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Christian Living

One Body with Many Members: Correct the Church Membership Fallacy

Instead of Joining a Church, Align Yourself with Jesus

Most churches talk about church membership—a lot. Some treat it as the next step after salvation, even as if it’s salvation part two. It’s not. And if your church is part of a denomination, membership in the local church is automatic membership in the denomination.

Church Membership

With membership, many carry a smug pride of religious superiority. Others expect their membership to provide them with benefits.

Some church membership benefits are explicit, carrying specified privileges. These include being able to vote at meetings, eligibility for certain church positions, and enjoying a higher status than nonmembers, who are mere attendees.

Other church membership benefits are assumed. Basically, this means our ministers must be available whenever we need them. This includes celebrating our special events, dealing with any crisis we may encounter, and listening to our “concerns” about some church issue or theology. When we say “jump,” they’re supposed to act.

Denomination Membership

Church denominations used to be much more important than they are now. Church members were loyal to their denomination.

When they moved, they sought out a church in their same denomination. And as a member of the denomination, they’d be accepted without question at the new church—even though no one knew them. It was a simple matter to transfer their membership to the new congregation.

Most denominations struggle today. They’re losing members (and affiliated churches) at an alarming rate. Some had scandals. Others faced a theological rift between polarized perspectives, where it was impossible to please everyone. And the dissenters voiced their frustration by leaving.

Most denominations have become nothing more than institutions fighting for survival. Membership numbers are the way they gage their battle.

What Does the Bible Say?

Scripture never mentions church membership. There are no commands to join a local church. The apostle Paul, however, does talk about members. He repeatedly says that we are members of one body. That’s right. Not a church or a denomination, but a body—one body.

He writes that there is one body. He tells this to the church in Rome (Romans 12:5), Ephesus (Ephesians 3:6 and Ephesians 4:25), and Colossae (Colossians 3:15). He even gets more specific, saying we are members of his body, that is Jesus’s body, the body of Christ (Ephesians 2:19-20, Ephesians 5:29-30 and 1 Corinthians 6:15a).

There is one body with many members, each with their own function (Romans 12:3-4).

What Does Jesus Want?

In his final prayer before his execution, Jesus prayed that we—his future followers—would be one, just as he and Papa are one. Why is this? By being one, we become the optimum witness to the world so that they may believe (John 17:20-21).

Jesus wants us to be members of one body, the universal body of Christ. Click To Tweet

Jesus knew that if we divided ourselves by forming denominations, we would divide ourselves and our witness, fracturing the ideas of one body in the process.

He knew that by establishing church memberships, we would divide ourselves—and his one body—into two levels of followers, with some in and others second-class.

Jesus wants us to be members of one body, the universal body of Christ. We automatically become a member when we follow Jesus. Local church membership doesn’t matter.

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 Is the Way, Not the Destination

Our Focus Should be on Our Heavenly Father

Most Christians revere Jesus and place him at the center of their faith. Indeed, all of history revolves around Jesus’s saving work that he did for us—for everyone—when he died in our place, sacrificing himself for the wrong things we’ve done.

The Old Testament builds up to this, the four biographies of Jesus explain this, and the rest of the New Testament—along with everything that has happened in our world since then—flows from what he did. Yet Jesus is not the end. He is the means to the end.

Jesus Is the Way

In the Bible, Jesus often implores people to “follow me”. If he expects people to follow him, this mean that he knows the right way to go.

In the gospel of John, Jesus directly says that he is the way (John 14:6). He is not the destination, but simply the path to reach the destination. In fact, he says he is the way, the truth, and the life.

Peter explains that we can find our salvation through him and only through him (Acts 4:12). This means that Jesus is the way.

Jesus Is the Gate

In another place in the book of John, Jesus calls himself the gate for the sheep. All who enter through the gate will be saved (John 10:7-9).

He is our shepherd, our Good Shephard. We, as his sheep, know his voice and follow him. He protects us from evil, from thieves and robbers intent on doing us harm. (Read Jesus’s full teaching on this in John 10:1-18.)

