciding what counts as work and what doesn’t for their Sabbath observances.

Remember the blind man that Jesus gave sight to? He did this on the Sabbath. The Pharisees aren’t pleased because to them, by healing the man, Jesus worked on their holy day. They condemn him for making someone’s life better. 

In doing so, they elevated God’s Old Testament law and their man-made guidelines above God’s ideal of doing good and helping others. Their hypocrisy appalls us.

Yet without a thought to our own duplicity, we also tend to be rule followers with legalistic fervor to live righteous lives.

Because Jesus doesn’t conform to their righteous ideals, they call him a sinner. Imagine that.

They claim the Son of God—who comes to save his people from their sins—is a sinner. They are so steeped in their religious practices that they can’t see God is present and at work in their midst.

These religious leaders also attack the man Jesus healed. They insult him. They accuse him of being a disciple of Jesus. The man, however, gives a most astute testimony, “If Jesus were not from God, he could do nothing.”

After that bold statement, they throw the once blind man out. Though this could mean they eject him from their meeting, the context suggests they expel him from the synagogue and ban him from their religious community.

Before we condemn the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and being rule followers, we should examine ourselves to determine if we do the same in our own lives, albeit with different focuses.


  1. In what ways might you be closed-minded?
  2. What are your Sabbath practices?
  3. Are you a rule follower? When is this good? When is it bad?
  4. When have you placed man-made rules over helping others?
  5. Do your Sabbath practices cause harm or produce good? How?

Discover more about the Sabbath and helping others in Matthew 12:1–14, Mark 2:27, John 7:22–23, and James 2:14–20. What insights can you glean from these passages?

Read the next lesson or start at the beginning of this study.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere 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.

Christian Living

Four Places to Be a Missionary for Jesus

Make Disciples of all Nations

In the oft-quoted passage that wraps up the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his followers to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). In doing so, they—and we—are to be a missionary for Jesus.

We see this repeated in the book of Mark (Mark 16:15-20). In the parallel account in the book of Acts, Jesus tells them to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and all nations (Acts 1:4-8). From this we get some key insights into the places where we can be a missionary for Jesus.

1. Where We Are (Jerusalem)

When Jesus tells his followers to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, they’re in Jerusalem at that time. It isn’t where they’re from or where they live, but where they are at that moment.

The first way we can be a missionary for Jesus is to tell others about him wherever we are, in our day-to-day life. In this way, we don’t need to go far. Our mission field is wherever we happen to be.

2. Our Own Country and People (Judea)

Judea is a geographic area that aligns with what was once the nation of Judah before their exile. Though the Romans occupied their land at that time, and they no longer had a country of their own, the reference to Judea implies their own nation. It definitely refers to their own people.

The second way we can be a missionary for Jesus is to witness for him in our own country, to our own people.

3. Those on the Fringe (Samaria)

Samaria is a region north of Judea. It was once part of Israel, before that nation was conquered and exiled. The Jews of that day looked down at the people in Samaria and didn’t associate with them, viewing them as inferior.

Yet Jesus tells his disciples to witness to these people. Jesus modeled this in his life and in his ministry. To us today, Samaria represents the people on the fringes of society, who we may not want to associate with. Yet Jesus tells us that we can be a missionary for him to these people too.

4. All Nations (the ends of the Earth)

The fourth category is the one that gets the most attention in our churches today. This is training and sending missionaries around the world to other countries: to be a missionary for Jesus. Only a few receive God’s call to go to another part of the world to tell people about him.

And for the rest of us, we need to heed the first item on this list: To tell those we live and work with about Jesus. Everyone can do that, and everyone should do that.

We need to be a missionary for Jesus wherever we are.

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.

Visiting Churches

Suffering from a Bad Reputation: Church #69

On my list of seven churches is a church from a small conservative denomination. I’ve never met anyone who currently goes to one of this denomination’s churches, but I have met people who used to go there.

Consider three discussion questions about Church 69, a small conservative denomination.

1. These people left this church bruised and bloodied, rejected by those they used to worship with. Their church pushed them out over issues I consider trivial.

How can we disagree with people without causing them pain?

