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Bible Insights

Great Is Our God

We Must Remove Anything That Threatens to Push God Aside

Asaph writes that God’s ways are holy, and that no other god is as great as he. Great is our God. In the context of that day, other gods refers to idols or made-up deities aside from the God revealed in Scripture.

Today bowing down to idols and making up gods to worship doesn’t often happen in a literal sense. But in a figurative manner we do this all the time.

Here are some modern-day gods that many people effectively worship and serve as their lord:

Money

In many cultures, people pursue money as if it’s the only thing that matters. They don’t just want money to live, but they live for money and love money. They treat their investment portfolio and their bank balance as a scorecard for success.

Their priorities are wrong. What the world values is seldom what God values. Instead of trusting in money, they should trust in God.

We cannot serve both God and money (Luke 16:13).

Possessions

In developed countries, people are materialistic. Having more than enough money to supply their daily needs, many use their excess wealth to accumulate possessions. They buy stuff with the expectation that it will make them happier and more fulfilled. It never does.

My dad often said, “You don’t own things. They own you.” He was so wise. Remember, God blesses us so that we can bless others.

Instead of seeking solace through possessions, we should first seek connection with the Almighty (Matthew 6:33).

Influence

Another thing some people elevate too highly in their lives is the ability to influence others. Influence isn’t necessarily bad. We can influence others to follow Jesus (see Matthew 5:16). And we should.

Yet for some, the unbridled quest of influence has surpassed their quest for God.

Respect

Others pursue the god of respect. I see this happen too often among church leaders who insist their followers addressed them using their credentials, such as Reverend, Doctor, or Father. This was prevalent in Jesus’s day, too, and he warned against it (Matthew 23:9 and Mark 12:38-39).

Though descriptive titles can aid in understanding, they can also become a sense of pride. Examples I often hear include senior pastor, lead pastor, and teaching pastor.

Approval

Another consideration is seeking the approval of others. We may have a psychological need to earn someone’s approval. But this isn’t God’s intention. Paul warns against this and writes that we should only seek God’s approval (Galatians 1:10).

Great is our God. Everything else is secondary. Click To Tweet

Great is our God

None of these pursuits—money, possessions, influence, respect, or approval—are necessarily bad. But when we chase after them like gods, we run the risk of them becoming more important to us then God.

Great is our God. Everything else is secondary, if even that.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalm 76-80 and today’s post is on Psalm 77:13.]

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Christian Living

Three Church Priorities: Butts, Bucks, and Buildings

The Things Religious Leaders Focus on May Not Matter to God at All

Modern church priorities look at attendance, offerings, and facility size. Perhaps this is because the world measures success by the number of people, amount of money, and size of buildings. We’re more like the world than we care to admit.

More people showing up for church each week is good. A larger campus impresses. Bigger offerings allow for more of the same. After all, churches with a sizeable attendance garner attention. They receive media coverage. Books celebrate them and elevate their leaders to lofty pedestals.

This is how the Western world defines success. And the church buys into it without hesitation. These measures of success become the focus. But this focus is off, even looking in the wrong direction.

The triple aim of most churches—attendance, offerings, and facility size—doesn’t matter nearly as much as most people think.

Said more bluntly, most church leaders focus on the three B’s: butts, bucks, and buildings. These become their church priorities.

Butts

The greater the attendance, the more popular the church and, most assuredly, the more God has blessed it. Really?

Look at Jesus. After performing a miracle to feed over five thousand people, the multitude want to make him their king, by force if needed (John 6:10-15). Jesus could let them, but he doesn’t.

Instead of playing to the masses to further his ministry and advance an agenda, he launches into a hard teaching that offends them, and most turn away (John 6:60-66). It seems Jesus is more concerned with the quality of his followers then the quantity. Maybe we should follow his example.

Bucks

The church institution needs money to operate. Ministers need their paycheck. Mortgage payments have monthly due dates. If the offering sags, the church leadership panics. Boards instruct their teaching pastor to preach more about money. Yes, it happens. I’ve seen it.

