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Peter DeHaan News

PhD Dissertation

The Convergent Church: Moving Toward the Unity for Which Jesus Prayed

Church Research Now Available

WARNING: The Convergent Church is a PhD dissertation (2012) and contains academic research.

Author Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity

It’s made available primarily to aid others who are conducting their own research on the future of the Christian Church. If this is what you seek, here’s an overview:

Contemporary Christianity has arguably made the same mistakes today as the Pharisees and Sadducees made two thousand years ago.

The Pharisees added many human-made rules and traditions to the Bible, while the Sadducees reduced Scripture to only the Law of Moses, ignoring the rest of the Old Testament.

Similarly, modern Christians have created their own traditions that either override or limit biblical truth, neglecting important teachings from the New Testament.

This dilutes the authority of God’s word. This theological foundation of the contemporary church is neither biblically nor historically valid, leading to numerous practices that conflict with biblical principles.

Most of today’s Christianity stems from the Reformation, but as it happened over 500 years ago, a new major movement is on the horizon. This work will explore present-day revolutionary developments in comparison to the Protestant Reformation.

The question is, will this revolution result in further division, as historical evidence suggests, or will it bring about greater unity among followers of Jesus? Will we witness a convergence of our faith?

Get your copy of The Convergent Church today.

The Convergent Church, a dissertation by Peter DeHaan, PhD

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

Church #54: Emergent Church, Maybe

Someone once quipped, “There are more books about emergent churches than there are emergent churches.” That seems like hyperbole, but my experience confirms it.

I’ve read several books about the emergent church, but I’ve never actually been to one. Tonight’s experience may change that, but I’m not sure.

My wife, Candy, and I have an opening in our normal Sunday evening plans. This is an opportunity to visit a site plant of our home church (Church #53, “Home for Easter Sunday”). They meet at 5:30 for a community meal and then have a service afterward—more or less. 

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve discussed going. I’m in favor of it, but my bride is reluctant. It’s not that she fears adventure, but she fears the neighborhood. I offer the suggestion, but I don’t push it, hoping she’ll agree to go, without me having to talk her into it.

Talking with the Pastor

Sunday morning, I’m still waiting. The decision happens as Candy talks with one of the site plant leaders. He’s a friend and fellow writer. We hang out a couple times a month. 

His plans for tonight are to share a meal, offer a brief teaching, and then go for a prayer walk in the neighborhood. I’m sure his intent to wander the streets surrounding the church building will discourage Candy from going.

It’s one thing to drive to a semi-safe area and scurry inside a building, but it’s another to traipse around the neighborhood. (In all honesty, I’m apprehensive of the semi-safe prayer walk, too, but I’m willing to push through.)

His words don’t offer the assurance Candy seeks, but she asks what food to bring.

A Shared Meal

As visitors, they’d forgive us if we showed up empty-handed, but during our year of visiting fifty-two churches, we did our share of mooching, and I don’t want to do so again.

Vegetables, we learn, are typically lacking at their weekly potluck, so on our way home from the morning service, we stop by the store to pick up our contribution for the evening meal. 

The building is familiar to us. It’s the one our church first used until outgrowing the facility and moving. At first, a contingent of people remained, but our church leaders did poorly at managing multiple locations and eventually shut the site down.

Now—wiser, better equipped, and armed with a new plan—a cadre has returned, intent on serving this underserved neighborhood: the area’s poorest and least safe, crime-ridden and void of hope.

Arriving at Church

After a minor detour, because I made a wrong turn, we arrive right at 5:30. My all-too-familiar anxiety about confronting the unknown rumbles in my gut. My pulse quickens as we pull into the small, but mostly filled, parking lot.

I want to make a U-turn and race home, but the likelihood of my wife laughing at my panic steels my resolve enough to park our car. Another family exits their minivan, with kids in tow and food in hand.

Feeling a bit assured, we follow them through the back door that leads directly to the lower level.

With only a handful of people present, there’s even less food, mostly desserts. Round tables fill the basement. The one nearest us holds the food while one further away accommodates some people awaiting the meal.

Between the two is a room of empty spaces, except for a solitary woman sitting at her own table. Pleasant-looking and approachable, my instincts are to talk to her, while mindful that she could misunderstand my efforts or feel uncomfortable.

If I can get Candy’s attention, we can go together, but she’s at the food table, talking with someone who just emerged from the kitchen. To my relief, someone eventually joins the woman so she’s no longer alone.

