3 Ways to Worship God

Worship means different things to different people, but what’s important is that we do it

3 Ways to Worship GodSome churches call their Sunday meeting a worship service. This has always troubled me. Yes, I knew that singing to God was a form of worship, or at least it should be. And I understood the part about “worshiping God with our tithes and offerings,” even though I didn’t see God getting too much of what we dropped into the offering plate. But the sermon?

How could listening to a lecture, often a boring one, be a form of worshiping God? In truth, aside from a few songs and the collection, the bulk of most church services are either education or entertainment. Is that worship? I don’t think so. I hope not.

Here are three ways we can worship God. (And like a good three-point sermon, they all begin with the same letter.)

Singing: As I said, singing to God is a way to worship him. More broadly, music is a path to worship. That means we can sing or listen to music. Music can also involve movement, rather it be clapping our hands, raising our arms in praise, or dance (from rhythmic swaying to getting down like David, 2 Samuel 6:14).

Yes, singing can have a physical component. It can also involve senses. Sight: seeing others sing and dance (or watching a light show). Hearing: listening to those around us sing and hearing the instruments. Smell: incense or a smoke machine. Touch: holding hands with fellow worshipers as we sing. Taste: singing while we take communion. (For the record, I’ve experienced each of these sensory elements in worship at various church services, though not often.)

Unfortunately, I’m musically and rhythmically challenged, so I struggle to worship God through music and movement. But give me a strong beat with catchy lyrics behind it, and I can engage in song as a means of worship.

Serving: Helping others, both with our time and through our money, is a tangible form of worship. I enjoy the action of doing something for others, offering it as an act of service to them and as a form of worship to God.

Similarly I like being able to give money to causes I’m passionate about or to people in need as the Holy Spirit directs me. Both are ways to serve and both offer a path for worship. I relish the opportunity to worship God through these forms of service.

Silence: In our multitasking, always-on society, the hush of stillness is an anachronism to most, one that causes many people to squirm. Few people can tolerate silence for more than a few seconds.

Yet in our silence—along with its partner, solitude—we can quiet our racing minds and still our thumping hearts in order to connect with God. Psalm 46:10 says to “be still and know that I am God.” Yet, setting time aside to be still presents challenges. For most of us, meeting with God in silence doesn’t just happen; we must be intentional.

In my times of silence I connect more fully with God in worship, get deeper glimpses into his heart, and am best able to hear his gentle words of encouragement, correction, and mostly love. So good!

Just as I make it my practice to attend church, I have a parallel practice of giving to my community each week. I also (usually) block out one day out of seven to fast, and part of that time includes worshiping God through silence. All three are forms of worship, though for me, helping others is more practical and resting in God’s presence is more meaningful.

God has uniquely made us and gives us different ways to worship him. When it comes to worship, one size does not fit all. Find the one that fits you.

[This is from the February issue of Peter DeHaan‘s newsletter, “Spiritually Speaking.”  Receive the complete newsletter each month.]



Church Community is Key: Seek Connection At All Costs

If the church service you attend doesn’t provide meaningful connection, then you need to fix it or find a different church

Church Community is Key: Seek Connection At All CostsDespite being the most connected generation, Millennials are also reportedly the loneliest. It seems their massive number of online friends and followers offer them only superficial relationships that lack meaningful interaction. They crave connections with others that touches them at a significant level, but social media falls short in accomplishing this deep heartfelt need.

That’s why “hanging out with friends” seems to be their favorite, most desired activity.

I think that’s what church is all about. Or at least that’s what it should be all about.

The early church spent time together. We need to reclaim this, not just for the Millennials, but for our own wellbeing, too.

But hanging out doesn’t mean passive pew sitting, staring at the back of people’s heads for an hour. True community can’t occur when listening to the Sunday lecture that we call a sermon. Meaningful connection with each other doesn’t happen during the concert-like atmosphere we label as worship, where a couple of skilled musicians attempt to lead a largely unresponsive throng in singing. And don’t get me started on the disingenuous greeting time wedged into the middle of a service: it is too long for the socially challenged and too short for meaningful interaction.

This opportunity for true, meaningful community does not take place during the church service; it occurs after the benediction. When the final “amen” is uttered the clock-watchers flee, and a few people hang out to talk. Every church has a few of these folks. Though they may be the social butterflies, they may also be the ones who understand why we are supposed to not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25). They seek profound community.

