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Christian Living

To Be Served or to Serve Others

Consider Your Attitude toward Church and Your Motivation for Going

When I listen to people talk about church, I often hear what draws them in and what drives them away. They enthuse about programs for them and the youth group for their kids. They gush about the skill of the minister delivering inspiring sermons, the excellence of the worship team, and the size of the church. They never mention opportunities to serve others.

And when they leave a church or complain about the one they’re attending, two common phrases are “it’s not meeting my needs” and “I’m not being fed.” Never mind that it’s their job to feed themselves, and they shouldn’t expect church to do it for them. They attend church with a consumer mindset, but this is not what church is about.

To Be Served

In short, these folks desire for their church to serve them. That’s why they selected it, why they became members, and why they attend. And when the church falters in meeting their expectations, it’s also why they leave, often in a huff and complaining to anyone who will listen.

They expect something in return for their presence and for the money they give. They have a transactional perspective: “I show up and give you money so that you will give me something of greater value in return.” Seldom do they seek opportunities to serve others.

To Serve Others

Only once have I heard someone complain that their church provided no service opportunities for them. My friend quietly found a new church that provided options to serve others. The family quickly got involved and plugged in by serving others.

Jesus freely gave to serve others, and we should follow his example. Click To Tweet

Not only is this an admirable attitude, but it’s also something Jesus modeled. Jesus didn’t expect others to serve him (though some chose to do so); he looked for ways to serve them. He taught them, healed them, and pointed them to the kingdom of God, all without expecting anything in return (Mark 10:45).

In the end, he died for them—and for us—covering our many failures (sins) to make us right with Father God and reconcile us to him. He gave his life for us, so that we could live with him forever (Matthew 20:26-28).

Jesus freely gave to serve others, and we should follow his example.

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

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

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Christian Living

The Two Most Influential Books I’ve Ever Read

Study Scripture and Then Use Other Resources as Needed

My book Jesus’s Broken Church was about a decade in the making, perhaps longer—maybe even a lifetime. When I sensed something wasn’t right with how today’s church functioned, I begin praying and searching for answers. Over time, piece by piece, God’s Holy Spirit revealed the answers to me. And they all came from the Bible.

This took years, but eventually a full picture emerged. That’s when I began writing, first in various blog posts and eventually a book.

Two Most Influential Books

Along the way, two additional sources opened my eyes to prepare me to hear what God would tell me. These came in the form of two books. Aside from the Bible, they are the two most influential books I’ve read in my entire life.

They provided insight and a firm foundation for me to stand on as I considered building on these works to determine what would happen next, of what should happen next.

Pagan Christianity?

The first book was Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by Frank Viola and George Barna. (Check out my review of Pagan Christianity?)

Pagan Christianity? looks at the past. It delves into what was to uncover the influences of our church practices today. Much of what we do today at church is a result of our predecessors’ taking practices from secular society and adapting them to church. In short, many of our Christian traditions don’t have a spiritual origin but one that is more so pagan in nature.

The result of realizing these many shocking revelations was that I begin to ask why, a lot. I looked at every faith practice to examine its relevance and see how scripturally germane it was.

The result was a nagging feeling that our church practices today are far off base from what Jesus intended.

That’s why Pagan Christianity? is one of the two most influential books I’ve ever read.

The Great Emergence

The second of the two most influential books I’ve ever read is Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why. (Check out my review of The Great Emergence.)

Whereas Pagan Christianity? looks at the past, The Great Emergence explores the future. Building on a history of semi-millennia religious shifts, Tickle posits that we are on the precipice of another grand transformation.

She envisions what this reformation will look like and its impact on today’s church. Spoiler alert: today’s church will be much less relevant in the future, with other forms of spiritual community and connection supplanting it.

That’s why The Great Emergence is the second of the two most influential books I’ve ever read.

Today’s church — for all the good it does — isn’t functioning as it should, as Jesus intended. Click To Tweet

Jesus’s Broken Church

Standing on the firm foundation of the two most influential books I’ve ever read emerged a biblical prescription and how to move forward. I dared to suggest that today’s church—for all the good it does—isn’t functioning as it should, as Jesus intended it to.

Building on Scripture, Jesus’s Broken Church advances a new vision of what church could be and should be. But claiming that it’s new is incorrect. In truth, this isn’t a new understanding, but the reclaiming of an old one, one that’s nearly two thousand years old.

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

Missional Through Community

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

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

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

Missional Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missional Church

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

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

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

Missional through Community

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

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

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

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

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

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Peter DeHaan News

Jesus’s Broken Church

Reimagining Our Sunday Traditions from a New Testament Perspective

Do you have a nagging feeling that something’s missing from your church experience?

