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Bible Insights

What Should You Do on Sunday?

Celebrating the Sabbath

People have different ideas about what you can and can’t do on Sundays, how you should and shouldn’t act. This ranges from Sunday being the same as every other day to it being a solemn set-apart time when you go to church, rest, and do nothing else.

Though I have never pursued either of these options, my treatment of this special day has varied over the years, covering much of the area in between.

Old Testament Sabbath: The Seventh Day of the Week

The Bible tells us what to do and not do on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the end of the week, the seventh day—when God rested after he finished his creation.

God tells his people two key things about observing the Sabbath. First, keep it holy. Second, do no work. That’s it.

Note that he doesn’t mention anything about going to a church gathering to worship him each Sabbath.

Whatever you decide Sunday looks like for you, may you do it well. Click To Tweet

New Testament Sunday: The First Day of the Week

The New Testament describes what the early church does on Sunday, which is the first day of the week. Yet the Bible is short on instructing us what we can and should do today for our Sunday observances.

Jesus gives us the best guideline when he says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” When we factor in biblical concepts of rest and worship, we have a framework from which to form our Sunday routines.

There is no one right answer. We are each left to contemplate this on our own and determine a Sunday practice that is true to what God calls us to do.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Mark 1-4, and today’s post is on Mark 2:25-28.]

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

Be Careful If You Tithe

We’ve talked about tithing, giving 10 percent of our income to God. If we do it as a way to honor him or draw closer to him, then tithing with this attitude is a great idea and an example of a spiritual discipline.

However if you tithe because the Bible commands it, then be careful. You may owe a lot more.

First, know that the New Testament doesn’t command us to tithe. The early church effectively replaces the tithe with a spirit of generosity and good stewardship.

Whenever the New Testament writers mention tithing, they always refer to the Old Testament practice. Tithing is part of the Jewish Law that Jesus came to fulfill.

Today people think a tithe is 10 percent of their income. But the Bible says it’s one tenth of their land’s produce. People who lived in outlying areas would sell their tithe and give the proceeds to God.

However the Law requires multiple tithes at various times and for different purposes. There are two annual tithes and a third tithe every three years. (See Leviticus 27:30-32, Deuteronomy 14:22, Deuteronomy 14:28.)

So the result of all this tithing averages out to 23.3 percent a year, almost one quarter and far more than one tenth.

The three biblical tithes average out to 23.3 percent a year. Click To Tweet

Furthermore, if we are to be biblically accurate, we must present our tithes at the temple. So technically we have no place to give our tithes to today.

Perhaps this is why many pastors say we need to tithe to the local church. They reframe the Law of Moses to fit their context (and meet their church’s budget). Also, since we no longer live in an agrarian society, they restate that a tithe means 10 percent of income instead of the land’s produce.

They skip the parts about the second tithe and the third tithe every three years. Maybe that’s because they know it would be a hard sell to preach that people need to give 23.3 percent of their income to them. Of course if we’re not farmers and want to take the law literally, then our tithe is zero.

Applying the Old Testament Laws about tithing becomes a murky endeavor. To do so literally presents two problems since there is no temple and few people are farmers.

To apply its principles, a reasonable conclusion is to give it to the local church: 20 percent of our income every year and 30 percent every third year.

Or we could just follow the example of the early church to be generous with all that God gives us.

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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Christian Living

Why Business Practices Hurt the Church

Many Churches Try to Operate Like a Business Even Though That Model Doesn’t Apply

In our culture we’re familiar with the structure of businesses. We either work for a business or we run one. It’s a natural extension to apply these business practices to the church. But we shouldn’t, because a church isn’t a business. And the church needs to stop acting like one.

Consider these common elements of business practices:

CEO

A CEO runs a business. Ultimately the CEO controls everything and makes all decisions. While the wise CEO will delegate both responsibility and authority, in the end the CEO stands accountable for what happens.

Incidentally most CEOs receive huge compensation packages for their trouble.

In churches many people wrongly elevate the pastor to CEO status, and many pastors try to grab unto it. Jesus was a servant leader and so should today’s pastors. And by the way, they shouldn’t be a pastor for the money.

Jesus wasn’t a wealthy man, and he stands as a worthy example for ministry leaders.

Board of Directors

Businesses have a board of directors. In some cases these boards agree to whatever the CEO wants. In other cases the board rightly serves as a check and balance to the CEO.

Although some churches are truly democratic, where every decision results from a congregational vote, most churches have some sort of board. Some boards are elected, others are appointed, and a few are comprised of big money donors (money speaks).

In most cases the board serves as a rubber stamp for whatever the pastor wants. But the other extreme is micromanaging the pastor and dictating every action. The early church operated by consensus. Maybe today’s churches should, too.

Board Chair

Many times the chair of the board is the CEO. This means the board tasked with overseeing the CEO is also run by the CEO. The result is an ineffective board.

In many churches the pastor also runs the church board, rendering the board as largely ineffective. The pastor, who serves continually, gathers strength over time, while the board, which turns over every few years, becomes weak.

