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Christian Living

Why is Pentecost Important?

Celebrating Holy Spirit Power

In another post we talked about the four main Christian holidays. In succession, they celebrate that Jesus came to earth (Christmas), died so we could live (Good Friday), overcame death to prove his mastery of it (Easter), and having completed his mission, he gave us a gift (Pentecost).

Pentecost is the conclusion of the Easter story.

Here’s the progression of events leading up to Pentecost:

Jesus Goes Home

Having completed his mission here on earth, Jesus returns to heaven (Mark 16:19).

Jesus Prepares a Place for Us

As followers of Jesus, we look forward to the time we will join him in heaven and spend the rest of forever with him. As we wait for that day, he is getting ready to welcome us (John 14:2-3).

Jesus Listens to Our Prayers and Intercedes for Us to God the Father

How wonderful to know Jesus is in heaven as our advocate, representing us to his Father, our Heavenly Father (Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25).

Jesus Sends Us the Holy Spirit on Pentecost

This is the climax; this is Pentecost. When Jesus returns to heaven, he does not abandon us; he sends the Holy Spirit to comfort us and guide us. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence in us, an essential aspect of putting our faith into action (John 16:7).

Pentecost reminds me of these things, foundational to my faith: that we will one day join Jesus in heaven, that we can pray to him now, and that we can live in concert with the Holy Spirit every day.

Today is Pentecost. Even though I’ll go to church, I don’t expect they’ll celebrate what this day means; they may not even mention it. This is a travesty, which is why I’m remembering it now.

Today, whether privately or with friends, I hope you’ll celebrate Pentecost and all it means.

Happy Pentecost!

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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Christian Living

What is the Purpose of Church?

Make Sure Your Faith Community Focuses on the Right Thing

We need to examine the purpose of church. Why do we meet each week? What are our goals when we come together? What should our focus be? Though people will give various answers, the responses fall into two broad categories: ourselves and others.

Church Is for Christians

Some people feel the purpose of church is to serve its members, the saints who’ve been made right through Jesus. Their right standing in him places them on the inside. They expect church to meet their needs and their wants. If the church disappoints them in the slightest, most will go church shopping and leave for another destination that better matches their expectations.

If the purpose of church is to serve its members—and to a lesser extent, its attendees—it has an internal focus. It seeks to serve itself. Some people call this navel gazing.

The church’s initiatives seek to meet the preferences of its members. It does this by feeding the flock each Sunday morning (never mind that we’re supposed to feed ourselves), providing programs that the members want, and having a pastoral team that jumps whenever a member calls.

Churches for the Lost

Others say that the purpose of church is evangelism, to rescue the lost who need Jesus to save them. In this case, these churches have an external focus. They want to reach the world for Jesus, to convert sinners and bring them into the fold.

This fulfills Jesus’s final instruction to his followers to go out into the world and tell people about him (Matthew 28:19-20). We sometimes call this command, the great commission.

Churches Are for Both

Most churches claim to be for both the Christians (the insiders) and the lost (the outsiders). This is a more appropriate position with the implicit intent being to prepare the insiders to go into the world to connect with the outsiders.

Yet this seldom happens. Or if it does only a small minority follow through by going out and telling others about Jesus.

Most churches that claim to have both an inward and outward focus, however, major in meeting the members expectations and minor in telling the world about Jesus.

Though their ideals say one thing, their actions and investments counter that claim.

Do our actions honor Jesus by following his commands? If not, this is an ideal place to start. Click To Tweet

The Purpose of Church

The purpose of church should be to prepare its people to go into the world. In doing so they serve as a witness for Jesus through their actions and their words.

Though many people worry about the words they will say, their initial concern should be about their actions. This is because few will listen to what we say if what we do turns them off first.

Do our actions honor Jesus by following his commands? If not, this is an ideal place to start.

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

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Christian Living

We Need an Emergent Mindset

Seek Ways to Make Our Faith Communities Relevant to a Postmodern World

In the early 2000s there was much talk about the emergent church. The idea was to address shrinking church attendance by taking steps to be more pertinent to a younger audience, many who dismissed the religious practices of prior generations. These people weren’t turning their backs on Jesus, however, just the institutional church. Therefore, churches need an emergent mindset.

Though this need is even more pronounced now than ever, we don’t hear much about the emergent church movement anymore. But this wasn’t a fad that died out. It’s more likely that the people doing this aren’t talking or writing about it. My post, “What Happened to the Emergent Church?” addresses this.

Even so, for churches to remain pertinent to changing demographics, they need to embrace an emergent mindset. First, we need some background. In my post I wrote:

“The emergence movement seeks to reimagine church in fresh, new ways to connect with a disenfranchised society that is open to spirituality, albeit apart from the traditional church.”

What does this emergent mindset mean for today’s churches?

