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Bible Insights

Do You Seek God First for Healing When You Are Sick?

Azariah the Son of Oded

Azariah, son of Oded, comes to Asa, King of Judah. The prophet tells the king, “If you see God, you’ll find him. If you walk away from him, he’ll walk away from you” (2 Chronicles 15:2). That is, to seek God first.

King Asa takes the prophet’s warning seriously and acts. He decides to seek God. He implements spiritual reforms and restores worship. The nation is at peace—at least for several years.

Then Asa makes a treaty with another king and goes to war against Israel. Another prophet, Hanani, goes to Asa criticizing him for relying on another nation, king, and army instead of God. This time, instead of responding positively, Asa takes offense and throws the sage in prison.

Things go downhill from there.

Seek God Today

A few years later Asa has a disease develop in his foot. Although painful, he does not seek God for healing. Instead he relies on doctors to cure him. They don’t. Two years later Asa dies.

In all instances, we are wise to seek God first. Click To Tweet

Many Christians in developed countries today act just like King Asa. When a medical problem arises, they rush off to the nearest doctor seeking the wisdom of people to restore them to full health.

And if the first physician doesn’t produce results, they’ll pursue a second opinion from another medical professional.

They don’t seek God for supernatural healing.

I’m not sure if this is because they’re not conditioned to turn to God for their physical ailments or if they don’t believe he can heal them. At best, they may whisper a short prayer asking that God will enable the physicians to heal them.

Jesus Came to Save and to Heal

Oh, how this must grieve God with our lack of faith and unwillingness to trust him with our health and our future. Remember, Jesus came to save and to heal. If we trust him for our salvation, why won’t we trust him for our healing?

Though this isn’t a call to dismiss medical treatment, it is a plea to seek God first and then consider modern healthcare as an adjunct or secondary source. Sometimes God will heal us directly and other times he will work through physicians.

But in all instances, we are wise to seek God first.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Chronicles 16-18, and today’s post is on 2 Chronicles 16:12.]

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

Live for Today

Celebrate the Past, Anticipate the Future, and Embrace the Present

Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8). Yet most people only celebrate what he has done or anticipate what he will do. They fail to see what he is doing now. That’s why we must live for today.

Yesterday

The Bible records what God has done in the past. We read these accounts and celebrate what he has done, of him saving his people from danger and rescuing them from their enemies. We take comfort knowing that our all-powerful (omniscient) God loves us and cares for us.

In the same way we celebrate what he has done for us in our past, of his provision and protection. Through our dark moments he was there. When we didn’t think we could go on, he walked with us. And for those times when the situations of life weighed us down, he lifted us up.

We praise God for what he has done as revealed in Scripture and as experienced in our own lives.

Tomorrow

The Bible also records what God promises to do in the future. We look forward to eternity with him in heaven. Yet we also anticipate his provisions for what he will do for us while we’re still here on earth.

Just as people in the Bible placed their hope in their Lord, we do as well. In the same way that he has cared for and protected us in the past, he’ll do so in the future.

Today

A friend once lamented about an elder in our church, “He’s so heavenly minded, that he’s no earthly good.” [Though this hails from Johnny Cash’s 1977 song “No Earthly Good,” it goes back much further to Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr about a century earlier.]

In being so future focused, like this church elder, we can forget the wonder of the present and fail to live in the moment of today.

Just as we can celebrate what God has done for us in the past, we can also wallow in sorrow over our mistakes and missed opportunities. While we want to learn from the past, we shouldn’t let it hold us captive to any shame we might have over what we once did.

Scripture Tells Us to Not Dwell on the Past

Paul writes to the church in Philippi to forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead (Philippians 3:13). Paul also tells the church in Corinth, reminding them that in Jesus we are a new creation. The old is gone, and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Much earlier in the Bible, God tells Isaiah and his people to forget what was and don’t dwell in the past. This is because he’s doing a new thing (Isaiah 43:18-19).

Embrace Today

We need to embrace each new day for the potential it provides. An inspiring quote attributed to Charles E. Dederich, a reformed alcoholic, is “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

I understand that Alcoholics Anonymous follows this sentiment. Though I don’t drink and never have, I often begin each day with the perspective that fresh potential awaits me.

Some mornings, before I even open my eyes, I encourage myself for the day ahead with the reminder that, “Today is the first day of the rest of my life.” It sets in motion what happens next.

