Categories
52 Churches

The Surprise

We walk inside to an empty lobby and head toward an amplified sound. We slink into a back row. Sunday school must be running late, but we find out that they cancelled church.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #36

1. The speaker acknowledges the presence of visitors. He apologizes that there will be no service today. Their minister had an emergency, and they cancelled church. 

If you cancel your service, how can you accommodate the people who show up?

2. Sunday school ends, and the people leave. A woman apologizes for their cancelled service. She shares her faith journey. Her pilgrimage encourages me. 

How ready are you to share your spiritual journey? What can you do to be better prepared?

3. This is an apostolic church, with Spirit-filled members. I wonder why they didn’t rely on the Holy Spirit to help them hold their service. 

What would you need to do to have church without your minister? 

4. Though a typical church service didn’t occur, fellowship did. We proclaimed Jesus, worshiped the Father, and celebrated the Holy Spirit—all without music or message. Today may be one of our best Sundays yet even though they cancelled church. 

What elements must exist for church to happen? How can you provide them when the unexpected occurs?

[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.

Categories
52 Churches

A Well-Kept Secret

This church didn’t come up in our online search or in the local directory of churches. We stumbled upon them while driving to another church. Their existence is a well-kept secret.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #35, which I’ll call a well-kept secret: 

1. Once we know their name, we find their Facebook page, confirming their location but nothing else. Their denomination’s website gives service times but no contact information. We head off to church without confirming the service time or if they’re even meeting. 

How easy is it for people to learn about your church?

2. We arrive seven minutes early, but everyone’s seated and singing. My impulse is to retreat. Instead we slink in and sit in the back row. The song ends and absolutely nothing happens for several minutes. We squirm in awkward silence. I so want to leave.

What do you do when your church service makes people want to leave?

3. The Communion liturgy addresses the bread and wine, but they only share the bread and skip the cup. I feel cheated. 

Which of your practices confuse visitors? How can you address this?

4. Only after the service does anyone talk to us. Up to this point, they’d been stoic. Now they’re friendly. 

Do people think your church is friendly? How can you be more engaging?

They ignored us when we arrived and during the service, but they were most friendly afterward. At least they finished strong.

[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.

Categories
52 Churches

Acts 2 Church

Today’s destination is a charismatic church. We’ve not been to many so I’m excited for the experience.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #34

1. We arrive ten minutes early. With only two cars in the lot, my anticipation sags. We walk in, surprising six people who aren’t expecting visitors—or anyone else. Yet Jesus says he will be there when two or more gather. 

How can we better embrace this teaching of Jesus?

2. “We’re in a rebuilding phase,” says one man. This seems like a positive spin on a dire situation. I don’t know what to say. 

How do we know when to push on and when to give up? What role does God play in this?

3. Though not dynamic in delivery, our speaker’s words resonate with me as he teaches about the Acts 2 church. 

How can we turn our attention from wanting to hear an eloquent speaker to remaining open to God’s leading, regardless of his messenger’s skill?

4. From a human standpoint, the future of this church is bleak, but with the Holy Spirit anything can happen, just as it did in Acts 2. 

How must we shift our focus from what we can do to what God can do?

Though this isn’t an Acts 2 church, I appreciate their teaching about the Holy Spirit and acknowledging his power to supernaturally make things happen and grow the church.

[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.

Categories
52 Churches

A Shepherd Cares for His Flock

Discussing Church 33

Even though this church is only nine miles from our house, the contrast between their lives and mine is stark. These people live in poverty. And their shepherd cares for his flock.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #33

1. We struggle to sing hymns. The organist learned to play because no one else could, and the minister isn’t adept at leading singing. We push through. God doesn’t care about our musical ability, only our heart. 

How can we better align our perspective with his?

2. The people of this rural congregation struggle getting enough to eat. Behind the church is a sizable garden, planted for their church community. The pastor offers venison for Thanksgiving to those in need, as well as firewood to help heat their homes. 

How open are you to see the needs of others? What can you do to help?

3. The reality of these people’s lives puts an exclamation point on being in need. Their physical needs are great and their life, far different than mine.

How can you help meet the tangible needs of the people in your church? Your neighborhood?

4. These people worship God with their church community, their extended family. Being together is what matters. This minister takes care of his congregation; he’s a shepherd who cares for his flock. He loves them, and they, him. 

How can you show love to others?

[See the prior set of questions, the next week, 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.

Categories
52 Churches

Commitment Sunday and Celebration

Discussing Church 32

This church has been homeless for a while, but they moved into their own space last week. Today they celebrate God’s faithfulness on a trying journey with their annual commitment Sunday.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #32

1. We arrive to learn that it’s commitment Sunday for them, with contribution pledges sought for the upcoming year. The woman who explains this is embarrassed that our first visit falls on their annual plea for money. 

When you ask for money, how can you help visitors feel welcomed and not obligated?

2. When their minister learns we’re not used to liturgical services, she introduces us to someone who can guide us. He takes his job seriously and performs it admirably. 

How can you apply this visitor-friendly gesture to your church services?

3. The guest speaker says, “Bigger is no longer better in the church world,” and “Smaller is where the work will be done.” He’s so right. 

What is your attitude toward church size? Does something need to change?

4. Afterward is a brunch to celebrate God’s provision and praise him. “We don’t want to intrude on your celebration,” I say to one lady. Her response removes all doubt, “You are one of the reasons we’re celebrating.” 

