Tag Archives: church

Is Being More Connected a Benefit or a Curse?

Technology May Keep Us Connected but It Can Leave Us Empty

As a society, we’re more connected than ever before. But many people also feel lonelier than ever. With all our connection opportunities, why is this?Is Being More Connected a Benefit or a Curse?

Our smart phones and social media allow us to communicate and stay in touch with more people than we ever could in the past. These technologies erase distance and compensate for time differences. We can communicate instantly with most anyone in the world. We can also enjoy shifted communication with people in different time zones or who are on different schedules.

Yet despite all these connections, it’s challenging to truly connect on a deep, meaningful level. The internet or wireless communication doesn’t allow us to be physically present with another person. We can’t reach out and touch a friend online. Giving someone a heart-felt hug is impossible on social media. These things fall short in providing us with the true, interpersonal connection we need.

We Need Community to Enjoy True Connection

The reason that technology can’t provide meaningful connection is that we crave community. And an online community is a poor substitute for a real, in-person community. We desire to be physically present with others and engage in living life with them. Though technology can mimic it (and for some people this is all they have, sorry), it can’t truly replace it.

This is because God created us for community. We have an innate desire to be in community with others. God desires to be in community with us, just as the Godhead—the three in one Trinity—exists in community with itself. Remember, he created us in his image. That means if community is important to him, it’s inherently important to us. But how can we find community in today’s highly connected but physically isolated society? How can we find community in today’s highly connected but physically isolated society? Click To Tweet

The Church Should Provide Community

Though people debate the purpose of church, a key reason for church is to provide community for its people. Every church should exist to provide community, fulfilling that desire for internal connection that God placed within us. Unfortunately, too many churches fail at providing a safe, nurturing community for their people. Some churches neglect this responsibility altogether, while others try to offer it, but they fall short.

Though connecting with people online has its value, it’s a poor substitute for what we truly need. Don’t login hoping to find meaningful connection and community online; go to church instead.

How to Find a New Church

When It Comes Time to Change Churches, Attitude Is Everything

Last week we talked about when not to change churches, instead of looking to find a new church. Too often people treat their church as a commodity and behave as a consumer, switching their loyalty over trivial things. Most of the time, however, the best action is to view your church as a marriage and try to make things work. Seldom should you divorce your church and seek a new one.8 tips to find a new church.

Even so, sometimes we need to find a new church home. Maybe we just moved, or our church closed. Perhaps we do it for the sake of our kids, seeking a church community to encourage them in their faith and support our efforts at home. And sometimes newlyweds decide it’s best to not subject one of them to the other’s home church but to find a new one where they can start their life together with a new church family.

If you find yourself in a situation to change churches, here are some tips to do it wisely and enjoy the best outcome. In doing research for my book 52 Churches and subsequent works, my wife and I visited over a hundred churches. In doing so we learn how to visit churches, both the right things to do and the wrong things.

But before you go church shopping, first ask, “Is changing churches necessary?” If the answer is, “Yes,” then take these steps:

Research Options Online

Look online to learn about the church before you visit. When considering church websites and social media pages, be aware that some are more like dating profiles, showing you what they want you to see, obscuring reality, and ignoring faults. Others are more realistic.

Look for what to expect and how to get the most from your experience there. Note their location and service times. Sometimes it’s worth double-checking this information, as more than once a church’s website gave us wrong information. Then schedule a time for your visit.

But what if the church isn’t online? If a church today doesn’t have an online presence, it’s unlikely they’ll be around tomorrow. Save yourself the grief, and skip them.

Pray Before Hand

In visiting fifty-two churches, my wife and I prayed as we drove to each one. And once we finished visiting churches, we continued this practice each Sunday. These prayers often vary, sometimes focused on our own struggles and other times on our desire to learn what God would have us to learn. Often, we pray we’ll have a positive impact on others, and sometimes we ask for an openness to receive what others would give to us. More than once I’ve had to pray for my attitude. But the key is to pray, and let the Holy Spirit guide those prayers. Prayer makes all the difference.