Seeing Friends—and a Dog Named Beau

I scan the room, expecting to see friends who are part of this adventure, but I don’t see them. From upstairs come sounds of the worship team practicing. Surely, some of my friends are there.

Although I see a few familiar faces, I don’t recall any names. While I survey the situation, one of the familiar faces comes up to talk. We have a friendly, yet awkward, exchange that lasts too long. 

A small white dog meanders over to welcome me. I squat, offering my hand for him to smell. All he does is sniff and tremble. He doesn’t withdraw, yet he’s not advancing for me to pet him either. He’s apprehensive and has found a kindred soul in me.

I later learn his name is Beau, nicknamed Bobo. He serves as the church’s unofficial mascot, esteemed by all, and cared for by many. He belongs to our friends: the site pastor and his wife.

They welcomed Beau into their home and later adopted him. This is poetic preparation, for they will soon welcome a foster child into their home with the intent to adopt him too.

Eventually, the site pastor descends the stairs. Dismayed with the low turnout, he concedes we should not wait any longer for more to arrive. We gather in a circle and hold hands while he prays. He reminds us that sharing a meal is communion.

As we eat and drink together, we do so to remember Jesus. With the Amen said, people surge toward the food table. 

We’ve now grown in number to about thirty, yet the food hasn’t kept pace, and it’s still half desserts. Some people bought prepared food at the store, others share leftovers, and one person made some stew.

It smells tasty but is gone before I get to it. I hold back, as do a few others. Some people may depend on this for their evening meal. If I don’t have enough to eat, there’s more awaiting me at home. Others may not have that luxury.

Fellowship

Candy and I sit at a nearby table with our food, and others join us. We get to know them, making connections as we eat. As a bonus, today is the birthday of one of our leaders. We sing to her and share cake.

My focus is more on the fellowship than the food. But I reckon they cut both short when they urge us upstairs. As we do, more friends show up.

With four young children, it’s too much work to get their brood’s tiny mouths all fed before the worship time starts, so they eat at home and show up a bit later.

The Worship Space

The sanctuary is different from the last time we were here some five years ago. The antiquated pews are gone, replaced with comfortable, padded chairs. The ambiance of the coffee house next to the sanctuary is gone with its accessories stripped away to provide only the most basic options.

In the back, areas are set up for kids to play, with plenty of open floor space for physical worship. The overhead lights remain off, with mood lighting taking their place. The result is a peaceful, subdued setting.

There’s a short teaching, though our leader misses his goal of keeping it under ten minutes. He references Exodus 14:19–22, speaking about slavery, drawing present-day parallels for us to contemplate.

He wraps up about fifteen minutes later. With the planned prayer walk canceled due to a light rain, a time of worship starts, now an hour into the evening.

A few of the people from the meal are missing, but several more have arrived, swelling our group to over forty. Candy and I are at the upper end of the age spectrum. Most are in their mid-twenties and thirties, with a good number of children present.

The other site leader—the birthday girl—sits at the keyboard and leads us in song. A skillful and spirit-filled leader, she moves us forward with music. For some people the songs are the focus, while for others the sounds become reverent background music.

Candy soon wearies of the repetition, repetition, repetition of the choruses. For me it’s not the words that matter but the atmosphere: a worship space where we encounter God in multiple ways, according to each person’s preference.

Some people stand as they feel led, raising their arms, swaying, and reverently dancing. Others sit, bow, or kneel. 

Some kids wave worship flags, praising God through solemn movement. A few adults join them. Other kids play quiet games, build with foam blocks, or create art on a wall-sized chalkboard. A couple of women dance in the back with graceful movement.

I want to watch, worshiping God through the beauty of their motions, but I fear that in doing so I may intrude on a private moment between them and the Almighty. 

The teaching pastor stands again, signaling his wife to pause her playing. He offers a bit of encouragement and instruction. We sing a final song, and he dismisses us with a traditional benediction.

More Fellowship

The planned service is over, but no one leaves. Everyone tarries. We chat with several friends, offering prayers and blessings as needed. We say our goodbyes to the new friends we’ve made, thanking them for the opportunity to get to know them and wishing them well.

Many people attempt to leave, but they’re unsuccessful. There are simply too many conversations to have. Among the first to exit, we leave at 8:00 p.m., two and a half hours after we arrived.

The time passed quickly for me, as it does when I’m in the company of winsome Jesus followers. I relish the experience, suspecting this group is approaching a truer meaning of church than I’ve ever experienced on a Sunday morning. 

