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52 Churches

The Megachurch, a Grand and Welcoming Experience

I’m both excited and apprehensive about visiting our area’s largest church, a megachurch.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #51

1. A sign at their drive tells first-time visitors to turn on their four-way flashers—because they want to give us VIP treatment. I don’t bother and follow the flow of cars, but it’s a nice touch. 

What can you do to give visitors VIP treatment?

2. After the opening set, one of the co-pastors explains that it’s nametag Sunday, something new they’re trying to facilitate better connections with one another. 

How can you help people connect with each other?

3. After the service I turn in our visitor card and they offer a tour of the facility. Our guide wraps up with a challenge to come back for three months to see how our faith grows. “You can’t evaluate a church on just one visit.” 

How can you encourage others on their faith journey?

4. While making connection was a concern at Church #50, forming meaningful friendships would be even harder here at this megachurch. But they do offer opportunities to meet people and form deeper relationships on Sunday nights and throughout the week. 

How can you help people connect at your church?

[See the prior set of questions 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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52 Churches

Saturday Evening Mass

A few months ago, we went to church on Saturday morning. Now we head off for a Saturday evening mass.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #50

1. The worship leader directs us to “page one in the white book,” but what we find doesn’t match what they say. We’re confused and can’t follow along. 

How can you make it easier for people to participate in your service?

2. For the Eucharist, the priest says nothing about nonmembers, though I know we’re excluded. Still, I can have the spiritual encounter of Holy Communion without physically taking part. 

How can you serve Communion in a way that includes everyone?

3. The tradition of sharing the chalice still disgusts us. Most participants receive the wafer and bypass the cup. I suppose some must avoid alcohol, while for others it’s a sanitary issue. 

What traditions should you change to address the concerns of today’s visitors?

4. Afterward I chat briefly with the priest. He knows we’re visiting but doesn’t ask our names. This might be because a member hovers about, anxious to talk to him. Though I don’t feel slighted, many people would. 

What behaviors do you need to change to be more visitor-focused?

[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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52 Churches

A Large and Anonymous Church

This church is huge, the largest so far.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #49:

1. I wonder if I’ll find a space in their packed parking lot and fight off the urge to flee in panic. Large churches need parking attendants. 

What can you do to help people find a place to park and not drive away?

2. The large lobby has hundreds of people milling about. Just inside, a man approaches us. He’s wearing an ear mic. I wonder if he’s the pastor, but he simply introduces himself as John. Unfortunately, he’s the only one to talk to us. 

What can you do to greet visitors?

3. Candy spots a coat rack and we head toward it. It’s full, and so is the next one. The third one has room. Just as it’s hospitable to leave spaces for visitors to park near the entrance, leave space in the coat racks too. 

How can you make room for guests?

4. During his message, John instructed members to look for visitors to greet. But no one makes any effort, not even the man sitting in front of us who wears a deacon nametag. He looks past us. 

What can you do next Sunday to better greet people you don’t know?

This was a large and anonymous church, were people can show up for church, sit through a service, and leave without ever talking with anyone.

[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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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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52 Churches

Prayers for the People

The church’s pastor is out of town, and the laity leads the entire service. One thing they do is “prayers for the people.”

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #48

1. Someone asks us to sign their guestbook but then scrambles to find a pen. Though once common, guestbooks now seem archaic and carry privacy concerns. 

What practices do you need to change because they no longer fit today’s culture?

2. A friend invites us to sit with her and her husband. The leader gives some announcements and then asks for more. After others share, our friend stands and introduces us to the crowd. It’s a nice gesture. 

How can you introduce new people to others and thereby reduce their discomfort?

3. After a song they offer “prayers for the people.” The leader opens and then pauses. After a bit of silence, someone else prays, and a few more follow. I like their approach, effectively sharing with each other as they talk to God. 

How can you make group prayer more meaningful and less awkward?

4. Afterward we stay for coffee and cookies. We linger for forty-five minutes before heading home, happy for our time at church today. 

What should you change so that people want to tarry and enjoy Christian community?

