Christian Living

The Fallacy of Church Membership

Segregating Attendees into Members and Nonmembers Divides Jesus’s Church

In our look at things the church must change, we’ve already considered our buildings and facility, our paid clergy and staff, and our tithes and offerings, that is our charitable giving. Now we’ll turn our attention to some secondary issues, starting with church membership.

Membership is something that most everyone in church accepts without question. But we should question it.

Church membership is not biblical. Nowhere does Jesus tell us to go out and find members, make members, or sign up members. Increasing membership is simply not a biblical mandate. Jesus doesn’t command this, and biblical writers don’t order it.

In fact, the word membership doesn’t even occur in the Bible. It’s something well-meaning religious leaders made up. It may seem like a wise idea, but it’s not.

Membership establishes two levels within Jesus’s church. We must repent of making this distinction. Membership causes division among Jesus’s followers, segregating attendees into two classes of people, the insiders who are members from those on the periphery, the nonmembers.

Alternatives to Church Membership?

Some churches, attempting to correct the fallacy of membership, have come up with new labels. I’ve heard them use the term missionaries, and I’ve also heard of partners. I’m sure there are more.

But these perspectives, though well intended, are merely different names for the same membership problem. The result is that church membership still creates two classes of people in Jesus’s church: insiders and outsiders.

At some churches, baptism makes this membership distinction, as in a baptized member. Once a person undergoes the rite, or sacrament, of baptism—often by emersion—they automatically become a member. Though if they are underage at the time, they might not become a voting member until they reach adulthood.

This makes a third class of attendees, a third division in Jesus’s church: nonvoting members.

Instead, Jesus welcomes all (Romans 15:7, Galatians 3:28, and James 2:1–4). We should do the same, ditching membership as an ill-conceived, manmade tradition that has no scriptural basis.

We must resist the human tendency toward membership, which segregates people, and instead embrace God’s perspective of inclusion. Instead of encouraging church membership, we should promote Christian unity.

Check out the next post in this series addressing the Kingdom of God.

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

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

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Christian Living

God Sends Us a Gift on Pentecost

On Pentecost God Gives Us the Holy Spirit as Our Guide to Replace the Law

Pentecost occurs fifty days after Resurrection Sunday (Easter). It’s a significant event in the early church. That’s when the Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus’s followers in an extraordinary way.

The Holy Spirit empowers team Jesus to share his good news with others with amazing power. This is the gift Jesus promised to give them, which he told them to wait for in Jerusalem.


Interestingly, Pentecost only pops up three times in the Bible (Acts 2:1, Acts 20:16, and 1 Corinthians 16:8). This New Testament word doesn’t appear at all in the Old Testament. Where did it come from?

Pentecost is a Greek word. It means fifty days. Pentecost first occurred fifty days after Jesus’s death (Good Friday)—and after Jesus instituted the first Communion, which occurred on Passover.

Festival of Weeks (Shavuot)

Let’s go back to the Old Testament and look at the Festival of Weeks (Leviticus 23:15-22). This occurs fifty days after Passover. Interestingly, the Festival of Weeks is an Old Testament term and doesn’t show up in the New Testament.

Though I prefer to use the Bible to study the Bible, in this case I needed to consult nonbiblical sources. Here’s what I learned:

The Festival of Weeks in the Bible is now known as the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Fifty Days. This may be better known as Shavuot, the day cited as when Moses descended from the mountain with the Ten Commandments and the Law of God, the Torah.

Connecting the Old and New Testaments

Think about it. In the Old Testament, fifty days after the first Passover, God gives his people the Law—the rules he expects them to follow.

In the New Testament, fifty days after the first Communion (which occurred on Passover), God gives his people the Holy Spirit—his indwelling presence to guide them in following him.

In the Old Testament, God gives his people the Law through Moses. In the New Testament, God gives his people the Holy Spirit through Jesus. So amazing! Thank you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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.]

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

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Christian Living

How Much Money Does the Church Need?

We Must Be Good Stewards of All That God Blesses Us With

The Old Testament church required a lot of financial support to keep it going. There was a tabernacle to build and transport. The temple later replaced the tabernacle, but it required regular maintenance. The priests and Levites received support too.

This huge need required the people to give their tithes and various offerings, some mandatory and others voluntary. In today’s church, facility costs and payroll expenses make up most of the church’s budget, sometimes all of it.