2. Every church has detractors. As frail humans, with a sinful nature, this will occur. But to meet only people this denomination hurt is troublesome.

How can we make sure we don’t harm our church’s reputation or the name of Jesus?

3. I want to visit and learn more. But I already know too much and couldn’t go with an open mind. I must adjust my perspective.

When we have a bad attitude, do we seek God’s help to correct it?

[Read about Church 69 , Church 70, or start at the beginning of our journey.]

If you feel it’s time to move from the sidelines and get into the game, The More Than 52 Churches Workbook provides the plan to get you there.

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.

Christian Living

5 New Testament Ideas for Church

Discover What the Bible Teaches About Meeting Together

While considering a better New Testament approach to church, we talked about the three key perspectives that Jesus changed: meeting in homes, serving as priests, and helping those in need.

Then we looked at ten more New Testament practices: relying on the Holy Spirit, worship, prayer, fasting, community, eating together, caring for our people, valuing one another, helping others, and informal leadership.

Now we’ll look at five more tangible ideas of church and meeting together from the pages of the New Testament.

1. The Acts 2 Church

Just days after Pentecost, the people who follow Jesus are hanging out. This is the first church. What do they do?

Luke records their activities:

  • They learn about Jesus. Think of this as a new believer’s class. Remember, they’re mostly all new to their faith in Jesus. This is teaching.
  • They spend time with each other. This is fellowship.
  • They share meals. This is community.
  • They pray. This is connecting with God.
  • They meet every day at the temple were people outside their group are. This is outreach.
  • They also meet in homes. This is fellowship.
  • They share all their possessions. This is generosity.
  • They praise God. This is worship.

As a result, more people join them every day. This is what the early church does and how God blesses them (Acts 2:42–47).

What significant is what they don’t do. There’s no mention of weekly meetings, sermons, music, or offerings. If we’re serious about church in its purest form, the early church in Acts 2 gives us much to contemplate when we consider how our church should function today.

2. The Acts 4 Example

As the book of Acts unfolds with its historical narrative of the early church, Luke notes two more characteristics of that church: unity and sharing everything (Acts 4:32).

First, the church is of one heart and mind, just as Jesus prayed (John 17:21). Their actions are consistent with his prayer that they would be one then, just as we would be one today. Jesus prayed it, and the early church does it.

Unity describes what everyone of us should pursue and what every church should be. Jesus yearns for us to be united. Over the centuries Jesus’s followers in his church have done a poor job living in unity, as one.

Second, no one claims their possessions as their own. This isn’t a mine-versus-yours mentality. Everything is ours. They have a group perspective and act in the community’s best interest. They do it out of love for each other. They share everything they have. Not some, not half, but all.

This example is hard for many in our first-world churches to follow today, though not as much for congregations in developing countries. Regardless, while we might do well to hold our possessions loosely, this isn’t a command. Later Peter confirms that sharing resources is optional (Acts 5:4).

From Acts 4 we see an example of unity and generosity. This complete generosity, however, is a practice that happens at this snapshot of time for the early church. We will do well to consider how we can apply it today.

3. Paul’s Perspective

Now let’s look at a third passage. In it, Paul instructs the church in Corinth of how their meetings should proceed (1 Corinthians 14:26–31). While Paul writes to the Corinthian church, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t follow his directives as well today.

Paul opens by saying “each of you.” This means everyone should participate. The idea of all those present taking part suggests an egalitarian community gathering, where everyone contributes, and everyone ministers to each other.

This removes the divide between leader and follower, which happens in today’s church services. During a typical church service today a few people lead, while most people watch.

This means that only some are active during the service, while most sit as passive observers, as if going to a concert or attending a lecture.

Instead Paul wants everyone involved, where each person can minister to one another. He lists five activities that should take place.

Sing a Song

First, when we meet, we should sing a hymn or share a song. This could mean playing a musical instrument so that others can sing along. For those who can’t play an instrument or lead others in singing, a modern-day option might be to play a recording of a song.

Anyone can do that. Our singing could also mean—it probably means—launching into a song or chorus a cappella as the Holy Spirit leads.

Teach a Lesson

Second, the same approach applies for giving a word of instruction. We don’t need to preach a half-hour to an hour-long sermon. In this case less is more.

