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Christian Living

Missional Through Community

Follow Jesus’s Example to Live in Community and Be Missional

I often talk about the importance of being in a spiritual community. Though this community can happen anywhere, when it comes to church, forming meaningful spiritual connections is more important than the music or message of the Sunday service.

Another critical element of our faith practice is being missional. These two pursuits can work well together; they should work well together. We can best be missional through community, a missional community, if you will.

Missional Community

One church understood this idea well, at least in concept. They called their small group program, Missional Community. The groups did a reasonable job at accomplishing the community aspect of their assignment, but they fell short on the missional portion.

Their community operated with an internal mindset, either largely or exclusively so. And if they did anything with an outward focus, they usually directed these efforts at the church and its attendees, not the greater public on the outside.

I suspect the premise was to form community first and hope missional activity would flow from it. Yet a small group with an inward focus seldom lasts more than a couple of years. The long-lasting groups do so when they have an external focus, an outward mission. They then become missional through community.

A better approach, however, is to start with a missional effort first. Then form community around it. This makes sense.

If you take ten people and ask them to identify an initiative they want to pursue, you’ll get ten answers. Consensus will elude you. And even if people agree for the sake of harmony, nine of them will lack a full-on commitment to the cause.

Instead, look at those already committed to the activity. Then pull them together as a group to form connection around their common initiative. In this way, the missional community will pursue its calling with complete commitment and form a spiritual kinship that endures.

Missional Church

Like small groups, most churches also have an internal focus. They continue to exist in their self-centered pursuit of spirituality and persist to meet for the long-term—unlike small groups. These churches, however, render themselves ineffective in making a significant impact for the kingdom of God.

If a church is to be truly missional, bake the missional mindset into its DNA. Those who agree with the mission will stay and become connected. And those who don’t buy into the mission will soon leave.

Form a gathering of like-minded Jesus followers and develop a missional community. Click To Tweet

Missional through Community

In Jesus’s Broken Church I wrote, “As you meet, be sure to keep your focus on Jesus and his Holy Spirit. They will guide you in ways to look beyond your group, to be missional (Matthew 10:42).”

Though I didn’t spell it out, the concluding prescription of the entire book is to be missional through community, to form a gathering of like-minded Jesus followers to pursue mission and develop a missional community. Better yet, start with the mission and the community will follow.

You don’t need a large group to start being missional through community. It only takes two or three (Matthew 18:20). Build on that. Trust God to bless the outcome.

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 Bible Tells the Church to Meet Together, Worship, and Witness

We Can’t Witness for Jesus When We Sequester Ourselves on Sunday Mornings

Just before Jesus leaves this world to return to heaven, he instructs his followers to go into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). In an expanded version of this incident, Jesus tells his followers to wait for Holy Spirit power and then be his witness, both near and far (Acts 1:4-9).

Witness and Make Disciples

The church of Jesus doesn’t do a good job of being witnesses and making disciples. To do so requires an outward perspective, yet most all churches have an inward focus: they care for their own to the peril of outsiders, with many churches excelling in doing so.

Yes, God values community and wants us to meet together (Hebrews 10:25). And the Bible is packed with commands and examples of worshiping God, with Jesus noting that “true worshipers” will worship God in the Spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

Meeting Together and Worship

Most churches do the meeting together part reasonably well, albeit with varying degrees of success. Many of those churches have a time of worship as they meet together, though perhaps not always “in the Spirit” or even “in truth.”

Yet few churches look outside their walls in order to go into their community to witness and make disciples. Though Jesus said to wait for the Holy Spirit, he didn’t say to wait for people to come to us, to come to our churches so we could witness and disciple them.

No, we are supposed to leave our church buildings to take this work to them. We can’t do that at church on Sunday morning, safely snug behind closed doors.

Maybe we should forego the church service in order to be a church that serves. Click To Tweet

Go into the World as a Witness

Yes there is a time to come together and a time to worship, but there is also a time to go. And we need to give more attention to the going part.

I know of two churches that have sent their congregations out into their community on Sunday mornings, foregoing the church service in order to be a church that serves. One church did it a few times and stopped after they saw little results and received much grumbling.

The other church regularly plans this a few times each year and garners a positive influence on their community.

Shouldn’t every church make a positive impact on their community? Yet so few do. They are too busy meeting together and worshiping.

