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Visiting Churches

Discussion Questions for Church #55: A Time of Sharing

After 52 Churches ended, a new church launched in our area. Their primary marketing was yard signs, which promoted a fresh approach to church. With a last-minute opening in our schedule, we have an opportunity to visit and experience a great time of sharing. 

Consider these seven discussion questions about Church 55.

Their Facebook page contains recent updates, but they don’t mention service times or a schedule beyond their first two meetings several months ago. What can we do to make sure we provide potential visitors with up-to-date information?

They call themselves nondenominational, but their website—which Candy eventually finds—describes a church that sounds most evangelical. Why not just say they’re evangelical? Do the labels we use for our church accurately reflect who we are?

We’re the oldest people present, with kids, teens, and younger adults all represented. After visiting many churches with older congregations, this is a pleasant change. What age groups does our church cater to? What does this say about our focus and future?

They start fifteen minutes late. I’m not sure if this is their norm or because of harsh weather. When does our church service actually begin? What does this communicate to visitors?

At many churches a time of sharing approaches gossip or bragging. Not so here. The pain they share is not just a lament but also a testimony, teaching and encouraging others. How can we publicly share our needs and still edify the church?

They tell us many members have a charismatic background, but they’re careful to avoid excess, following Paul’s teaching (1 Corinthians 14:27–28). How can we better ground our church in what the Bible teaches?

Their leader follows Paul’s example of working his trade to provide for ministry (Acts 18:2–3). I like not expecting paid clergy to serve members but for members to minister to each other. How well do we do at ministering to one another?

Overall, we have a great time of sharing at this church.

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

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

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

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

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Christian Living

In Jesus We Are the Same

It’s Time We Start Embracing One Another

Paul writes that when we follow Jesus there’s no real difference between being Jewish or Greek, slave or free, male or female, circumcised, uncircumcised, barbarian, or uncivilized (Colossians 3:11). He’s advocating Christian unity.

Stop to think about this, to really contemplate the ramifications. He tells us to break down all divisions over ethnicity, social status, gender, and religious practices.

Paul wants us to function as one and live in unity. In the same way Jesus wants us to live as one, just as he and his Father exist as one (John 17:21).

Today we need to apply this vision for unity to the church Jesus started. We need to add that when we follow Jesus there’s no real difference between being Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant; Mainline, Evangelical, or Charismatic.

Division

But to our shame we divide Jesus’s church. We live in disharmony. We fight with each other over our traditions and our practices and how we comprehend God.

We spar over worship style, song selection, and a myriad of other things that relate to church practices and right living. Or to avoid these errors we simply ignore one another, and that’s almost as bad.

But the world is watching, and they judge Jesus through our actions. They test what we say by the things we do. And we fail their test.

With our words we talk about how Jesus loves everyone and with our deeds we diminish our brothers and sisters in Jesus with a holier-than-thou discord. If we can’t love those in the church, how can we love those outside the church?

Disunity

It’s no wonder the world no longer respects the church of Jesus and is quick to dismiss his followers. We bring it upon ourselves with our church splits and 42,000 Protestant denominations, with our petty arguments over practices and theology and everything in between.

But with a couple billion Christians, mostly living life contrary to God’s will by not getting along with each other, what can you and I do to truly make a difference?

Be the Change

We can change this one person at a time. Find another Christian who goes to a church radically different than yours (or who has dropped out of church) and embrace them as one in Christ.

Diversify your Christian relationships to expand your practice of following Jesus. Click To Tweet

If you are a mainline Christian, find a charismatic follower of Jesus and get to know him or her. If all your friends are evangelicals, go to Mass and make some new friends.

If all the Christians you know look just like you, find some who look differently. Diversify your Christian relationships to expand your understanding of what following Jesus truly looks like.

Unity in Jesus

It’s time we embrace one another. The whole world is watching.

How can we live out Paul’s command to break down our divisions? What is the biggest obstacle to us living in the unity Jesus prayed for?

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

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

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

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Visiting Churches

A Near Miss If Not for Their Church Sign

Discussing Church 19

With no website and a phone line that doesn’t work, we assume this church, listed only in a computer-compiled online directory, either no longer exists or never did. The church sign in front of their building is the only reason we know the service time.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #19

1. When we arrive, a greeter welcomes us, but she’s surprised to see two new people. 

Are visitors the norm at your church or an exception? What needs to change?

2. At times their service seems evangelical and other times mainline, with hints of Charismatic. It’s an ideal blend. 

How can your church service better focus on Jesus instead of promoting a subset of Christianity or a denomination?

3. In the most insightful communion invitation I’ve ever heard, the pastor affirms that all who are in relationship with God are free to participate, regardless of church status or affiliation. 

How inclusive and accepting are your church’s practices?

4. Their mission is to help people on their faith journey, connecting them with other churches that match their needs and preferences. It’s okay if they happen to pick up members along the way, but it’s not their intent. 

What are your church’s growth goals?

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

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

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

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

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Bible Insights

Don’t Fight Against God

Too Many People Fail to See God at Work and Instead Oppose Those Who Follow Him into His New Ways

Jesus warns his followers what awaits them. First, they’ll get kicked out of their church and then people will kill them. Their opponents will do so in the name of religion, thinking they’re acting in service to God, but their actions fight against God.

This means the killers aren’t coming from the world but from within the family of God.

Historically this happens whenever a new move of God occurs. The biggest movement of God was Jesus coming to fulfill the Old Testament Law. Most people miss this, and so they oppose him.