We can often communicate much by speaking little. Saying something concisely in thirty seconds may be more meaningful than droning on for thirty minutes. Again, no preparation required. Everyone who’s present can do this.

All we need is a willingness to share something God taught us or that we learned through studying Scripture. In addition, we can rely on the Holy Spirit to tell us what to share during our meeting. It can build off what someone else has already said, or it may be a new topic.

Share a Revelation

Third, the idea of having a revelation to share will seem normal to some and mystical to others. Think of a revelation as special knowledge that God has given to us. He can do this through what we read or things we see. And it can be through Holy Spirit insight.

Regardless of the source of our revelation, Paul wants us to share our insights with those gathered.

Speak in Tongues

The last two items on the list may, or may not, be a comfortable activity. Speaking in tongues is the first of these two items. The Bible talks about speaking in tongues, and Paul instructs the people in Corinth how to do it. It’s biblical, and we should consider this for our church community.

But it may be optional, because Paul later says, if anyone speaks in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:27). This implies speaking in tongues is not a requirement. But he does give guidelines for when people do speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:27–30). We will do well to follow Paul’s words.

Interpret the Tongue

Fifth, after someone speaks in an unknown language, someone must interpret it. Implicitly, if no one can interpret the message, then the person shouldn’t share it (1 Corinthians 14:28). After all, how can words that no one understands build up the church? (1 Corinthians 14:8-9).

The Holy Spirit’s Role

These five items require no preparation, just a willingness to notice the direction of God’s Spirit. This means listening to the Holy Spirit and responding as he directs. Implicit in this, we will encounter times of silence as we wait and listen. Silence unnerves some people today. But listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit is central to the gatherings of the early church.

Paul says everything we do at our meetings must be for the purpose of building up the church, to strengthen the faith and community of those present. This means not doing or saying anything to elevate ourselves or draw attention to our abilities.

Instead we should humble ourselves and do things for the common good of Jesus’s church. This will best advance the kingdom of God and the good news of Jesus.

4. Don’t Forget Meeting Together

Note that Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian church, says when you come together, not if you come together. This reminds us that gathering with other followers of Jesus should be a regular occurrence, not optional (1 Corinthians 14:26).

The book of Hebrews confirms this idea of regular interaction when it warns to not give up meeting together. We do this to encourage others to better love and help each other (Hebrews 10:24–25).

This idea of coming together, of meeting with others, can occur on Sunday morning, or it can happen at any other day or time. The Bible doesn’t tell us when to meet. Gathering Sunday morning is merely a practice that developed over time.

Though many people interpret this instruction to not give up meeting together as a command to attend church, it isn’t. Not really. While meeting together can include going to church on Sunday, it should encompass much more.

It’s a call for intentional interaction with other followers of Jesus. Jesus says anywhere two or three people gather in his name—that is, they get together and place their focus on him—he will join them (Matthew 18:20).

Here are some ideas of how and where we can meet in Jesus’s name.


Most people enjoy meals with others, and most Christians pray before they eat. Isn’t this gathering in Jesus’s name? While we may eat some meals alone, we potentially have three times each day to connect with others and include Jesus when we eat. But do we make the most of these opportunities?

Coffee Shop

People often meet at coffee shops to hang out. If we include God in our meeting, either explicitly or implicitly, we assemble in his name.


Do you invite people into your home or see others in theirs? If we both love Jesus, doesn’t this become a get together which includes him? It should.


What about going on a picnic, to the game, the gym, or shopping? With intentionality, each of these can be another opportunity to meet with others in his name.

Small Groups

Many churches provide opportunities for attendees to form intentional gatherings with a small number of people. This facilitates connection and draws us to God. But this doesn’t need to be the result of a formal small group program in our church.

We can make our own small group whenever we wish, meeting in the name of Jesus.


Yes, church is on this list of places where we can gather in the name of Jesus. I list it last because it might be the least important. This is because when we go to church, we usually do it wrong. Consider the rest of the verse to find out why.

People tend to skip that part. The reason we are to meet is so that we may encourage one another. The Bible says so, but how often do we do this at our church meetings?