What we did yesterday—be it good or bad—is in the past. Today presents a new opportunity for us to embrace. Click To Tweet

What I did yesterday—be it good or bad—is in the past. Today presents a new opportunity for me to embrace. I shouldn’t coast on my accomplishments of yesterday anymore then I should be held captive by my disappointments.

Though God’s greatest gift is eternal life through Jesus, another amazing gift is the gift of today. With God’s help, may we strive to seize the day and make the most of it.

Live for 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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Peter DeHaan News

New Book: A New Heaven and a New Earth

40 Practical Insights from John’s Book of Revelation

Gain insight into one of the most intriguing books of the Bible: Revelation

The end times. The second coming. When Jesus returns. No matter how you refer to the last book of the Bible, Revelation is an epic battle between good and evil. Through evocative imagery that sparks our imagination, the final book in the New Testament can both intrigue and confuse believers.

Stop spinning your wheels, trying to unlock the secret code of what might happen when, how, and where.

A New Heaven and a New Earth: 40 Practical Insights from John’s Book of Revelation

A New Heaven and a New Earth: 40 Practical Insights from John’s Book of Revelation will help you read Revelation and study it with the goal of applying it to your life today. Even if you’ve been in church your whole life, it will inspire you to hope in Christ’s return and the establishment of a new heaven and earth.

Through forty daily readings, you’ll discover how Revelation can best inform what we do, think, and believe today. A combination of Bible study teaching through a devotional style, you’ll discover practical and understandable insights you can apply to your life and spiritual journey right now.

In this Bible study devotional on Revelation, you’ll:

  • gain a fresh approach to the book of Revelation
  • explore how to apply it to your life in meaningful ways
  • gain a broader and more impactful view of John’s Revelation
  • hold on to hope that good will triumph over evil in the end
  • trust in a God who holds the past, present, and future in his hands

Join Peter DeHaan, a lifetime student of the Bible and founder of the A Bible a Day website, in this study on Revelation that will teach and encourage you. Through forty daily insights, you’ll gain practical application about the final book of the Bible and feel more confident in your understanding of this often-confusing book.

Through short readings, application questions, and additional biblical references, you’ll receive hope and assurance that God is in control over every future event. This book is ideal for individuals, small groups, and Bible studies.

If you’ve ever wondered how Revelation can apply to your life, then start with A New Heaven and a New Earth to discover what God’s final words can teach you.

Get your copy 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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Visiting Churches

Discussion Questions for Church #54

I’ve read books about emergent churches, but I’ve never been to one. At this church, the church leaders want to serve this underserved neighborhood: the poorest and least safe, crime-laden and hopeless.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church 54.

They meet at 5:30 p.m. The plan is to share a meal, offer a brief teaching, and go for a prayer walk in the neighborhood. How open are we to go to church Sunday evening instead of Sunday morning?

My wife, Candy, asks what food to bring. As visitors, they’d forgive us if we showed up empty-handed, but during 52 Churches we did our share of mooching. How open are we to include people in our potluck who have nothing to contribute?

Our leader says that sharing a meal is Communion. As we eat and drink together, we do so to remember Jesus. How open are we to embrace Communion as a meal and a meal as Communion?

The sanctuary lights remain off, with mood lighting taking their place. It provides a peaceful, subdued setting. Some women dance in the back with graceful movement. What role can we let dance play in our worship experience?

May we remember Jesus in all that we do at church, at home, at work, with family, and throughout our lives.

[Read about Church 53, Church 55, or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of More Than 52 Churches and The More Than 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

Hold on to Every Thought

Make Our Thoughts Obedient to Jesus

Paul tells the church in Corinth to capture every thought and make it obedient to Jesus. Likewise, Proverbs advises us to guard our thoughts (Proverbs 4:23). (Some translations say to guard our hearts, putting a different twist on the same concept).

This is often hard to do—but not impossible.

Though I’m still working on it, my solution is to distract myself from wayward thoughts. When I remember to do this, they usually dissipate quickly. My distractions take two forms:

Quote the Bible

The first verse that comes to mind is in James: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). This is good advice to follow, but when I cite it, I end up focusing on what I’m trying to escape. It doesn’t help me control my every thought.

Instead, my go to verse is from Revelation: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8). This passage places my focus on God, praising him, worshiping him, and acknowledging his eternal existence.” The enemy doesn’t like that.