Yet if we were to do away with these two elements, there’s not so much need for money.

After building and staffing costs, what small amount remains in the budget falls into two categories. First is benevolence, that is, taking care of our own just like the early church did.

Second is outreach, sending missionaries out to tell others the good news about Jesus (Matthew 28:19–20, Mark 16:15–16, and Luke 14:23). Think of all the good a church could do with its money if it directed 100 percent of its funds on these two activities and not needing to pay for facility and staff.

New Testament Church Finances

In the New Testament church, people share what they have to help those within their spiritual community, that is, those within their church. They seldom take offerings and when they do it’s to help other Jesus followers who suffer in poverty.

The third thing they do with their money is to fund missionary efforts. Instead of building buildings and paying staff, they help people and tell others about Jesus. It’s that simple.

Rather than focusing on 10 percent as the Old Testament prescribes, we should reframe our thinking to embrace the reality that all we have, 100 percent, belongs to God.

We are to be his stewards to use the full amount wisely for his honor, his glory, and his kingdom—not our honor, glory, and kingdom.

Paul writes that the love of money is the source of all manner of evil. An unhealthy preoccupation with wealth is especially risky for followers of Jesus, as our pursuit of accumulating wealth can distract us from our faith and pile on all kinds of grief (1 Timothy 6:10).

Keep in mind that Paul is not condemning money. He warns against the love of money.

For anyone who has accumulated financial resources, this serves as a solemn warning to make sure we have a God-honoring understanding of wealth and what its purpose is.

When it comes to the pursuit of possessions—our love of money—we risk having it pull us away from God.

Three Uses of Money

We need money to live, but we shouldn’t live for the pursuit of wealth. We should use money to supply our needs, help others, and serve God. Consider these three areas:

First, we should use our financial resources to help fund the things that matter to God. This means we need to understand his perspective. With the wise use of our money, we can serve God and honor him. We must remember that we can’t serve two masters: God and money (Matthew 6:24).

Second, we need God’s provisions to take care of ourselves (2 Thessalonians 3:10). We must focus on what we need, not what we want.

Third we should consider the needs of others. What do they need? How can we help them? Again, as with our own balancing of needs versus wants, we must guard against supplying someone with what they want, instead of focusing on what they truly need.

God especially desires that we help widows and orphans (James 1:27). He also has a heart for us to help foreigners and the poor (Zechariah 7:10).

Therefore, we should give to God first (Exodus 23:19). Then we should concern ourselves with our needs and helping others with theirs. God wants our best, not what’s left over. This applies to our possessions and our actions.

Where Does Giving to the Church Fit In?

Does this mean we need to give to the local church? Maybe. But it’s much more than that. We must direct our money as wise stewards to where it can have the most kingdom impact.

I question if this means supporting an organization where most—or all—of its budget goes to paying for buildings and staff.

We must reform our perspective on money, realizing that 100 percent of it belongs to God, and we are merely stewards of his gifts. We must use God’s financial provisions wisely in a way that will honor him and have the greatest kingdom impact.

Check out the next post in this series addressing the fallacy of church membership.

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

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

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Christian Living

Do You Have a Crisis of Faith?

Discover 3 Tips of What to Do If Question Your Faith

I hear people who have a crisis of faith, who question what they believe. It pains me to see the struggle they’re going through. Yet I’ve never been sure how to help them, except to encourage them to press forward and not give up. This is because I never questioned my faith.

I have, however, questioned church practices. I’ve done this often for most of my life. And I see a connection between the two.

I Question the Church

I was a young teenager when I got my hands on a New Testament copy of the Living Bible. I poured through it. I read the entire thing. Then I read it again.

When I was fourteen, I devoted my summer vacation to reading the Old and New Testament of the Living Bible. It only took an hour a day, and I had plenty of time.

What I saw in this easy-to-understand version of the Bible bore little similarity to what I saw practiced at church each Sunday morning. Yes, there were common elements, but that was it. Mostly what I saw was a significant disconnect.

That’s when I began to question the church. I became so disillusioned with it, I nearly gave up—at least with the organized, institutional church. To this day, decades later, I’m still disillusioned and remain critical.

Yet I still attend—in hope to one day experience church as it was practiced in the Bible—and as Jesus modeled for his followers.

This lifetime of questioning church occurs throughout my blog posts and in many of my books. And it’s the focus of my book Jesus’s Broken Church.