If we leave church discouraged or fail to encourage others while we’re there, then we’ve missed the point of meeting together. While some people make a big deal out of going to church, they’re quick to miss that the reason is to provide encouragement. If we’re not doing that, then we might as well stay home.

5. What Jesus Says

Let’s return our discussion to Jesus.

Recall that after Jesus rises from the dead, he tells his followers to stay in Jerusalem, waiting for a surprise Father God has planned for them: the gift of the Holy Spirit to come upon them and give them supernatural power (Acts 1:4–5).

They wait, and the Holy Spirit shows up (Acts 2:1–4). Amazing things happen, and the number of Jesus’s followers explodes (Acts 2:41).

They wait in Jerusalem as instructed, and they receive the gift of Holy Spirit power as promised. But after all that, they remain in Jerusalem.

Instead they’re supposed to spread out and share Jesus’s good news around the world. He told them to do that too (Matthew 28:19–20). But they don’t. They stay put.

They don’t realize that God’s instructions to wait in Jerusalem doesn’t mean they’re supposed to stay there forever. Sometimes what God tells us to do is only for a season.

Then there’s something else for us to do. But if we don’t make that transition, we end up being in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing.

Instead of staying in Jerusalem—something they’re used to and comfortable with—their mission is to go into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:19–20).

How well are we doing at going into the world and making disciples today? Are we staying put in our church—what we’re used to doing and where we’re comfortable—or are we looking outside of our church to do what Jesus said to do?

I suspect you know the answer.

Make Disciples

Today’s church falls short of being witnesses and making disciples. To do so requires an outward perspective, yet most all churches have an inward focus. They care for their own to the peril of others. Many churches ignore outsiders completely, sometimes even shunning them.

Yes, God values community and wants us to meet (Hebrews 10:25). And the Bible is packed with commands and examples of worshiping God.

Most churches do the meeting together part, albeit with varying degrees of success. Many of those churches have a time of worship as they meet, though perhaps not always “in the Spirit” or “in truth” as Jesus said to do (John 4:23–24).

Yet few churches look outside their walls to go into their community—let alone the world—to witness and make disciples. Though Jesus said to wait for the Holy Spirit, he didn’t say to wait for people to come to us, to enter our churches so we could witness and disciple them.

No, we’re supposed to leave our Sunday sanctuary to take this Jesus-mandated work to them. We can’t do that in a church building on Sunday morning, safely snug behind closed doors.

If we want to make disciples, we need to go out and find them. This brings us to the second part.

Go into the World

There is a time to come together and a time to worship, but there is also a time to go. And we need to give more attention to the going part.

I know of two churches that sent their congregations out into their community on Sunday mornings, foregoing the church service so they can be a church that serves. One church did it a few times and stopped after they saw little results and received much grumbling.

The other church regularly plans this a few times each year and receives a positive reception from their community.

These were both service initiatives, not outright evangelism. But the best—and easiest—way to talk to people about Jesus is to first serve them in his name.

Every church should make a positive impact on their community. They do this best by entering it. Yet so few do. They’re too focused on meeting together and worshiping instead of going out into the world to make disciples.


We will do well to reform our church practices to conform to these five biblical concepts.

  1. Follow the early church’s example to learn about Jesus, pursue fellowship and community, pray and worship, meet daily in public and in homes, and practice kindness.
  2. Pursue unity and generosity.
  3. Be ready to rely on the Holy Spirit to sing, teach, share a revelation, speak in tongues, and interpret a tongue.
  4. Refresh our idea of what meeting together means.
  5. Balance our inward efforts on church meetings and worship with an outward focus on going into the world to make disciples.

Pick one change to make and then pursue it.

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.

Christian Living

Should We Meditate on God’s Word?

As We Read the Bible May We Imagine All God Has in Store for Us

I’ve always been wary of meditating. It seems so mystical, so ungodly. This is because I encountered the idea of meditation from Eastern religions, not biblical Christianity.

Though there are many types of meditation, I’ve heard most about transcendental meditation. As I understand it, the goal is to push aside all thought, to empty our minds.

Two Concerns about Meditation

Emptying my mind of all thought alarms me for two reasons, so I won’t meditate in this manner. First, the Bible says to hold every thought captive and make it obedient to Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:5). It doesn’t say to empty our minds of all thoughts, but to control them.