In another place, Jesus calls himself the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13-14). He urges us to take this path.

What Is the Result?

Since Jesus is the way to—and the gate of—the sheep pen, what does the pen symbolize? It has both present and future significance.

For now, the sheep pen—with Jesus as the gate—represents our spiritual community, our fellowship with others who believe in and follow him. He is the gate that lets us into this existence here on earth today.

For later, we can take assurance that the sheep pen represents our eternity in heaven. Jesus is also the way and the gate that opens the doors for heaven, where we’ll live with him forever.

Jesus is the way, and the Father—our heavenly Father—is the destination. Click To Tweet

The Father Is the Destination

The result of following Jesus as the way—and going through him as the narrow gate—is heaven. Yet this misses one thing that’s even more important: the Father. After Jesus says he is the way, he adds that no one can come to the Father if they don’t go through him (John 14:6). Jesus is the way to the Father.

Jesus dies as the solution to our sin problem. In doing so, he makes us right with Father God and reconciles us into a right relationship with him. Yes, we will live forever in heaven, but we will live there with the Father. The Father is the focus of heaven.

Jesus is the way, and the Father—our heavenly Father—is the destination. May we never forget this.

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

Protection From the Evil One

Protection From the Evil One

To the Thessalonians Paul writes that God will strengthen and protect them from the evil one. He will give them protection from evil.

This excites and comforts me, because I want to be protected.

We don't need to endure hardships alone, for God gives us the strength we need. Click To Tweet

But that’s only half the of the promise. The other part is that we will be strengthened.

To be protected is passive. It is easy and safe.

To be strengthened is more active. It reminds us that we will undergo trials, temptations, and attacks from the enemy—and for this, we will be made strong in order to withstand it.

Standing strong is not easy or safe. It is hard and risky. But we don’t need to endure it alone, for God gives us the strength we need and protection from evil.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Thessalonians 1-3, and today’s post is on 1 Thessalonians 3:3.]

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

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Christian Living

Father, Son, or Holy Spirit?

Which Part of the Trinity Do You Focus On?

The Bible talks about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We intellectually know that these three parts of the Trinity exist, but what is the reality of our spiritual practice? Most Christians prefer one part of the godhead over the other. They make that facet of God their primary focus, while diminishing or even forgetting the other two.

Churches, too, tend to emphasize one part—Father, Son, or Holy Spirit—in their religious practices. I’ve gone to all three types of churches, have friends in all three, and understand all three.

In what follows, I’ll speak in generalities; that means there are exceptions. If one part of my summary offends you, ask yourself if I may have hit too close to home.

In our discussion of Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, I outline three considerations:

Father God

The first group of Christians focus their faith on Father God. They worship him and serve him. He is the reason for their existence—intellectually so—and the center of their worship—albeit more stoic in nature. Though he is their Heavenly Father, they are more apt to refer to him as God than as Father. He also tends to be a more distant deity in their faith practice and daily living.

Jesus is a secondary part of their faith. They revere him as a good man, a wise teacher, and a worthy example. Mentally they acknowledge him as Savior, but it doesn’t often go beyond that. And they give the Holy Spirit minimal attention, treating him like an eccentric relative that they know exists but try to ignore.

Jesus, the Son

Another group of Christians celebrate Jesus as the center of their faith. Having a personal relationship with him—according to their specific theological constructs—is the only thing that matters. Once they’ve done that, their card is punched, and they’re going to heaven, where they’ll spend eternity with him. Oh, and Father God will be there too.

The Heavenly Father is part of their faith, But in practice and in thought, he’s often secondary to Jesus. They forget that Jesus is the way, not the destination. They acknowledge the work of the Holy Spirit but have scaled back their acceptance of his work from what the Bible proclaims to what better aligns with their own practices and experiences today.

