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Christian Living

What is the Purpose of Church?

Make Sure Your Faith Community Focuses on the Right Thing

We need to examine the purpose of church. Why do we meet each week? What are our goals when we come together? What should our focus be? Though people will give various answers, the responses fall into two broad categories: ourselves and others.

Church Is for Christians

Some people feel the purpose of church is to serve its members, the saints who’ve been made right through Jesus. Their right standing in him places them on the inside. They expect church to meet their needs and their wants. If the church disappoints them in the slightest, most will go church shopping and leave for another destination that better matches their expectations.

If the purpose of church is to serve its members—and to a lesser extent, its attendees—it has an internal focus. It seeks to serve itself. Some people call this navel gazing.

The church’s initiatives seek to meet the preferences of its members. It does this by feeding the flock each Sunday morning (never mind that we’re supposed to feed ourselves), providing programs that the members want, and having a pastoral team that jumps whenever a member calls.

Churches for the Lost

Others say that the purpose of church is evangelism, to rescue the lost who need Jesus to save them. In this case, these churches have an external focus. They want to reach the world for Jesus, to convert sinners and bring them into the fold.

This fulfills Jesus’s final instruction to his followers to go out into the world and tell people about him (Matthew 28:19-20). We sometimes call this command, the great commission.

Churches Are for Both

Most churches claim to be for both the Christians (the insiders) and the lost (the outsiders). This is a more appropriate position with the implicit intent being to prepare the insiders to go into the world to connect with the outsiders.

Yet this seldom happens. Or if it does only a small minority follow through by going out and telling others about Jesus.

Most churches that claim to have both an inward and outward focus, however, major in meeting the members expectations and minor in telling the world about Jesus.

Though their ideals say one thing, their actions and investments counter that claim.

Do our actions honor Jesus by following his commands? If not, this is an ideal place to start. Click To Tweet

The Purpose of Church

The purpose of church should be to prepare its people to go into the world. In doing so they serve as a witness for Jesus through their actions and their words.

Though many people worry about the words they will say, their initial concern should be about their actions. This is because few will listen to what we say if what we do turns them off first.

Do our actions honor Jesus by following his commands? If not, this is an ideal place to start.

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

Don’t Compartmentalize Your Faith

If Our Beliefs Are Important to Us, We’ll Make Them Part of Every Aspect of Our Life

Have you ever met someone out of your normal context and were surprised at what you saw or heard? This is a person who compartmentalizes their faith. They have a work persona, a leisure-time persona, and a family persona. For each aspect they put a different face to fit in with their environment.

And if they go to church, they have a faith persona too.

They compartmentalize their beliefs, perhaps even more so than the other aspects of their life. What they don’t realize is that all parts of our lives have a spiritual component. Yet they shove that reality aside and segregate the various aspects of their reality, treating them as isolated and unrelated.

Yet it’s a bad idea to compartmentalize our faith and keep it separate from other aspects of our life. If what we believe is important to us, it should show itself in every part of our life: at home, at work, and during leisure activities, as well as at church.

Consistent

We should look to make every aspect of our life coherent with the other parts. How we act at church and around our Christian friends must be consistent with how we act in different environments and with other people.

This doesn’t mean to use religious words or assume a church persona in other spheres of our life, but it’s critical to not hide our faith, to not be silent when we should speak, and to always act in a way that pleases Jesus.

Striving to live a life that’s consistent around the clock, regardless of where we are or who we’re with is the first step to avoid compartmentalizing our faith.

Integrated

Another consideration is to incorporate what we believe with how we talk and act regardless of where we are. Would our coworkers be shocked to know that we attend church or have a relationship with Jesus?

If the answer is yes, then we’re compartmentalizing our faith. We must take steps to integrate what we believe, how we speak, and the way we behave regardless of where we are or what we’re doing. In this way, we fully ingrate our faith into all aspects of our life

Aligned

As we move forward with consistent attitudes and actions and integrate what we believe into all aspects of our life, we move toward a harmony of word and deed. We can start by treating everyone the way Jesus would, regardless of the situation. This includes at home and at work and as we move through life.

Conduct all facets of your being to fully align. Don’t compartmentalize your faith.

Live a holistic life that honors Jesus and points others to him. Click To Tweet

Decompartmentalize Your Faith

Live a holistic life that honors Jesus and points others to him. We do this when our conduct is consistent in all parts of our lives, when we integrate our faith into all that we do, and when we align everything with Jesus.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

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

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Christian Living

What Happened to the Emergent Church?

The Emergent Church Seeks to be Biblically Relevant for 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 is the Emergent Church?

It’s 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 one in real life. 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.

Our Churches Must Emerge

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.

Instead of looking for an emergent church, the better solution might be to start one. Click To Tweet

A Fad or a Trend?