But what’s the connection with me questioning the church and other people questioning their faith?

Do You Question Your Faith?

A common trait I’ve seen in people who question their beliefs—who face a crisis of faith—is that they’re mad at God because of what they’ve been taught about him, not because of who he is.

Their perception of God is skewed because of preachers and teachers who have misrepresented our Heavenly Father, Jesus his Son, and the Holy Spirit to them.

These folks teach with passion and conviction, but too often they’re spouting a manmade doctrine that runs counter to biblical truth. If you’re questioning your faith, first take a step back and question what you’ve been taught about God before you get angry at him.

Here are three tips if you find yourself having a crisis of faith:

1. Question What You’ve Been Taught

The first step is to examine your perception of God. Perhaps it’s wrong. For most people it is. Though many hold minor misconceptions, others make assumptions about God that are seriously flawed.

Though in some cases this may be due to their own faulty logic of making God into who they want him to be, usually it’s because others—both trained clergy in untrained peers—have led them astray.

God loves us. This is true.

But this doesn’t mean we won’t have struggles in life. In fact, we will. Jesus says so (John 16:33). The evil one will assault us (John 17:15). We will face persecution (Matthew 5:10-12).

And because God loves us, we will receive his discipline, just as parents lovingly discipline their children so they can grow and mature. So it is with Father God and us, his children (Hebrews 12:5-7).

2. Seek Biblical Truth

Just as I’ve cited these four passages that teach us the truth about God, faith, and living for him, the Bible is packed full of more of these truths.

To learn about God, we need to read the book that teaches us about him.

Don’t rely on what our culture says about God because they don’t know him. They are dangerous guides, just like the many ministers who misrepresent God’s true nature.

The true source for reliable information about God is the Bible. We will do well to read it, study it, and meditate on it. As we do our understanding of who God is and our relationship with him will change—for the better.

3. Ask for Holy Spirit Insight

It’s hard, however, to read and study the Bible in isolation. We can do this with others, with iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17). As King Solomon wrote, two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Yet the Holy Spirit is an even better resource to help us understand Scripture. The Holy Spirit is a reliable guide who will teach us (John 14:26). This begins with prayer (James 1:5).

Move Forward

If you find yourself questioning your faith, first question what you’ve been taught about God. Then seek the Bible for real answers, relying on the Holy Spirit to guide you and reveal truth to you.

As you reform your understanding of God, you’ll grow closer to him. And you will see your crisis of faith dim. This will take time, but it will be worth the effort.

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

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Christian Living

Exploring Church Staff from a Biblical Perspective

Stop Paying Clergy and Ministry Staff to Do What We’re Supposed to Do Ourselves

In part one of Embrace a Fresh Perspective about Church we looked at adopting a new, biblically enlightened view on the role that a church building should play for our spiritual community. Now we’ll continue that theme by looking at church staff, along with the related topics of missionaries, local ministers, and payroll.

Church Staff

In 7 Things the Church Is Not, we mentioned that the church should not be an institution. Yet most churches today move in that direction after about ten years of operation, and they become an institution a couple of decades after that.

For an institution to work, it needs paid church staff (and money). That’s why local pastors receive a salary: to keep the institution of church functioning and viable.

As we’ve already covered, this thinking follows the Old Testament model of church. But we don’t live in the Old Testament or under its covenant. We live in the New Testament and under its covenant—at least in theory. In the New Testament, we—that is, those who follow Jesus—are his church.

Each one of us is a priest—that is, a minister—to care for one another. We shouldn’t pay someone to do what we’re supposed to do. As part of the body of Christ, we each do our part to advance the kingdom of God and shouldn’t expect to receive payment for our labor.


There is, however, one exception to this idea of no compensation. In his letter to the people in Corinth, Paul builds a case to pay missionaries. This doesn’t apply to the folks who run local churches. Paul refers to those who go around telling others about Jesus.

Today, we might call these people evangelists. Based on Paul’s teaching it’s right to pay them.

Yet once Paul builds his case to appropriately pay missionaries, he points to an even better way: for missionaries to earn their own money and not require outside support. Paul often covers his expenses and those who travel with him by plying his trade. He works as a tentmaker.

Springing from this is the idea of a tentmaker-missionary, someone who pays their own way as they tell others about Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:7–18).

Local Ministers

But what about the local church? Shouldn’t we reward our clergy, out church staff, by paying them? Doesn’t the Bible say that workers deserve compensation (1 Timothy 5:18)? Not quite.

