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52 Churches

A Large and Anonymous Church

This church is huge, the largest so far.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #49:

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

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

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

What can you do to greet visitors?

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

How can you make room for guests?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Christian Living

Who Teaches You?

Do Sermons Belong in Church?

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

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

Isn’t that self-serving?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1 John 2:27]

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

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

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Bible Insights

Great Is Our God

We Must Remove Anything That Threatens to Push God Aside

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

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

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

Money

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

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

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

Possessions

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

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

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

Influence

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

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

Respect

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

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

Approval

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

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

Great is our God

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

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

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

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Christian Living

Don’t Compartmentalize Your Faith

If Our Beliefs Are Important to Us, We’ll Make Them Part of Every Aspect of Our Life

Have you ever met someone out of your normal context and were surprised at what you saw or heard? This is a person who compartmentalizes their faith. They have a work persona, a leisure-time persona, and a family persona. For each aspect they put a different face to fit in with their environment.

And if they go to church, they have a faith persona too.

They compartmentalize their beliefs, perhaps even more so than the other aspects of their life. What they don’t realize is that all parts of our lives have a spiritual component. Yet they shove that reality aside and segregate the various aspects of their reality, treating them as isolated and unrelated.

Yet it’s a bad idea to compartmentalize our faith and keep it separate from other aspects of our life. If what we believe is important to us, it should show itself in every part of our life: at home, at work, and during leisure activities, as well as at church.

Consistent

We should look to make every aspect of our life coherent with the other parts. How we act at church and around our Christian friends must be consistent with how we act in different environments and with other people.

This doesn’t mean to use religious words or assume a church persona in other spheres of our life, but it’s critical to not hide our faith, to not be silent when we should speak, and to always act in a way that pleases Jesus.

Striving to live a life that’s consistent around the clock, regardless of where we are or who we’re with is the first step to avoid compartmentalizing our faith.

Integrated

Another consideration is to incorporate what we believe with how we talk and act regardless of where we are. Would our coworkers be shocked to know that we attend church or have a relationship with Jesus?

If the answer is yes, then we’re compartmentalizing our faith. We must take steps to integrate what we believe, how we speak, and the way we behave regardless of where we are or what we’re doing. In this way, we fully ingrate our faith into all aspects of our life

Aligned

As we move forward with consistent attitudes and actions and integrate what we believe into all aspects of our life, we move toward a harmony of word and deed. We can start by treating everyone the way Jesus would, regardless of the situation. This includes at home and at work and as we move through life.

Conduct all facets of your being to fully align. Don’t compartmentalize your faith.

Live a holistic life that honors Jesus and points others to him. Click To Tweet

Decompartmentalize Your Faith

Live a holistic life that honors Jesus and points others to him. We do this when our conduct is consistent in all parts of our lives, when we integrate our faith into all that we do, and when we align everything with Jesus.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

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

Prayers for the People

The church’s pastor is out of town, and the laity leads the entire service. One thing they do is “prayers for the people.”

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #48

1. Someone asks us to sign their guestbook but then scrambles to find a pen. Though once common, guestbooks now seem archaic and carry privacy concerns. 

What practices do you need to change because they no longer fit today’s culture?

2. A friend invites us to sit with her and her husband. The leader gives some announcements and then asks for more. After others share, our friend stands and introduces us to the crowd. It’s a nice gesture. 

How can you introduce new people to others and thereby reduce their discomfort?

3. After a song they offer “prayers for the people.” The leader opens and then pauses. After a bit of silence, someone else prays, and a few more follow. I like their approach, effectively sharing with each other as they talk to God. 

How can you make group prayer more meaningful and less awkward?

4. Afterward we stay for coffee and cookies. We linger for forty-five minutes before heading home, happy for our time at church today. 

What should you change so that people want to tarry and enjoy Christian community?

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

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

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

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Bible Insights

Don’t Be a Baby Christian

Learn How to Eat Spiritual Food and Feed Yourself

The author of Hebrews (who I suspect was Paul) warns the young church, the followers of Jesus, that they need to grow up. Though many of them should be mature enough to teach others, they still haven’t grasped the basics themselves.