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 mentioned. Was the emerging 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 an emerging 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.

Discover more about this idea in the post on micro-churches.

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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Christian Living

What Is a Micro Church?

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

In another post we discussed 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.

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

In a previous post 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.

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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Christian Living

Who Says We Should Give 10 Percent to the Local Church?

Fundamentalist preachers twist what the Bible says and misapply it for their own benefit

I was taught to give 10 percent of my money to church. I’ve heard many evangelical preachers assert that their followers had to give 10 percent to the local church. It was a tithe, an obligation. You could, of course, give more.

That was a voluntary offering, but the 10 percent baseline was a requirement. If you failed to do so, it was a sin.

Says who?

It turns out the preachers who proclaim the 10-percent-to-the-local-church rule made it up. They want to fund their operation and ensure their paycheck.

Seriously, it’s not in the Bible.

The Bible never says to give 10 percent of our money to the local church. It’s not a command or even a guideline. Any place the New Testament mentions a tithe it’s in reference to the Old Testament Law, which Jesus fulfilled.

And don’t forget that the Old Testament tithe was from the harvest, not a paycheck. It was to the national temple, not a local assembly. Besides that, how many of the other 613 Old Testament Laws do you follow? Not many, I suspect.

So if you want to re-interpret the Old Testament and forget that Jesus fulfilled it, go ahead and tithe as a legalistic requirement. Just don’t act like it is an obligation or command others to do so.

The New Testament never says to give 10 percent to the local church. Click To Tweet

Here’s what the New Testament has to say:

In the New Testament we see a principle of stewardship, of carefully using what God blesses us with to help those around us. If you feel God calling you to give 10 percent to your local church, than go ahead and do it. But know that the Bible doesn’t command it. (It doesn’t prohibit it either.)

What I see in the Bible is a clear principle to help the poor and assist those who go outside the church to tell others about Jesus.

May our focus be on advancing the kingdom of God more so than on perpetuating the manmade institution of what many today call church.

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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Bible Insights

Should Church Be a Place of Refuge, Like a City of Refuge in the Bible?

If we don’t protect the innocent from retribution, who will?

God tells Joshua to establish cities of refuge, a safe place for people to seek sanctuary. The specific context is a place for people to go if they accidentally kill someone.

Once these people make it to the city of refuge, they are legally protected from retaliation sought by the avenging relatives of the person killed. As long as they stay in the city of refuge, they are safe.

We don’t have cities of refuge anymore, but sometimes people do seek sanctuary in churches. Though I’ve never personally seen this happen, I have heard stories of it occurring. I wonder if seeking sanctuary in church should happen more often?

Certainly churches shouldn’t harbor the guilty from receiving judgment, but what about protecting the innocent from injustice? What about offering a safe haven to those people wrongly pursued or protecting those folks pummeled by prejudice?

The church needs to be a safe place for everybody. Click To Tweet

Sadly this may be too much of a stretch for many church attending people to bear. They want their churches as sanctuary for them—but not so much for those on society’s fringe; “let them fend for themselves,” they say (or think) or perhaps “your problem is not my problem.

However, this is selfish. The church needs to be a safe place for everybody, physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. It needs to be like a city of refuge. We have a long way to go to make this happen.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Joshua 19-21, and today’s post is on Joshua 20:2-3.]

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

3 Problems Caused by Theology

An Academic Pursuit of Religious Knowledge Can Cause Much Harm

When I wrote about the dangers of pursuing a right theology, I noted that God doesn’t want us to know about him. He wants us to know him on a personal level. In our pursuit of knowledge, we seek to categorize our understanding of God. We’ve taken the mystery of who God is and turned him into an academic pursuit. We organize, and we intellectualize. In doing so we risk producing three negative outcomes.

1. Theology Labels

Theologians love to give highfalutin names to murky philosophical constructs in a vain attempt to quantify God and explain who he is. This produces labels for various theological thoughts. People who study God from an academic perspective will align themselves with viewpoints they like and distance themselves from others. Using these labels, they determine who is with them and who is against them in their spiritual comprehension of faith (see 1 Corinthians 1:12-13).

People too often try to do this with me. They ask, “Are you a (insert-theological-label)?” They grow irritated when I don’t answer. This is because I can’t. By intention I’ve not studied the nuances of the doctrine they mentioned. Instead I study God as revealed in the Bible and through the Holy Spirit.

I follow Jesus and strive to be a worthy disciple. That’s all that matters. Seriously. Don’t let theological labels detract from this singular focus that trumps all others. If we’re all on Team Jesus, everything else becomes a nonissue.