Although this time of hanging out could reside on the surface, talking about safe (and meaningless) topics, such as the weather, the game, or the Sunday dinner menu, the wise people focus on discussions that matter. We listen to each other on the heart level. We minister to and serve one another, we pray and are prayed for, and we encourage and are encouraged. When we do this, we prepare ourselves and our church community for the week ahead so that we can go out into our greater community and be Jesus to them.

True church community is the key to make this happen. Don’t let the official church service get in the way.

Sunday is a Great Day For Some Recreation

Having a regular Sabbath provides an opportunity to rest and recharge

Sunday is a Great Day For Some RecreationThe dictionary defines recreation as a time of refreshment for our mind or body through the use of an activity that amuses or stimulates; an activity that provides refreshment. More simply, recreation is to play. After working hard for the workweek, people seek recreation on the weekend, and with Saturday often packed with more work, that leaves Sunday as the only day left for recreation. Many people pack Sunday full of recreation, so much that they return to work on Monday exhausted. Doesn’t that defeat the goal of recreation?

Or consider recreation another way. Synonyms for recreation include regeneration, rebirth, restoration, and leisure. Does that provide a bit more insight into what our Sunday recreation might look like?

What if we insert a hyphen into the word to get re-creation? Then we can see our Sundays as a day to re-create ourselves. We do this by resting, refocusing, and recharging.

Yet none of these things happen when I go to church on Sunday. In fact, I view my chance for much needed Sunday recreation as what happens after I go to church. I delay my weekly recreation until after I fulfill my weekly obligation to attend a worship service. Thankfully our practices have changed from two Sunday services down to one, leaving only one requirement to interrupt my recreation.

I can envision Jesus shaking his head in dismay, wondering if I’ve forgotten his words: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” Mark 2:27, NIV.

Indeed I have forgotten, or at least I need frequent reminders.

We need to stop pursuing our Sunday church attendance with legalistic furor and start re-envisioning our worship services as a time of holy recreation. God does not expect us to serve the Sabbath but for the Sabbath to serve us.

Now we just need to figure out how to do that.

May today be a day of holy recreation for you.

Do you think Sunday is a time for holy recreation? How can you change your Sunday so that it better fits Jesus’s teaching?

Do We Need to Listen to a Lecture Each Sunday at Church?

Can you have a church service without hearing a preacher speak? Will you try?

Do We Need to Listen to a Lecture Each Sunday at Church?My wife and I recently visited a church. Though we didn’t know it before we walked in, their service would be different that week. There was no sermon. They used the normal sermon time to talk about the missionaries their church supported. They explained each missionary’s focus and updated us on their status. They shared the joys and concerns of their missionaries. People on the mission’s committee prayed. Then the service ended. The lead pastor didn’t say a word.

Several people apologized for there being no sermon and invited us back to hear their minister speak.

I shook my head. “Don’t apologize. This was better than a sermon.”

But they didn’t get it.

From my perspective it was a profound, meaningful service. We need more like this.

As I understand it, the Reformation removed the communion table (The Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, the Eucharist) as the focus of the Sunday service and replaced it with the sermon. I get why they did it, but it was a mistake – a grave one.

Frankly I see more biblical support for celebrating communion every Sunday than I do for giving a lecture (that is, delivering a sermon) as part of our Sunday meetings. Though the New Testament does talk about giving messages to local congregations, I think it is always a traveling missionary who speaks on his way through town. I don’t recall an instance in the New Testament where a local pastor (an elder) gives a talk every Sunday. And I can’t remember any commands to preach a sermon to the believers during each weekly meeting.

Yet we view sermons today with the conviction that it must happen. We select ministers for their public speaking ability. And we expect to listen to a lecture each Sunday as we sit passively in our pews. Most people feel cheated if they go to church and don’t hear a sermon. (Never mind that few can remember it by the time they reach home.)

This fixation on the sermon is wrong.

Though instruction has its place, teaching doesn’t facilitate community. It doesn’t allow us to minister to one another (as we should), and it doesn’t serve the world around us (as we ought). While listening to an overly educated person detail the minutia of scripture every week may have intellectual appeal, it does little in a practical sense to deepen our community and advance our faith in action.