I end up reciting this verse just about every day, often multiple times.

The key to holding every thought captive is remembering to pray. Click To Tweet

Pray

Another way I distract myself from wrong thinking is to pray. The enemy doesn’t like that either. However, I don’t pray that I’ll stop thinking wrong thoughts or for strength to hold them captive; that also focuses my attention on what I’m trying to escape. Instead I pray for someone else.

Just as I have one predetermined verse, I have one predetermined person who I will automatically pray for when wrong thoughts beckon. This keeps me from wasting time, trying to determine who I should pray for and gets me to the praying part quickly.

Capturing every thought and subjecting it to Jesus is usually quite easy when I remember to cite scripture or pray. The key is remembering to do so.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 10-13, and today’s post is on 2 Corinthians 10:5.]

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

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 Do We Do When God’s Commands No Longer Make Sense?

Contrary to the Law of Moses King David Reassigns the Duties of the Levites

In the book of Numbers, Moses details the assignments and responsibilities of the tribe of Levi, mentioning them over fifty times. Though the priests, descendants of Aaron, are from this tribe, the rest of the Levites have God-assigned responsibilities too.

Chief among them is taking down, moving, and setting up the tabernacle and related elements of worship. They must do this each time God’s people move camp as they wander about in the wilderness.

The nation of Israel spends about four decades in the desert, sometimes moving frequently and other times not so much. This keeps the Levites busy.

Then they get to the promised land, conquer it, and occupy it. No longer is there a need to disassemble, transport, and reassemble the tabernacle. What do the Levites do now that their primary job is irrelevant? That’s a good question.

Over four hundred years later, some four centuries with the Levites having nothing to do, King David arrives on the scene. He reassigns the Levites to new tasks that relate to worshiping God.

Who does David think he is to countermand the commands of Moses, as received from God? It seems ill-advised to ignore what’s in Scripture—God’s written word—and replace it with something that makes better sense to us. But this is precisely what David did.

Though we could concoct a principal from this and say that when Scripture—God’s past commands—no longer makes sense in the present, we are free to change them. Just like David did. Yet, I’m not going to go there. I think it’s an overstretch, a misapplication.

Remember, after all, David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). That’s significant.

Hold to what the Bible says and apply it the best we can to our life and culture today. Click To Tweet

Whenever I encounter something in the Bible that doesn’t make sense, I don’t ignore it. Instead I meditate on it. I ask the Holy Spirit to supernaturally explain it to me.

Sometimes he does so right away, in other instances it takes a few days, and on occasion I wait for years. But until God instructs me otherwise, I’ll hold to what the Bible says and apply it the best I can to my life and our culture today.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Chronicles 24-26, and today’s post is on 1 Chronicles 24:3.]

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

Don’t Let Our Labels Divide Us

May We Be One in Jesus and Ignore What Could Separate Us

We live in a divisive time, with one group opposing another, often in the most zealous of ways, sometimes even with violent outcomes. As a society, we’re quick to put people in a box and label them according to some aspect of their life.

Though these labels are sometimes convenient, and at times even appropriate, more often they divide us and cause unnecessary conflict and needless opposition.

These divisions, however, don’t just appear in secular spaces. They also appear in the religious realm. We put labels on people of faith and use these identifiers to decide who we align with and who we oppose. And to our discredit, we do this in the name of God.

Here are some ways that we let labels divide us as people of faith and followers of Jesus:

Divided by Denomination

First, we divide ourselves by denomination, in both a generic and a specific sense. First, we segregate Christianity into three primary streams: Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant.

Each group knows little about the other, often denigrating them over wrong assumptions and misunderstandings. Yet we all have Jesus in common. This should be enough to unite us and be one in him.

Within Protestantism, we see many more divisions with 42,000 Protestant denominations who distrust each other, criticize one another, and resort to name-calling for no good reason other than to make us feel smugly superior.

This is to our discredit. These manmade divisions take us far from the unity that Jesus prayed for and marginalize our witness for Jesus.

Divided by Theology

Next, we use the labels of our theology to separate us. We elevate our point of view—which we think is correct—and diminish our fellow brothers and sisters—who we perceive as being in error.

With academic vigor, we pursue a right theology. In the process, we overlook the importance of having a right relationship with God. Our connection with the Almighty, through Jesus, is what matters most.