Holy Spirit

The third group of Christians put the work and power of the Holy Spirit in the center of their faith and daily practices. It starts with a relationship with Jesus and culminates with the infilling power of the Holy Spirit in their lives—often proved by speaking in tongues. Once a rigid expectation, speaking in tongues is now more a preferred—but not required—outcome for most practices.

Though Jesus and the Father are part of their faith, the extreme emphasis on the Holy Spirit tends to diminish them in the process.

Our perspective should be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May we move forward to embrace all three. Click To Tweet

A Holistic Perspective

Though you might insist on some exceptions, you likely identify with one of these three camps over the other two. But before you affirm your perspective as right and the other two as wrong, let me suggest that despite the good aspects of each group, none are correct. It is not an issue of Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, but a holistic call to equally embrace all three in our theology, worship, and service.

It should be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May we move forward to evenly embrace all three.

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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Peter DeHaan News

New Book: The Advent of Jesus

Celebrate Christmas in a fresh, new way with this Advent devotional.

It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of Christmas and miss its true meaning. Why not make this holiday season a special time for preparation to reflect on the Messiah’s birth?

The Advent of Jesus: A Devotional Celebrating the Coming Savior

In The Advent of Jesus: A Devotional Celebrating the Coming Savior, Peter DeHaan leads readers through a forty-day devotional that prepares our hearts to celebrate the arrival of Jesus in an engaging way.

In this Advent devotional, you will:

  • draw closer to Jesus
  • celebrate the season with a deeper, more biblical outlook
  • focus on the meaning behind the holiday
  • celebrate Jesus’s arrival throughout Advent and into Christmas
  • marvel over the birth of our Messiah

If you’ve been longing to grow closer to Jesus this holiday season, pick up this illuminating devotional that will guide you through Advent. Each day’s brief and impactful reading includes thought-provoking questions and a meaningful prayer.

The Advent of Jesus will prepare your heart to worship and celebrate with a new passion. Begin your Advent journey now and gain a greater sense of amazement for the season.

Get your copy of The Advent of Jesus today.

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

When Is the Best Time to Do Good?

Helping Others Is One of Many Ways to Worship God

I like the stories about Jesus helping people in need, such as by feeding them and especially by healing them. Even more I like it when Jesus confronts the religious practices of the day. We have so much to learn from his example.

It’s a bonus for me when in one action Jesus does both: helps someone and challenges religious conventions. Such is the case in today’s reading when Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath, the Jew’s holy day of rest.

A religious authority, intent on preserving his devout heritage of keeping the Law of Moses, is quick to criticize Jesus for his miraculous act of compassion.

Though Jesus does the right thing for the right reason, the Jewish synagogue leader can only see Jesus as breaking one of their long-held rules and deviating from their all-important tradition.

The church today has many rules and expectations for us to follow. Some are well intended and others are unexamined, but I suspect there are exceptions to each one, such as to do good by helping a person in dire need.

We worship God when we help someone in trouble. Click To Tweet

What about skipping church to come to someone’s aid? Some people would never consider such an act, while others would never question it.

What is important to remember is that we can worship God in church by singing to him and we can worship God in our community by helping someone in trouble.

Which should we choose? Perhaps to do good, the option that benefits others. And what better day than Sunday to do good?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 13-15, and today’s post is on Luke 13:10-14.]

Read more about the book of Luke in That You May Know: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke, 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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Bible Insights

Our Present and Future Hope

God Will Answer When We Pray

After Zechariah’s discouraging implication that God is weary of his people and will no longer be their Shepherd, Zechariah has some good news. He concludes his prophetic writings with an optimistic prophecy of a better tomorrow, a future hope.

This is a hope that the people of his day can anticipate. But it’s also a hope we can claim today.

What is this grand, future expectation?

For the people of Zechariah’s day, when they pray to God, he will again answer. They can count on him to be there for them. He will again call them his people, and they will again call him their Lord. They will turn to each other. Reunited.

This union with God reminds us of how Adam and Eve walked in the garden of Eden with their Creator. In the cool of the evening, they hung out and enjoyed one another’s company. They lived in community with God in his creation, spending time with one another.

