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52 Churches

Two Services: Another Doubleheader

Experiencing a Traditional Service and a Contemporary One

Today we’ll enjoy two services, another doubleheader: a traditional service followed by a contemporary one.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #45

1. As we wander inside, several people acknowledge our presence, thanking us for visiting. But beyond that no one says anything more, so we meander into the sanctuary. 

Acknowledging a person is a great start, but what more can you do to connect with them and show you care?

2. At one point, the minister invites people to come forward to the altar. Doing this in the middle of the service is unusual, and I don’t catch the purpose. 

When you do something people don’t expect, how can you make your intentions clear?

3. Between services is a pastor’s breakfast for guests. It’s a great chance to learn more and experience community. They say it’s in the library but fail to explain how to get there. Eventually someone gives us directions. 

How can you help people better navigate your facility?

4. The crowd is lethargic at the contemporary service. It’s as though they just crawled out of bed and rolled into church—and many rolled in late. 

What must you do to engage in worship? How can you help others in their worship?

The two services gave us completely different experiences.

[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

A Great Way to End the Year

With Sunday falling between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I have low expectations for their year end service.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #39

1. Yet inside, friendly faces and hearty handshakes greet us. People acknowledge us as first-timers, without fawning over us. 

How can you better embrace newcomers without making them uncomfortable?

2. We slide into the fifth row, which is also the back row. I’m dismayed over the pews’ lack of lumbar support. I squirm throughout the service and soon have a terrible backache. 

What can you do to make sure your seating doesn’t distract people from encountering God?

3. The congregation recites this week’s memory verse in unison. The pastor then challenges them to recall last week’s verse, which he leads them in saying. 

What can you do to help people hide God’s word in their hearts (Psalm 119:11)?

4. They invite us to a fast food restaurant after church. When we sit, no one joins us. It’s awkward until a lady moves to our booth midway through the meal. It only takes one person to make the difference between feeling seen or ignored. 

What can you do to help others feel accepted?

Overall, it was a great year end service.

[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

A Refreshing Church Service

The church meets in a middle school’s all-purpose room. Large portable signs direct us to the entrance. We enjoy a refreshing church service.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #38: 

1. People mill about: talking, sipping coffee, or munching snacks. They represent all age groups, with many kids. 

Younger people are the future of our church. What can you do to attract and connect with them?

2. A team of four leads worship, with optimally adjusted audio. The ideal sound tech is the one you’re unaware of. It’s only because of mistakes that anyone usually notices. This one is good. 

What should you do to make sure your audiovisual team supports your service and doesn’t distract?

3. As a special treat, three ladies from a local ballet company worship with us in dance. Ballet and guitars are an odd pairing, but the result is worshiping God through sound and movement. 

What fresh worship experiences can you add to your service?

4. Our leader gives us the freedom to dance—or not. I don’t have a danceable bone in my body, so I appreciate the permission to stay still, yet I’m disappointed because only a few join in. 

Worshipful dance occurs in the Bible. How can you incorporate dance into your church service?

Overall, we enjoyed a most refreshing church service, connecting with others who pointed us to God. We left in awe of God and his 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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Bible Insights

Adam Was a Vegetarian

Discover When Our Ancestors Starting Eating Meat

Adam was a vegetarian—really, he was. So were Eve and their kids too. In fact, the next several generations likely avoided meat was well. They all had a vegetarian lifestyle.

How do I know this? After creation, God told Adam and Eve that they could eat any plant or fruit tree for food. Meat was not mentioned as an option (Genesis 1:29).

However, less we conclude that we are supposed to be vegetarian, consider God’s follow-up instructions after the great flood. At that time, God gave all animals to Noah, stating that they would also be used for food (Genesis 9:2-3).

One might argue that God’s original plan was for a vegetarian lifestyle. That is an acceptable conclusion, but it needs to be kept in balance with the also acceptable perspective that meat was given to us to be enjoyed. Both are biblically defensible conclusions.

So, be we herbivore or carnivore, we need to get along with each other. That is even more in line with God’s desire for us then what we eat.

Bon Appétit!

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 9-11 and today’s post is on Genesis 9:2-3.]