Yet Jesus says not to worry about the future (Matthew 6:34). This includes money. Although Jesus had people who financially supported him, he never took an offering. He never gave a plea for money. He trusted his Father to provide. So should we.

The church of Jesus should be about changed lives, community, and commitment. Click To Tweet

Buildings

Churches need a lot of people to give a lot of money to pay for staff, which is well over half of most churches budgets. Next up is their buildings, which is their second greatest expense.

Together, salaries and facilities account for 80 to 90 percent of most church expenses, sometimes up to 100 percent. Imagine using all that money instead to help people and address both their spiritual and physical needs.

When Jesus said, “I will build my church (Matthew 16:18), he wasn’t talking about a building but a following.

Jesus never said, “Go build me a grand building for worship, a multimillion dollar monument.” But he did say, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15). That’s hard to do if we’re stuck inside a church building.

The Right Church Priorities

Instead of an unhealthy, unbiblical focus on the three B’s, what if we and our churches instead looked to the three C’s of changed lives, community, and commitment?

  • Jesus wants changed lives. He says, “Repent and follow me,” so that he can reorder our priorities. In fact, most all he says is about changing our perspectives of how we live.
  • Jesus wants to build a community. He calls it the kingdom of God, but we made it into a church. Shame on us.
  • Jesus expects our commitment. He desires people who are all in. He wants us to follow him, to serve him, and to be with him (John 12:26). That’s commitment, and that’s what Jesus wants.

If Jesus focuses on changed lives, community, and commitment, so should we. These should be our church priorities. Let’s push aside butts, bucks, and buildings, because these things just get in the way of what Jesus wants for his followers.

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

Why Business Practices Hurt the Church

Many Churches Try to Operate Like a Business Even Though That Model Doesn’t Apply

In our culture we’re familiar with the structure of businesses. We either work for a business or we run one. It’s a natural extension to apply these business practices to the church. But we shouldn’t, because a church isn’t a business. And the church needs to stop acting like one.

Consider these common elements of business practices:

CEO

A CEO runs a business. Ultimately the CEO controls everything and makes all decisions. While the wise CEO will delegate both responsibility and authority, in the end the CEO stands accountable for what happens.

Incidentally most CEOs receive huge compensation packages for their trouble.

In churches many people wrongly elevate the pastor to CEO status, and many pastors try to grab unto it. Jesus was a servant leader and so should today’s pastors. And by the way, they shouldn’t be a pastor for the money.

Jesus wasn’t a wealthy man, and he stands as a worthy example for ministry leaders.

Board of Directors

Businesses have a board of directors. In some cases these boards agree to whatever the CEO wants. In other cases the board rightly serves as a check and balance to the CEO.

Although some churches are truly democratic, where every decision results from a congregational vote, most churches have some sort of board. Some boards are elected, others are appointed, and a few are comprised of big money donors (money speaks).

In most cases the board serves as a rubber stamp for whatever the pastor wants. But the other extreme is micromanaging the pastor and dictating every action. The early church operated by consensus. Maybe today’s churches should, too.

Board Chair

Many times the chair of the board is the CEO. This means the board tasked with overseeing the CEO is also run by the CEO. The result is an ineffective board.

In many churches the pastor also runs the church board, rendering the board as largely ineffective. The pastor, who serves continually, gathers strength over time, while the board, which turns over every few years, becomes weak.

Profit Motive

Companies are in business to make money. Even nonprofits need to generate a positive cashflow if they hope to remain viable.

While the motive of a church should not be money, often cash becomes the soul focus of concern. The constant pressure of bringing in money causes churches to make decisions based on finances and to kowtow to the demands of big-money donors.

We understand how businesses run, but we are wrong to apply those lessons to churches. Click To Tweet

Return on Investment

Businesses make decisions based on ROI (return on investment). Remember, they’re in business to make money.

Churches shouldn’t be in the money-making business. They should focus on changed lives. The ROI for the church is souls, not dollars.