[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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52 Churches

Significant Interactions

My pre-church prayer seems mired in the rut of routine. So it is when we pray this morning and head out for today’s church. Even so, I pray for significant interactions.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #47

1. When my wife confirmed the time for this church, they invited us to arrive early for coffee. I would have stayed afterward, but to come early is more awkward than I’m willing to endure. 

How can you make sure your efforts at connection are easy for people to accept?

2. With everyone ignoring us when we arrive, we sit. A woman comes up and tells us what to expect during the service, including communion. No one in forty-six churches has done this. 

How can you help visitors feel at ease and know what to expect?

3. Today is the first time on our journey where I’m free to focus on the moment of Communion and not worry about the method. 

What can you do to help others better engage in your service and encounter God?

4. After the service a man greets us and asks how he can pray for us. This is another first on our journey. I so appreciate his offer. 

In what ways can you be available and ready to pray for others?

This Sunday was a day of significant interactions. If only we experienced this at more of the churches we visited.

[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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52 Churches

Church Discipline

The sprawling facility provides an impressive view from a distance. Their larger, new building suggests a thriving, dynamic community. But our experience there does not align this this, but the teaching about church discipline really connects with me.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #46

1. Yet no one responds to Candy’s phone messages or emails, so she can’t confirm the service time listed on their website. As we pull up, doubt forms. Only a few cars sit in their large parking lot. Are we here at the wrong time? 

How can you better respond to those who contact your church?

2. During worship, heavily orchestrated background tracks reverberate through the sanctuary. I can’t push past the overproduced, resounding boom. It distracts me from the words and blocks my worship

How can you best help people worship God?

3. The pastor tells the congregation to open their Bibles and follow along as he reads. The verses don’t appear on the screens. With our version not matching his, it’s disconcerting. I feel marginalized and excluded. 

What changes do you need to make to help guests feel included?

4. The minister is a gifted communicator. I appreciate his teaching about church discipline. He makes some great points. and he soon wins me over. He says that we cannot judge the lost, but we do need to judge ourselves. 

Are you wrongly judgmental? What needs to change?

[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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52 Churches

Two Services: Another Doubleheader

Experiencing a Traditional Service and a Contemporary One

Today we’ll enjoy two services, another doubleheader: a traditional service followed by a contemporary one.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #45

1. As we wander inside, several people acknowledge our presence, thanking us for visiting. But beyond that no one says anything more, so we meander into the sanctuary. 

Acknowledging a person is a great start, but what more can you do to connect with them and show you care?

2. At one point, the minister invites people to come forward to the altar. Doing this in the middle of the service is unusual, and I don’t catch the purpose. 

When you do something people don’t expect, how can you make your intentions clear?

3. Between services is a pastor’s breakfast for guests. It’s a great chance to learn more and experience community. They say it’s in the library but fail to explain how to get there. Eventually someone gives us directions. 

How can you help people better navigate your facility?

4. The crowd is lethargic at the contemporary service. It’s as though they just crawled out of bed and rolled into church—and many rolled in late. 

What must you do to engage in worship? How can you help others in their worship?

The two services gave us completely different experiences.

[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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52 Churches

Looking toward Churches 45 through 53

Our visiting churches journey is winding down.

Consider these two discussion questions as we move into the final phase of our adventure: 

1. Visiting churches has been insightful, but our exploration has worn on us too. We carry both attitudes. Similarly, each person at your church comes with baggage and something they want to achieve or escape. 

How can you better meet the needs of others? (Hint, it starts with talking to them.)

2. Though you’d think I’d find visiting churches easy by now, I’m still anxious each week. So, too, is every visitor to your church. 

What can you do to help people feel less anxious and more embraced?

These are two key questions from this part of our visiting churches journey.

[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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52 Churches

Key Questions from Churches 27 through 44

As we wind up this phase of our journey, our experiences are starting to blur. Yes, I still notice kindnesses offered and innovations presented, but I worry I’m now more apt to notice the negative. I pray against that.

Consider these two discussion questions about the third leg of our journey: 

1. I’ve noted the importance of community. Some churches excel at it, a few fail, and most fall in-between. 

How can your church do better at providing community?

2, Integral to the importance of community is greeting. Greeting well fosters community. It happens before the service, during any official greeting time within the service, and afterward. 

How can you greet more effectively?

[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.