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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52 Churches

A Shepherd Cares for His Flock

Discussing Church 33

Even though this church is only nine miles from our house, the contrast between their lives and mine is stark. These people live in poverty. And their shepherd cares for his flock.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #33

1. We struggle to sing hymns. The organist learned to play because no one else could, and the minister isn’t adept at leading singing. We push through. God doesn’t care about our musical ability, only our heart. 

How can we better align our perspective with his?

2. The people of this rural congregation struggle getting enough to eat. Behind the church is a sizable garden, planted for their church community. The pastor offers venison for Thanksgiving to those in need, as well as firewood to help heat their homes. 

How open are you to see the needs of others? What can you do to help?

3. The reality of these people’s lives puts an exclamation point on being in need. Their physical needs are great and their life, far different than mine.

How can you help meet the tangible needs of the people in your church? Your neighborhood?

4. These people worship God with their church community, their extended family. Being together is what matters. This minister takes care of his congregation; he’s a shepherd who cares for his flock. He loves them, and they, him. 

How can you show love to others?

[See the prior set of questions, the next week, 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

Commitment Sunday and Celebration

Discussing Church 32

This church has been homeless for a while, but they moved into their own space last week. Today they celebrate God’s faithfulness on a trying journey with their annual commitment Sunday.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #32

1. We arrive to learn that it’s commitment Sunday for them, with contribution pledges sought for the upcoming year. The woman who explains this is embarrassed that our first visit falls on their annual plea for money. 

When you ask for money, how can you help visitors feel welcomed and not obligated?

2. When their minister learns we’re not used to liturgical services, she introduces us to someone who can guide us. He takes his job seriously and performs it admirably. 

How can you apply this visitor-friendly gesture to your church services?

3. The guest speaker says, “Bigger is no longer better in the church world,” and “Smaller is where the work will be done.” He’s so right. 

What is your attitude toward church size? Does something need to change?

4. Afterward is a brunch to celebrate God’s provision and praise him. “We don’t want to intrude on your celebration,” I say to one lady. Her response removes all doubt, “You are one of the reasons we’re celebrating.” 

How well do you celebrate visitors?

[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

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

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.

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52 Churches

Reflecting on Church #39: A Different Twist on Sharing a Meal

The Value of Eating Together

With our journey of visiting fifty-two churches over, I can reflect more on the complete experience. Today, I’ll add to my thoughts about Church #39.

Many churches share a meal or food after their service, but this one put a new twist on it: we head off to a restaurant, en masse. Though not everyone goes, a significant number do, including my wife and me. As we form a line at a nearby fast food joint, one of the church members passes out coupons to everyone.

Though it’s great to spend time together outside of church, I wonder what kind of impact we make on the restaurant staff, with a bunch of church folk descending upon them, all bearing coupons and looking for a deal.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

Once we have our food and sit down, the people from church sit at tables all around us, but no one joins us or invites us to sit with them. Though they are all having a great time moving from one table to another and bantering back and forth, Candy and I are left out.

One person can make a difference. Click To Tweet

We are all alone in a group of people. It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last.

However, midway through the meal, one woman gets up from her table and slides into ours. We have a great conversation and feel cared for.

Again, one person made all the difference between us feeling included and being ignored. Isn’t inclusion the purpose of sharing a meal?

Building community within a church family can take on many forms. Often this involves food, such as when sharing a meal. Eating together, however, is only one way to connect with those you worship with. Working together on service projects or community initiatives is another.

[See my reflections about Church #38 and Church #40 or start with Church #1.]

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

Reflecting on Church #9: A Potluck Builds Community

With our journey of visiting fifty-two churches over, I can reflect more on the complete experience. Today, I’ll add to my thoughts about Church #9.

In a word, the potluck at this church was epic. Between the delicious food and making connections, it remains a significant memory of our journey. Sharing a meal helps build community. And this church showed how it should be done.

Although an older congregation (which does not excite me), many of them act young (which does excite me). It’s a busy church, with lots of community outreach. On the fourth Friday of each month, they hold a community dinner, which is legendary among area Christians.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

With a guest speaker on the Sunday we visited, I wanted to make a return visit to meet their pastor and hear her speak, but a few months after our visit, she retired. However, I do want to check out one of their community dinners. I suspect it will be like their church potluck, only more.

When we visited they had two Sunday morning services. Now they have just one. I wonder if they’ve lost members or attendance is down. I hope the situation is temporary.

[See my reflections about Church #8 and Church #10 or start with Church #1.]

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.