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Christian Living

Work Out Your Salvation

Consider Your Response to Receiving the Greatest Gift Anyone Could Ever Get

Paul tells the church of Philippi to work out your salvation (Philippians 2:12). He doesn’t say to work for your salvation. They’ve already received eternal life as a free gift through God’s goodness (his grace), and there’s nothing they need to do to earn it (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Tell God Thank You

Jesus died in our place and took on our punishment for all the things we’ve done wrong. In doing so, he made us right with Father God. It’s a gift he gives us with no strings attached. There’s nothing we need to do to earn it. We just need to receive it. It’s a gift of salvation, of eternal life.

What do we do when someone gives us a gift? We show our appreciation. This starts by saying thank you, and we might follow-up with a note or card. Depending on the gift, we may proudly wear it, use it, or display it for everyone to see. In doing so we honor the giver.

If we follow Jesus as his disciple, he’s given us the ultimate gift that anyone could ever give. It’s a gift of salvation and of eternal life with him and through him.

This deserves the best thank you we could ever offer. This isn’t a once-and-done show of appreciation. Receiving salvation deserves our regular and ongoing acknowledgment of having been given the best gift of all time.

Work Out Your Salvation Every Day

Receiving the greatest gift anyone ever could, warrants that we say thank you every day. We do this with our words, our thoughts, and our actions, making sure they align with God’s instructions in the Bible and his will for our life. This is how we work out our salvation. This is how we honor the giver.

Working out our salvation isn’t a requirement, but it is a warranted response. It’s a show of gratitude for what Jesus has done for us, and we should want to live a changed life as an ongoing display of appreciation.

And so that we don’t dismiss this as a trivial task, Paul tells us to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. This trepidation isn’t because God could take back his gift; it’s a reflection of his almighty power, which we should be in awe of and never presume.

Work Out Our Salvation Corporately

Implicit in Paul’s instruction to work out your salvation is to do so not only as a personal response, but also as a corporate response. As his church, we should work out our salvation together with other followers of Jesus as we gather on Sunday morning and throughout the week.

We do this in tangible terms by our worship of him and through our service to him and for him. In practical terms we do this by coexisting in harmony with one another, letting our words and our actions serve as a powerful witness to a world who doesn’t yet know Jesus.

We don’t have to work out our salvation, but we should want to. This is because eternal life is a gift that surpasses all others. Click To Tweet

Work It Out

We don’t have to work out our salvation, but we should want to. This is because eternal life is a gift that surpasses all others.

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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52 Churches

The Surprise

We walk inside to an empty lobby and head toward an amplified sound. We slink into a back row. Sunday school must be running late, but we find out that they cancelled church.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #36

1. The speaker acknowledges the presence of visitors. He apologizes that there will be no service today. Their minister had an emergency, and they cancelled church. 

If you cancel your service, how can you accommodate the people who show up?

2. Sunday school ends, and the people leave. A woman apologizes for their cancelled service. She shares her faith journey. Her pilgrimage encourages me. 

How ready are you to share your spiritual journey? What can you do to be better prepared?

3. This is an apostolic church, with Spirit-filled members. I wonder why they didn’t rely on the Holy Spirit to help them hold their service. 

What would you need to do to have church without your minister? 

4. Though a typical church service didn’t occur, fellowship did. We proclaimed Jesus, worshiped the Father, and celebrated the Holy Spirit—all without music or message. Today may be one of our best Sundays yet even though they cancelled church. 

What elements must exist for church to happen? How can you provide them when the unexpected occurs?

[See the prior set of questions 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

Why Business Practices Hurt the Church

Many Churches Try to Operate Like a Business Even Though That Model Doesn’t Apply

In our culture we’re familiar with the structure of businesses. We either work for a business or we run one. It’s a natural extension to apply these business practices to the church. But we shouldn’t, because a church isn’t a business. And the church needs to stop acting like one.

Consider these common elements of business practices:

CEO

A CEO runs a business. Ultimately the CEO controls everything and makes all decisions. While the wise CEO will delegate both responsibility and authority, in the end the CEO stands accountable for what happens.

Incidentally most CEOs receive huge compensation packages for their trouble.

In churches many people wrongly elevate the pastor to CEO status, and many pastors try to grab unto it. Jesus was a servant leader and so should today’s pastors. And by the way, they shouldn’t be a pastor for the money.

Jesus wasn’t a wealthy man, and he stands as a worthy example for ministry leaders.

Board of Directors

Businesses have a board of directors. In some cases these boards agree to whatever the CEO wants. In other cases the board rightly serves as a check and balance to the CEO.