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Read more about the book of Acts in Dear Theophilus, Acts: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church now 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 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.

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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.

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Christian Living

Do You Have Friends or Acquaintances?

Strive to Build Meaningful Connections with Those Around You

We know many more people on a casual level then we do in a deeper, more meaningful way. We can distinguish between them as acquaintances versus friends. Think of concentric circles, with yourself in the center. The innermost circle contains your friends, and the next circle out holds all your acquaintances.

We should seek to move people from the status of acquaintance to the position of friend. Here are some areas to consider.

Friends or Acquaintances on Social Media?

Depending on the platform, social media has various designations for those we associate with. This includes friends, followers, and connections. The label of friends, however, is a misnomer. At best our social media associations overflow with acquaintances, but many don’t even rise to that level.

We would be in error to look at our social media numbers and assume these people are all our friends. They are not. At best, only a handful qualify for the status of friendship. This is not to say that true friendship can’t occur online, but it’s rare and fleeting.

Friends or Acquaintances at Work?

Whether we labor with others or function remotely from home, we form connections with those we work with. Some of these relationships rise to the level of friendship, or so it seems. But the true test of these associations occurs when one person changes jobs. Those connections that prevail apart from work are true friendships.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have friends at work. It just means that those friendships are situational, and once the situation changes usually the bond does too.

Friends or Acquaintances in Our Community?

How many people do you know who live around you? Our neighbors should, at the very least, be acquaintances. Turning these acquaintances into friendships is a wise pursuit. We need friends within our community.

Friends or Acquaintances at Church?

For those who regularly attend church services, or are involved in their programs, this is an ideal place to connect with people, especially those with like-minded spiritual perspectives. Yet too often our interactions don’t rise above the acquaintance level to become friends. And I’ve talked with many people who have never even formed acquaintances at church. This may be on them, or it may be the church’s culture. Either way it’s not good.

We should strive to develop meaningful friendships in our spiritual communities. Then we can travel together on our faith journey. As Scripture says, iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17).

Friends or Acquaintances in Our Family?

A final consideration is our own family. Do our familial relationships qualify as friends or acquaintances? The relatives we only see at rare family gatherings qualify as acquaintances. Yet as we invest in our family, we can turn our biological bonds into meaningful friendships.

What Does the Bible Say?

As you might expect, the word acquaintances doesn’t receive much coverage in Scripture. Only once does it occur, and this comes from Job when he laments that “He has alienated my family from me; my acquaintances are completely estranged from me” (Job 19:13, NIV).

The word friend occurs much more often, hundreds of times. Here are some key verses about friendship:

We should choose our closest friends with care, keeping in mind these key verses in the Bible. Click To Tweet

Moving Forward

Many people mistake acquaintances for friends, but we should distinguish between the two. Though connection begins at the level of acquaintance, true community arises among friends. We should strive to move acquaintances into the level of friendships. And we should choose our closest friends with care, keeping in mind these key verses in the Bible about friendships.

May our friendships be deep and meaningful, with Jesus in the center.

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 14 through 26

Discussing Churches 14-26

For the past twenty-six weeks we’ve sought to expand our understanding of how others worship God.

Consider these two discussion questions about the second part of our journey: 

1. I now realize that church is not about the teaching or music. It’s about community. 

How can your church foster community and promote meaningful connections?

2. Consumerism is rampant in today’s church. People seek a church with the most engaging speaker and entertaining musicians. They stay until a better preacher or music comes along. 

They are church consumers, looking for the best value.

How can you move your church away from a consumer mindset? From church consumers?

[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

Mandarin Worship Service: Different Language, Same God

Discussing Church 20

This week is another doubleheader, but with a twist. First is a Mandarin worship service and English Sunday school, followed by an English worship service and Mandarin Sunday school.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #20

1. We email to ask if non-Chinese are welcome. We are. Some non-Chinese attend the Mandarin service. 

How well do you embrace people of different races and cultures?

2. For worship, they display the words in Mandarin, with the English translation underneath. I read the words in English as I enjoy the melodic beauty of a different tongue. 

How well can people who speak another language engage in your service?

3. We don’t see the minister until he stands to give the message—until now, the laity has led the service. Speaking in Mandarin, the minister is dynamic, animated, and at times funny. I laugh with everyone else even though I don’t know why. 