Stockholders

Businesses are owned by stockholders. The stockholders expect a profit from their investment.

While churches don’t have stockholders, most have members. And these members wrongly expect something in return for their participation. They forget the church’s real purpose is others not members. They forget to lay up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20).

We understand business practices, but we are wrong to apply these lessons to churches. A church that runs like a business becomes an institution and fails to embrace the Kingdom of God that Jesus talks so much about.

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

Blessed to be a Blessing

God Blesses Us So That We Can Be a Blessing to Others

God wants to bless us. He loves us and wants to give us his best. This idea of blessing occurs throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, God often ties his blessings to the people’s obedience and to the attitudes of their hearts. Yet, the first time we encounter this word in the Bible, it’s God’s unconditional promise to bless Abraham. He does this prior to Abraham doing anything to demonstrate his obedience to God’s commands or his faith.

God blessed Abraham for Abraham’s sake, but there’s more. Through Abraham, God promised to bless all the people on the earth through him (Genesis 12:2-3). In short, God blessed Abraham to be a blessing to others.

But this doesn’t just apply to Abraham. The word bless occurs hundreds of times in the Old and New Testaments. It’s a reoccurring theme. More specifically, the phrase bless you occurs fifty times. Furthermore, the idea of blessing other people shows up four dozen times, and blessing nations shows up another fifteen.

God expects us to be a blessing to others. We should view God’s provisions to us from this perspective. He blesses us—he prospers us—so that we can be a blessing to others. Here are some ways we can do this:

Donate Money

For many people, when they consider the idea of blessing others, they think of money. Providing financially for others is an ideal way to be a blessing to them. We can use the money God has blessed us with to give to organizations whose mission aligns with our passions. We can also give money directly to people in need.

In both cases, however, we must be good stewards of God’s financial blessings to us so that they will have the best kingdom impact.

Share Possessions

We can also be a blessing to others when we share our possessions. When we have things we don’t need, we shouldn’t throw them away. Instead, we should give them away.

We can give directly to individuals in need or to organizations, who will in turn give them away or sell them to raise money for their cause.

Yet let’s move our thinking beyond our castoffs. We can also give possessions that we still use, that still have value to us, to others. If someone has more need of it than we do, then maybe we need to give it to them.

In these ways, we can be a blessing to others.

Give Time

Aside from material items, consider our time. We can give our time to help others. This can occur by volunteering for various organizations focused on helping others. It can also occur directly by helping a neighbor who could use some assistance.

And lest anyone complains that “I don’t have enough time,” let me remind you that we all have 24 hours in each day. We choose how to use that time. Why not choose to give some of it away?

Mentor Others

A specific way to be a blessing to others with our time is to do one-on-one mentoring. In this way we invest ourselves in them, helping them to have a better life, be it physically, spiritually, emotionally, or all three.

Pray for Others

A final option—the most important one—is something that everyone can do. We can all pray for others. And we can start today, right now.

God has blessed each of us. Seek ways to use his blessings to us to be a blessing to others. Click To Tweet

Blessed to Be a Blessing

In both large and small ways, God has blessed each of us. Seek ways to use his blessings to us to be a blessing to others.

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

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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Christian Living

Pursue a God-Honoring Contentment

Discern When to Be Satisfied with What You Have and When to Yearn for More

Though some of our world live in an environment of true need, most people have their daily needs met. Yet they aren’t satisfied with having their basic requirements covered. They want more. And the more that most people have, the more they want.

These people live with a materialistic outlook. They’re never satisfied with what they have. They always crave for more. This is the reality today in developed countries around the world. Regardless of what these people have, they’re not satisfied. Whatever they have isn’t enough; they’re always yearning for more, grasping for what they don’t have.

Material Contentment

Instead of always seeking for more, we should strive to be content with what we have. God has blessed us with material provisions. We should thank him for his gifts and not seek more. We must learn to be content with what we have.