The context of this is for traveling missionaries to be content with the food and lodging provided to them as they journey about telling others about Jesus (Luke 10:5–7).

But don’t we need a minister to teach us about God each Sunday? No. The Bible expects us to feed ourselves spiritually. And we are to teach one another.

What about a clergy member to address our spiritual needs as they arise? No. We are to care for one another.

No Payroll

In short, through Jesus the institution of church is over—at least in theory. Without a physical building or an institution to maintain, there is no need to pay church staff to run the whole show.

So if you are part of an institution and want to perpetuate it, then buy a building, hire church staff, and pay them their due.

However, if you want to pursue a different path as seen in the New Testament, then take the church with you wherever you go and help others however you can, paying your own way as you do.

We must reform our thinking of paying church staff to do what the Bible calls us to do ourselves as priests who serve one another.

Next week we’ll look at the church and money.

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

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

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Christian Living

Happy Mother’s Day

Be Sure to Celebrate Your Mom Today and Every Day

May we wish our moms, a happy Mother’s Day!

In my book Women of the Bible, I explore the lives of biblical women, celebrating their lives and their contribution to the world. Their example can inform our faith journey.

I conclude the book with the chapter “Everyone Has a Mom.”

Here is what I wrote:

Though the men in the Bible far outnumber the women, this isn’t a reflection of God’s priorities but of man’s perversion of God’s created order.

Without these women, the biblical narrative would be much shorter and far less significant. Because of their lives and their actions, we are inspired, encouraged, motivated, and in a few cases, warned.

Beyond them and their example, we know that everyone in the Bible, both male and female, has a mom. These moms give birth to their children, nurture them, and usher them into adulthood. They mostly do this in obscurity.

Nevertheless, without these moms giving life to their kids, we would not have their children to read about and learn from. Without these moms our understanding of God would be much different.

Last, you and I have a mom too. Along with our dad, we have her to thank for giving us life. She played a huge role in who we are today.

Have you thanked your mom for the gift of life? If she’s no longer alive, perhaps you can write her a love letter of appreciation.

Thank you, Mom!

[Discover more about moms in Ephesians 6:2–3 and 1 Thessalonians 2:7–8.]

May we celebrate our moms today—and every day.

We wouldn’t be here without them, and we wouldn’t be who we are without their influence in our lives.

To my mom and all mothers everywhere, I salute you.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

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

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Christian Living

Embrace a Fresh Perspective about Having a Church Building

We Don’t Need a Church Building to Encounter God or Enjoy Spiritual Community

So far, we’ve looked at the Old Testament model for church—of building, paid clergy, and tithes—which we still follow today.

Then we considered how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament and looked at how the early church functions in the New Testament, considering their practices and detailing what church shouldn’t be today. Last, we looked at the essential components for a New Testament-style church.

Let’s now consider what must change in our churches today to better align with the New Testament narrative and early church practices.

We’ve already touched on this when we said that through Jesus, we have a new perspective on the temple (church building), priests (ministers and staff), and tithes and offerings (church finances).

Do We Need a Church Building?

Let’s look deeper into this idea of a church building.

Who needs a building? The early church met in people’s homes and public places. Why can’t we do the same today? Think of all the money we’d save and hassles we could avoid if we removed the shackles of owning and maintaining a church facility.

Not only are our church structures exorbitantly expensive, they’re also underutilized most of the time.

At best, one of today’s churches enjoys full usage for only two hours of each week. That’s 1.2 percent of the time. This means that for 98.8 percent of each week the building is underutilized.

Yes, the office staff uses a tiny part of the space during the workweek, and smaller meetings occur some evenings. But these activities occupy only a small portion of the church building. That’s a lot of wasted space.

The prime motivation for these large, but underused, facilities is for a one-hour church meeting each Sunday.

A Wrong Perspective

At one church I visited, the pastor in his pre-sermon prayer pleaded with God to supply a facility for them. “You know God, how much we need a building,” he begged. “Please provide it for us.”

Although their rented space offered what they needed on Sunday morning and other options provided office space and accommodated their weekly meetings, it appeared that his perspective was that to be a real church they had to have a building.

In a later discussion with one of their church elders I said, “You don’t need a building. You may want one, but you don’t have to have one.”

In most all cases, it costs a church much less to rent space than to own and maintain a building. But even better then renting space for Sunday morning service is to decentralize the church to meet in people’s homes.