Avoid the Status Quo

If churches do the same things they’ve always done, they’ll get the same results. This means that for churches that want to reverse their decline in attendance will need to reverse their practices. This doesn’t mean they must change, or even should change, what they believe and teach—providing that it’s biblical. Instead, they need to reevaluate everything else they do that surrounds it.

Many churches today struggle with declining attendance and an aging congregation. For most of them, the only time they grow is when another declining church closes and those members seek another place to attend.

Advocate Change

To move away from status-quo church practices means to embrace change. Most people, however, don’t like change. This is especially true with long-time church members who have fixed expectations. They may oppose needed changes by threatening to withhold donations. They may even follow through.

In short, they use money to selfishly manipulate the church into doing what they want her to do.

To avoid this unproductive response as much as possible requires teaching about the need to adapt to meet changing societal expectations. Becoming what future generations need and will be drawn to requires an emergent mindset. This can help churches grow numerically and not shrink.

Launch New Initiatives

After about ten years of existence, churches move toward becoming institutions. As they do so, self-preservation becomes key and most other activities become secondary.

If you think your church is the exception to this truth, look at your numeric growth. If it’s stagnant, you are an institution. If you’re seeing healthy, Jesus-focused growth, you may have overcome this generalization. It’s also likely that you have an emergent mindset.

For everyone else, know that doing what’s required to attract the next generation is most difficult from inside an institution. Instead of attempting to do this from within, an alternative is to launch a new initiative that comes from your established church but is not a part of it.

Just make sure that this initiative your launching is truly something fresh and not merely repackaging what already isn’t working.

Make sure your church is around and viable to help future generations encounter Jesus in meaningful ways. Click To Tweet

Embrace the Emergent Mindset

Make sure your church is around and viable to help future generations encounter Jesus in meaningful ways. Doing so will require you to stop doing what you’re currently doing, embrace change, and start a fresh way for people to experience God.

It won’t be easy, but it is essential.

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Christian Living

The Mystery of God

If We Can Fully Understand God, Then He’s Not a Very Great God

Some people are confused when they hear about Jesus or read the Bible. Because they don’t fully understand everything, they dismiss him, waiting until everything makes sense. It never will. At least not during our existence here on earth. This is the mystery of God.

Though I want to comprehend everything the Bible says, I know I never will. But that doesn’t mean I should stop trying. In the same way I want to fully know everything about God. Yet in my lifetime, I never will, but I will persist in pursuing him and drawing closer to him each day for the rest of my life.

In many respects, God is a mystery to us. And, for me, the mystery of God thrills me. It’s an allure that attracts me, that draws me to him.

He is the creator, and we are his created. Who are we to presume that we can ever fully comprehend an all-powerful, all-knowing, and always present deity who lives outside of the space-time reality he created for us? See Isaiah 29:16.

Here are some things Scripture says about the mystery of God:

Accept Our Position

“Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? (Job 11:7, NIV), but then consider 1 Corinthians 4:1.

Love Others More Than Knowledge

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing,” (1 Corinthians 13:2, NIV).

Know the Mystery

“He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:9-10, NIV). Also see Ephesians 3:2-5 and Colossians 2:2.

Declare the Long-Hidden Mystery

“We declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began” (1 Corinthians 2:7, NIV). Also see Colossians 1:25-27, Ephesians 3:8-9, and Romans 16:24-27.

Let Everyone Hear the Mystery

“This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:6, NIV). Also see Romans 11:25-26.

Pray for Missionaries of This Mystery

“Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ” (Colossians 4:3, NIV). Also see Ephesians 6:19-20.

Utter the Mysteries

“For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:2, NIV).

Embrace the Mystery of Jesus and His Church

“‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32, NIV).

Anticipate Being Changed

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, NIV).

Look Forward to the Mystery of God Being Accomplished

“But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished” (Revelation 10:7, NIV).

We don’t need to fully comprehend the mysteries of God. Instead, we should allow them to draw us closer to him. Click To Tweet

Mystery of God

These verses are the starting point into pursuing the mystery of God. We’ll do well to contemplate what they mean and how to best move forward.

We don’t need to fully comprehend these awesome mysteries. Instead, we should allow them to draw us closer to God.

Here’s one more verse: “Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16, NIV).

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

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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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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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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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Christian Living

Let’s Reclaim Easter Before It Loses All Meaning

According to those who track public thought and opinion, the majority of people don’t realize that Easter is a religious holiday—or at least a holiday with a religious origin. Given this, we must reclaim Easter for what it means.

The commercialization of Easter is strange. To start, we have Easter bunnies and Easter eggs, with the implication that the rabbits produced the eggs. How illogical is that?

Then there are colored eggs (both the real and plastic varieties), Easter baskets with a requisite bed of faux grass, pastel colored candies, and my favorite, the marshmallow peeps.