Let us dare to envision a church service without a sermon. Let us reimagine our weekly gatherings as a place to foster spiritual community and promote the love of Jesus to those outside the church.

It starts when we kill the sermon. Will you dare to do it?

How would you react if you went to church and there was no sermon? Can you think of a New Testament passage that talks about a local minister preaching a sermon every week? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Church is a Verb – or at Least it Should Be

Stop thinking of church as a place you attend but as actions to pursue

Church is a Verb – or at Least it Should BeYes, I know that linguistically church is not a verb. A verb indicates action; it shows movement. Church falls in the noun category, specifically a place. Places don’t move. They have no action. They don’t do anything.

Most places, in and of themselves, are boring. It’s what we do there that makes it interesting – or not. Likewise when we attend church, it’s what we do there that makes it interesting – or not. So when we sit passively in our pews, sans action, church becomes a rather uninteresting place. The operative word is boring.

As a kid I often complained that church was boring, but I thought I would one day move past that – when I grew up. I guess I never grew up because I still think church is boring. So church, at least the church service, becomes something I strive to endure.

It’s not that I don’t like God. I do. It’s the church service I don’t care for – or at least what we’ve wrongly turned church into.

To fix this we need to start thinking and acting as if church is a verb:

Go to Church: Going to church is an action, but sitting down once we get there prepares us for inaction. Something’s wrong. I go to church to spend time engaged with others, not staring at the back of their heads or expecting a select few to entertain me from the stage. I want to interact with other followers of Jesus: talking, listening, praying, and caring.

This is true community. When I go to church I seek meaningful community. If not I might as well stay home, where I can at least access better sermons and music online.

We go to church to be part of an active community.

Do Church: A popular sentiment among many forward-thinking believers is “doing church.” I get that. They desire to move past passive sitting and replace it with active engagement. Though we can sometimes do this, at least a bit, when we sing to God, it’s quite challenging to accomplish during the lecture part of the service. Instead of passive inaction when we attend church, we need to do things. We need activity to chase away the boring and make church worthwhile.

We do church to interact with other followers of Jesus.

Be Church: The third church action is being, as in to be the face and hands of Jesus to others. Jesus said he didn’t come to be served but to serve (Matthew 20:28). We should do the same. We help, we reach out, and we love – just as Jesus modeled for us to do.

When we become the church we serve others, just like Jesus.

While “go to church” and “do church” have an inward focus, “be church” has an outward emphasis. It suggests giving to others outside of our community. We give our money to the world around us; we use our time to help the people near us. This is how we best model what Jesus did – and we don’t even need to attend a church service to do it.

Church is a verb.

Why do you attend church? What changes should you make? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

What is Your Greatest Accomplishment?

What is Your Greatest Accomplishment?At church a few weeks ago we were asked a question, “What is your greatest accomplishment?” We were supposed to write it down on a piece of paper.

As a writer you would think I would be good at such things, but since I do all my writing in solitude, with as few distractions as possible, I have great trouble coming up with anything to write when in a public setting. Focus alludes me, and any words that do tumble forth seem woefully inadequate.

As I ponder this question, other people quickly scribble down their answers. Gee this is hard to decide. I have many notable accomplishments, but none seem truly great. As I try to determine which of my good-but-not-really-great accomplishments rise above the others, I start thinking outside the box. I sometimes do this, often to the dismay of others.

My greatest accomplishment is still to come. That is true; I am optimistic about the future. I have no doubt that God has amazing things in store for me. In complete confidence I know my future will surpass my past. How cool is that? Should I write that down? If they read our answers will people think I’m snarky or even arrogant? Then I remember the setting. This is church after all. I should think of a spiritual answer.

Then truth hits me. It is clear and pure, without false modesty or feigned piety. I have accomplished nothing; Jesus has done it all. Still I hesitate to write. I try to figure out why they are asking this. While still in the middle of this exercise, I’m trying to anticipate the endgame. I don’t want to call attention to myself; I don’t function well in the spotlight. Frozen in indecision, my hand won’t move.

Our leader tells us to bring our accomplishments forward. She holds up a trashcan, presumably the only handy receptacle. Others spring forward to offer their greatest accomplishments. I hesitate. I want to participate as instructed, not be the maverick who doesn’t follow instructions. Reluctantly I circle back to the beginning. What is my best accomplishment to date? Nothing comes to me; my mind goes back to God. He deserves all the credit.