Look for the Positive and Expect Good Things to Happen

If you visit a church looking for what’s negative, you’ll find it. If you seek things to criticize, you’ll uncover plenty. The key is to arrive with God-honoring expectation. Every church has something positive to offer, just as every church has its struggles. No church, just as no person, is perfect. Look for the good and celebrate it.

Arrive Early and Be Prepared to Stay Afterwards

It’s hard to connect with people at church during the service. And even those churches that allow for connection time as part of their service, often fail to do it well. Instead, plan to arrive early so you can interact with people before the service begins. And don’t schedule anything afterward, so you can stay as long as you want without the pressure of time. Sometimes my wife and I would hang out for five or ten minutes after the service and leave because we weren’t able to talk with anyone. But other times we’d be there for an hour or two after the final “Amen,” enjoying rich Christian community. Often this involves food, which is in added benefit.

Finding Christian community is the main reason we should not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25), which most people think means going to church. If you can connect with the church community, it makes all the difference.

Adapt to Their Practices

Visiting a church is like visiting someone’s home. You want to respect their practices. This means if you’re a raise-your-hands or jump-up-and-down type of person, but the church isn’t, follow their practice. Don’t stand out in a bad way. This distracts from your experience, as well as their worship. However, if their style is more exuberant than you’re comfortable with; feel free to be yourself.

Look for Ways to Contribute

Whether you’re visiting once, making a follow-up appearance, or attending as a regular, look for ways to give back to the church. This might mean offering encouragement, looking to pray for people (either out loud or silently), or being a positive influence anyway you can. Though my wife and I didn’t contribute monetarily to the churches we visited, you may feel differently. In which case you can also give financially.

Make Repeat Visits

Visiting a church once makes an initial first impression. This may be accurate, but it might not. One church encouraged us to come back twelve times before deciding. Of course, they knew anyone who came back that often, would form a habit and stick around after the three months was over.

I’m not sure if you need to visit twelve times, but certainly more than once is needed. When my wife and I moved, we faced finding a new church home. For those churches that we revisited, our first experience often differed from our second. Sometimes it was better, and other times it was lacking. Regardless, one visit isn’t enough.

Get Involved

As we talked about in “3 Keys to Successful Church Involvement,” it’s important to push aside a passive perspective when visiting a church. This means avoiding notions of consuming, attending, and criticizing—which are all too common at most churches.

Instead the goal is to be engaged on Sunday morning. This requires that we be active, adopting three alternate perspectives: we need to give instead of consume, we need to be active not an attendee, and we must be a disciple and not a critic. This simple change in attitude will alter everything we experience at church. If you find yourself needing to switch churches, follow these tips to get the most from the experience and home in on your new church community. Click To Tweet

If you find yourself needing to switch churches, follow these tips to get the most from the experience and home in on your new church community.

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.Don't change churches. Think twice before changing churches.

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.

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 is a mindset that displeases God and serves to divide his church. Click To Tweet

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.

Book Review: Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter

Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter

By Michael White and Tom Corcoran

Reviewed by Peter DeHaan

Are things not working at your church? Is your congregation aging and attendance dwindling? Are people just going through the motions and not engaged? Do folks arrive at the last minute and scurry off as soon as the service ends?

If any of these questions connects with you, then this book, Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter, can provide insight to bring about positive change and produce a different outcome for your church.

With refreshing candor and an appropriate layer of humor, authors White and Corcoran share their journey in turning around and reinvigorating their dying church. Though written by two Catholics about a Catholic parish, this book reaches far beyond Catholicism to provide useful information for any Christian church, including all streams of Protestantism. In fact, many references in this book cite Protestant leaders, perhaps more so than Catholic sources. As such this is a book for all Christians who care about their church and want to make it better.