Despite this, most every church thinks they need a building.

While owning a building may be convenient and may be a preference, it isn’t a necessity. And sinking mass quantities of money into a church building that goes unused most of the week certainly isn’t being good stewards of God’s resources.

In today’s developed countries churches routinely spend millions of dollars for worship space for people to go to on Sunday morning. The cost of the facility is disproportionately large in comparison to the lifestyle and homes of the congregation.

Building Campaigns

In another instance, a large, growing suburban church had frequent building fund drives to expand its facility. Though the people enthusiastically supported each expansion plan, one effort met with opposition.

They wanted to raise $1 million to build a ring road around the campus to ease the flow of traffic. One million dollars for a road. It was a hard ask for the people to accept.

Even in developing countries, where the expectations of the church edifice are much more modest, it’s still disproportionate to the lifestyle of the people who will go there. In one developing country, a church constructed the concrete shell for its church building and ran out of money.

For several years, they’ve worshiped in their half-finished space and continually asked for donations to complete its construction. Since the members are poor, they can’t finance the construction themselves.

They look to the generosity of those outside their community to complete the building.

Instead of focusing all his attention on his congregation and local community, the pastor diverts some of his time to solicit donations from those abroad.

Church Buildings are Expensive

Regardless of where we live in the world, our church buildings are expensive compared to the lifestyles of most of the people who go there. To have a building, we must either buy or build.

This often requires borrowing money and paying off a mortgage. And if a church falls behind in their monthly payments, the lender may have no choice but to foreclose on the facility. In this instance, no one wins, and the reputation of Jesus’s church is tarnished.

But expenses don’t stop with the acquisition of a building, whether bought or built. The ongoing costs add up. For starters, there are utilities, maintenance, and insurance. And we do all this so we can go to a place to have a one-hour encounter with God on Sunday morning.

Maintaining a church building is costly and does little to advance the kingdom of God. Remember, through Jesus, our bodies are God’s temple.

We don’t need to go to a building to go to church so we can connect with God. We take church with us wherever we go—or at least we should.

We must rethink the importance we put on our church buildings and replace it with a people-first perspective.

Next week we’ll look at church staff.

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

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

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Christian Living

Church Distractions

What Do You Focus on When You Should Be Focusing on God?

This is a post I’m hesitant to share. Yet I’ve always been forthright when I talk about my spiritual journey. So there’s no point in holding back now. The disconcerting truth is I often struggle with church distractions during the service. I wrestle to keep my focus solely on God.

Though not often, sometimes my thoughts go elsewhere. I may fixate on something that occurred before church or be preoccupied with what will happen afterward. Though my body is present, my mind isn’t always there.

Yet these types of church distractions don’t happen to me too much—anymore. My pre-church prayer usually removes these mental interruptions.

My struggle with church distractions usually relates to what happens at church during my time there. This can occur throughout the entire service.

Church Distractions during the Music

Here’s a list of some things that threatened to take my attention away from God in the first part of the church service:

Edit song lyrics: As a writer, I fixate on words. Whenever I see something written—and even sometimes when I hear words—I’m mentally edit them. This happens often with song lyrics at church.

Irritated by false rhymes: Though I don’t often write rhyming poetry, I appreciate a smart rhyme. But whenever I encounter a false rhyme in a song—or a contrived twist to force a rhyme—I’m taken out of the text.

Add punctuation: Another occupational hazard of being a writer is that I edit too. This means I often mentally insert commas, periods, and ellipses into the song lyrics displayed overhead. This would make them easier to sing, especially for songs with odd timing.

Consider biblical support: The purpose of the songs we sing at church (at least I think so) is to draw our attention to God.

It’s not altogether bad if our focus shifts to the Bible, but too often a lyric captivates my attention as I mentally seek biblical support for it. I can easily miss the rest of the song when I go down this path.

Critique the audio: Early in my life I was an audio engineer at a TV station. I ran the sound board and mixed the audio feeds for broadcast. I sometimes slip back into this mindset with the sound and sound system at church.

Consider cameras: In my work in TV, I sat next to the director. This allowed me to hear his instructions to the camera operators and technical crew, as well as to watch him switch between video feeds.

Because of this, I sometimes slip back into focusing on the technical aspects of producing the service.