Our theological labels don’t matter. In most cases, our theology wrongly judges one another and causes needless division. It generates suspicion and breeds mistrust. Instead of formulating tenuous theological constructs, we should focus on placing our trust in Jesus.

Divided by Politics

We also let our political views, which carry their own set of labels, influence our theology.

In the United States—and perhaps in the rest of the world too—we see well-meaning followers of Jesus who align with one political party, vilifying their brothers and sisters in Christ who belong to the opposite party.

I’ve heard each side lambaste the other, saying how can someone be a (enter party affiliation) and be a Christian?

Divided by Church Practice

Making an even a finer distinction on our theology, we place labels on our church practices, too, often with fervent passion. Some churches are known as being high churches, which implies the rest are low churches.

There are liturgical churches and non-liturgical churches. Some church gatherings place their focus on the practice of Holy Communion and others emphasizethe sermon.

Then there are musical styles, ranging from traditional to contemporary. We also debate pews versus chairs, women in ministry, and the “proper” way too be saved through Jesus.

Divided by Membership

Beyond that, we divide ourselves by membership status. For some churches—perhaps most—this is an essential consideration. Members are in, and nonmembers are out, be it effectively or legalistically.

But membership in a denomination or local church isn’t biblical. It opposes the Scriptural teaching that as followers of Jesus we are members united in one body, which is the universal church.

The Solution to Labels

It’s time we end our categorization of each other and stop our needless squabbles over secondary issues and disputes that don’t matter to God. Instead it’s time we embrace one another and love one another, just as Jesus told us to do.

We need to live in unity.

It's time we embrace one another and love one another, just as Jesus told us to do. Click To Tweet

Then we can come closer to being united as one, just as Jesus and the Father are one.

It’s time we embrace one another and love one another, just as Jesus told us to do.

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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Visiting Churches

Church #54: Emergent Church, Maybe

Someone once quipped, “There are more books about emergent churches than there are emergent churches.” That seems like hyperbole, but my experience confirms it.

I’ve read several books about the emergent church, but I’ve never actually been to one. Tonight’s experience may change that, but I’m not sure.

My wife, Candy, and I have an opening in our normal Sunday evening plans. This is an opportunity to visit a site plant of our home church (Church #53, “Home for Easter Sunday”). They meet at 5:30 for a community meal and then have a service afterward—more or less. 

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve discussed going. I’m in favor of it, but my bride is reluctant. It’s not that she fears adventure, but she fears the neighborhood. I offer the suggestion, but I don’t push it, hoping she’ll agree to go, without me having to talk her into it.

Talking with the Pastor

Sunday morning, I’m still waiting. The decision happens as Candy talks with one of the site plant leaders. He’s a friend and fellow writer. We hang out a couple times a month. 

His plans for tonight are to share a meal, offer a brief teaching, and then go for a prayer walk in the neighborhood. I’m sure his intent to wander the streets surrounding the church building will discourage Candy from going.

It’s one thing to drive to a semi-safe area and scurry inside a building, but it’s another to traipse around the neighborhood. (In all honesty, I’m apprehensive of the semi-safe prayer walk, too, but I’m willing to push through.)

His words don’t offer the assurance Candy seeks, but she asks what food to bring.

A Shared Meal

As visitors, they’d forgive us if we showed up empty-handed, but during our year of visiting fifty-two churches, we did our share of mooching, and I don’t want to do so again.

Vegetables, we learn, are typically lacking at their weekly potluck, so on our way home from the morning service, we stop by the store to pick up our contribution for the evening meal. 

The building is familiar to us. It’s the one our church first used until outgrowing the facility and moving. At first, a contingent of people remained, but our church leaders did poorly at managing multiple locations and eventually shut the site down.

Now—wiser, better equipped, and armed with a new plan—a cadre has returned, intent on serving this underserved neighborhood: the area’s poorest and least safe, crime-ridden and void of hope.

Arriving at Church

After a minor detour, because I made a wrong turn, we arrive right at 5:30. My all-too-familiar anxiety about confronting the unknown rumbles in my gut. My pulse quickens as we pull into the small, but mostly filled, parking lot.

I want to make a U-turn and race home, but the likelihood of my wife laughing at my panic steels my resolve enough to park our car. Another family exits their minivan, with kids in tow and food in hand.

Feeling a bit assured, we follow them through the back door that leads directly to the lower level.