You’re not alone. And it’s time to discover a better way.

Church-reform advocate and Bible scholar Peter DeHaan, PhD is a strong proponent of meaningful Christian community. In Jesus’s Broken Church, he uses Scripture to guide us into right practices and away from the off-track customs that most every church adheres to.

The problem is that today’s church follows an Old Testament model. We go to a building where we have professional clergy serve as our liaison between us and God. Then we pay for the whole thing with our tithes and offerings—just like Moses instructed.

But Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament. Through him we are the church, we are living stones. We don’t need to go to a building. As the church, we take it with us wherever we go. And we don’t need paid clergy either. Each of us serves as priests to one another. Or at least we should.

In Jesus’s Broken Church, you’ll discover:

  • How Jesus moves us from an Old Testament understanding to New Testament enlightenment
  • The early church’s approach to their meetings, which we neglect to follow today
  • Essential New Testament practices that are more important than song and sermon
  • Biblical ideas to inform the activities of our spiritual communities
  • Seven religious concepts that require reformation

If you happen to like how your church functions, then don’t buy this book. It will only make you mad. But if you sometimes leave your Sunday service feeling let down, that something is lacking and there must be more, then this book can guide you into a new direction.

Get your copy of Jesus’s Broken Church today to discover what’s missing and how to fix it.

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

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Christian Living

Discover Life-Changing Truth from the Book Jesus’s Broken Church

Today’s Church Isn’t Working. It’s Just That Most People Don’t Know It.

Do you have a nagging feeling that something’s missing from your church experience? You’re not alone. It’s time to discover a better way.

It’s typical that people who read the Bible do so through the lens of their experiences. Christians use the perspective of their practices and look to find support in the Bible. Everyone does this. You do it, and I do it. It’s human nature.

Despite my tenancy to want to justify my religious preferences through the Bible, I strive to take the opposite approach. I look at what the Bible says and use it to inform what I do and reform what I’ve done.

I’ve applied this tactic in my new book, Jesus’s Broken Church. And I find little alignment between what we do in our churches today with what Jesus and the New Testament writers set in motion 2,000 years ago. It’s been a jarring yet invigorating discovery.

Now, at last, I get to share my findings with you. It will change how you view church and what your role should be. It will revitalize your spiritual practices from a solid biblical perspective.

Over the past several months I’ve blogged preliminary sections of my book, Jesus’s Broken Church. The response has been most encouraging.

Here’s what I’ve posted:

To read the final versions of this information, along with more content and additional insights, read the book Jesus’s Broken Church.

Seek God in a holistic, God-honoring, kingdom-of-God way. Click To Tweet

It seems my entire life has prepared me to write this book. This wasn’t a couple months of research. Instead, it was a lifetime of experiences, decades of questions, and years of writing. Through it all, I have strived to seek God in a holistic, God-honoring, kingdom-of-God way.

Now, I’m excited to share with you the insights of my lifelong journey with God through its many twists and unexpected revelations as it relates to the church of Jesus. Discover more in my book Jesus’s Broken Church.

Seek God in a holistic, God-honoring, kingdom-of-God way.

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

Make Disciples Not Converts

We Should Do What Jesus Commands and Push Secondary Pursuits Aside

Jesus wants us to be his disciples. Each of the biographies of Jesus mention this. To be his disciple means to set all else aside and follow him (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, and Luke 14:26–33).

As his disciples he expects us to produce fruit, that is to help other people become disciples too (John 15:8). It’s clear. We need to make disciples.

Matthew’s biography of Jesus records his final instructions to his followers before he returns to heaven. Jesus tells his followers to go everywhere and make disciples (Matthew 28:18–20, which some call the Great Commission).

He doesn’t say he wants them to go and make converts. He wants disciples. Though believing in God is the first step, it’s not enough. Jesus wants more. He wants followers who go all in for him.

Much of today’s church has missed this call for discipleship. Instead they focus on conversions, such as praying a prayer, being baptized, or making a public declaration of belief in Jesus. But this is just the first step on a lifelong journey of faith, a journey into discipleship.

Jesus commands us to make disciples, yet few churches do this on a corporate level. And few people do this on a personal level.

When a person says “yes” to Jesus, that’s wonderful news and the angels celebrate (Luke 15:10). Yet too many churches then abandon those new believers and leave them to flounder (Luke 8:11–15).

Instead they should invest in that person and help them become a disciple of Jesus, just as he commanded. Then that person can go out and make another disciple.