If people don’t know your language, how might they perceive your nonverbal communication?

4. Afterward several people invite us to stay for lunch. Sharing a meal is important to them. They do this every Sunday. 

How important is sharing a meal at your church? In what other ways can you foster 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

Revisiting Roman Catholicism

Discussing Church 18

Today we visit our second Roman Catholic Church. I’m excited—and nervous. We are revisiting Roman Catholicism

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #18:

1. The large sanctuary is grand without being ostentatious. Contemporary and airy, it seats several hundred. It’s the largest we’ve seen so far. 

Does your building facilitate worship or limit it? What needs to change?

2. This Catholic Church seems even more steeped in ritual than Church #5. While they announce hymns, the rest of the liturgy proceeds without direction. We think we’re prepared, but we aren’t. 

How can you help people better engage in your worship service?

3. After the Eucharist is a ritual where we exchange the greeting “Peace be with you” to those around us. This is the only interaction we have with anyone the entire morning. The priest dismisses us, and the people scatter. 

What can you do to interact with people at your church and foster community?

4. I leave feeling empty. Though their traditions have meaning to those who understand them, it’s a roadblock to visitors. 

What can you do to help outsiders better follow your church’s practices and not walk away empty?

Overall, I’m glad we spent Sunday morning revisiting Roman Catholicism.

[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

Should You Be Part of a Spiritual Mastermind Group?

Aligning with Like-Minded Peers Can Propel You Forward on Your Christian Walk

A mastermind group is a peer-to-peer mentoring alliance where members work together to help one another solve problems, overcome roadblocks, and move forward. I’m part of two author mastermind groups. In them we encourage and support each other as writers, propelling us forward in our craft. It’s most beneficial.

I wonder if I should apply this concept to my Christian journey, too, and be part of a Christian mastermind group. Though I’ve experienced this a couple times on a basic level from a church small group or Bible study, they’ve fallen short of what a mastermind group can provide.

Though we might want to call it by something with a less business-sounding name, what can we hope to gain from a spiritual mastermind group?

Iron Sharpens Iron

In Proverbs, King Solomon says that “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV). As we surround ourselves with like-minded followers of Jesus, we will help each other become stronger in our faith. A spiritual mastermind group can do this for us, propelling us forward on our faith journey.

Two Is Better Than One

A parallel passage, also penned by King Solomon, reminds us that “two are better than one.” If either falls, there’s someone present to pick them up (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NIV). We need each other. God didn’t create us to be alone (Genesis 2:22).

A Cord of Three Strands

Later, Solomon writes that a three-stranded cord has great strength (Ecclesiastes 4:12). There is safety and strength in numbers. One way to realize this is through a spiritual mastermind group.

Party of Five

We also find support for this concept from motivational speaker Jim Rohn, who says “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” What better way to accomplish this by spending time with five like-minded disciples of Jesus in a spiritual mastermind group?

Align with five other like-minded Christians to form a spiritual mastermind group. Click To Tweet

Moving Forward with a Spiritual Mastermind Group

What have you done informally to enjoy these benefits that walking through life with two, three, or five can accomplish? What more could you realize if you pursued this idea with greater intention?

We can receive much benefit by partnering with another or forming a group of three. How greater the outcome could be if we align with five other like-minded Christians to form a spiritual mastermind group?

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

Enhance Community: Sharing a Meal Matters

Discussing Church 9

Today, we’ll go to a United Methodist church, our first visit to a widely recognized denomination. They know how to enhance community by sharing a meal.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #9:

1. Their services are traditional. I wonder if I should dress up, but their website doesn’t say. Though my casual attire is out of place, no one seems to object.

How do you react when someone shows up at church who looks or dresses differently from everyone else?

2. We make our way inside. Two greeters hand out preprinted nametags to the regulars. They offer us stickers to write our names on. I find nametags helpful.

How can you use nametags to enhance community and celebrate guests?

3. The minister is female. I applaud the opportunity for all people to use their gifts and skills to serve God in any capacity, including leading and teaching.

How do you react to women in leadership and ministry roles at your church?

4. A closing number ends the service, and we make our way to the fellowship hall for a potluck. These Methodists know how to cook.

How does your church use a shared meal to enhance 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.