They persist in drinking spiritual milk when they should have graduated to solid food.

A Baby Christian

When most people hear about this passage, they assume the baby Christians, those subsisting on milk, are other people. They reason that this verse couldn’t be a reflection on their own spiritual status—or lack thereof.

The truth is that I fear the church of Jesus is comprised of too many spiritual infants.

If you don’t believe me, let’s unpack this analogy. In the physical sense, babies drink milk and are wholly dependent on others to feed them. As babies grow they graduate to solid food and begin to feed themselves, first with help and then alone.

This is how things function with our physical bodies and how things should function with our spiritual selves.

Mature Christians can feed themselves and don’t need a sermon every Sunday. Click To Tweet

The Sunday Sermon

So when people go to church on Sunday to hear a sermon, they expect their pastor to feed them. They subsist on spiritual milk. They are a baby Christian. Instead they should feed themselves and don’t need to hear a sermon every week in order to obtain their spiritual sustenance.

When pastors feed their congregation each Sunday, they keep their people in an immature state (albeit with more head knowledge) and help justify their continued employment. Instead pastors should teach their church attendees how to feed themselves, to not need a pastor to teach them.

If ministers do this, they could work themselves out of a job. But that’s okay, because there are plenty of other churches in need of this same teaching.

Some might infer this means that the mature Christians, those who can feed themselves, don’t need to go to church. This is only half correct.

Mature Christians can feed themselves and don’t need a sermon every Sunday, but they do need to meet together and be in community with other believers.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Hebrews 5-7, and today’s post is on Hebrews 5:12-14.]

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

Longing for God

May Our Soul Pant for God with the Same Urgency as a Deer Panting for Water

King David penned Psalm 41. He opens with a powerful image of a deer panting for water. It illustrates David longing for God. David concludes his song by confirming he will praise God. Sandwiched between the opening and ending of this Psalm, David shares the turmoil churning in his soul.

But we’ll focus on the opening two verses.

A Deer Pants for Water

Imagine a thirsty deer running up to a stream, anticipating a refreshing drink of water. This isn’t so much as to keep the deer hydrated. It’s more urgent. The deer, a mighty buck, has traveled a distance and has a vital need to drink. He’s dehydrated and needs water to live. The deer needs living water.

The buck pants after traveling in the hot sun. His chest expands and contracts as he sucks in as much oxygen as possible, as quickly as he can. He perks up his ears to listen if danger lurks. He looks right and then turns left. Confident he is for the moment safe, with no predators nearby, only then does the deer dip his head down to drink from the cool, energizing water he so longs for.

Our Souls Pant for God

Just as the deer pants for water, do we have a similar longing for God? Does our soul—our mind, will, and emotions—pant for God? Does our soul thirst for him? Do we need the living God as much as the deer needs living water to survive?

As the deer traveled in the hot sun to find life-giving water, we, too, travel through the difficulties of life to find God’s living water. But for me my search doesn’t feel as imperative. Yes, I know I should have a longing for God. But in actual terms, my search for him, and to be with him, doesn’t carry the urgency it should.

May we have a longing for God that causes us to seek him with all our heart. Click To Tweet

Seek God with All Your Heart

For our soul to pant for God the way a deer pants for water, we can start by seeking God with our whole heart. Three of David’s other songs mention this: Psalm 22:26, Psalm 27:8, and Psalm 69:32.

May we have a longing for God that causes us to seek him with all our heart.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalm 41-45 and today’s post is on Psalm 42:1-2.]

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Christian Living

Freedom in Jesus

Our Right Standing with Christ Frees Us from Rules, but Don’t Abuse This Freedom

Jesus’s sacrificial death releases us from the obligation of Old Testament laws. We have freedom in Jesus and don’t need to follow rules. Instead, we follow Jesus.

Yet we need to guard against getting carried away with our freedom. The Bible has much to say on the subject.

Free in the Spirit

Paul writes to the church in Corinth that Jesus (the Lord) is Spirit. Through his Spirit we have freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).