In fact, an unrestrained drive to accumulate more money and more possessions emerges as a disrespect for God. It’s a slap in his face, effectively saying that what he’s given isn’t enough.

We must stop this. We must learn to enjoy what we have and be thankful for it. All we need is to have the basics of life covered. Everything else is a bonus.

With God’s help, we can learn to be content with what we have: the size of our bank account, our home, our car, our clothes, our possessions, the money in our pocket, and on and on.

Most people today live beyond their means. They’re one paycheck away from disaster. And a few people live at their means. This is a better perspective. My goal, however, is to live beneath my means, which gives me more opportunity to bless others.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t set goals to make our life better. But it does mean we need to keep our ambitions in check. In the Bible, James gives us some commonsense advice to do this, crouching our plans with a caveat “If it’s the Lord’s will . . . ” (James 4:15).

Too many people are coasting their way toward heaven. Click To Tweet

Spiritual Contentment

There’s another element of commitment however, that we must address. It’s not our physical comforts, but our spiritual situation. We must never be content with that.

Yet most people are satisfied with their spiritual condition and their standing with God. Too many people are coasting their way toward heaven. And it’s sad for what they’re missing.

As for me, this is one area where I want more. When it comes to my relationship with God, what I have is not enough. I crave a deeper connection, greater supernatural insight, and a spiritual reality that I’ve so far just read about.

Conclusion

Each time I asked God for contentment with his tangible blessings—to protect me from a materialistic mindset—I’m quick to add a clarification. I also request from the Almighty that I’ll always desire more on a spiritual level. And that he will provide it.

May we be materially content and spiritually hungry.

Take a moment now, and thank God for what he’s given you.

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

Should You Pay Your Minister?

Pastor Compensation

For the most part, the church of today is an institution. Institutions require structure and leadership; self-perpetuation is essential—regardless of cost. For an institution to work, it needs paid staff.

That’s why local pastors receive a salary: to keep the institution of church functioning and viable. To pay your minister follows the Old Testament model of church.

But we don’t live in the Old Testament or under its covenant. We live in the New Testament and under its covenant—at least in theory.

In the New Testament, we (that is, those who follow Jesus) are his church. Each one of us is a priest (that is, a minister) to care for one another. We should not have to pay someone to do what we’re already supposed to be doing.

Further, our bodies are God’s temple. We don’t need to go to a building to go to church; we take church with us. In short, the institution of church is over—at least in theory. Without a physical building or an institution to maintain, there is no need to pay someone to run the whole mess.

However, there seems to be one exception to this idea of no compensation. In his letter to the people in Corinth, Paul builds a case to pay preachers. But he’s not talking about the folks who run local churches. He’s talking about those who go around telling others about Jesus.

Today, we might call these people evangelists or missionaries. Based on Paul’s teaching it’s right to pay them.

Yet once Paul builds his case to appropriately pay missionaries, he points to an even better way: for missionaries to earn their own money and not require outside support. Paul often covers his expenses and those who travel with him by working his trade; he is a tentmaker.

Springing from this is the idea of a tentmaker-minister, someone who pays their own way as they care for others.

So if you are part of an institution and want it to perpetuate, then buy a building, hire staff, and pay your minister their due.

However, if you want to pursue a different path, as seen in the New Testament, take the church with you wherever you go and help others wherever you can, paying your own way as you do.

[1 Corinthians 9:7-18]

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 Much Money Does the Church Need?

We Must Be Good Stewards of All That God Blesses Us With

The Old Testament church required a lot of financial support to keep it going. There was a tabernacle to build and transport. The temple later replaced the tabernacle, but it required regular maintenance. The priests and Levites received support too.

This huge need required the people to give their tithes and various offerings, some mandatory and others voluntary. In today’s church, facility costs and payroll expenses make up most of the church’s budget, sometimes all of it.

Yet if we were to do away with these two elements, there’s not so much need for money.

After building and staffing costs, what small amount remains in the budget falls into two categories. First is benevolence, that is, taking care of our own just like the early church did.