Another refreshing benefit of Rebuilt is the dual perspective of its two authors. Michael White is a Catholic pastor, while Tom Corcoran is a lay leader. This allows them to share contrasting views of their church, one from the eye of a trained clergy and the other one from a caring staffer. Interestingly, both White and Corcoran arrived at this parish planning for a short-term situation, but they ended up staying for the long-term and turning around the dying church. The book Rebuilt provides practical ideas of what to do in reinvigorating a struggling church and how to make it work. Click To Tweet

Rebuilt provides practical ideas of what to do in reinvigorating a struggling church and how to make it work. The authors also share why things worked. But even more insightful are the honest and sometimes painful initiatives that didn’t work. Here we can learn even more from their failures than their successes.

The transition that this book documents didn’t happen quickly. It took time, a lot of time, along with many moments of discouragement and frustration. But the outcome was worth it. And this gives everyone encouragement that a struggling church can change to impact its members and its community.

Whether you’re a clergy or a lay leader, if you care about your church and want to make it better, read Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter.

[Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter, by Michael White and Tom Corcoran. Published by Ave Maria Press, 2012, ISDN: 1594713863, 292 pages.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

Do You Want More From Life? Seeking a Spiritual More

Do You Want More From Life? A Spiritual More?

  • I’m not talking about more money, power, or prestige.
  • I’m not even talking about more love or respect.
  • I’m certainly not talking about the latest gadgets, a new car, a nicer home, tastier food, or better sex.Do You Want More From Life? Seeking a Spiritual More

I’m talking about more from a spiritual standpoint. I yearn for a “spiritual more.” I suspect—deep down—you do, too. Everything else is a hollow substitute for what God has to offer, not just any god but the God revealed in the Bible: biblical God.

But we don’t often find this “spiritual more” at church—at least not how today’s society practices church. We may not even find biblical God there. Most churches fall far short of what God intends for us to experience. We’re drinking Kool-Aid, and he’s offering us wine.

Though I do go to church, I often wonder why. The purpose of church isn’t the music or the message; it’s about community. True church is connecting with God and connecting with others. It’s an intimate spiritual community with true friends who matter, mean something, and stick around. This is where we find a “spiritual more,” as part of a community of like-minded Jesus followers who diligently pursue the God revealed in the Bible. I call this biblical spirituality. This is why I write and blog.

I’m not a guru and may not even be a worthy guide; I’m a fellow pilgrim. Let’s journey together as we pursue biblical God and seek to grasp this spiritual more. It starts when we follow Jesus—and if you’re not ready for that, come along anyway; it will be a great trip.

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The Latter Years of Martin Luther

Martin Luther wanted to work within the Church to bring about change but they kicked him out

Martin Luther intended to work out his ninety-five theses within the Church leadership. However, once the masses read and heard them in their own language—through no fault of Martin’s—an internal Church discussion became impossible. A revolution brewed. The people, poised for change, saw to that.

But the leaders of the Church had a different reaction. They saw Luther as a threat. His views opposed them, their power, and their profit motives.The Latter Years of Martin Luther

Yes, Martin wanted a reformation. But he wanted it to occur in an orderly fashion, to work within the Church and discuss his concerns with its leaders. He loved the Church and desired to remain part of her. He never planned to create a new church and certainly never wanted a Lutheran denomination named in his honor. To him there was one church, the church of Jesus, which Martin sought to fine-tune.

Later Luther would seek to reclaim key doctrines that had fallen away: biblical authority, justification by grace through faith alone, preaching the good news of Jesus, the true meaning of communion, the priesthood of believers, faith in Jesus, and the universal church, as well as others.

He also began to question the addition of new practices that lacked biblical support. These included papal infallibility, the practice of Mass, penance, and indulgences. In addition, he objected to the absolute authority accorded to the pope, along with the secularization and corruption of the Church’s upper leadership. To communicate his concerns, Martin spoke often and wrote volumes about these issues. Martin Luther didn’t desire to leave the Church, but to correct her errors. Click To Tweet

Work within the Church. Read more in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaanLuther didn’t desire to leave the Church, but to correct her errors. For several years he and his followers toiled to do just that. They believed their efforts would restore a pure Christian community. He persisted despite the Church’s personal attacks on his character. Their opposition escalated to physical threats on his freedom and risks to his very life. Even after his church labeled him as a heretic and expelled him, he still hoped-for reconciliation.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

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 43,000 Protestant denominations.Be one in Jesus.