With only a handful of people present, there’s even less food, mostly desserts. Round tables fill the basement. The one nearest us holds the food while one further away accommodates some people awaiting the meal.

Between the two is a room of empty spaces, except for a solitary woman sitting at her own table. Pleasant-looking and approachable, my instincts are to talk to her, while mindful that she could misunderstand my efforts or feel uncomfortable.

If I can get Candy’s attention, we can go together, but she’s at the food table, talking with someone who just emerged from the kitchen. To my relief, someone eventually joins the woman so she’s no longer alone.

Seeing Friends—and a Dog Named Beau

I scan the room, expecting to see friends who are part of this adventure, but I don’t see them. From upstairs come sounds of the worship team practicing. Surely, some of my friends are there.

Although I see a few familiar faces, I don’t recall any names. While I survey the situation, one of the familiar faces comes up to talk. We have a friendly, yet awkward, exchange that lasts too long. 

A small white dog meanders over to welcome me. I squat, offering my hand for him to smell. All he does is sniff and tremble. He doesn’t withdraw, yet he’s not advancing for me to pet him either. He’s apprehensive and has found a kindred soul in me.

I later learn his name is Beau, nicknamed Bobo. He serves as the church’s unofficial mascot, esteemed by all, and cared for by many. He belongs to our friends: the site pastor and his wife.

They welcomed Beau into their home and later adopted him. This is poetic preparation, for they will soon welcome a foster child into their home with the intent to adopt him too.

Eventually, the site pastor descends the stairs. Dismayed with the low turnout, he concedes we should not wait any longer for more to arrive. We gather in a circle and hold hands while he prays. He reminds us that sharing a meal is communion.

As we eat and drink together, we do so to remember Jesus. With the Amen said, people surge toward the food table. 

We’ve now grown in number to about thirty, yet the food hasn’t kept pace, and it’s still half desserts. Some people bought prepared food at the store, others share leftovers, and one person made some stew.

It smells tasty but is gone before I get to it. I hold back, as do a few others. Some people may depend on this for their evening meal. If I don’t have enough to eat, there’s more awaiting me at home. Others may not have that luxury.

Fellowship

Candy and I sit at a nearby table with our food, and others join us. We get to know them, making connections as we eat. As a bonus, today is the birthday of one of our leaders. We sing to her and share cake.

My focus is more on the fellowship than the food. But I reckon they cut both short when they urge us upstairs. As we do, more friends show up.

With four young children, it’s too much work to get their brood’s tiny mouths all fed before the worship time starts, so they eat at home and show up a bit later.

The Worship Space

The sanctuary is different from the last time we were here some five years ago. The antiquated pews are gone, replaced with comfortable, padded chairs. The ambiance of the coffee house next to the sanctuary is gone with its accessories stripped away to provide only the most basic options.

In the back, areas are set up for kids to play, with plenty of open floor space for physical worship. The overhead lights remain off, with mood lighting taking their place. The result is a peaceful, subdued setting.

There’s a short teaching, though our leader misses his goal of keeping it under ten minutes. He references Exodus 14:19–22, speaking about slavery, drawing present-day parallels for us to contemplate.

He wraps up about fifteen minutes later. With the planned prayer walk canceled due to a light rain, a time of worship starts, now an hour into the evening.

A few of the people from the meal are missing, but several more have arrived, swelling our group to over forty. Candy and I are at the upper end of the age spectrum. Most are in their mid-twenties and thirties, with a good number of children present.

The other site leader—the birthday girl—sits at the keyboard and leads us in song. A skillful and spirit-filled leader, she moves us forward with music. For some people the songs are the focus, while for others the sounds become reverent background music.

Candy soon wearies of the repetition, repetition, repetition of the choruses. For me it’s not the words that matter but the atmosphere: a worship space where we encounter God in multiple ways, according to each person’s preference.

Some people stand as they feel led, raising their arms, swaying, and reverently dancing. Others sit, bow, or kneel. 

Some kids wave worship flags, praising God through solemn movement. A few adults join them. Other kids play quiet games, build with foam blocks, or create art on a wall-sized chalkboard. A couple of women dance in the back with graceful movement.

I want to watch, worshiping God through the beauty of their motions, but I fear that in doing so I may intrude on a private moment between them and the Almighty. 

The teaching pastor stands again, signaling his wife to pause her playing. He offers a bit of encouragement and instruction. We sing a final song, and he dismisses us with a traditional benediction.