If we all made disciples—just as Jesus instructed—there would be many more people following him and the world would be a much better place.

Jesus told us to go out and make disciples. We need to take this command seriously and obey it. Click To Tweet

Jesus told us to go out and make disciples. We need to take this command seriously and obey it. We can start today.

Read the first post in this series about things we must change in our discussion about our church buildings and facilities.

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

Love God and Love Others: A Call to Christian Unity

Shun Division, Disunity, and Denominations in the Name of Jesus

Just as church member status divides the church body into two groups, so does our doctrine. Instead of obeying Jesus’s instruction to love God and love others, we make a lengthy list of what we should do and shouldn’t do, judging others according to our opinions of what’s proper and what’s not.

This legalistic approach follows what the Old Testament set in motion with its 613 instructions in the Law of Moses, of things to do and not do.

Compounding the problem, God’s children in the Old Testament added tens of thousands of manmade rules, which evolved over the centuries, to help interpret the original 613 expectations he gave to Moses.

Jesus Says to Love God and Love Others

Jesus says that his yoke is easy in his burden is light. This means his doctrine is simple to follow and effortless to bear (Matthew 11:30). To confirm this, Jesus simplifies all these Old Testament commands and man-made traditions when he says we are to love God and love others (Luke 10:27).

Yes, Jesus’s essential expectation is love.

To accomplish these two instructions to love God and love others, we can best do so through Jesus. We should follow him (Matthew 4:19 and Luke 14:27), believe in him (John 6:35), and be his disciple (John 8:31 and John 15:8).

These are all ways of saying we need to go all in for Jesus. That’s it.

That’s our essential doctrine. Everything else is secondary. Beyond Jesus and love, we shouldn’t argue about the rest. We are to be one church, just as Jesus prayed we would (John 17:20–21).

Denominational Division

Yet in the last 500 years we’ve argued about doctrine, we’ve judged others by our religious perspectives, and we’ve killed people for their beliefs. We deemed that our view was right and everyone else was wrong. We used this to divide ourselves.

We formed groups of like-minded thinkers, which became denominations.

Today we have 42,000 Protestant denominations, dividing Jesus’s church so much that we’ve lost our witness to the world. Jesus wanted his followers to live in unity. Yet we persist in division. Our denominations that we made are the antithesis of God’s unity that Jesus wants (Ephesians 4:3–6).

Yes, division occurred in the prior 1,500 years—the first millennia and a half of Jesus’s church—but that was nothing like what’s happened in the last five centuries during the modern era.

We are to unite ourselves under Jesus, to be like-minded, of one Spirit and one mind. Click To Tweet

Paul says that we are to unite ourselves under Jesus, to be like-minded, of one Spirit and one mind. In our relationships we should have Jesus’s mindset (Philippians 2:1–5).

To Titus, Paul writes to warn a divisive person one time, and give a second notice if they disregard the first. Then the only recourse is to ignore them (Titus 3:10–11).

Jude also warns against division. Instead of taking sides, he tells us to rise above it by focusing on growing our faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, and abiding in God’s love (Jude 1:18–23).

As followers of Jesus, we must pursue unity in him and oppose every instance of division—regardless of the source.

Read the next post in this series about things we must change in our discussion about making disciples.

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

We Must Rethink Sunday School

We Must Rethink Sunday School

Reform Sunday School as an Education Service to Your Community

It may be strange to see Sunday school on this list of things we must change for our churches, but we should carefully reexamine it. Do you know the original mission of this Sunday program?

It was to teach poor children how to read. And the church used the most accessible book to them, the Bible. It was a pleasant side effect that in teaching children to read, this Sunday educational program also taught them about God through the Bible.

By the time public schools came into existence and took over this job of teaching children how to read, Sunday school had become entrenched in churches. Instead of realizing they had accomplished their objective and shutting it down, they shifted its focus to teach the church’s children about God.

It didn’t matter that this was the parent’s responsibility (Deuteronomy 6:6–7, Proverbs 22:6, and Ephesians 6:4). Though parents can supplement their efforts with other resources, let’s not depend on Sunday school to be one of them.

English as a Second Language

We could use this as justification for shutting down our Sunday schools, but a better approach might be to reform this practice from the internal program that it has become back into a service effort to help those in our community, just as was the original intent.

One example that would apply in many areas in the United States is to look at teaching English as a second language (ESL). Though many ESL programs already exist, they don’t reach everyone. Beyond ESL classes, meeting any unmet community educational need would fit nicely.