Free in Christ

Paul reminds the church in Galatia, that Jesus has set them free, free from sin. Therefore, they aren’t obligated to be weighed down by being slaves to rules and regulations.

Free to Do Good

Yet some of the people in the church in Corinth overreach when they pursue their freedom through Jesus. They claim that they had the right to do anything, but Paul points out that not everything is beneficial. Not everything is constructive.

Instead of doing whatever they want to do, they should seek to use their freedom to do good for others (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).

Free to Love One Another

In similar fashion, Paul writes to the church in Galatia. He reminds them that they are free through Jesus. But this doesn’t give them the freedom to pursue self-gratification, that is, to indulge in human desires. Instead, they should use their freedom in Jesus to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13).

Free to Live

Peter also confirms what Paul says, writing that we are to live as free people (that is, not under the law or bound by rules). We must take care, however, not to use this freedom in Jesus as a cover for evil living, that is, as an excuse to sin (1 Peter 2:16).

We have freedom in Jesus to do what is right and to benefit others. Click To Tweet

Freedom in Jesus

We have freedom in Jesus to do what is right and to benefit others, not out of obligation but as a response to what Jesus did for us.

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: Old Testament Sinners and Saints

How Are the Old Testament Characters Applicable to Your Life Today? 

Find out in this devotional Bible study on 100 compelling Biblical men and women from the Old Testament.

The Old Testament is filled with inspiring stories, influential heroes, and impressive triumphs. But it’s also woven with the stories of broken people who make mistakes and suffer disappointments. Through an array of colorful and awe-inspiring stories, we can learn much about ourselves and our powerful God in this devotional Bible study on 100 Biblical men and women.

Old Testament Sinners and Saints: Discover What These 100 Colorful Bible Characters Can Teach Us Today

Filled with familiar and eclectic names of sinners and saints, you’ll uncover how their stories from thousands of years ago apply to our personal struggles today. Pour through 100 characters who compel you to live differently and help you see your life and faith from an entirely new perspective.

In Old Testament Sinners and Saints, you will:

  • Uncover how the Old Testament can transform your life
  • Learn from the mistakes and triumphs of these characters
  • Gain a fresh perspective on familiar Biblical stories
  • Discover how to deepen your faith
  • Embrace the timeless message of hope found in the Old Testament

Join Peter DeHaan, Bible teacher and author, in this study on 100 Old Testament men and women whose stories offer us hope, assurance, and abundant lessons on who God is and his limitless power over history.

This devotional for women and men is ideal for individuals, small groups, and Bible studies. Each day’s study includes a short reading, a thought-provoking question and additional Bible readings to go deeper with the lesson.

If you’ve ever wondered if the Old Testament stories apply to your life, then start with the Old Testament Sinners and Saints and discover what 100 intriguing Bible men and women can teach you today. 

The succinct readings give a brief but impactful overview of the Old Testament characters while showing you how to trust in God’s plan even when you don’t know what the future holds. These lessons will not only take you on a journey through the Old Testament with Bible heroes like Abraham, Moses, Ruth and David, but will also strengthen your faith.

Get Old Testament Sinners and Saints and see how these rich, amazing stories can transform your life today and draw you closer to Jesus.

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

Significant Interactions

My pre-church prayer seems mired in the rut of routine. So it is when we pray this morning and head out for today’s church. Even so, I pray for significant interactions.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #47

1. When my wife confirmed the time for this church, they invited us to arrive early for coffee. I would have stayed afterward, but to come early is more awkward than I’m willing to endure. 

How can you make sure your efforts at connection are easy for people to accept?

2. With everyone ignoring us when we arrive, we sit. A woman comes up and tells us what to expect during the service, including communion. No one in forty-six churches has done this. 

How can you help visitors feel at ease and know what to expect?

3. Today is the first time on our journey where I’m free to focus on the moment of Communion and not worry about the method. 

What can you do to help others better engage in your service and encounter God?

4. After the service a man greets us and asks how he can pray for us. This is another first on our journey. I so appreciate his offer. 

In what ways can you be available and ready to pray for others?

This Sunday was a day of significant interactions. If only we experienced this at more of the churches we visited.

[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.