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Christian Living

What Is a Christian Cohort?

Align with Other Believers to Build Ourselves Up and Serve Others

In my post about spiritual mastermind groups I talked about the benefit of aligning ourselves with other like-minded followers of Jesus to walk with on our spiritual journey. Now I’d like to look at the word cohort and apply that too. Let’s call this a Christian cohort.

What a Cohort Is

A cohort is a group or band of people. Though a secondary application refers to a single companion or associate, the more widely used understanding refers to many. Though we could intentionally form a Christian cohort, just as we might a spiritual mastermind group, I think of most cohorts as being informal.

If we view a Christian cohort as a naturally developing assemblage of people in our church or parachurch organization, then most of us have a cohort, possibly several of them, which vary with the setting.

We can also be more intentional about forming a Christian cohort. Though this could take many forms, with varying functions, it could also approach being a spiritual mastermind group.

For our Christian cohort to be effective and reach its highest potential, however, it shouldn’t have only an internal focus, but an outward one as well. Though there is a time to build each other up, there is also a time to go out into our community and help others. Forming a Christian cohort to serve is a great application of this concept.

What a Christian Cohort Isn’t

A secondary definition of the word cohort is with the military. This first started in the Roman Empire, where it identified a group of 300 to 600 soldiers. But a cohort can more generically refer to any group of combatants.

However, let us not apply this military understanding of cohort to our theology. We are not Christian soldiers marching off to war. God forbid! May we never have a repeat of the Crusades.

Though the idea of a battle applies to our journey with Jesus, this is a spiritual one—warring against spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12)—not a physical one fighting other people we may disagree with.

What a Cohort Shouldn’t Be

Though the idea of a Christian cohort is appealing, it also carries a huge risk. This is that our cohort could easily become a click, a Christian click. These clicks have existed in every church I’ve been part of. I suspect all churches suffer from Christian clicks.

These clicks are groups of friends, cronies if you will, who informally, yet effectively, form an inner circle within the Christian fellowship that excludes all others, essentially relegating them to a second-class status in the church.

Though I’m not aware of it, I suspect I’ve been part of these a time or two. But what I do realize—most painfully—is the many times I’ve been on the outside looking in. It’s a lonely place to be. May our Christian cohort never become a click.

A Christian cohort can produce an encouraging peer group to move us into a closer, more effective relationship with God and each other. Click To Tweet

Cohort Conclusion

When done rightly, a Christian cohort can produce an encouraging peer group to move us into a closer, more effective relationship with God—and each other. When done wrongly, our cohort becomes a click that serves as a barrier to Christian community.

May we embrace the positive side of Christian cohort and guard against its wrong use.

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

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52 Churches

The New Church in Town (Visiting Church #7)

Sunday we visited a newer church. Their website says “multi-generational contemporary worship service”—and it is. They’re also non-denominational “because God has called all believers to unity.” I like that.

We walk in and people are informally mingling; several introduce themselves. Of all the churches we’ve visited so far, this is the most effective at pre-service interaction.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

The sanctuary is a simple rectangular room that seats 55, but I only count 24 present. I forget it’s Memorial Day weekend. There are no pews but comfortable chairs instead. They say attendance is often near capacity and on Easter they maxed out.

Soon they’ll move to a different facility, much nicer and more inviting; it’ll seat 160 and they’re confident they’ll soon fill it.

Three ladies lead us in singing modern praise songs. Instead of instrumentation, they use accompaniment tracks. They don’t have songbooks but display the words on a flat-screen monitor.

The pastor is in week two of a series. Last Sunday was about God’s sovereignty; today is about God’s providence. He boldly delves into some tough questions about these subjects.

Afterwards, he tells me most members are younger in their faith; they’ve come without any church baggage and are eager to learn. Since they don’t know how they’re “supposed” to behave in church, there aren’t any bad habits to overcome.

This explains the informal nature of the service, the socializing beforehand, and their arriving without Bibles. Their eagerness to learn is why he goes deep in his teaching.

Although the church is expanding numerically, their leader is more pleased with their deep spiritual growth. As is often the case, it’s new churches, and not the established ones, where people discover God and grow into a vibrant faith. Newer is often better.

[Read about Church #6 and Church #8, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #7.]

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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52 Churches

When Not to Change Churches

When We Go Church Shopping We Behave as Consumers and Don’t Honor God

In today’s practice of retail religion, we pursue faith has a consumer and miss the purpose of church. We’re quick to change churches over the smallest of issues. Yet, usually the best action to take is no action: Don’t change churches.

Often we should stay where we are and not go church shopping.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

Yes, there’s a right time and a wrong time to change churches. We need to discern between the two and act accordingly. Here are some reasons not to change churches.

Don’t Change Churches If You’re Angry

Did your church do something to hurt you? Are you angry over something that someone did or said? Though the impulse to change churches is understandable, this is the wrong time to do it. Don’t leave mad because you’ll hurt others in the process.

And don’t leave hurt, because you’ll carry baggage to your new church. Instead, seek reconciliation with your church and its people. Then you can switch with a clear conscience, but if you patch things up, why not stick around?

