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52 Churches

The Megachurch, a Grand and Welcoming Experience

I’m both excited and apprehensive about visiting our area’s largest church, a megachurch.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #51

1. A sign at their drive tells first-time visitors to turn on their four-way flashers—because they want to give us VIP treatment. I don’t bother and follow the flow of cars, but it’s a nice touch. 

What can you do to give visitors VIP treatment?

2. After the opening set, one of the co-pastors explains that it’s nametag Sunday, something new they’re trying to facilitate better connections with one another. 

How can you help people connect with each other?

3. After the service I turn in our visitor card and they offer a tour of the facility. Our guide wraps up with a challenge to come back for three months to see how our faith grows. “You can’t evaluate a church on just one visit.” 

How can you encourage others on their faith journey?

4. While making connection was a concern at Church #50, forming meaningful friendships would be even harder here at this megachurch. But they do offer opportunities to meet people and form deeper relationships on Sunday nights and throughout the week. 

How can you help people connect at your church?

[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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Bible Insights

God’s Spirit to Be Poured Out on All People

The New Testament Cites the Old Testament

Many passages in the New Testament of the Bible quote parts of the Old Testament, which was written hundreds of years before. In some versions of the Bible, footnotes—added by the translators—refer us to the original text.

Holy Spirit

One verse, however, cites the source in the text, not a footnote. It’s in the book of Acts, where Peter directly references what the prophet Joel said. Here’s what happens:

Jesus tells the disciples that he will send the Holy Spirit to them to help and guide them. The Holy Spirit shows up and things get crazy. There’s the sound of a strong wind, the appearance of flames of fire, and the disciples preach in other languages (Acts 2:1-13).

The people can’t comprehend what’s happening. They freak out. They blame it on too much wine. This explanation is plausible for the crowd, who has never seen the Holy Spirit at work, empowering people to speak in other languages.

God’s Spirit

Peter sets them straight. He reminds them that Joel foretold about this infilling of the Holy Spirit, God’s spirit. The prophet wrote, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Joel 2:28-30).

Joel says it will happen. Peter and his pals experience it. And spiritual power and reality changes forever. God gives the Holy Spirit to them. And from that day forward, all who follow Jesus will have God’s Spirit in them too. Yes, everyone—all. That means them, and it means us. You and me. All. 

As a result, crazy, Holy Spirit things can happen to us too. But many of Jesus’s followers today dismiss this indwelling Holy Spirit. In doing so, they dismiss the power of God’s Spirit in them and in directing their lives.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Joel 1-3, and today’s post is on Joel 2:28-29.]

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 Tongues of Fire: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church from the Book of Acts, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. [Originally published as Dear Theophilus Acts.]

Learn more about all twelve of the Bible’s Minor Prophets in Peter’s new book, Dear Theophilus, Minor Prophets: 40 Prophetic Teachings about Unfaithfulness, Punishment, and Hope

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

Though David Says That God Is “My Refuge,” I Doubt David Feels It

When it Comes to God, Should We “Fake it Till We Make It?”

Psalm 142 is a prayer of lament. David’s hiding in a cave, likely fearing for his life. He feels alone with no one walking alongside him or having any concern for him. He cries out that he has no refuge, no protective shelter, no safe place.

Even though it seems his hideout in his cave provides a refuge, it’s a physical safety. Perhaps he also seeks a spiritual refuge. He feels he has none.

In his despair, he cries out to God. He writes, “I say, ‘you are my refuge,’”

Note that he doesn’t proclaim that God is “my refuge.” How could he do that when he just said he has no refuge? He merely says that he said it, not that he confidently believes that God is “my refuge.”

Push Through the Doubt

This reminds me of the phrase, “Fake it, till you make it.” I’m not sure how I feel about this adage when it comes to God and spiritual matters, or when it comes to anything, for that matter. But it seems that’s what David does.

Though he says God is my refuge, he doesn’t believe it. Not at that moment. But he prays it anyway. He’s pushing through his doubt, hoping to reemerge to find confidence in God again.

David isn’t being disingenuous in his prayer. He’s being honest—bluntly honest—as honest as he can be in that moment. He’s struggling to reach out to God amid despair and overwhelming opposition.

My Refuge

Intellectually, David may know that God is “my refuge,” but emotionally he’s not feeling it. Physically he’s not seeing it. Yet spiritually he pushes through. He cries out to God, saying words in faith that he can’t yet put his confidence in.

When we’re struggling, hurting, or afraid, may we follow David’s example. Click To Tweet

But he knows he’ll get there. He knows that his weak prayer will move him from human doubt to godly confidence. And God, I suspect, patiently waits for David to get there, for David to get to a point where he moves from going through the motions to a place of faith.

So David can boldly proclaim, “You are my refuge!” (Psalm 142:4-5, NIV).

When we’re struggling, hurting, or afraid, may we follow David’s example.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalm 140-144, and today’s post is on Psalm 142:4-5.]

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

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.

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.

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

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 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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