We send our children on Easter egg hunts and pile them with sugary candy. We do all this with nary a mention of Jesus.

Jesus is our savior who died in our place for all our sins (the mistakes we make throughout our lives). Then he proved his mastery over death by rising from the grave.

Celebrate Easter

If there is any connection between all this and Jesus’s history-changing victory over death, it certainly escapes me.

Where is the empty cross, the open tomb, and the risen savior? (Though it would seem a bit sacrilegious to chomp into a chocolate Jesus.)

In light of this disconnect between the origin and present reality of this day, my goal is that with each dip into commercialized Easter, I will have a conscious reconnection to historical Easter.

As I nibble on my peeps, I will meditate on Jesus and all that he did for us through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.

Let’s all strive to reclaim Easter.

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

Which is More Important, Good Friday or Easter?

Should Christians focus on worshiping Jesus who suffered or Jesus who rose from the dead?

As we moved through Lent to approach Holy Week we anticipate four significant days: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter (which some call Resurrection Sunday). The last two, Good Friday and Easter, stand as momentous occasions for all those who follow Jesus.

Though Christians worldwide acknowledge both as significant days that are essential to their faith, they tend to place more emphasis on one over the other. Indeed some choose to worship the suffering Savior, while others focus their attention on the risen Savior.

Good Friday or Easter?

For the first group, Good Friday is their solemn day of remembrance, with Easter as secondary. The other group breezes past Good Friday to arrive at Easter, the pinnacle day for their faith.

In reality, we need both Good Friday and Easter. Without Good Friday, we couldn’t have Easter and without Easter, Good Friday wouldn’t matter.

Jesus needed to die in order to cover all our mistakes and reconcile us with God. He also needed to rise from the dead, to resurrect, proving his mastery over death. We need both death and resurrection.

Without Good Friday, we couldn’t have Easter and without Easter, Good Friday wouldn’t matter. Click To Tweet

Jesus Had to Die

Jesus needed to die as our ultimate sacrifice to end all sacrifices and he needed to live again to show that his death wasn’t the end but a new beginning, both for him and for us.

Jesus Had to Rise

Let’s balance our faith practices by placing equal emphasis on Jesus as our Savior who died and who rose from the dead. We need both Good Friday and Easter. May our observances this year show that reality.

Thank you Jesus for dying for us so we don’t have to pay for our mistakes, and thank you Jesus for overcoming death for us so we can, too.

Whether you prefer Good Friday observances or Easter celebrations, this year, seek to embrace both with equal reverence and excitement

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

What Happened to the Emergent Church?

The Emergent Church Seeks to be Biblically Relevant for Postmodern People

Ten to fifteen years ago, it seemed that every time I turned around I heard something about the emergent church. I wrote about this in my dissertation, with one long chapter devoted to the topic.

My thoughts on the emergent church were greatly influenced by Phyllis Tickle’s mind-blowing book The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why.

What is the Emergent Church?

It’s an effort to reclaim church practices from a biblical perspective to reform them to be relevant in a postmodern culture. The emergence movement seeks to reimagine church in fresh, new ways to connect with a disenfranchised society that is open to spirituality, albeit apart from the traditional church.

At the time I speculated it was easier to find a book on the emergent church then to actually find an one in real life. Though I don’t think this was true, it certainly seemed that way. After all, the very nature of the emergent church shunned structure, organization, and hierarchical leadership.

These traits made emergent churches hard to find.

Our Churches Must Emerge

When I write about the church in this blog, it’s usually from the perspective of emergence. I want to see our present-day church practices emerge from what they are to produce something more meaningful that abounds with relevance for today’s spiritual seekers.

When I talk this way, it often comes across as criticism, but I only want what’s best for the church—that is, for us as followers of Jesus—so that the church can become more than what she presently is. I write about the church because I love her and want to see her reach her potential.

I want to see the church emerge to become something grander. I long to see the emergent church and wish to be part of one.

Instead of looking for an emergent church, the better solution might be to start one. Click To Tweet

A Fad or a Trend?

All this talk about the emergent church, however, was a decade ago. What about now? It’s been years since I’ve heard the phrase mentioned. Was the emerging church movement a fad that arrived for a moment and left just as quickly?

No. The impetus for the emergent church still exists. It’s just that we don’t hear that phrase anymore. Despite this, however, around the world people—who love Jesus but gave up on his church the way it’s currently practiced—are seeking out new expressions of faith community.

They are emerging to do something new and something fresh. But by their very nature, we don’t hear about them. This is because the philosophy of an emerging church shuns self-promotion and distrusts marketing.

The interest in emergent churches is still there, even if the label has slipped away. Perhaps instead of looking for an emergent church, the better path might be to start one.

Discover more about this idea in the post on micro-churches.

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.