Watch the worship team: Another early job of mine was working as an electronics technician at a music store. Though not musically inclined, everyone I worked with was. Their job at the music store was merely to pay the bills so they could pursue their passion to play music.

They mesmerized me with accounts of their concerts and performances. As such, I watch musicians from a perspective different than most people.

Church Distractions during the Message

My list of distractions is shorter for the second part of the service, but it exists nonetheless.

Technical aspects: During the sermon I’m less likely for the audio, video, and camera work to divert my attention, but it still happens.

Biblical support: I’m more likely, however, to be sidetracked in considering the scriptural support for the minister’s words. Though this is a laudable effort (Acts 17:11), I may sometimes go too far.

Delivery: I consume many hours listening to podcasts each week, normally at twice the normal speed, at 2x. This requires me to focus if I am to catch every word.

The downside is when I hear a minister speak live, the slower, real-time delivery (effectively at 1x) provides much opportunity for my mind to go elsewhere. Taking notes helps keep my focus on the message.

Writing and research ideas: During the sermon—as well as the rest of the service—ideas pop into my mind.

Often these turn into blog posts. Occasionally it’s a book title or concept. Sometimes it’s a topic to research in the Bible or contemplate more fully under Holy Spirit direction.

I jot these items in my notebook so I can shove them out of my mind at the time and return to what’s happening in front of me.

How to Stay Focused at Church

My lengthy list of church distractions may have some elements that resonate with you. Or perhaps you’ve come up with your own list. Everyone struggles in this area, although some much more than others.

The issue in all this, however, is to combat it. Though we may make some progress on our own volition, as an effort of self-control, the real solution comes from God.

When I remember to seek him in prayer—both before the service and when distraction threatens—this is the best way to remove the disruption and return my focus to where it belongs: on God and my relationship with him.

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

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Christian Living

Realign our Church Practices of Music and Message

We Must Rethink What Happens at Our Church Services

A friend once said in his Sunday morning message that some people go to church for the music and put up with the sermon. Others go for the sermon and put up with the music.

The minister’s statement suggests that people feel a church service has two primary elements. One is the worship music, and the other is the sermon: music and message.

I get this. At one point in my life I endured the singing as I waited for the teaching. Then my perspective flopped as I pursued worship and endured the sermon. Now neither matters too much to me.

In recent years I’ve not gone to church for the music nor the message. I show up for the chance of experiencing meaningful community before or after the service.

Put Music or Message in Its Place

Though the New Testament talks about both music and message, neither seems central to their meetings, especially not the way we pursue these two items today.

Music: Though music is a part of Jesus’s church, it emerges more as a secondary pursuit. Paul doesn’t ascribe music to a worship leader but to each person gathered. The purpose of this is to build up Jesus’s church (1 Corinthians 14:26).

Music is part of the one another commands as a way of ministering to each other (Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:18–19).

An interesting side note is that the New Testament never mentions using musical instruments in their worship of God, as happened throughout the Old Testament. This doesn’t imply that our church singing today should be a cappella, but this is something we might want to contemplate.

Sometimes New Testament singing to God happens apart from a church gathering, such as when Paul and Silas are sitting in jail (Acts 16:25). Let’s consider how we can apply their example to our reality today.

Sometimes the music set at one of today’s church services is worshipful, drawing us into closer fellowship with God. But too often it’s more of a performance for attendees then a tribute to our creator.

This makes the music portion at some churches more akin to a concert, even to the point of including a light show, smoke machines, and accompanying video projection behind the performers.

And if you claim our church worship time isn’t a performance, then why are the singers and musicians positioned in front of everyone and elevated on a stage? If the music is truly a tribute to God and not a performance for us, then why not station the musicians behind the congregation or out of sight so their presence won’t distract us from God?

Message: Another friend calls the church sermon a lecture. I’m not sure if he’s joking or serious, but I get his point. I’ve heard sermons that so sidestepped the Bible, faith, and the good news of Jesus that the resulting words were no different than a lecture from a secular speaker.

There are, however, three instances where New Testament writers describe activity that we might equate to a sermon. These are in specific situations.

The first is educating people about their faith (Acts 2:42). This implicitly is for new believers, giving them spiritual milk as we would feed a baby (1 Corinthians 3:1–3). This basic training grows them in their salvation (1 Peter 2:1–3).

It prepares them to teach others (Hebrews 5:11–14). It’s not something to persist in Sunday after Sunday. Instead it’s a temporary situation we should grow out of.