More Fellowship

The planned service is over, but no one leaves. Everyone tarries. We chat with several friends, offering prayers and blessings as needed. We say our goodbyes to the new friends we’ve made, thanking them for the opportunity to get to know them and wishing them well.

Many people attempt to leave, but they’re unsuccessful. There are simply too many conversations to have. Among the first to exit, we leave at 8:00 p.m., two and a half hours after we arrived.

The time passed quickly for me, as it does when I’m in the company of winsome Jesus followers. I relish the experience, suspecting this group is approaching a truer meaning of church than I’ve ever experienced on a Sunday morning. 

Candy has a different assessment, saying that had she not already gone to church today, this would have left her wanting. This must be one reason why there are so many types of churches.

Regardless of our differing perspectives, I think we just had our first emergent church experience.

[See the discussion questions for Church 54, read about Church 53, or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of More Than 52 Churches and The More Than 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

Are You a Sunday Morning Spectator or Performer?

Church Services Have become an Event, With Consumers Who Come to Watch a Show

Today’s churches contain two types of people. And each of us fits in one category or the other. We are either performers or spectators.

If this seems callous, consider that we live in an entertainment-centered society. We watch TV, go to movies, and attend performances. We go to the game, attend a concert, and watch videos online.

What do these have in common? Each example has performers to entertain us in one way or the other. The masses are spectators, mere consumers of the event. Though we may participate in a way, our involvement is limited to clapping, cheering, or fist-bumping the spectator next to us.

Church is no different. We are spectators there for entertainment, be it emotionally or intellectually, by the performers. The masses consume the church service.

Yes, we may sing along with a couple songs (though many people stand mute during the singing), mumble out a heartfelt “amen” upon occasion, or shake hands with our seatmate during the compulsory greeting time. But the service structure restricts our involvement.

We’re there for the sermon, that is, the lecture, and for the worship set, that is, the concert. And when it’s over we often critique the performance.

Performers

The performers at a church service are the people who stand in front of us, often on a stage. The elevation allows the spectators a better view.

The star of the show is the minister, who gives the lecture and may also serve as the event’s MC. The opening act is the worship team, consisting of singers and musicians.

If this description offends you, consider that most churches don’t select a senior minister or teaching pastor until after they have auditioned and delivered a stirring oratory.

People with spiritual insight but no speaking ability have no place in the modern church. And usually the worship team members must try out before they can sing or play. People with musical passion but not enough skill are turned away and relegated to spectator status.

Yes, we expect our performers to excel in presentation, and if they falter, they are replaced. After all, we don’t want a lack of excellence to mar the performance and drive away the spectators who have a plethora of other Sunday morning performances to select from.

Remember, we live in a consumeristic society.

Spectators

The majority of people at church services are spectators. We sit and passively watch the performance. Though we can view the elevated stage to witness the event, we may best see the back of the head of the person sitting in front of us.

We come. We watch. We leave.

Maybe we leave happy over a satisfactory performance, but maybe we leave unfulfilled, as empty as when we arrived. We wanted community but got a show.

We are church service spectators, watching a performance and consuming carefully presented spiritual content. At best we experience an event that may sustain us until we repeat it next week.

We are church service spectators, watching a performance and consuming spiritual content. Click To Tweet

Move from Spectate to Participate

The solution is to break down the wall between performer and spectator. Church shouldn’t focus on providing a performance but on offering community by letting everyone participate equally in the service.

We should all be able to share with others during our church services. Or at least have the opportunity to share. Paul tells us how. “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation,” (1 Corinthians 14:26, NIV).

When we start doing this in our church services, we will eliminate both the performers and the spectators, turning us all into full-fledged participants. Then we will build a true community of Jesus followers.

It will change everything.

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

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

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

Jabez Asks God, That Your Hand Would Be With Me

The third line of Jabez’s prayer is: “that Your hand would be with me”

Having just asked God for greater blessing—in order to bless others—and more influence—in order to help others—Jabez realizes that he needs God’s direction and guidance so that he may proceed wisely and justly.

Indeed, having more blessing and more power can easily become a heady thing, distracting or even corrupting the recipient Jabez, being aware of this risk, makes his third petition one of soliciting God guiding hand.

Just as Jabez modeled for us, may we ask God that your hand would be with me.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Chronicles 1-4 and today’s post is on 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. And read more on The Prayer of Jabez.]

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.