Profit Motive

Companies are in business to make money. Even nonprofits need to generate a positive cashflow if they hope to remain viable.

While the motive of a church should not be money, often cash becomes the soul focus of concern. The constant pressure of bringing in money causes churches to make decisions based on finances and to kowtow to the demands of big-money donors.

We understand how businesses run, but we are wrong to apply those lessons to churches. Click To Tweet

Return on Investment

Businesses make decisions based on ROI (return on investment). Remember, they’re in business to make money.

Churches shouldn’t be in the money-making business. They should focus on changed lives. The ROI for the church is souls, not dollars.

Stockholders

Businesses are owned by stockholders. The stockholders expect a profit from their investment.

While churches don’t have stockholders, most have members. And these members wrongly expect something in return for their participation. They forget the church’s real purpose is others not members. They forget to lay up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20).

We understand business practices, but we are wrong to apply these lessons to churches. A church that runs like a business becomes an institution and fails to embrace the Kingdom of God that Jesus talks so much about.

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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Visiting Churches

Acts 2 Church

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

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #34

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

How can we better embrace this teaching of Jesus?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[See the prior set of questions, the next set, or start at the beginning.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

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

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Bible Insights

What Did the First Church Do?

Four Keys from the Early Church

Just days after Pentecost, the people who follow Jesus begin to hang out. This is the first church. What did they do?

In the book of Acts, Doctor Luke records four key things:

  1. They learn about Jesus (think of this as a new believer’s class; after all, they were mostly all new believers).
  2. They spend time with each other (that’s what fellowship means).
  3. They share meals.
  4. They pray.

In addition, they meet every day at the temple (outreach) and in homes (fellowship). They share all their possessions. They praise God – and every day more people join them. This is what the early church did.

There’s no mention of weekly meetings, sermons, music, worship, or offerings. If we’re serious about church in its purest form, the actions of the early church give us much to consider.

Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Acts 1-4, and today’s post is on Acts 2:42-47.]

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 Tongues of Fire: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church from the Book of Acts, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. [Originally published as Dear Theophilus Acts.]

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

3 Lessons from the Early Church

Dr. Luke Describes 3 Characteristics of the Acts 4 Church

The book of Acts unfolds as an historical narrative of the early church, the activities of the first followers of Jesus and those who join them. For the most part, Acts simply describes what happens, with little commentary and few instructions for proper conduct.

While we can look to Acts as a possible model for Christian community, we would be in error to treat it as a requirement for right behavior. In this way Acts can inform us today, but it doesn’t command us.

For example, if I wrote, “My church went to a baseball game after the service,” no one (I hope) would think I was saying that attending baseball games is prescriptive of Christian life. No. It was merely descriptive of what one church did one time. We would never build our theology on a statement like that.

So it is with the book of Acts. Yet we can learn from it. Luke writes three things about that church:

Christian Unity

The Acts 4 church is of one heart and mind, just as Jesus prayed that we would be one (John 17:21). Their actions are consistent with Jesus’s prayer. Jesus prayed it, and the early church does it; I hope unity describes every one and every congregation.

Community Minded

In the Acts 4 church, no one claims their possessions as their own. It isn’t my things and your things; it is our things. They have a group mentality and act in the community’s best interest. While we might do well to hold our possessions loosely, notice that this isn’t a command. They just do it out of love.

Willing to Share

Last, the Acts 4 church shares everything they have. Not some things, not half, but all. This would be a hard thing for many in our first-world churches to do today but not so much in third-world congregations.

Again, this isn’t a command (and later on Peter confirms that sharing resources is optional, Acts 5:4); it is just a practice that happens at this moment of time in the early church. 

These 3 characteristics of the early church should inspire us to think and behave differently. Click To Tweet

While these three characteristics should inspire us to think and behave differently, and can provide a model for our gatherings and interactions, we need to remember that the Bible gives us no commands to pursue a communal-type church.

We can, but it’s one option. Of the three only unity rises as an expectation because Jesus yearns for it to be so. That should give us plenty to do.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Acts 1-4 , and today’s post is on Acts 4:32.]

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 Tongues of Fire: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church from the Book of Acts, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. [Originally published as Dear Theophilus Acts.]

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 Early Church Had a Great Reputation

What Happened?

In the Bible, Dr. Luke notes that the gathering of folks who follow Jesus (aka, the church) enjoy the goodwill of all the people. In another place he records that all the people have a high regard for the church. They had a great reputation. Perhaps that’s why they grow from a handful of people to several thousands in just a few months.

Imagine that. Everyone holding the church in high regard and with goodwill. The result is rapid growth.

If only that were the case today. Yes, some people on the outside respect the church, but society as a whole, holds a much different view. They hate us and criticize us. They call us hypocrites and view us as filled with hate and always arguing. In large part, they’re right.