We can also anticipate community with our Creator today. Though we don’t physically walk with him in a garden each evening, when we call out to him, he answers. He is our Lord, and we are his people.

Where do we place our hope? Do we live lives that reflect both our present hope and our future hope? Click To Tweet

Our Future Hope

But Zechariah has more. This message for the people’s future is for our future too (Zechariah 14:9). We await it in eager expectation . . . but for what?

Centuries after Zechariah, the disciple John has a compelling vision of the future, a look into our future. In his forward-looking revelation, John writes of a time when all nations and all kings will come together in the holy temple of the Lord and the Lamb (Revelation 21:22–26).

What a day that will be, a day we hope for and long to see. We can look forward to this time with great anticipation, the day when God will reign as King over the whole earth.

He will become the Lord of everyone. His name will stand as the only name for people to call on for their rescue, for their salvation.

This will restore our community with God, just as he intended from the beginning.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Zechariah 12-14, and today’s post is on Zechariah 13:9.]

Learn more about all twelve of the Bible’s Minor Prophets in Peter’s book, Return to Me: 40 Prophetic Teachings about Unfaithfulness, Punishment, and Hope from the Minor Prophets

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

Count the Cost: Is Christianity Easy or Hard?

Regardless of Circumstances, God Walks With Us

In Paul’s second letter to the believers in Corinth, he warns them not to deceive others or distort God’s word (2 Corinthians 4:2). That is, don’t misrepresent God’s character or intent to the world.

Yet, this happens. Some people, in their zeal for Jesus, promise those on the outside that if they just say “yes” to Jesus, then all their problems will go away and life will become easy.

It doesn’t work that way.

Jesus says to “count the cost” (Luke 14:28), that his followers may pay a price for their commitment to him.

God promises we will not be defeated, anguished, forgotten, or ruined. Click To Tweet

Paul details this heavy cost. But along with each threat he gives assurance of God’s provision (2 Corinthians 4:8-9):

  • Hard pressed from every direction, but not crushed
  • Perplexed, but not in despair.
  • Persecuted, but not abandoned.
  • Struck down, but not destroyed.

So when we follow Jesus we can expect to be harassed, mystified, attacked, and hurt. Yet in this, God promises we will not be defeated, anguished, forgotten, or ruined.

We must count the cost before we follow Jesus, because committing ourselves to him may bring about hardship, but take courage knowing that God will prevail and help us through these trying situations.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 4-6, and today’s post is on 2 Corinthians 4:2, 8-9.]

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

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

Do You Seek God First for Healing When You Are Sick?

Azariah the Son of Oded

Azariah, son of Oded, comes to Asa, King of Judah. The prophet tells the king, “If you see God, you’ll find him. If you walk away from him, he’ll walk away from you” (2 Chronicles 15:2). That is, to seek God first.

King Asa takes the prophet’s warning seriously and acts. He decides to seek God. He implements spiritual reforms and restores worship. The nation is at peace—at least for several years.

Then Asa makes a treaty with another king and goes to war against Israel. Another prophet, Hanani, goes to Asa criticizing him for relying on another nation, king, and army instead of God. This time, instead of responding positively, Asa takes offense and throws the sage in prison.

Things go downhill from there.

Seek God Today

A few years later Asa has a disease develop in his foot. Although painful, he does not seek God for healing. Instead he relies on doctors to cure him. They don’t. Two years later Asa dies.

In all instances, we are wise to seek God first. Click To Tweet

Many Christians in developed countries today act just like King Asa. When a medical problem arises, they rush off to the nearest doctor seeking the wisdom of people to restore them to full health.

And if the first physician doesn’t produce results, they’ll pursue a second opinion from another medical professional.

They don’t seek God for supernatural healing.

I’m not sure if this is because they’re not conditioned to turn to God for their physical ailments or if they don’t believe he can heal them. At best, they may whisper a short prayer asking that God will enable the physicians to heal them.