Although some churches are truly democratic, where every decision results from a congregational vote, most churches have some sort of board. Some boards are elected, others are appointed, and a few are comprised of big money donors (money speaks).

In most cases the board serves as a rubber stamp for whatever the pastor wants. But the other extreme is micromanaging the pastor and dictating every action. The early church operated by consensus. Maybe today’s churches should, too.

Board Chair

Many times the chair of the board is the CEO. This means the board tasked with overseeing the CEO is also run by the CEO. The result is an ineffective board.

In many churches the pastor also runs the church board, rendering the board as largely ineffective. The pastor, who serves continually, gathers strength over time, while the board, which turns over every few years, becomes weak.

Profit Motive

Companies are in business to make money. Even nonprofits need to generate a positive cashflow if they hope to remain viable.

While the motive of a church should not be money, often cash becomes the soul focus of concern. The constant pressure of bringing in money causes churches to make decisions based on finances and to kowtow to the demands of big-money donors.

We understand how businesses run, but we are wrong to apply those lessons to churches. Click To Tweet

Return on Investment

Businesses make decisions based on ROI (return on investment). Remember, they’re in business to make money.

Churches shouldn’t be in the money-making business. They should focus on changed lives. The ROI for the church is souls, not dollars.

Stockholders

Businesses are owned by stockholders. The stockholders expect a profit from their investment.

While churches don’t have stockholders, most have members. And these members wrongly expect something in return for their participation. They forget the church’s real purpose is others not members. They forget to lay up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20).

We understand business practices, but we are wrong to apply these lessons to churches. A church that runs like a business becomes an institution and fails to embrace the Kingdom of God that Jesus talks so much about.

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

The Rise and Fall of Lot

Lot Is Blessed When Abraham Is Near

When Abram went to the land God promised him, he took Lot with him even though he wasn’t supposed to. Abram had to deal with the consequences of his decision. Consider the rise and fall of Lot.

For Lot, there were consequences too. When he traveled with Abram, Lot prospered. He was a blessed man. Once they separated, however, things turned bad for Lot.

Without his uncle’s influence, Lot made some poor choices, eventually holed up in a cave. He was fearful, broke, and alone—except for his two daughters, but that’s another story.

Sometimes things may go good for us just because of who we hang out with. Click To Tweet

Sometimes things may go good for us just because of who we hang out with. But once we leave their umbrella of favor our positive outcomes can evaporate.

That’s why the company we keep is so important. And that explains the rise and fall of Lot.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 18-20, and today’s post is on Genesis 19:16-17, 30.]

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

Missional Through Community

Follow Jesus’s Example to Live in Community and Be Missional

I often talk about the importance of being in a spiritual community. Though this community can happen anywhere, when it comes to church, forming meaningful spiritual connections is more important than the music or message of the Sunday service.

Another critical element of our faith practice is being missional. These two pursuits can work well together; they should work well together. We can best be missional through community, a missional community, if you will.

Missional Community

One church understood this idea well, at least in concept. They called their small group program, Missional Community. The groups did a reasonable job at accomplishing the community aspect of their assignment, but they fell short on the missional portion.

Their community operated with an internal mindset, either largely or exclusively so. And if they did anything with an outward focus, they usually directed these efforts at the church and its attendees, not the greater public on the outside.

I suspect the premise was to form community first and hope missional activity would flow from it. Yet a small group with an inward focus seldom lasts more than a couple of years. The long-lasting groups do so when they have an external focus, an outward mission. They then become missional through community.

A better approach, however, is to start with a missional effort first. Then form community around it. This makes sense.

If you take ten people and ask them to identify an initiative they want to pursue, you’ll get ten answers. Consensus will elude you. And even if people agree for the sake of harmony, nine of them will lack a full-on commitment to the cause.

Instead, look at those already committed to the activity. Then pull them together as a group to form connection around their common initiative. In this way, the missional community will pursue its calling with complete commitment and form a spiritual kinship that endures.

Missional Church

Like small groups, most churches also have an internal focus. They continue to exist in their self-centered pursuit of spirituality and persist to meet for the long-term—unlike small groups. These churches, however, render themselves ineffective in making a significant impact for the kingdom of God.

If a church is to be truly missional, bake the missional mindset into its DNA. Those who agree with the mission will stay and become connected. And those who don’t buy into the mission will soon leave.

Form a gathering of like-minded Jesus followers and develop a missional community. Click To Tweet

Missional through Community

In Jesus’s Broken Church I wrote, “As you meet, be sure to keep your focus on Jesus and his Holy Spirit. They will guide you in ways to look beyond your group, to be missional (Matthew 10:42).”