What happened? What went wrong over the past two thousand years? Here are four ideas to consider:

They Take Care of Their Own

The early church shares what they have with one another, and no one has any needs. (Notice the focus is on meeting needs, not fulfilling wants.)

They Don’t Ask For Money

The early church isn’t constantly asking for money and doesn’t take weekly offerings. The few times they do take a collection, it is to give away to those outside their community.

They Help Others

The apostles go around healing people.

They Rely on the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit plays a leading role. He is prominent, in the book of Acts, leading the church and empowering its members.

We Need to Great Reputation

Today, the church does a poor job of caring for its own, is always taking offerings, forgets to help others, and relies on its own abilities instead of God.

That’s what happened. It’s time to change.

[Acts 2:47, Acts 5:13]

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 Tongues of Fire: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church from the Book of Acts, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. [Originally published as Dear Theophilus Acts.]

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

Jesus Talked about the Kingdom of God and We Made a Church

What if Jesus Never Intended His Followers to Form a Church as we Know it Today?

I looked at where the Bible talks about the kingdom of God and where it talks about church. What I learned is shocking. Jesus teaches about the kingdom of God, not church.

These are New Testament Considerations

Both the church and the kingdom of God (along with the kingdom of Heaven) are New Testament concepts. None of these terms occur in the Old Testament. Since Jesus comes to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17), the kingdom of God must be one way he intends to do so.

Jesus Teaches about the Kingdom of God, not Church

Jesus talks much about the kingdom of God (Heaven) and little about the church: fifty-four times versus three. Clearly Jesus focuses his teaching on the kingdom of God. If the kingdom of God is so important to Jesus, it should be important to us as well.

If the kingdom of God was so important to Jesus, it should be important to us, too. Click To Tweet

A Change Occurs in Acts

A transition of emphasis happens in the book of Acts, with twenty-one mentions of church and only six mentions of the kingdom of God. Early on Jesus’s followers shift their focus from the kingdom of God to the church.

This is logical because a church is a tangible result while the kingdom of God is a more ethereal concept. But just because this is a logical shift, that doesn’t make it right.

Jesus’s Followers Focus on Church

The rest of the New Testament (Romans through Revelation) emphasizes church over the kingdom of God: ninety times versus eight.

Even though the early followers of Jesus favor the practice of church over the concept of the kingdom of God, the fact remains that their practice of church then is far different from ours today.

Today’s church should push aside her traditions and practices to replace them with what Jesus teaches about the kingdom of God. It will change everything.

(Here’s the background:

The word church occurs 114 times in the Bible, all in the New Testament. Of the four accounts of Jesus, church only occurs in Matthew and then just three times. Acts, the book about the early church, mentions church twenty-one times.

The word church occurs in the majority of the rest of the New Testament books (fifteen of them).

Instead of church, Jesus talks about the kingdom of God. The phrase, kingdom of God, occurs sixty-eight times in the Bible, again, all in the New Testament.

The majority of occurrences are in the four biographies of Jesus, accounting for fifty-four of its sixty-eight appearances. Acts mentions the kingdom of God six times, with only eight occurrences popping up in the rest of the New Testament.

Matthew generally writes using the kingdom of Heaven instead of the kingdom of God. He uses kingdom of Heaven thirty-one times and is the only writer in the Bible to use this phrase.

By comparing parallel passages in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we see the same account with the only difference being that Matthew writes kingdom of Heaven whereas Mark and Luke use kingdom of God.

Clearly Matthew, the only biblical writer to use kingdom of Heaven, equates it to kingdom of God. Additionally Matthew uses the kingdom of God five times.

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.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

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Bible Insights

What Does God Do On Sunday?

Our Worship verses God’s Work

After God finishes with his amazing creation he takes time on the seventh day to rest. He declares the day holy. Later in the Old Testament, God reminds his people to keep the Sabbath holy and to not work. How should this inform our worship of our creator?

Yea, a day off. In the early church the first day of the week becomes their special day, and many Christians today apply the Old Testament commands for Sabbath rest and holiness to Sunday.

As we rest on God’s holy day and worship him, what’s God doing?

Our Worship

I always assumed God was resting along with us, sitting back and receiving our worship. I imagined him being recharged by our adoration of him, even to the point that the more engaging our worship, the more energized he would become.

That just as we needed to take a break, I thought he did, too. He, along with us, would take one day out of seven for a mini re-creation. Then we would both be ready for Monday.

Although that is an imaginative idea, none of it is supported by the Bible.

How does God receive our worship on Sunday? Click To Tweet

Jesus, after he heals a man on the Sabbath, is confronted by his detractors. Jesus tells them plainly that just as his Father God is always at work, so too he is always working.

God’s Work

There’s no mention of Jesus and his Father resting on Sunday, basking in the glory that results from our worship. No, as we rest and worship, God is working. And I’m okay with that.

If God were to rest, just for a day, what would become of us? I need him every day, so I’m glad he doesn’t take a break, even though that is exactly what he tell us to do.

[See Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 20:8-11, and John 5:1-17.]

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere 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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