Second is outreach, sending missionaries out to tell others the good news about Jesus (Matthew 28:19–20, Mark 16:15–16, and Luke 14:23). Think of all the good a church could do with its money if it directed 100 percent of its funds on these two activities and not needing to pay for facility and staff.

New Testament Church Finances

In the New Testament church, people share what they have to help those within their spiritual community, that is, those within their church. They seldom take offerings and when they do it’s to help other Jesus followers who suffer in poverty.

The third thing they do with their money is to fund missionary efforts. Instead of building buildings and paying staff, they help people and tell others about Jesus. It’s that simple.

Rather than focusing on 10 percent as the Old Testament prescribes, we should reframe our thinking to embrace the reality that all we have, 100 percent, belongs to God.

We are to be his stewards to use the full amount wisely for his honor, his glory, and his kingdom—not our honor, glory, and kingdom.

Paul writes that the love of money is the source of all manner of evil. An unhealthy preoccupation with wealth is especially risky for followers of Jesus, as our pursuit of accumulating wealth can distract us from our faith and pile on all kinds of grief (1 Timothy 6:10).

Keep in mind that Paul is not condemning money. He warns against the love of money. For anyone who has accumulated financial resources, this serves as a solemn warning to make sure we have a God-honoring understanding of wealth and what its purpose is.

When it comes to the pursuit of possessions—our love of money—we risk having it pull us away from God.

Three Uses of Money

We need money to live, but we shouldn’t live for the pursuit of wealth. We should use money to supply our needs, help others, and serve God. Consider these three areas:

First, we should use our financial resources to help fund the things that matter to God. This means we need to understand his perspective. With the wise use of our money, we can serve God and honor him. We must remember that we can’t serve two masters: God and money (Matthew 6:24).

Second, we need God’s provisions to take care of ourselves (2 Thessalonians 3:10). We must focus on what we need, not what we want.

Third we should consider the needs of others. What do they need? How can we help them? Again, as with our own balancing of needs versus wants, we must guard against supplying someone with what they want, instead of focusing on what they truly need.

God especially desires that we help widows and orphans (James 1:27). He also has a heart for us to help foreigners and the poor (Zechariah 7:10).

Therefore, we should give to God first (Exodus 23:19). Then we should concern ourselves with our needs and helping others with theirs. God wants our best, not what’s left over. This applies to our possessions and our actions.

We must direct our money as wise stewards to where it can have the most kingdom impact. Click To Tweet

Where Does Giving to the Church Fit In?

Does this mean we need to give to the local church? Maybe. But it’s much more than that. We must direct our money as wise stewards to where it can have the most kingdom impact.

I question if this means supporting an organization where most—or all—of its budget goes to paying for buildings and staff.

We must reform our perspective on money, realizing that 100 percent of it belongs to God, and we are merely stewards of his gifts. We must use God’s financial provisions wisely in a way that will honor him and have the greatest kingdom impact.

Check out the next post in this series addressing the fallacy of church membership.

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

Exploring Church Staff from a Biblical Perspective

Stop Paying Clergy and Ministry Staff to Do What We’re Supposed to Do Ourselves

In part one of Embrace a Fresh Perspective about Church we looked at adopting a new, biblically enlightened view on the role that a church building should play for our spiritual community. Now we’ll continue that theme by looking at church staff, along with the related topics of missionaries, local ministers, and payroll.

Church Staff

In 7 Things the Church Is Not, we mentioned that the church should not be an institution. Yet most churches today move in that direction after about ten years of operation, and they become an institution a couple of decades after that.

For an institution to work, it needs paid church staff (and money). That’s why local pastors receive a salary: to keep the institution of church functioning and viable.

As we’ve already covered, this thinking follows the Old Testament model of church. But we don’t live in the Old Testament or under its covenant. We live in the New Testament and under its covenant—at least in theory. In the New Testament, we—that is, those who follow Jesus—are his church.