2. Theology Judges

As we put labels on certain theological perspectives, we apply these tags to those who align with them. We judge people based on which camp they reside in according to their set of beliefs. As a result, we view some people as in and others as out (see Romans 14:10 and James 2:4).

If they agree with the beliefs we hold dear, we accept them. But if they have an alternate view, we judge them as unworthy of our attention and push them aside. In most cases, the judgments we form by our nuanced theology force many people away. It’s us versus them, even though we all pursue the same God—the God of the Bible.

Jesus prayed for our unity, and we responded by allowing our theological squabbles to divide us. Click To Tweet

3. Theology Divides

First, we label. Next, we judge. Then we divide. We see this most pronounced on Sunday morning. We go to church with other people who believe just like we do. And too often we vilify those who believe differently. This is why Protestantism has divided itself over the centuries to produce 43,000 denominations today. Most of these spring forth from theological disagreement.

Jesus prayed for our unity (John 17:20-21), and we responded by allowing our theological squabbles to divide us. Denominations are the antithesis to Christian unity.

Tool or Distraction?

For some people, an academic quest to understand God is a tool that brings them to him. Yet many more pour themselves into pursuing a right theology as if it is the goal, as if nothing else matters. They risk having this intellectual path distract them from truly knowing God, from having an intimate relationship with him.

The result is labeling, judgement, and division. This trio harms the church of Jesus, distracting us from becoming all he wants us to be.

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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Christian Living

How a Business Mindset Influences the Church

A Church and Its Congregation Shouldn’t Let a Corporate Mentality Infiltrate It’s Thinking

In “Why Business Practices Hurt the Church” we discussed how business thinking has improperly affected the big-picture perspectives of church. Yet the business mindset goes deeper than that, negatively influencing church practices and attendee attitudes.

Spiritual Outcomes Are Not Quantifiable

The business world measures everything, but when churches try to do that, they end up with a focus on finances and attendance. This is a business mindset, not a spiritual one.

Churches shouldn’t measure their success numerically. And when they do, they shift the focus from what matters to God to what matters to humans.

We can’t measure changed lives, but that’s precisely what matters most to God.

Measure What Matters

I once attended a church’s annual meeting. They spent much time talking about the 103 baptisms they did that year and the 103 people who joined their church. It was a grand celebration of their success and the marvelous manner of God at work.

However, as an addendum to the end of their meeting, they shared their beginning and ending membership numbers. The difference was not 103 but one! In a busy year with 103 baptisms and 103 new members, they had only grown by one person. That meant 102 people quit their church.

Don’t measure what makes you feel good, but count what matters.

Churn

The business world calls this loss of customers churn. If a business churns customers so fast that all their effort is spent trying to stay even, then something is wrong, seriously wrong. But this church wasn’t smart enough to realize that—or at least to admit it.

Some churches call this the back door. They grow when people come in the front door and shrink when these folks slip out the back door. Another apt term is leaking. Some churches leak people—a lot of people.

Churn is bad for both businesses and churches. It must be fixed, yet the approach to do so differs. The business mindset addresses churn by looking at customer service and product offerings. Churches should not.

Their problem goes much deeper than service and product, but until they realize this, they’ll never fix it.

The Consumer Mentality

When people feel free to leave a church, often over the smallest of slights, they view themselves as a customer shopping for the church that offers the most value. This is a consumer mindset, not a godly perspective.

We shouldn’t shop for a church that provides the services we want. Instead we should look for a faith community we can help.

We shouldn’t shop for a church that provides the services we want. Click To Tweet

Consumerism Turns the Church into a Service Provider

When people go church shopping, the church becomes a service provider. Which church offers the best services? Then the focus shifts to programs, service styles, and preaching power.

Instead of asking, “What can the church do for me?” the better question becomes “What can I do for the church?” Don’t seek to be served but to serve.

Customer Complaints

The business that wants to improve, grow, and remain viable listens to its customers. While we all like to hear good news from happy people, the real value comes from the frustrated people who still care enough to share their opinion. So the wise business leader listens.

Yet when most people apply this attitude of a business mindset to their church and share their “concerns” with their pastor or church leaders, they do so with the wrong motives. In reality they want to turn the church into their vision of an ideal congregation that fits them perfectly.

Their so-called concerns are little more than a selfish attempt to change the church into what they want for themselves.

Church is Not about the Customer Experience

Businesses talk much about the customer experience. They strive to make the experience of each customer the best they can in order to retain patrons who will continue to buy from them.

When church leaders apply this to their congregation, they begin pandering to the demands of members in order to maintain their attendance and receive their offerings each week. Yet each move in this direction is a step away from God.

Members Are Not Customers

Applying business practices to church implies that members are customers. This carries with it all sorts of negative connotations, such as a consumerism mindset and the need to maximize the lifetime value of members, that is their donations.

