Categories
Christian Living

Jeremiah Issues 3 Warnings to Misleading Ministers

Beware of Slacking Shepherds, Godless Pastors, and Misleading Ministers

The prophet Jeremiah doesn’t just warn the people about judgment for their sins, he also warns their religious leaders too. The twenty-third chapter of the book of Jeremiah details three leadership failures. Most troublesome is the third item about misleading ministers.

Everyone in leadership should heed Jeremiah’s cautionary words and seek God’s help to avoid repeating these errors.

1. Slacking Shepherds

Jeremiah proclaims woe to the shepherds (a metaphor for religious leaders) because they fail to take care of the sheep (a metaphor for God’s people). The prophet gives three examples to demonstrate the shepherds’ failure.

First, they have scattered the sheep. Second, they have driven the lambs away. Third, they have neglected to care for their flock.

God pledges to punish these failed shepherds. Then he will replace them with good ones (Jeremiah 23:11-12).

2. Godless Pastors

Next, Jeremiah condemns godless prophets and priests. Imagine that. These men should represent God to his people, but they don’t. Even in the temple (the church building), God finds them full of wickedness.

He promises to banish them to the darkness, where they will fall. He proclaims disaster for them (Jeremiah 23:11-12).

3. Misleading Ministers

Jeremiah continues rebuking prophets who proclaim lies. They fill the people with false hope. These religious leaders don’t have the mind of God. They don’t hear what the Lord says. Instead, they make up things to tell the people (Jeremiah 23:16-17).

In short, they fail to speak God’s truth.

God’s punishment for these misleading ministers is that he will forget them and cast them from his presence (Jeremiah 23:39).

We need leaders who will speak God’s truth regardless of what the world thinks or how their congregation responds. Click To Tweet

Today’s Preachers

This issue of misleading ministers happens today at too many churches, albeit with a modern twist. Preachers speak what the people want to hear and not what the Bible says. They avoid proclaiming the parts of God’s Word that may upset their congregation.

They water down the good news of Jesus by removing what may offend. Instead of speaking biblical truth, they substitute it with nice sounding messages of their own making that delights listeners, avoids confrontation, and minimizes conflict.

God wasn’t pleased in Jeremiah’s day by the leaders who did this. And he is not pleased today.

Our preachers today must listen to God and teach what he and his Word says. We don’t need any more slacking shepherds, godless pastors, or misleading ministers.

We need leaders who will speak God’s truth regardless of what the world thinks or how their congregation reacts.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 23-25 and today’s post is on Jeremiah 23:16-17.]

We need leaders who will speak God’s truth regardless of what the world thinks or how their congregation responds.

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.

Categories
Christian Living

Who Teaches You?

Do Sermons Belong in Church?

We go to church to learn about God, right? So sermons belong in church, right?

Who told you that? It was likely the minister at your local church. That’s who I’ve heard it from, and church is always the place where I heard it.

Isn’t that self-serving?

Think about it. A church hires a preacher. The church pays the preacher. The preacher tells us we need to be in church every Sunday to learn about God and that he is the one to teach us. One of the things he teaches us is to give money to the local church, often 10 percent of our income.

Why does the local church need money so badly? In large part, it’s to pay the preacher. The greatest expense at almost all churches is payroll, usually over half of their total budget, sometimes much more.

We don’t need preachers to teach us; that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Click To Tweet

So we hire someone who tells us we need him and then asks for money so he can stick around. If we didn’t revere our preachers so much and cling to our sacrosanct practices, I’d call this a racket.

As I read about the church in the New Testament, there is plenty of preaching. But I wonder if sermons belong in church. In the Bible, the preaching is always directed at those who are not following Jesus, the folks outside the church.

Yes, there is teaching inside the church, but I’ve not yet found any passage that says it happens every Sunday or is given by paid staff. In the examples I see, missionaries do the teaching when they come to visit or the congregation instructs one another as they share with each other.

John writes to the church and tells them plainly: “You do not need anyone to teach you.” Then he clarifies: “His anointing teaches you about all things.”

So it is God’s anointing, the Holy Spirit, who reveals truth to us. Therefore, we don’t need anyone to teach us, especially a paid preacher. John says so.

I suppose, then, if we go to church to learn, what the preacher should be telling us is how to listen to the Holy Spirit. Once we’ve learned that, the preacher’s job is done; we don’t need him to teach us anymore.

God’s anointed one will teach us and reveal truth to us. Then we can spend Sunday mornings sharing with each other what we’ve learned through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

But that will never happen. Preachers need to be needed, and they need us to pay them. They would never say anything to work themselves out of a job.

They want their paychecks too badly to tell us plainly what John said and what his words truly mean for the church of Jesus: We don’t need preachers to teach us; that’s the Holy Spirit’s job.

[1 John 2:27]

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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Bible Insights

Don’t Be a Baby Christian

Learn How to Eat Spiritual Food and Feed Yourself

The author of Hebrews (who I suspect was Paul) warns the young church, the followers of Jesus, that they need to grow up. Though many of them should be mature enough to teach others, they still haven’t grasped the basics themselves.