The second is missionaries who tell those outside the church about Jesus. This can’t happen at a church meeting because those who need to hear the good news of Jesus aren’t there.

Spreading the gospel message requires going out to encounter people where they are, not expecting them to come to us and our church services (Acts 8:4, Acts 8:40, Romans 10:14–15, and 2 Corinthians 10:16).

And the third is traveling missionaries who give updates at the local churches (Acts 14:27, Acts 15:4, and Acts 20:7).

Everyone Participates: Regarding these two elements of music and message—that we place so much emphasis on in our churches today—Paul gives instructions to the church in Corinth. It’s not the job of a worship leader to lead us in song.

Nor is it the role of a minister to preach a sermon. We—the people in attendance—are to do these things, and more, for each other. It’s an egalitarian gathering where we all take part for our common good to build up Jesus’s church (1 Corinthians 14:26).

Remember, through Jesus, we are all priests. It’s time we start acting like it.


What does show up as a reoccurring theme throughout the New Testament is community. But this goes way beyond the time of personal interaction that I seek before or after a Sunday service.

The church, as a group of people, should major in community, on getting along and experiencing life together. Community should happen before, during, and after all our gatherings—both those on Sunday, as well as throughout the week. In all that we do, community must be our focus.

We should enjoy spending time with each other, just hanging out.

If we don’t like spending time with the people we see for an hour each Sunday morning, then something’s wrong: not with them, but with us. Yes, community can get messy.

But we have Jesus’s example, the Holy Spirit’s insight, and the Bible’s wisdom to guide us in navigating the challenges that erupt when people spend time with each other in intentional interaction.

Here are some of the aspects of community that we see in the early church, and that we can follow in today’s church.

Share Meals: A lot of eating takes place in Jesus’s church. We must feed our bodies to sustain us physically, so why not do it in the company of other like-minded people?

In community, sharing food becomes a celebration of life and of faith. (Read more about breaking bread in “10 More New Testament Practices, Part 2”.)

Fast: Although Jesus’s followers do a lot of eating together, they also fast (Matthew 6:16–17 and Acts 14:23). Fasting is an intentional act of devotion that helps connect us with God and align our perspectives with his.

Remember that although Jesus’s disciples didn’t fast, once he left, it was time for his followers to resume fasting (Luke 5:33–35).

Prayer: Another reoccurring New Testament theme is prayer. This isn’t a minister-led oration on Sunday morning. This is more akin to a mid-week prayer meeting, with everyone gathered in community to seek God in prayer together (Acts 1:14 and Acts 12:5).

Listen to the Holy Spirit: As the people pray, sometimes associated with fasting, they listen to the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28). Then they obey what the Holy Spirit calls them to do (Acts 13:2–3).

Minister to One Another: In their community they follow the Bible’s one another commands, which teach us how to get along in a God-honoring way. (See treat one another.”)

Serve Others: We serve one another in our faith community (Galatians 5:13). We should also serve those outside our church, just as Jesus served others. And we shouldn’t serve with any motive other than with the pure intent to show them the love of Jesus.

Loving others through our actions may be the most powerful witness we can offer. We need to let our light shine so that the world can see (Matthew 5:14–16 and James 2:14–17). All of humanity is watching. May they see Jesus in what we do (1 Peter 2:12).

Tell Others about Jesus: The New Testament gives examples of people telling others about Jesus in their local community (Acts 3:11–26 and Acts 7:1–53). It also mentions sending people out into the world as missionaries (Acts 8:4–5 and Acts 13:2).

Witnessing, both local and abroad, springs from the foundation of community.


In our community we should pursue harmony. Jesus prayed that we would be one (John 17:20–21). The early church modeled unity (Acts 4:32). We also covered unity in the “The Acts 4 Example.”

When issues arise among Jesus’s followers that threaten their single-mindedness, they work through it to avoid division (Acts 11:1–18). This unity includes the agreement of their theology (Acts 15:1–21).


We need to rethink what happens at our church, deemphasizing the significance of music and message while elevating the importance of community, one that functions in unity for Jesus.

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

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

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Christian Living

The Value of a Short-Term Mission Trip

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

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

It doesn’t.

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

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

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

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

Get a Taste for Missionary Work

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

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

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

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

Develop a Passion to Support Missionary Efforts

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

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

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

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

The Truth About Short Term Mission Trips

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

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

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

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.