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Visiting Churches

Can You Be Evangelical and Charismatic?

My wife and I recently visited a church near our home. Their website said they were a charismatic church. This would make them a refreshing anomaly in an area filled with mainline churches and a sprinkling of evangelical ones. I anticipated what we would find.

However, when we arrived, I was dismayed to read their bulletin, which proclaimed them as an evangelical church. Which was right, their online presence or their printed material? Were they charismatic or evangelical? Soon I would find out.

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

As the service unfolded, they were clearly evangelical. Though their worship was a bit more exuberant than typical for fundamental churches, there were no indications of the Holy Spirit’s presence or of the supernatural.

Despite what their website claimed, their bulletin was correct. By their actions and their worship, they were, without a doubt, an evangelical congregation.

Having anticipated a charismatic experience, I was disappointed. Still I enjoyed my time there and lobbied for a return trip, but my wife felt that once was enough.

Can a church be evangelical and charismatic? Can a person be both? Click To Tweet

My wife was unaware of the inconsistency between their website and bulletin. When I shared my frustration over the mixed message, she shook her head in confusion. “Can’t they be both evangelical and charismatic?”

“Of course they can,” I answered, “but few churches are. They tend to be one or the other but not both.” She disagreed with me, but I’m having trouble thinking of an example. (A third option is mainline/liberal.)

However, assuming they embrace the good parts of both perspectives, I’d love to find such a place. I’d feel right at home.

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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Visiting Churches

An Epic Fail in Church Promotion

Church Marketing

Easter this year was a few weeks ago, on April 5. A week and a half later, on April 15, I received a postcard inviting me to attend a church’s Easter service. Aside from arriving too late to do any good, the church wasn’t even nearby; it was an hour’s drive away.

What were they thinking? Obviously they weren’t. The problems didn’t stop there. The postcard gave the address of one location and a map to another, which aren’t even close to one another. Where do they meet, anyway?

The postcard also included social media info for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Each one was for their parent church in California, with no reference to this (nearly) local congregation they wanted me to visit at an indeterminate location ten days too late.

Only HQ’s website made any mention of the church in question, but it was minimal. To further frustrate matters, they provided no phone number or email address. Their epic marketing fail still confounds me.

Too, often, this is how we invite people to church: haphazardly and without thinking things through.

What we need to do is make our invitation timely, personal, and relevant. What could be easier? Go out and try it.

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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Visiting Churches

What Time is Church?

Adjusting to an Ever Varying Sunday Schedule

When my wife and I started our journey of visiting fifty-two churches in a year, one variable seemed trivial at first but had wide ramifications. That item was service times. With church starting times as early as 8 a.m. and as late as 11:30 a.m., our Sundays looked quite different each week.

As bedtime loomed each Saturday night, the common question became, “What time is Church tomorrow?” The answer determined when we got up in the morning, how much free time we had before church, when we could expect to eat lunch, and what we had time to do in the afternoon.

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

Factor in services lasting between one hour and two and half hours, with up to two hours of informal community afterwards, we had no idea when we might return home.

Including drive time, our Sunday morning church experience would take between seventy minutes and three and a half hours.

Sometimes my time with God was the casualty of this ever-changing timetable. Click To Tweet

For a person who likes the rhythm of a regular schedule, my Sunday routine was thrown into disarray. While assaulting my status quo wasn’t all bad, sometimes my time with God was the casualty of this ever-changing timetable. Isn’t that ironic?

[Read about our journey of visiting 52 churches.]

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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Visiting Churches

Praying for Church

Say a Pre-Church Prayer

One of the practices my wife and I followed when we visited 52 churches was to pray before we headed out the door. This seems simple enough and something we should have always done, but praying prior to church was a practice we seldom did, more likely skipping it than remembering.

However, one year of visiting a different church every week taught us to embrace this practice; we depended on it. Indeed, without prayer to prepare the way, disaster would have surely resulted on more than one occasion.

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

Almost every week we prayed we would hear what God wanted to teach us. Often we prayed for ways to give back to the people at the churches we visited.

Sometimes we’d pray against fear or apprehension—or even that we could find the church. A few times, I needed to pray for a good attitude. And towards the end, we prayed to fight fatigue and to keep an open mind.

For the 52 churches, we remembered to pray 51 times. (The time we forgot was in rushing to Saturday Mass after squeezing in time with family.)

When we expect much at church and pray for it, we usually experience much. Click To Tweet

After experiencing firsthand the benefits of praying before church, we’ve continued this practice, remembering most Sundays. When we expect much at church and pray for it, we usually experience much. The opposite is also true.

If we take the time to go to church, shouldn’t we also take time to pray for a great experience?

[Read about our journey of visiting 52 churches.]

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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Visiting Churches

52 Churches: Wrap-up and Reboot

Between last Easter and this Easter, my wife and I visited fifty-two churches. Today marks the end of that adventure but also the beginning of a new one.

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

52 Churches Wrap-up

Our journey is over. I’m sad and excited at the same time. Our spiritual sojourn of fifty-two churches has ended; reunion with our community looms large. We rejoin them for Holy Week, first for Good Friday and then for the Easter celebration.

On purpose, I leave my journal at home. There will be no more note taking. Documenting my observations isn’t the point: experience is, community is, family is, and especially God.

We sing in jubilant celebration, enjoying community before and after each event. Hugs abound as I reconnect with friends.