They persist in drinking spiritual milk when they should have graduated to solid food.

A Baby Christian

When most people hear about this passage, they assume the baby Christians, those subsisting on milk, are other people. They reason that this verse couldn’t be a reflection on their own spiritual status—or lack thereof.

The truth is that I fear the church of Jesus is comprised of too many spiritual infants.

If you don’t believe me, let’s unpack this analogy. In the physical sense, babies drink milk and are wholly dependent on others to feed them. As babies grow they graduate to solid food and begin to feed themselves, first with help and then alone.

This is how things function with our physical bodies and how things should function with our spiritual selves.

Mature Christians can feed themselves and don’t need a sermon every Sunday. Click To Tweet

The Sunday Sermon

So when people go to church on Sunday to hear a sermon, they expect their pastor to feed them. They subsist on spiritual milk. They are a baby Christian. Instead they should feed themselves and don’t need to hear a sermon every week in order to obtain their spiritual sustenance.

When pastors feed their congregation each Sunday, they keep their people in an immature state (albeit with more head knowledge) and help justify their continued employment. Instead pastors should teach their church attendees how to feed themselves, to not need a pastor to teach them.

If ministers do this, they could work themselves out of a job. But that’s okay, because there are plenty of other churches in need of this same teaching.

Some might infer this means that the mature Christians, those who can feed themselves, don’t need to go to church. This is only half correct.

Mature Christians can feed themselves and don’t need a sermon every Sunday, but they do need to meet together and be in community with other believers.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Hebrews 5-7, and today’s post is on Hebrews 5:12-14.]

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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Categories
Visiting Churches

High Expectations and Great Disappointment

I’ve heard a great deal about the minister and this church. I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. I have high expectations.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #42

1. Inside we weave through a throng of people, but no one acknowledges us. We’re invisible. Do they even care about newcomers, or are they too big to notice? 

How much do your actions show you care about visitors?

2. The service is a copy of a church we attended thirty-five years ago. Then it was exciting. Now it’s tired. I’m painfully disappointed. 

What do you need to change in your service to stay fresh and relevant?

3. We learn that doctrine is important to them. Though the teaching seems grounded in scripture, the minister makes divisive claims not found in the text, which he delivers with dogmatic passion. 

Does your doctrine divide the church of Jesus or unify it? What needs to change?

4. In his sermon, the minister criticizes “heretical charismatic ministers.” Though he might be referring to specific charismatic teachers, I infer he thinks all charismatic leaders are heretics. It’s human nature to vilify what we don’t understand. 

How can you better embrace people who hold different views than you?

My high expectations for this church led to great disappointment. But even if I had lowered my expectations, my disappointment would still have been high.

[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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Visiting Churches

The Minister’s Last Day, but They’ll Be Fine

Discussing Church 23

Last Sunday was their minister’s last day. Other area clergy have high respect for him. I wish I could have met him.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #23

1. Today ends their summer schedule with one contemporary service. Next week they’ll switch to their winter format with two services: one traditional and the other contemporary. Had we known, we might have come next Sunday for a doubleheader. 

If your church has seasonal schedules, why? How does this impact people who want to attend your service?

2. Like Church #8, the church’s youth programs are part of Young Life, a nondenominational youth ministry, which taps college students as leaders. 

What programs do you have that might be more effective if you worked with existing, external ministries?

3. Throughout the service, a person mills about, occasionally sitting and sometimes murmuring. She appears homeless and acts mentally ill. Though I’m distracted, I’m pleased no one confronts her behavior or shoos her from God’s house. 

How does your church treat those who don’t fit in or act strangely? 

4. Afterward, two members confirm that their pastor prepared them to function without him. Though it’s their minister’s last day, they expect to do just fine after he leaves. 

How well would your church function without a minister? How long could you keep it up?

[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.

Categories
Visiting Churches

A Caring Community

Discussing Church 22

This church meets in a newer, contemporary building. It’s most inviting.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #22:

1. Many people introduce themselves. Their genuine interest, without being pushy, refreshes me. They ask our names, which they repeat with care. When they share theirs, they pause, giving us time to hear and remember. 

How important are people’s names to you and your church?

2. The minister is losing his voice. After introducing the topic, he lets the congregation finish the message. He invites them to share their stories of what others have done for them, how they showed love, and provided care. The congregation does this well. 

How well does your church do at sharing during a service? How can you do it better?

3. This congregation is a genuine community. They prove it in the quiet ways they help each other. “Caring for community is a witness,” says the pastor. 

What is your church’s witness? What is its reputation?

4. After the service, the pastor excuses himself. He fades away, perhaps because he doesn’t feel well, but more likely because he doesn’t need to be there. The congregation envelops us into their community. 

How well can your church function without your minister being present?

[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.

Categories
Christian Living

A Kingdom of Priests

God Is Still Waiting for Us to Obey Him and Minister to Others

It’s interesting to connect the Old Testament with the New Testament, to see what changes and what remains the same. Let’s look at what God says about his people being a kingdom of priests.