Regardless, the church should reform their Sunday school practice to address needs in their community.

Parents should resume their biblical role to tell their children about Jesus. They are the primary spiritual educators of their children. This removes the need for Sunday school, which we can re-envision as a program to help those in our community.

Read the next post in this series about things we must change in our discussion about Christian unity and loving others.

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

How Important Is Seminary for Today’s Church Leaders?

Knowing Jesus and Hearing the Holy Spirit Is Better Than Formal Education

Most all churches expect their clergy to have undergone formal, academic education. Many insist on a seminary degree, especially for their ordained ministers. From a worldly standpoint this makes sense. But from God’s perspective I can imagine him laughing.

Look at the credentials of Jesus’s twelve disciples. They were ordinary people, having received no higher education beyond that which all Hebrew children underwent. They had a relationship with Jesus. Their one essential qualification is that they spent time with Jesus.

Don’t miss that. Their one essential qualification is that they spent time with Jesus.

Though today’s leaders can’t spend physical time with Jesus, they can in the spiritual sense. They should. They must. Walking with Jesus in an intimate way and having his Holy Spirit lead them—just like in the Bible—is what we most need from our church leaders today.

If they don’t have a close relationship with Jesus, nothing else matters. Their credentials accomplish nothing.

A Personal Relationship with Jesus

Instead of emphasizing a personal relationship with Jesus, today’s seminaries focus on an academic deep dive into the Bible. This in-depth training ensures that graduates overflow with a substantial theological foundation, of which most church members care little about.

One common argument made in favor of seminary is that it’s a necessary protection against heresy. Yet, most all major heresies in the past two thousand years have come from trained clergy.

In truth, seminary best prepares graduates to teach other seminary students. But it falls short in equipping its students to provide the type of ministry functions that people at churches want.

Even worse, I fear formal religious education downplays having a relationship with Jesus and following the Holy Spirit, making these traits secondary in importance.

We need to select our clergy based on their godly character and not their seminary diploma. Click To Tweet

We need to select our clergy based on their godly character and not their seminary diploma. We must reorder our priorities away from man-made credentials and toward godly character.

Read the next post in this series about things we must change in our discussion about Sunday school.

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

Seek First the Kingdom of God

Jesus Focused on the Kingdom of God, Not Church

Jesus talked about the kingdom of God, but we made a church instead. What if he never intended us to form a church? After all, Jesus did tell his followers to “seek first the kingdom of God,” (Matthew 6:33, ESV).

Let’s look at where else the Bible talks about the kingdom of God/kingdom of heaven and where it talks about church. (Mark and Luke write the kingdom of God, whereas Matthew prefers kingdom of heaven. The phrases are synonymous.)

Kingdom of God, kingdom of Heaven, and church are New Testament concepts. These terms don’t occur anywhere in the Old Testament. Jesus talks much about the kingdom of God/heaven and little about church: eighty-five times versus three (and then only in Matthew).

Clearly Jesus focuses his teaching on the kingdom of God. Since Jesus comes to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17), the kingdom of God must be how he intends to do so. If the call to seek first the kingdom of God is so important to Jesus, it should be important to us too.

Jesus’s Parables about His Kingdom

Today’s church should push aside her traditions and practices to replace them with what Jesus teaches about the kingdom of God. Jesus explains the Kingdom of God through parables:

We should use these parables to inform our view of God and grow our relationship with him and others.

The Kingdom Is Here

In addition, when Jesus talks about the kingdom of God, he mentions how close it is, saying that it’s near (Luke 10:9 and others). It’s within his disciple’s lifetimes (Mark 9:1), even present (Luke 17:21).

How do we understand this immediacy of the kingdom of God? Isn’t kingdom of God a euphemism for heaven? Doesn’t it mean eternal life? If so, how could it have been near 2,000 years ago but now something we anticipate in our future?

Though an aspect of the kingdom of God looks forward to our eternity with Jesus in heaven, there’s more to it. We must view the kingdom of God as both a present reality and a future promise.

The kingdom of God is about our hope for heaven when we die, but it’s also about our time on earth now. Click To Tweet

Yes, the kingdom of God is about our hope for heaven when we die, but it’s also about our time on earth now. The kingdom of God is about Jesus and his salvation, along with the life we lead in response to his gift to us. The kingdom of God is about eternal life and that eternal life begins today.

Heaven is just phase two. We’re living in phase one—at least we should be.

We’ll do well to embrace Jesus’s teaching about the Kingdom of God to how we should act today. We should seek first the kingdom of God.

Check out the next post in this series addressing seminary.

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.