Our leader issues the last call and scans the room. One person scrambles to write down an answer. He dashes to the front and throws his paper in the trash. I sit in rigid stillness and say nothing. The window of opportunity has closed, and I’m okay with that.

Confident that everyone has now participated, she holds up the trashcan. “All of our accomplishments are garbage to God.”

How would you have answered this question? Does God view our accomplishments as garbage? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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.

Can You Be Evangelical and Charismatic?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.

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.

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.” (A third option is mainline/liberal.) She disagreed with me, but I’m having trouble thinking of an example. However, assuming they embrace the good parts of both perspectives, I’d love to find such a place. I’d feel right at home.

What do you think? Can a church be evangelical and charismatic? Can a person be both? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Why Does Today’s Church Follow an Old Testament Model?

I think we’re doing church wrong. At first I assumed it was just me, but today’s church is stuck in a rut, an Old Testament rut.

When God gave Moses the Law, he established some key expectations for worship.

First, he set specific parameters for the tabernacle, which later became the temple. It housed various articles and activities of worship. With little exception, the people had to go to the temple to worship God. They understood the temple as God’s dwelling place here on earth.

But the people wouldn’t connect with God directly; they were afraid of him. They wanted an intermediary, someone to reveal the Almighty to them and to represent them to him. To address this, God established the priesthood. These priests would serve God in his temple and be his representatives to his people.

Of course, this religious structure required financial support to maintain, so God instituted a temple tax, the tithe, an obligation to pay 10 percent to provide for the needs of the building and to support the staff.

Today, we still follow this Old Testament model: we have a church building where we go to worship God, hire a minister who represents God to us, and take a collection to support this hungry and growing infrastructure.

Why Does Today’s Church Follow an Old Testament Model?This is not what Jesus had in mind. In one single action, he did away with the building, the staff, and the offering. We should do the same.

When Jesus overcame death, the veil in the temple ripped apart, exposing the inner sanctum of the most holy place and symbolically allowing everyone direct access to God. No longer was God distant and removed; he became approachable by everyone. God ceased living in the temple and began living in us. Our bodies became the temple of God. No longer is a physical building needed; we became his temple.

No longer did priests need to serve as a liaison between the creator and the created. Instead, all who follow Jesus became his priests. The laity, serving as priests to each other, should minister to one another, not hire someone else to do it for them. No longer is there a need for paid staff to be the link between God and his people. We can now all approach God directly, hearing from him and acting on his behalf. The Holy Spirit that Jesus sent to us sees to that – if we are but willing to listen, hear, and obey what he says.

Finally is that pesky temple tax, which we call a tithe. A church’s building and staff take up 90 to 100 percent of a typical church’s budget. But once we remove the facility and the paid staff, there is no longer a need to give 10 percent. Nowhere in the New Testament are we commanded to tithe, not to God, not to the local church – as many ministers insist – and not for ministry. The only time New Testament writers talk about tithing is in reference to Old Testament practices, which Jesus fulfilled.

Instead of tithing to church, we see a principle where everything we have belongs to God. We are to be good stewards of his blessings, in turn using them to bless others. We must use our resources to help those in need and advance God’s kingdom, not to support and perpetuate a religious institution.

So why do we persist in following the Old Testament model of going to church each Sunday to seek God, being served by a minister, and tithing when Jesus died to give us something new, something much better? Jesus turned us into his temple, promoted us to priests, and changed the 10 percent temple tax into a principle of generosity.

Yes, it’s easy to do what we have always done; it’s comfortable to cling to the status quo, but Jesus offers us so much more – and he yearns for us to take hold of it. There is a new way to worship God, to worship him in spirit and in truth – and it doesn’t involve attending church each Sunday.

So stop following the Old Testament model of church: going to a building to meet God, revering the clergy, and tithing out of guilt or obligation. Instead, be God’s temple, act like priests, and share generously. This is the new model that Jesus gave us.

What surprises you most in this post? What can you do to better follow Jesus’ model of church? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Who Teaches You? Do Sermons Belong in Church?

We go to church to learn about God, 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.

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 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]

An Epic Fail in Church Promotion

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.

[I wanted to visit this church for 52 Churches, but they moved before I could. Now I don’t care.]