Moses

There is also Moses who leads the people from slavery to freedom. He gives them instructions on how to live as a free people. They oppose him—for forty years. Though they don’t kill him, they provoke him so much that sometimes he wishes he was dead (Exodus 32:32 and Numbers 11:15).

The Prophets

The Old Testament prophets likewise suffer opposition and death. It seldom goes well for them.

Today’s Church Can Fight Against God

The pattern of religious conflict continues since the time of Jesus. Most notably the Reformation. Christians oppose other Christians. Christians hate other Christians. And Christians kill other Christians.

Another momentous time of Christian versus Christian hostility happens at the birth of the Charismatic movement in the early 1900s and again at its rebirth in the 1960s.

Instead of arguing, let’s listen. Click To Tweet

Each time God is at work doing a new thing. Each time, many of his people mount a significant opposition. And God’s messengers usually suffer for it.

Gamaliel’s Wise Advice

Don’t label the people who follow God into his new way of doing things as heretics and oppose them. Instead, we would be better off heeding the words of Gamaliel who told the religious leaders, “Don’t bother with them.

If they’re doing this on their own, they will fail. But if it’s of God, we can’t stop them—and could end up fighting against God himself,” (see Acts 5:38-39). That is, don’t fight against God.

Instead of kicking the people we disagree with out of church, we would be better off seeing if God is at work. Instead of arguing, let’s listen.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is John 16-17, and today’s post is on John 16:2-3.]

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

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.

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Visiting Churches

Pentecostal Church Insights

Discussing Church 14

The church website doesn’t give their affiliation, but the pastor’s bio implies they’re Pentecostal. Their Facebook page, however, prominently confirms this.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #14

1. Facebook says the service lasts two hours. I’m glad to know this, but I still dread what awaits me. 

Most people expect church to last an hour. If yours doesn’t, what can you do to communicate this without scaring away newcomers?

2. As posted online, their narrow views on salvation and unity trouble me. But most members don’t know what their church stands for—and would disagree with some aspects. 

How well do you know your church’s beliefs? If we focus on Jesus, does doctrine really matter?

3. Several more people welcome us. This Pentecostal church excels at pre-service hospitality, leaving us feeling valued. 

What is your church noted for? Is it something positive or negative?

4. After we meet many people, the minister introduces himself and asks if we’ve ever been to a Pentecostal church. When I shake my head, he raises his eyebrows and requests we keep an open mind. 

Do people at your church need to keep an open mind? What does this communicate?

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

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

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

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

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Visiting Churches

A Charismatic Church . . . or Not?

Discussing Church 11

The trendy website of this church gives no indication of their focus or affiliation. In contrast, their Facebook page says they’re charismatic.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #11:

1. Despite their claim to be charismatic, their service is much like nontraditional evangelical churches. 

If your church is to stand out, what are you doing that’s truly different?

2. According to their pastor, many of the people there dropped out of other churches, disillusioned and discouraged. This church became their sanctuary. 

What can you do to embrace the disillusioned and discouraged?

3. For the second time in two weeks, there’s no effort to obtain our contact information. I’m not sure if this is good or bad. 

Does your church attempt to get contact information from visitors? If so, what do you or should you do with it?

4. Contrary to their self-description as charismatic, there was little in their service to support that claim. 

Does your website and social media accurately reflect your church?

Though this church billed itself as charismatic and showed hints of that leaning, they landed on the light side of being Holy Spirit focused. How does your church represent itself to the public? Does it accurately portray who you are? Or maybe it’s a reflection of what you once were or who you want to become.

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

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

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

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

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Visiting Churches

Reflecting on Church #11: Charismatic Lite

With our journey of visiting fifty-two churches over, I can reflect more on the complete experience. Today, I’ll add to my thoughts about Church #11.

At this charismatic church, most of the attendees were middle-aged adults. The few youth present weren’t engaged in the worship or the message, as they measured time until they could leave.

This disappointed me. They lacked the supernatural fire of their parents, who seem to have failed at passing their faith unto the next generation.

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

When I think of charismatic, several words come to mind: passionate, alive, and free. I didn’t see much of that, which left me confused. Sadly, this scenario would repeat at some of the other charismatic churches, too. I call this experience “charismatic lite.”

[See my reflections about Church #10 and Church #12 or start with Church #1.]

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

Nothing Out of the Ordinary (Visiting Church #11)

I didn’t know this church existed until my wife stumbled onto this charismatic church during her online research for our adventure. Their Facebook page says they’re “a charismatic, faith-filled, and Bible-believing church.”

I’ve never been to a charismatic church service. However, I have attended charismatic conferences, so I think I have a general idea of what we’ll encounter. I expect I’ll be spiritually stretched, which is the intent of our sojourn.

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

However, contrary to my anticipations, the service is much like the non-traditional evangelical churches we’ve attended.

A couple of times I faintly hear someone praying in tongues. It’s reverent and not distracting. As the music set ends, one of the worshipers praises God aloud, which morphs into a prayer and then becomes a prophetic word. It fits in and is a suitable end to our worship time.

Aside from these two things, some of the adults are freer with hand-raising and offering verbal praises during musical interludes, but it’s minimal.

Overall, there are no peculiar supernatural manifestations or bizarre behaviors. I’m not sure if I’m relieved or disappointed with this charismatic church.

[Read about Church #10 and Church #12, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #11.]

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

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.