Candy has a different assessment, saying that had she not already gone to church today, this would have left her wanting. This must be one reason why there are so many types of churches.

Regardless of our differing perspectives, I think we just had our first emergent church experience.

[See the discussion questions for Church 54, read about Church 53, or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of More Than 52 Churches 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

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.

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 thought-provoking 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.

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 thought-provoking 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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Reviews of Books & Movies

Book Review: The Great Emergence

The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why

By Phyllis Tickle (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

The subtitle to The Great Emergence provides a concise summary of this book’s content: “How Christianity is Changing and Why.”

To respond to this statement, Tickle first explains what emergence is, then how we arrived at this point, and concludes with where it is going.

Along the way, Tickle provides a succinct and insightful history lesson of Christianity, complete with Protestantism and Catholicism (Western Christianity) Eastern (Greek) Orthodoxy, and Oriental Orthodoxy.

She notes 500 year cycles at which point major changes, or “Great Transformations,” occur.

We are currently at that point of great transformation.

She introduces the “The Quadrilateral,” a matrix that effectively portrays the distinctions within North American Christianity. As readers progress through the book, the diagram morphs as additional detail is added and future trends are projected.

This aptly serves to provide a clear graphical summary of the text’s detailed explanations.

This book offers a cogent summary the emergent and emerging church, as well as offering a clear and compelling glimpse into the future.

[The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why, by Phyllis Tickle. Published by Baker Books, 2012, ISBN: 978-0801071027, 224 pages.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

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.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

​Enter your info and receive the free Bible Reading Tip Sheet and be added to Peter’s email list.

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Reviews of Books & Movies

Book Review: A Generous Orthodoxy

Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed- yet hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian.

By Brian McLaren (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

In A Generous Orthodoxy, author Brian McLaren seeks to move the modern world’s theological dialog beyond the paralyzing impasse of liberal versus conservative, into a “post-liberal” and “post-conservative” inclusivity.

This, however, does not mean attempting to merely merge the two, but rather moving beyond them, linking orthodoxy with practice (that is binding spiritual theory to loving action) from a biblical perspective.

Towards this end, he shares the various ways in which different manifestations of Christianity (think of denominations) have shaped and influenced his appreciation for and understand of Jesus.

This evokes a realization that God is an “unified, eternal, mysterious, relational community/family/society/entity of saving love.”

Often using hyperbole to provoke critical thinking among his readers, McLaren then asks the confrontational question, “Would Jesus be a Christian?”

This sets the framework for the rest of the book, with each of the ensuing 16 chapters addressing one item in the book’s cumbersomely long subtitle:

Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, Incarnational, depressed-yet-hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian.

In doing this, McLaren does not promote an all-encompassing and inclusive orthodoxy—one to conclusively end all orthodoxies—but rather shares his thoughts on what it might include so that productive dialogue can be advanced in constructing an orthodoxy that is generous, as well as accepting, inclusive, and loving. 

Towards that end, each chapter concludes with a list of discussion questions to start the conversation.

[A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed- yet hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian, by Brian McLaren. Published by Zondervan/Youth Specialties, 2006; ISBN: 978-0310258032; 352 pages.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

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.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

​Enter your info and receive the free Bible Reading Tip Sheet and be added to Peter’s email list.

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Reviews of Books & Movies

Book Review: Christianity for the Rest of Us

How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith

By Diana Butler Bass (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

Diana Butler Bass opens her book, Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith, by admitting that mainline (that is, liberal) Protestantism is in trouble, with declining attendance and a loss of significance.

This is not a hopeless situation, however, as there are signs of revitalization at some mainline churches with energized growth and renewed relevance, focusing on tradition (not traditionalism), practice (not purity), and wisdom (not certainty).

Looking at selected mainline congregations that exhibit this emergence, she shares ten signposts of renewal: hospitality, discernment, healing, contemplation, testimony, diversity, justice, worship, reflection, and beauty.

In doing so, these churches are on a path of transforming lives, transforming congregations, and transforming the world.

She does this with a compelling narrative of her pilgrimage to find the emerging mainline, connecting the church’s story with her own and sharing Mainline’s emergent journey with her own travels.

The conclusion is clear: Mainline churches need not continue their downward slide, they can experience rebirth. This book shows how it can happen and what it will look like.

[Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith, by Diana Butler Bass. Published by HarperOne, 2007; ISBN: 978-0060859497; 336 pages.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

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.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

​Enter your info and receive the free Bible Reading Tip Sheet and be added to Peter’s email list.