The best response is for churches to do away with membership. After all, it’s not biblical.

While modern business practices do much to advance the cause of capitalism and commerce, these same thoughts hurt the church. We must keep this from happening.

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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Christian Living

The Two Most Influential Books I’ve Ever Read

Study Scripture and Then Use Other Resources as Needed

My book Jesus’s Broken Church was about a decade in the making, perhaps longer—maybe even a lifetime. When I sensed something wasn’t right with how today’s church functioned, I begin praying and searching for answers. Over time, piece by piece, God’s Holy Spirit revealed the answers to me. And they all came from the Bible.

This took years, but eventually a full picture emerged. That’s when I began writing, first in various blog posts and eventually a book.

Two Most Influential Books

Along the way, two additional sources opened my eyes to prepare me to hear what God would tell me. These came in the form of two books. Aside from the Bible, they are the two most influential books I’ve read in my entire life.

They provided insight and a firm foundation for me to stand on as I considered building on these works to determine what would happen next, of what should happen next.

Pagan Christianity?

The first book was Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by Frank Viola and George Barna. (Check out my review of Pagan Christianity?)

Pagan Christianity? looks at the past. It delves into what was to uncover the influences of our church practices today. Much of what we do today at church is a result of our predecessors’ taking practices from secular society and adapting them to church. In short, many of our Christian traditions don’t have a spiritual origin but one that is more so pagan in nature.

The result of realizing these many shocking revelations was that I begin to ask why, a lot. I looked at every faith practice to examine its relevance and see how scripturally germane it was.

The result was a nagging feeling that our church practices today are far off base from what Jesus intended.

That’s why Pagan Christianity? is one of the two most influential books I’ve ever read.

The Great Emergence

The second of the two most influential books I’ve ever read is Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why. (Check out my review of The Great Emergence.)

Whereas Pagan Christianity? looks at the past, The Great Emergence explores the future. Building on a history of semi-millennia religious shifts, Tickle posits that we are on the precipice of another grand transformation.

She envisions what this reformation will look like and its impact on today’s church. Spoiler alert: today’s church will be much less relevant in the future, with other forms of spiritual community and connection supplanting it.

That’s why The Great Emergence is the second of the two most influential books I’ve ever read.

Today’s church — for all the good it does — isn’t functioning as it should, as Jesus intended. Click To Tweet

Jesus’s Broken Church

Standing on the firm foundation of the two most influential books I’ve ever read emerged a biblical prescription and how to move forward. I dared to suggest that today’s church—for all the good it does—isn’t functioning as it should, as Jesus intended it to.

Building on Scripture, Jesus’s Broken Church advances a new vision of what church could be and should be. But claiming that it’s new is incorrect. In truth, this isn’t a new understanding, but the reclaiming of an old one, one that’s nearly two thousand years old.

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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Christian Living

Church Membership Has Its Privileges

Why We Shouldn’t Join a Church

A few decades ago American Express unveiled the tagline: “Membership has its privileges.” Their ads implied that great benefits awaited those who qualified to carry one of their exclusive cards.

To start, there was a high annual fee and, as I understand, minimal annual levels of usage for their various membership tiers. The card became a status symbol, separating the fortunate few who carried it from the masses who didn’t. It generated pride and caused envy.

Church does the same thing when it touts membership. To become a church member, there are hoops to jump through: attend classes, agree to certain teachings, follow specific rules, and commit to donate money, possibly even at a certain annual level.

Once we do so, the church accepts us as one of its own. We are fully embraced and become one of the flock. We are elite, and, even if we won’t admit it, we swell with pride over our special status. Now the church and her paid staff will care for us.

To everyone else, they offer tolerance but withhold full acceptance. After all, church membership has its privileges.

There’s one problem.

Church membership separates attendees into two groups. Click To Tweet

Church Membership Is Not Biblical

We made it up.

Having members separates church attendees between those on the inside and everyone else; it pushes away seekers. Membership splits the church of Jesus, separating people into two groups, offering privileges to one and instilling resentment in the other.

It is a most modern concept, consumerism at its finest.

To my shame, I have been a church member. Never again.

Although perhaps well intended, membership divides the church that Jesus wanted to function as one. Jesus accepted and loved everyone, not just those who followed him or offered money.

Paul never gave instructions about church membership, Peter never commanded we join a church, and John never held a new membership class.

I confess my sin of being sucked into this unholy institutional practice of church membership, at both the local and denominational level. I stand in horror over my role in promoting division among the followers of Jesus. Father, forgive me.

Though I will never again join a church as an official member, I am open to attend one, to immerse myself in community, to engage in corporate worship, and to serve others.

This is what church should be. This is what the early church did. This is what Jesus wanted when he prayed for unity. And this is what I will do.

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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