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 43,000 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. And 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.

What Is a Micro Church?

Bigger isn’t always better and the micro church proves this

Last week I wrote about the emergent church. Today we shift the discussion to micro church. Emergent church and micro church, are these alternate labels for the same thing or different? The answer is maybe.

The concept of a micro church can go by different labels. Other names, some of which might be more familiar, include simple church and organic church. Some micro churches are house churches, but not all of them. And some house churches are micro churches, but, again, not all.Micro Churches: A case when smaller is better

It’s easiest to describe a micro church by looking at its characteristics:

Streamlined Structure: Micro churches have only a minimal amount of structure and just enough to allow them to function. Their organization tends to be flat as opposed to hierarchical, with a more egalitarian operation.

No Paid Staff: At micro churches people minister to one another and serve as priests to each other, as we find described in the New Testament. They don’t have a need for paid clergy or to maintain anyone on a payroll.

Priesthood of all Believers: Since micro churches have no paid staff, they have no clergy. This isn’t a problem since they embrace the priesthood of all believers. This means that the people in the community minister to one another, teach one another, and help one another. They feel no need to subjugate this to professional ministers. Because of the nature of their faith they are automatically priests.

Deemphasized Sunday Service: The micro church doesn’t place as much emphasis on a Sunday morning service as traditional churches do. In fact, they may not meet on Sunday or even once a week. Their gatherings may not even resemble a church service.At micro churches, weekly church gatherings prepare people to go into their community and serve. Click To Tweet

Missional: The micro church has a vision to serve. They have a mission. This makes them missional. However, their mission is not inwardly focused but outwardly focused. Their internal gatherings, be it like a Sunday service or something else, are to encourage and prepare the people present to go out into their community and serve. Therefore, many micro churches have at its core one particular vision, a mission, around which people gather.

Focused on Multiplication: The micro church isn’t concerned with growing its numbers, but it’s vitally interested in growing influence. Micro churches seek to do this by helping others start their own micro churches to address other needs in the community. Their simple structure makes this easy and fast. This is why they view themselves as organic. They’re constantly growing, changing, and reproducing more of their kind.

Perhaps Emergent: Last week we defined the emergent church as an effort to reclaim church practices from a biblical perspective to reform them to be relevant in a postmodern culture. In considering this definition and the above characteristics, it’s easy to see a connection between the emergent church and the micro church. This doesn’t mean they’re the same, however. It just means they tap into a similar underlying angst of spiritual speakers to pursue community and help the world in new and unexpected ways, ways that the traditional church has missed.

I embrace both the emergent church and micro church concepts as practical and effective ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a world seeking relevance and purpose in a confusing existence.

What Happened to the Emergent Church?

The emergent church seeks to be biblically relevant for a postmodern people

Ten to fifteen years ago, it seemed that every time I turned around I heard something about the emergent church. I wrote about this in my dissertation, with one long chapter devoted to the topic. My thoughts on the emergent church were greatly influenced by Phyllis Tickle’s mind-blowing book The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why.What Happened to the Emergent Church?

What is the emergent church? The emergent church is an effort to reclaim church practices from a biblical perspective to reform them to be relevant in a postmodern culture. The emergence movement seeks to reimagine church in fresh, new ways to connect with a disenfranchised society that is open to spirituality, albeit apart from the traditional church.

At the time I speculated it was easier to find a book on the emergent church then to actually find an emergent church. Though I don’t think this was true, it certainly seemed that way. After all, the very nature of the emergent church shunned structure, organization, and hierarchical leadership. These traits made emergent churches hard to find.