Second is when Jesus teaches about impure spirits. He warns against an impure spirit that finds a house (a mind) unoccupied and clean. It goes out and rounds up it’s even more wicked friends to go there to live, making the person even worse off than before (Matthew 12:43-45).

These are the two biblical reasons why I won’t empty my mind of thought.

What the Bible Says about Meditation

Just because we best know this concept of meditation from Eastern religions doesn’t mean it’s not in Scripture.

The word meditate occurs eighteen times in the Bible, with meditation showing up three more, in the NIV. A recurring theme in these verses is to meditate on God’s Word and on God’s goodness.

Meditate on God’s Word or Imagine?

In Psalm 1:2, the writer proclaims blessings on those who delight in God’s law, who meditate on it day and night. Though most translations use the word meditate, other versions say ponder, study, recite, think about, and focus.

When I read the Bible, I ponder it, study it, recite it, think about it, and focus on it. Given these alternate understandings, I’m happy to meditate on God’s Word.

Now let’s turn to the next chapter in Psalms. It talks about people with evil intent. Various translations of Psalm 2:1 describe this action as devise, plot, and make. Some versions, however, use the word meditate, with others saying imagine.

Do the words imagine and meditate mean the same thing? I understand that the Hebrew word translated meditate in Psalm 1:2 is the same word that’s translated imagine in Psalm 2:1.

This suggests that as we meditate on God’s Word, we can imagine what it means, how we can understand it, and the ways it can inform our lives.

The word imagine also occurs elsewhere in the Bible. In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, he talks about God being able to do even more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Meditate on that.

I have a good imagination. I can imagine additional details for the various stories we read in the Bible. I can also imagine myself in those ancient situations and doing today what God tells us to do.

May our meditations on God’s Word use our imagination to amplify its impact.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalms 1-5 and today’s post is on Psalm 1:2.]

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.

Bible Study

John Bible Study, Day 15: Why?

Today’s passage: John 9:1–12

Focus verse: “This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)

As Jesus and his disciples travel, they meet a blind man. He was blind from birth. The disciples assume sin caused his blindness. That’s their view of God, that he afflicts people who do wrong. He punishes them for their shortcomings.

The disciples seek clarity about who sinned, since he was born blind. “Did his parents’ sin cause this,” the disciples ask, “or the man’s sin?”

Given that the disciples believe the blindness happened because of sin, they ask a reasonable question. If the parents sinned, why is their child carrying the punishment for their mistakes?

Yet, if the man’s sin caused his blindness—which is the disciples’ logical conclusion—then he received punishment before he sinned, since he was born without the ability to see. Neither scenario makes sense to the disciples.

That’s why they ask Jesus for clarification about whose sin caused the blindness.

Jesus surprises them by saying, “Neither one caused it.” The man’s blindness is not the result of punishment for his sin or his parents’.

Instead, the man’s inability gives Jesus an opportunity to prove his healing power to his disciples, to the blind man, and to the religious teachers. 

In one of his stranger methods of healing people, Jesus doesn’t order the blindness to go away or command the man’s sight to return. Instead, Jesus makes a poultice out of dirt and spit, a most unexpected approach. He applies the mud he makes to the man’s eyes. 

Jesus still doesn’t proclaim healing to the man. Instead, he tells him to go to a pool and wash away the mud smeared on his eyes.

The man heads off to clean his face. Imagine the sight. A blind man walking down the road with mud caked over his eyes would get people’s attention.

The man reaches the pool, washes the mud from his face, and sees for the first time in his life. Through Jesus, the man’s life changes in one life-altering moment.

These things happen when we follow Jesus. Our life forever changes in an instant.


  1. Do you think there are consequences to sin? Why?
  2. In what ways can your present hardships bring glory to God?
  3. What do you do when God’s instructions don’t make sense or seem strange?
  4. This story highlights God’s sovereignty. What’s your reaction to it?
  5. How has your life changed from following Jesus?

Discover more about the blind seeing in Isaiah 29:18, Matthew 15:31, and Luke 7:22. What insights can you glean from these passages?

Read the next lesson or start at the beginning of this study.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere 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.