Though I didn’t spell it out, the concluding prescription of the entire book is to be missional through community, to form a gathering of like-minded Jesus followers to pursue mission and develop a missional community. Better yet, start with the mission and the community will follow.

You don’t need a large group to start being missional through community. It only takes two or three (Matthew 18:20). Build on that. Trust God to bless the outcome.

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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52 Churches

A Well-Kept Secret

This church didn’t come up in our online search or in the local directory of churches. We stumbled upon them while driving to another church. Their existence is a well-kept secret.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #35, which I’ll call a well-kept secret: 

1. Once we know their name, we find their Facebook page, confirming their location but nothing else. Their denomination’s website gives service times but no contact information. We head off to church without confirming the service time or if they’re even meeting. 

How easy is it for people to learn about your church?

2. We arrive seven minutes early, but everyone’s seated and singing. My impulse is to retreat. Instead we slink in and sit in the back row. The song ends and absolutely nothing happens for several minutes. We squirm in awkward silence. I so want to leave.

What do you do when your church service makes people want to leave?

3. The Communion liturgy addresses the bread and wine, but they only share the bread and skip the cup. I feel cheated. 

Which of your practices confuse visitors? How can you address this?

4. Only after the service does anyone talk to us. Up to this point, they’d been stoic. Now they’re friendly. 

Do people think your church is friendly? How can you be more engaging?

They ignored us when we arrived and during the service, but they were most friendly afterward. At least they finished strong.

[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

The Bible Tells the Church to Meet Together, Worship, and Witness

We Can’t Witness for Jesus When We Sequester Ourselves on Sunday Mornings

Just before Jesus leaves this world to return to heaven, he instructs his followers to go into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). In an expanded version of this incident, Jesus tells his followers to wait for Holy Spirit power and then be his witness, both near and far (Acts 1:4-9).

Witness and Make Disciples

The church of Jesus doesn’t do a good job 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 outsiders, with many churches excelling in doing so.

Yes, God values community and wants us to meet together (Hebrews 10:25). And the Bible is packed with commands and examples of worshiping God, with Jesus noting that “true worshipers” will worship God in the Spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

Meeting Together and Worship

Most churches do the meeting together part reasonably well, albeit with varying degrees of success. Many of those churches have a time of worship as they meet together, though perhaps not always “in the Spirit” or even “in truth.”

Yet few churches look outside their walls in order to go into their community 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 come to our churches so we could witness and disciple them.

No, we are supposed to leave our church buildings to take this work to them. We can’t do that at church on Sunday morning, safely snug behind closed doors.

Maybe we should forego the church service in order to be a church that serves. Click To Tweet

Go into the World as a Witness

Yes 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 have sent their congregations out into their community on Sunday mornings, foregoing the church service in order to 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 garners a positive influence on their community.

Shouldn’t every church make a positive impact on their community? Yet so few do. They are too busy meeting together and worshiping.

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

Read more about the book of Acts in Dear Theophilus, Acts: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church now 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

God Speaks to Job and to Us

When God Speaks, We Must be Ready to Listen

Job’s friends come to comfort him. At least that’s how it appears, but in actuality they’re not much help. Their words assault Job and his character. In exasperation Job goes on a sarcastic rant against his so-called friends and then becomes poetic as he contemplates God’s power.

He ends this part of his discourse by saying, “Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” (Job 26:14).

Job uses thunder to imply God. That’s a powerful metaphor.

Today, we have a scientific explanation for thunder. And even though we comprehend thunder in an intellectual way, it still produces an all-inspiring sound that gets our attention.

Imagine how the ancient world viewed thunder: loud, even booming, terrifying, powerful, unseen. It might be as close as they can come to comprehending God. Yet even this falls short, far short.

Like thunder, God is both powerful and unseen. Who can understand that? Also, like thunder, God can have a booming loudness. And he can be terrifying, too.

Yet in contrast, God can also be a still small voice, a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12). Which is it?

Both.

God Speaks to Job

Job is in the midst of unimaginable turmoil, of unbearable pain. Everything has been taken from him, except for his breath and his faith—and both of those are tenuous.

He seeks God for answers. He desires to hear God talk and explain what has been happening. He likely wants to hear the booming voice of God to assure him who’s in control and that there’s a purpose in all he has gone through.

In addition, if God spoke in a loud booming voice, not only would Job hear, but so would his unhelpful friends. God would put them in their place, or so Job hopes.