Both services surpass my expectations, as I enjoy an amazing reunion, encounter a grand celebration, and experience a fitting conclusion to our yearlong pilgrimage.

We learned much on our journey and expanded our understanding of worshiping God, but it’s good to be back, home where we belong.

52 Churches Reboot

Though our trek is complete, writing about it isn’t. Beginning next Monday, I will repost our journeey, one church per week, adding new information and providing updates.

For those who followed us on our journey, this will be a great recap. While for those who joined us midway through, this will be a chance to follow along from start to finish.

The Book 52 Churches

As I update and repost, I will also finalize the book that chronicles this awesome adventure. Currently standing at 70,000 words, my posts are only a fraction of what’s in the book. In a couple of months, I’ll be ready to seek an agent and publisher.

As they say, stay tuned for more information.

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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Visiting Churches

Why is Community Important at Church?

For the past 19 weeks, my bride and I have been visiting different churches to expand our understanding of how others worship and understand God. We call this initiative “52 Churches” and I blog about the experience each Monday morning.

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

However, friends frequently ask for more: “What are you learning,” “Is your journey changing,” or “Have you found any churches you want to revisit?” The short answers are

  1. We’re learning a great deal,
  2. the vision for our sojourn is unchanged, and
  3. there are several churches we’d like to revisit.

A key realization at this point is that it’s not about the teaching or the music; it’s about the community.

Community is church at its best. Click To Tweet

We’ve heard messages from gifted speakers and not so gifted. We’ve been taught by the formally trained and the self-trained. We’ve been presented with deep thoughts and entertaining anecdotes.

In all cases, we’ve received a worthwhile word from God. I suspect as long as we’re open to hear and expectantly pray for that to happen, it will.

Similarly, we’ve sung traditional hymns, contemporary songs, and modern praise choruses. We’ve been led by accomplished vocalists and struggling crooners. There have been worship bands, pipe organs, and pianos, accompaniment tracks, and even a capella.

In all cases, as long as we’re willing to focus on the words, God is there.

Message and music, I’m sad to report, are not important.

The big variable is the community. Community is that time of interaction with others (aside from that awkward official greeting time). This is when connections are made and God is shared.

God seems more present in these informal interactions before and after the service than in the planned and carefully prepped moments during the service.

In a few churches, there is no community. People come, people sit, and people leave, with nary a word exchanged.

Fortunately, most churches have community and some excel at it. These are the churches I want to return to; these are the experiences that excite me; these are the moments when God is most powerfully present.

Community is church at its best.

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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Visiting Churches

An Intriguing Consideration, But We’ll Pass

When we made our list of churches to visit, we included everything found under the heading of “churches,” which we would adjust as needed. Next up is a “meditation group of self-realization fellowship.”

Since our mission is to visit Christian churches, if there’s any evidence of this being a Christian community, we’ll check them out.

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

According to their website the Sunday meeting is a “reading service.” It includes devotional chanting, short meditations, and readings from the Bible and Bhagavad Gita, which Wikipedia indicates is “a 700-verse Hindu scripture.” There’s also mention of Kriya Yoga.

I conclude they’re essentially an Eastern religion, with a touch of the Bible thrown in. There’s seemingly nothing Christian there and we decide not to visit.

Nevertheless, I wonder if a Christian could attend and experience a connection with the God who is revealed in the Bible. I suspect so, but caution would be warranted, guarding against spiritual forces not conducive to the Christian faith.

However, my ponderings will likely never go beyond the theoretical, but it is an intriguing consideration nonetheless.

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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Visiting Churches

Make a Difference Wherever You Go

My wife and I are on track to start our “52 Churches” adventure this coming Sunday—look for my first update on Monday.

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

As friends prayed about this, they prayed that we would have a positive impact on each of the 52 churches we visited.

This surprised me.

Make a difference wherever I go. Click To Tweet

Though it is generally my goal to make a difference wherever I go, I’d never considered it for the “52 Churches” initiative. I assumed we would merely be observers, taking in and receiving information, but not giving anything in return.

Now that I have had my perspective appropriately adjusted, this adventure has become doubly exciting. I wonder what we will learn—and what we will share.

[Read the next post about 52 Churches.]

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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Visiting Churches

52 Churches: The Journey Begins

For an Entire Year, We Visited a Different Christian Church Every Sunday

Next week, I will begin reposting a thread called “52 Churches.” It reflects on my church experience when my wife and I took a year to visit a different Christian church each week. The journey begins—again.

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

Each week it will be of a different church within the family of Christian creeds—and the project is planned to last for one year, hence the title, “52 Churches.”

My bride will be my willing partner in this experience. And, no, we are not church shopping, looking for that perfect community to join. Instead, we are looking to broaden our understanding of ways to experience God through a vast array of different faith communities.

Let us broaden our understanding of ways to experience God through a vast array of different faith communities. Click To Tweet

While on our tour, I anticipate that we will make new acquaintances and reconnect with old ones. I expect that we will be stretched and occasionally feel uncomfortable.

I suspect that we will squirm at times and applaud at others (be it literally or figuratively), that we will alternately be excited and bored, encouraged and discouraged, inspired and disheartened.

But through it all, I am confident that our comprehension and appreciation for God will grow, as it will for the diverse group of people we will meet along the way.

This promises to be great adventure and I hope that you will follow along with us. The journey begins.

[Read the next post about 52 Churches.]

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.