Jesus Came to Save and to Heal

Oh, how this must grieve God with our lack of faith and unwillingness to trust him with our health and our future. Remember, Jesus came to save and to heal. If we trust him for our salvation, why won’t we trust him for our healing?

Though this isn’t a call to dismiss medical treatment, it is a plea to seek God first and then consider modern healthcare as an adjunct or secondary source. Sometimes God will heal us directly and other times he will work through physicians.

But in all instances, we are wise to seek God first.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Chronicles 16-18, and today’s post is on 2 Chronicles 16:12.]

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

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Christian Living

Don’t Let Our Labels Divide Us

May We Be One in Jesus and Ignore What Could Separate Us

We live in a divisive time, with one group opposing another, often in the most zealous of ways, sometimes even with violent outcomes. As a society, we’re quick to put people in a box and label them according to some aspect of their life.

Though these labels are sometimes convenient, and at times even appropriate, more often they divide us and cause unnecessary conflict and needless opposition.

These divisions, however, don’t just appear in secular spaces. They also appear in the religious realm. We put labels on people of faith and use these identifiers to decide who we align with and who we oppose. And to our discredit, we do this in the name of God.

Here are some ways that we let labels divide us as people of faith and followers of Jesus:

Divided by Denomination

First, we divide ourselves by denomination, in both a generic and a specific sense. First, we segregate Christianity into three primary streams: Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant.

Each group knows little about the other, often denigrating them over wrong assumptions and misunderstandings. Yet we all have Jesus in common. This should be enough to unite us and be one in him.

Within Protestantism, we see many more divisions with 42,000 Protestant denominations who distrust each other, criticize one another, and resort to name-calling for no good reason other than to make us feel smugly superior.

This is to our discredit. These manmade divisions take us far from the unity that Jesus prayed for and marginalize our witness for Jesus.

Divided by Theology

Next, we use the labels of our theology to separate us. We elevate our point of view—which we think is correct—and diminish our fellow brothers and sisters—who we perceive as being in error.

With academic vigor, we pursue a right theology. In the process, we overlook the importance of having a right relationship with God. Our connection with the Almighty, through Jesus, is what matters most.

Our theological labels don’t matter. In most cases, our theology wrongly judges one another and causes needless division. It generates suspicion and breeds mistrust. Instead of formulating tenuous theological constructs, we should focus on placing our trust in Jesus.

Divided by Politics

We also let our political views, which carry their own set of labels, influence our theology.

In the United States—and perhaps in the rest of the world too—we see well-meaning followers of Jesus who align with one political party, vilifying their brothers and sisters in Christ who belong to the opposite party.

I’ve heard each side lambaste the other, saying how can someone be a (enter party affiliation) and be a Christian?

Divided by Church Practice

Making an even a finer distinction on our theology, we place labels on our church practices, too, often with fervent passion. Some churches are known as being high churches, which implies the rest are low churches.

There are liturgical churches and non-liturgical churches. Some church gatherings place their focus on the practice of Holy Communion and others emphasizethe sermon.

Then there are musical styles, ranging from traditional to contemporary. We also debate pews versus chairs, women in ministry, and the “proper” way too be saved through Jesus.

Divided by Membership

Beyond that, we divide ourselves by membership status. For some churches—perhaps most—this is an essential consideration. Members are in, and nonmembers are out, be it effectively or legalistically.

But membership in a denomination or local church isn’t biblical. It opposes the Scriptural teaching that as followers of Jesus we are members united in one body, which is the universal church.

The Solution to Labels

It’s time we end our categorization of each other and stop our needless squabbles over secondary issues and disputes that don’t matter to God. Instead it’s time we embrace one another and love one another, just as Jesus told us to do.

We need to live in unity.

It's time we embrace one another and love one another, just as Jesus told us to do. Click To Tweet

Then we can come closer to being united as one, just as Jesus and the Father are one.

It’s time we embrace one another and love one another, just as Jesus told us to 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.