Don’t Change Churches If You’re Not Being Fed

It sounds spiritual to say you’re switching churches because you’re “just not being fed.” This sounds virtuous, but it’s really a sign of laziness. It’s not church’s job to feed us spiritually. This is the wrong expectation.

Yes, church aids in spiritual growth, but they shouldn’t be the primary provider of our faith nourishment.

Spiritual growth is our responsibility. We need to feed ourselves and not expect a minister to do our job for us. Changing churches so we can be fed only masks the real problem.

Don’t Change Churches If You’re Not Getting Anything Out of It

In today’s culture, too many people view church participation as a transaction. They put in their time expecting something in return. They donate their money and look for a return on their investment. This, however, reduces church to a commodity that we shop for.

This is the epitome of retail religion, and it misses the point.

The truth is, we only get out of church what we put into it. So, if you’re not getting anything out of church, the problem falls on you and not church.

Don’t Change Churches If You Fear Heresy

Another spiritually-sounding complaint about church is heresy. Yet disagreement over theology is why we have 43,000 denominations in our world today and not the one, unified church that Jesus prayed for.

When we charge our minister with heresy, the implication is that we know what is correct and they don’t. We need to embrace the possibility that we might be wrong.

Instead, we squabble over things that don’t matter and leave the church. What does matter? Jesus. Everything else is secondary. We need to acknowledge that we can have differences of opinion over matters of faith and still get along.

There are many reasons to change churches, but most of these are selfish, shortsighted, and reflect a consumer is a mindset that displeases God and serves to divide his church. Click To Tweet

Don’t Change Churches If You Don’t Like the Music or the Message

Another side effect of retail religion is changing churches because we don’t like the worship service or the sermon. Again, this is consumerism infiltrating church.

All music can praise and worship God. Just because we don’t like the tone or tempo—or volume—it isn’t worth changing churches. Instead, seek to worship God regardless of the musical style or the performers’ ability.

Remember, we’re not there as consumers seeking entertainment; we’re there as followers of Jesus to worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24).

The same applies to the message. Yes, some speakers are gifted, and others aren’t; some presenters are entertaining, and others are boring. But every message has something we can learn from it, if we’re willing to listen and look for it.

Don’t Change Churches If You Have No Friends

If your church lacks community or you have no friends there, who’s fault is that? Yes, some people are easier to connect with then others, but that’s no excuse to give up.

In fact, the problem might be in us. If we have no friends at church it might be because we’re not approachable or don’t make ourselves available. The best time to make friends at church is before the service starts and after it ends, but too many people miss these opportunities by arriving at the last moment and leaving as soon as possible.

If you have no friends at church, seek to change that.

There are many reasons to change churches, but most of these are selfish, shortsighted, and reflect a consumer mindset. This displeases God and serves to divide his church. If you don’t like your church, the better approach is to stick around and be a catalyst for change.

Seek to make the church where you’re at become a better one and don’t take your problems someplace else.

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

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

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Christian Living

What is Post-Denominational?

Dividing the church by forming denominations isn’t biblical, and it’s time to move past it

Jesus prayed for our unity, that we would be one—just as he and his father are one. He yearned that his followers would get along and live in harmony. Dividing into religious sects wasn’t his plan. Yet that’s exactly what we’ve done as we formed 42,000 Protestant denominations.

Instead of focusing on our similarities, our common faith in Jesus, these denominations choose to make a big deal over the few things they disagree about.

They should get along, but instead they develop their own narrow theology, which they use as a litmus test to see who they’ll accept and who they’ll reject.

How this must grieve Jesus.

While there has been some disagreement among the followers of Jesus almost from the beginning, the divisions started proliferating 500 years ago with the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. And since that time, it’s escalated out of control, with a reported 42,000 denominations today.

This represents the most significant degree of Christian disunity ever.

The push for denominational division traces its beginning to the modern era. While the modern era assumed that reason would allow us to converge on a singular understanding of truth, the opposite occurred. Instead, the pursuit of logic resulted in wide-scale disagreement.

This is perhaps most manifest among the followers of Jesus, who love to argue over their individual understandings of theology.

Yet there’s a sense we’re moving away from denominations and the divisions they cause. The word to describe this is post-denominational.

Just as we are moving from the modern era to the postmodern era, we are also moving from a time of denominational division to a time of post-denomination harmony.

In understanding postmodern, we don’t consider it as anti-modern but instead “beyond modern.” The same distinction rightly applies to post-denominational. Post-denominational is not anti-denomination, as much as it is “beyond denominations.”

So, what is post-denominational? Post-denominational moves beyond the Protestant divisions that proliferated in the last 500 years, during the modern era.

Post-denominational sets aside the man-made religious sects that divide the church of Jesus. In its place, post-denominational advocates a basic theology to form agreement and foster harmony. This allows the followers of Jesus to live together in unity, which will amplify their impact on the world around them.

The people who follow Jesus are beginning to realize this. Many new churches label themselves as non-denominational. This reflects a general mistrust among today’s people for the brand-name Protestantism of yesteryear, that is, denominations.