And, later, when God does speak to Job, it’s out of the storm (Job 38:1). And what accompanies a storm? Thunder, loud, booming, terrifying—both God and the storm.

When God speaks, are we listening? Click To Tweet

God Speaks to Elijah

When Elijah has his moment of doubt, he also waits for God to speak. First there’s a wind. Then an earthquake. And finally a fire. But God isn’t in those things. God isn’t loud, booming, or terrifying. Instead he is a gentle whisper. And when God’s whisper comes, Elijah is ready to listen (1 Kings 19:11-13).

God Speaks to Us

God can speak to us in many ways. Sometimes it’s loud and other times it’s soft. Maybe God speaks to us through nature, or friends, or circumstances. Through it all, God speaks to us.

The question is, are we listening?

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Job 25-28, and today’s post is on Job 26:14.]

Discover more in Peter’s new book Dear Theophilus Job: 40 Insights About Moving from Despair to Deliverance. In it, we compare the text of Job to a modern screenplay.

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

Do You Go to a Missional Church? Are You Missional?

Make Sure That What You Do Advances the Kingdom of God

Many people talk about being a missional church (and a missional follower of Jesus). This is an ideal goal, yet people have different understandings about what it means to be missional. Before giving a holistic definition of this often-misunderstood word, let’s first look what it is not.

Missional Is Not a Mission Statement

Too many churches think that having a mission statement automatically means they’re a missional church. But there’s seldom a connection between their formal declaration of intent and its effective outcome.

Even including the word missional in a mission statement doesn’t count. Claiming to be missional falls far short of producing true missional results.

Missional Is Not Merely an Attitude

Beyond mission statements, having an attitude of mission is a good start, but thinking falls far short from doing. Being mission minded is an essential foundation to launch from, but we must put our faith into action to help others.

Missional Is Not Providing Financial Support to Missionaries

Giving money to support missionaries to go throughout the world and proclaim Jesus is an ideal use of funds. It is not, however, missional. Instead, it’s paying someone else to be missional in your place.

Yes, missionaries need money so they can focus on telling others about Jesus and advance his kingdom. (Notice I didn’t say grow a church.) Both we and our churches will do well to support missionaries, but don’t for a minute think this gets us off the hook for being missional ourselves.

Remember, Scripture says that faith without deeds is dead (James 2:14-26). Don’t have an ineffective, unproductive faith.

Missional Is Not Internal Programs

Another common fallacy is thinking that having internal church programs qualifies as being a missional church. Yes, some churches have their doors open every day of the week for some program, initiative, or gathering. But with rare exception, each one of these programs has an internal focus, seeking to serve church members and attendees, while doing nothing to benefit the surrounding community.

These programs are inward focused, self-serving, and selfish.

Consider your church budget. After removing salaries and facility expenses, look at what’s left—if anything. How much of this remaining sliver of donations goes to internal needs versus how much goes to outward-facing, community initiatives? For most churches, the answer is zero.

God-honoring mission is outward focused, serves others, and gives without expectation. This is what it means to be a missional church. Click To Tweet

Missional Church Is Outward Facing Action

True kingdom-growing mission is the opposite of internal programs geared toward the flock. God-honoring mission is outward focused, serves others, and gives without expectation. This is what it means to be a missional church.

Do your part to advance the kingdom of God. Pursue this missional mindset individually and as a group. This is necessary because a missional church is comprised of missional people.

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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52 Churches

Acts 2 Church

Today’s destination is a charismatic church. We’ve not been to many so I’m excited for the experience.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #34

1. We arrive ten minutes early. With only two cars in the lot, my anticipation sags. We walk in, surprising six people who aren’t expecting visitors—or anyone else. Yet Jesus says he will be there when two or more gather. 

How can we better embrace this teaching of Jesus?

2. “We’re in a rebuilding phase,” says one man. This seems like a positive spin on a dire situation. I don’t know what to say. 

How do we know when to push on and when to give up? What role does God play in this?

3. Though not dynamic in delivery, our speaker’s words resonate with me as he teaches about the Acts 2 church. 

How can we turn our attention from wanting to hear an eloquent speaker to remaining open to God’s leading, regardless of his messenger’s skill?

4. From a human standpoint, the future of this church is bleak, but with the Holy Spirit anything can happen, just as it did in Acts 2. 

How must we shift our focus from what we can do to what God can do?

Though this isn’t an Acts 2 church, I appreciate their teaching about the Holy Spirit and acknowledging his power to supernaturally make things happen and grow the church.

[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.