How well do you celebrate visitors?

[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.

Categories
52 Churches

A Day of Contrasts

Discussing Church 31

This church offers a mix of old with new, contemporary with traditional, and public friendliness with personal indifference. As a bonus, they also talk about having a Thanksgiving potluck.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #31

1. At one point, the leader asks everyone who is able, to kneel. It hurts when I kneel. So focused on my pain, I miss the prayer. 

What practices in your church may get in the way of people encountering God?

2. Two girls read about the Good Samaritan: the first in Spanish and the second in English. But this is the only bilingual part of the service. 

What changes can you make to your service so it’s more accessible to people of other languages or cultures?

3. Afterward is a Thanksgiving potluck. Publicly, they invite all to join them, but no one personally does. “If we walk slowly,” Candy says, “maybe someone will ask us to stay.” No one does, so we leave. 

What can you do to personally invite someone to do something?

4. Aside from the two greeters at the door, no one talks to us. After the service I try to make eye contact with many people, but fail each time. I don’t matter and want to cry. 

How can you let people know you care?

Though this church had much going for it, the lack of personal connection is my lasting memory.

[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.

Categories
52 Churches

Misdirected and Frustrated

Discussing Church 30

When Candy asked about the service time, the pastor confirmed what their website said: 10 a.m. When we arrive, they tell us to sit anywhere. After fifty agonizing minutes, they say, “Thanks for coming. The service will start in about ten minutes.” They used the old bait and switch tactic on us.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #30:

1. We just endured an agonizing Sunday school. They must think they’re clever, but I feel manipulated. They should be honest and say church starts at eleven. 

How might people feel tricked or misled about your church’s practices or the information posted online?

2. We sing old-time hymns with piano accompaniment. They sing with vigor. 

How might people characterize the singing and worship at your church? Is their assessment acceptable?

3. One man wears a lapel pin of the Baptist flag. He thinks his pin is a conversation starter, but his dogmatic discourse pushes me away. 

In what way might our words, passion, or doctrine repel people?

4. Today we heard a powerful message and worshiped God with people passionate about singing, but their bait and switch trick to get us into attending Sunday school remains my key memory. What parting memory do people leave with from your church? (If they don’t come back, you made a bad impression.)

[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.

Categories
52 Churches

A Laity Led Service

Discussing Church 29

As we pull into the church parking lot, we realize our daughter attended preschool here, many years ago. What we don’t know is that we will experience a laity led service.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #29:

1. We amble in and one woman approaches us and mutters to herself, “Where’s the guest registry?” She moves toward an ornate wooden stand that holds nothing. As she searches for the missing book, I walk past her. 

How ready is your church to receive visitors?

2. The minister is gone, and a member fills in. Though not an accomplished speaker, I applaud what she’s doing. In fact, members lead the entire morning. It is a laity led service. 

Can your church hold a service without your minister or staff? If not, what should you do?

3. They invite kids to come forward for the children’s message as music plays. Though the song is appropriate for preschoolers, the five who come forward are much older: later elementary through high school. 

What traditions does your church persist in even though it no longer makes sense?

4. During the message, someone passes us a clipboard with a sign-in sheet. I watch the clipboard weave its way in the rows ahead of us. I’m so distracted that I never reconnect with our speaker. 

What church practices distract people from hearing the message and worshiping God?

[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.

Categories
52 Churches

An Intriguing Liturgical Church

Discussing Church 28

We learn of this church when we spot their name in a local paper’s church directory. Still, we struggle to confirm their meeting time. We expect to experience a liturgical church service.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #28:

1. We walk inside and a lady shares some basic information about the liturgy for today’s service. Without her help, we’d have been lost. 

Whether you’re a liturgical church or not, how can you help people better navigate your service?

2. During the sermon the minister forewarns us we will greet each other later with a holy kiss. Though there’s only a handful of people, they’re all strangers. This is the creepiest of practices. 

What does your church do that may cause people to squirm? (And before you say nothing, think harder.)

3. After the service they invite us to stay for fellowship. A neighbor and her dog join us. Though she missed the service, she’s welcomed anyway. 

How do you feel about people skipping church and showing up afterward to hang out?

4. Even though it was hard to participate, some of this church’s strange worship traditions fascinate me. 

Do your church practices and worship intrigue others or push them away? How can you make your liturgical church service more accessible?

[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.

Categories
52 Churches

A Charismatic Experience

Discussing Church 27

This charismatic church meets in an old, run-down building, originally built for shared-tenant use. It looks abandoned and forms our first impression.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #27:

1. With a half dozen equally accessible doors, we don’t know which one to use. Regular attendees know which entrance to head to; guests do not. 

What changes should you make so that you don’t hamper people from entering your church?

2. We sit and an unpleasant odor assaults me. I eventually grow to accept it, but I never like it. 

What offensive smells and other distractions do you need to remove from your church? (And don’t cover one smell with another.)

3. During their “testimony and prayer” time, each person who prays does so loudly, to the point of shouting. 

How do your prayers come across?

4. They encourage us to worship any way we wish, but during the sermon the minister chastises us: “Forty percent of you did not worship God today.” He does indeed have expectations in how we worship, and he judged us as falling short. 

What worship expectations does your church have? What needs to change?

Though I expected at charismatic experience, unnecesaary issues got in the way.

[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.