People are weary of the criticism, finger-pointing, and disunity that denominations have caused. Click To Tweet

They’re weary of the criticism, the finger-pointing, and the disunity that denominations have caused. That’s why the label of non-denominational is so attractive to many people.

This includes those who go to church, those who dropped out, and those who have never been. They don’t want to align themselves with a denomination anymore. They want a spiritual experience in a loving Christian community, one without denominational division.

For the sake of Jesus and our witness of him to our world, can we set our denominations aside and agree to work together to move forward in unity?

It’s a lot to ask, and it seems humanly impossible. But Jesus already prayed for our success (see John 17:20-26.)

May this generation be the answer to his prayer. May we be one.

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

Church Is For Girls

The modern church is geared toward women and men don’t fit

I have known the title for this post for a long time. In my heart I knew it was true, but I struggled to articulate why. Now I can.

I read David Murrow’s book Why Men Hate Going to Church hoping to understand why I struggle so with church attendance. Though it’s no one’s fault (and yet we are all complicit), the Christian church is a place where women thrive and men die.

In most all that it does—from décor, to language, to programs, to music, to sermons—today’s church provides what women crave, while offering little that appeals to men. The church says to guys, “Check your testosterone at the door.”

This explains why women make up the majority of church attendees. In going to more than one hundred churches, I’ve never been to one with more males than females.

That’s because church is for girls. It really is. If you don’t believe me read Why Men Hate Going to Church. (The book also explains how to fix it.)

Clearly, the church repels the Wild at Heart guys. Yet, I’m not a wild at heart kind of guy, at least not in a conventional sense. I assert my masculinity in non-stereotypical ways. I see myself as a spiritually militant misfit:

  • I am an advocate who pushes the envelope for change, yet the church is adverse to change. There is no place for my voice.
  • I am a thought leader who pursues innovation, yet the church wants lay leaders it can control. It doesn’t want me.
  • I am a person who challenges the status quo, yet the church institution exists to maintain the status quo and suppress dissension. It fears what I represent.
  • I am a spiritual seeker who probes issues that most don’t consider, yet the church hates questions that lack pat answers. It shuns me because I am spiritually impertinent.
  • I am a follower of Jesus who yearns to take spiritual risks, yet the church wants to be a safe place that doesn’t confront the unexamined theology of its members. My risk-taking perspective isn’t wanted.

I once actually found a church that encouraged me in these things. It was a church plant. We made change normal, pursued innovation, constantly challenged the status quo, encouraged questions, and embraced risk. In many ways we followed The Barbarian Way, and I thrived.

The one instance where men find a place is in church plants. Click To Tweet

Incidentally, David Murrow says the one instance where men find a place is in church plants. I get that. I was alive at this new church.

Yet over time, decision by decision, the church became civilized. It instituted structure and limited me. It became more and more like the thing it sought to break free from. I no longer fit. I slowly withered. I didn’t want to go to church there anymore.

“The church has emasculated me,” I told my wife. (That hurt me to say.)

“But you let it,” she answered. (That hurt me to hear.)

“It’s only because I so badly wanted to fit in and be accepted.” (That hurt me to admit.)

But in the end, I don’t so much like this person I’ve become, and the church still doesn’t want me.

After all, church is geared for girls, and I’m a guy.

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

Why Don’t You Go To Church?

Examine Your Reasons for Staying Home on Sunday

Last Sunday I asked the question, Why do you go to church? Today, I ask the opposite question to everyone else: Why don’t you go to church?

Though I’m not in this group, I’ve talked to many who are. They have multiple reasons, some of them good, some of them warranted. Here’s what they say:

  • I don’t get anything out of it. (In our Western-world culture we approach church with a consumer mindset, looking to get something. What if we went with the goal to give something, be it to God or someone else?)
  • It’s boring. (The true wording is “I’m bored by it.” The reality is we choose to be bored or seek to be engaged. However, this is far easier to do at some churches than others.)
  • No one talks to me. (Yeah, this can happen, but we greatly increase the odds of conversation if we’re approachable. Even better, initiate the conversation.)
  • It’s full of hypocrites. (In one way or another, aren’t we all?)
  • They don’t talk enough about _____. (Maybe that’s because we’re preoccupied with a certain topic, perspective, or issue; seek balance.)
  • They talk too much about _____. (Maybe they’re out of balance. Or Perhaps God’s trying to convict you of something.)
  • All they do is ask for money. (Some churches do a lot of that, too much, in fact. People who go often learn to tune it out, but it can really make visitors squirm. I’m sorry.)
  • I don’t like the minister. (Yeah, personalities can get in the way, just like in all aspects of life.)
  • I don’t like the messages. (There may be a reason. Is God trying to tell you something?)
  • I don’t like their style of music. (Personally I don’t like the music at most churches, but going for entertainment is the wrong reason; sometimes music connects us with God, and sometimes we need to push through the music.)
  • It’s superficial, full of phony people putting on a false front. (Yes, there are poseurs in our world, including church; just make sure you’re not one of them.)
  • I’m too busy. (We make time for what matters.)
  • I don’t experience God’s presence there. (Whose fault is that, the church’s or yours?)

I understand what they’re saying and agree with much of it. Yet I persist in going.

For all its limitations, church is 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.