When I write about the church in this blog, it’s usually from the perspective of emergence. I want to see our present-day church practices emerge from what they are to produce something more meaningful that abounds with relevance for today’s spiritual seekers.

When I talk this way, it often comes across as criticism, but I only want what’s best for the church—that is, for us as followers of Jesus—so that the church can become more than what she presently is. I write about the church because I love her and want to see her reach her potential. I want to see the church emerge to become something grander. I long to see the emergent church and wish to be part of one.

All this talk about the emergent church, however, was a decade ago. What about now? It’s been years since I’ve heard the phrase emergent church mentioned. Was the emergent church movement a fad that arrived for a moment and left just as quickly?

No. The impetus for the emergent church still exists. It’s just that we don’t hear that phrase anymore. Despite this, however, around the world people—who love Jesus but gave up on his church the way it’s currently practiced—are seeking out new expressions of faith community. They are emerging to do something new and something fresh. But by their very nature, we don’t hear about them. This is because the philosophy of the emergent church shuns self-promotion and distrusts marketing.

The interest in emergent churches is still there, even if the label has slipped away. Perhaps instead of looking for an emergent church, the better path might be to start one.Instead of looking for an emergent church, the better solution might be to start one. Click To Tweet

Watch Out For Churches That Behave Like Cults

Some people blindly accept church rhetoric, but they risk going down a dangerous path

We’ve all heard stories of people taken in and indoctrinated by cults. Though some stories end happily after they extricate themselves from the control the cult, too many situations end badly.

There are many common characteristics to help us identify cults and cult-like behavior. Here are some of the key things that reoccur on many of these lists.

  • Utopia: The community seems too good to be true. Everything is wonderful; there are no problems. Peace and harmony abounds. (And when a potential problem surfaces, it’s quickly squelched.)
  • Exclusive Leadership: One person, or a handful of people, exercises excessive control over the group and restricts other people from participating in leadership.
  • Absolute Beliefs: Their group has the only true understanding of truth. All other groups are false.
  • Loyalty: Devotion and submission to the group is expected.
  • Persecution Complex: Everyone else is against them. The group has an us-versus-them mentality.
  • Critical Thinking Opposed: Questions aren’t tolerated and are quickly repressed.
  • Isolation: Members are separated from family and friends.
  • Shunning: People are discouraged from leaving, with excessive penalties for those who try.
  • Dependence: The group creates an emotional dependence by offering excessive love, acceptance, and support.
  • Lack of Transparency: The group’s finances are hidden from members, and inappropriate behavior by its leaders is accepted without question.

When we read this list, we’re quick to agree these characteristics are both wrong and damaging. We would never want to be in a group that behaved this way.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen some churches whose behavior and attitudes parallel many of these characteristics of a cult. While I won’t label them a cult, the way they function fills me with apprehension.The behavior and attitudes at some churches parallel many characteristics of a cult. Click To Tweet

These churches have a dynamic, charismatic minister who people follow without question and accept every word he or she says. The church’s doctrine is presented as the only true understanding, with everyone else being an error. Members are encouraged to separate themselves from those who disagree with the church’s teaching, including their family and friends. The church envelops its members, providing a tight emotional bond and offering support to such an extent that members worry about what they will lose if they leave. Though threats aren’t given, the outcome is clear they risk being cut off from the community.

Am I claiming that some churches are cults? No. But I am suggesting that they’re veering too close. And from the outside it’s sometimes hard to see the difference.

What’s the solution?

Don’t allow one person to control or dominate the group. Share leadership broadly. Be transparent. Be egalitarian. Encourage questions. Seek diversity. Make Jesus the focus, and let the Bible guide.

When I read about the early church in the book of Acts I see this type of positive, open community demonstrated in how they function. We must consider their example carefully.

The challenge in this is to examine our own church’s practices in the light of these characteristics of a cult. Then take whatever steps are needed to avoid even the appearance of cult-like activity.

With so much at stake, we can’t risk even the appearance of impropriety.