A Kingdom of Priests in The Old Testament

In the Old Testament we see Moses on Mount Sinai, hanging out with God. They’re having a spiritual confab of the highest order. God has some words—many words, in fact—for Moses to give to the people. In one instance God says they will serve as his kingdom of priests, a holy nation (Exodus 19:6).

Really? I never caught that before. And I’ve never seen any evidence of them as a nation serving as priests. What happened?

It could be the people were afraid. Just one chapter later in the book of Exodus, the people see a display of God’s power. They pull back in terror. They keep their distance. They’re terrified of God and don’t want to hear what he has to say.

Instead they ask Moses to function as their intermediary between them and God. He essentially serves as their first priest (Exodus 20:18-21).

After this, God seems to switch to plan B. Instead of his people being a kingdom of priests, he sets aside some of them—descendants of Aaron—to service priests, functioning as the intermediary between God and his people.

This is something far different than what he originally wanted with everyone being a priest.

We’ve delegated the holy responsibility of serving as priests to a select few who have gone to seminary and received their ordination. Click To Tweet

A Holy Priesthood in The New Testament

Though we do see priests throughout the Old Testament, we never see the nation of Israel or Judah emerge as a country filled with priests. Will this change in the New Testament?

According to Peter, in his first letter, it will—or at least it should. As followers of Jesus and through Jesus, we’re his chosen people, priests of a royal order, and a holy nation. We are God’s special envoys to tell others about him (1 Peter 2:9).

Individually we are parts of a building—living stones—used to construct a spiritual home, which we can collectively think of as his church, the church. As such we are a holy priesthood. We offer spiritual sacrifices to God through our right standing with Jesus (1 Peter 2:5; also see Ephesians 2:22).

A Kingdom of Priests Now

This is a grand vision: as followers of Jesus we are his priests, a holy priesthood, a nation of priests. Are we doing this? No.

We hire clergy to work as our modern-day priests, serving as our intermediary between God and us. We’re not functioning as we should, as priests. We delegated this holy responsibility to a select few who have gone to seminary and received their ordination.

Even today, God expects us to obey his call to serve as his holy nation of priests. What are we waiting for?

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.

Categories
Visiting Churches

Something’s Missing at This Church

Discussing Church 16

This nondenominational church meets in a public school auditorium.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #16

1. Renting space saves the church from purchasing and maintaining a facility. 

Whether you own your building or rent space, how can you maximize your outreach and better impact your community?

2. They use more technology than we’ve seen so far. When not displaying song lyrics, Bible verses, or clips, they project the pastor’s video on a large screen behind him. 

How much technology does your church use during your services? Does it add to or detract from the experience?

3. Aside from a greeter and the two pastors saying “Hi,” no one talks to us. We learn that people wearing green nametags are available to answer questions. After the service I spot a man with a green nametag, but he rushes by. 

Are you and other people at your church so preoccupied or busy that you overlook and ignore people?

4. The leadership at this nondenominational church does the right things to foster spiritual connection, but the people aren’t following. They’re passive, coming to church, doing church, and then leaving. 

Is it the paid staff’s job to welcome visitors, or yours? What needs to change?

[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.

Categories
Visiting Churches

A Grand Experiment

Discussing Church 8

This week we visit our third new church. It’s a grand experiment, one quite radical from their conservative denominational roots.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #8:

1. A greeter welcomes us and explains what to expect during our visit.

How can you help visitors at your church know what will happen?

2. We learn they hold Vacation Bible School in partnership with other area churches. I appreciate them working together. The high school also held their baccalaureate service here.

How can your church become more community-centered and less inward focused?

3. At the concluding song, a man confuses everyone by coming forward to become a member, even though no one gave an invitation. As the band plays, some members take initiative to join him and start him on his journey.

Do you feel free to take initiative in dealing with unexpected situations? If not, what needs to change?

4. For the first time, we don’t have a chance to talk with the minister. I’m disappointed but not critical. It should be members who connect with visitors, not paid staff.

Whose job is it to interact with visitors at your church? How can you involve more people?

[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.

Categories
Visiting Churches

A New Church

Discussing Church 7

I suspect this church is only a couple years old. I later learn they’re an outgrowth of a small group.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #7:

1. Their meeting space looks abandoned. We approach with uncertainty. I hesitate to walk inside. It wouldn’t take much to make the entrance more inviting.

What simple things can you do to make your facility say “welcome” instead of “go away”?

2. Inside, people mingle. Several introduce themselves in a friendly, unassuming way. They’re great at pre-meeting interaction with people they don’t know.

How can you best connect with visitors before church? How can you encourage others to follow your example?

3. Their leader is a tentmaker pastor. Like Paul in the Bible, he works for a living to share Jesus for free. Without him drawing a salary, there is more money for outreach and ministry.

How might your congregation move away from depending on paid staff and tap the skills of capable volunteers?

4. As is often the case, it’s new churches—not established ones—where people are most apt to discover God and grow into a vibrant faith.

What can you do to promote a new-church excitement where you worship?

[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.