Each one of us is a priest—that is, a minister—to care for one another. We shouldn’t pay someone to do what we’re supposed to do. As part of the body of Christ, we each do our part to advance the kingdom of God and shouldn’t expect to receive payment for our labor.

Missionaries

There is, however, one exception to this idea of no compensation. In his letter to the people in Corinth, Paul builds a case to pay missionaries. This doesn’t apply to the folks who run local churches. Paul refers to those who go around telling others about Jesus.

Today, we might call these people evangelists. Based on Paul’s teaching it’s right to pay them.

Yet once Paul builds his case to appropriately pay missionaries, he points to an even better way: for missionaries to earn their own money and not require outside support. Paul often covers his expenses and those who travel with him by plying his trade. He works as a tentmaker.

Springing from this is the idea of a tentmaker-missionary, someone who pays their own way as they tell others about Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:7–18).

Local Ministers

But what about the local church? Shouldn’t we reward our clergy, out church staff, by paying them? Doesn’t the Bible say that workers deserve compensation (1 Timothy 5:18)? Not quite.

The context of this is for traveling missionaries to be content with the food and lodging provided to them as they journey about telling others about Jesus (Luke 10:5–7).

But don’t we need a minister to teach us about God each Sunday? No. The Bible expects us to feed ourselves spiritually. And we are to teach one another.

What about a clergy member to address our spiritual needs as they arise? No. We are to care for one another.

No Payroll

In short, through Jesus the institution of church is over—at least in theory. Without a physical building or an institution to maintain, there is no need to pay church staff to run the whole show.

To pursue a New Testament path, take church with you wherever you go and help others however you can, paying your own way as you do. Click To Tweet

So if you are part of an institution and want to perpetuate it, then buy a building, hire church staff, and pay them their due. However, if you want to pursue a different path as seen in the New Testament, then take the church with you wherever you go and help others however you can, paying your own way as you do.

We must reform our thinking of paying church staff to do what the Bible calls us to do ourselves as priests who serve one another.

Next week we’ll look at the church and money.

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

3 Ways Jesus Changes Our Perspectives about Church

Discover the Revolutionary Way Jesus Fulfills the Old Testament

When we consider that Jesus came to fulfill the law of Moses and the writings of the prophets, what’s important to understand is that we must see these passages in their proper perspective, informing our perspectives about church today.

This doesn’t mean to ignore what was just because Jesus fulfilled it. It means we should consider the Old Testament in its context. In addition to teaching the people how to worship God and the right way to live, the Law and the prophets also point them to the coming Savior, Jesus.

In Genesis through Malachi, we see repeated allusions to Jesus and the freedom he offers to us now. And if we read the Old Testament with care, we will also see that this future revelation about Jesus applies to all people, not just God’s chosen tribe.

Yes, Jesus comes to fulfill the Law and the writings of the prophets. We’re the benefactors of that. Now let’s apply this to the Old Testament ideas of temple, priests, and tithes. to better inform our perspectives about church.

1. New Temple: Living Stones

When Jesus overcomes death, the veil in the temple rips apart, exposing the inner sanctum of the most holy place. This supernatural rending of the veil symbolically allows everyone direct access to God. No longer is God separated from his people, distant and removed.

He is now approachable by everyone. God ceases living in the temple and begins living in us. Our bodies become the temple of God. No longer do we need a physical building. We are his temple.

Yet we cling to the Old Testament idea of a temple and forget how Jesus fulfills it. Jesus’s disciple Peter helps us understand this. He writes that we are living stones built into a spiritual temple (1 Peter 2:5; also see Ephesians 2:22).

Yes, this verse is confounding.

It challenges our perspective of needing to go to church to experience God. Peter’s words flip this practice, and that’s the point. Jesus turned the old ways upside down and made something new. We must embrace this. We must change our perspectives.

First, Peter says we are living stones. As living stones, we are alive—not inanimate rocks. Jesus may have had this in mind in his rebuff of the Pharisees who took offense by the praise offered by his followers.

Jesus tells them that if the crowd doesn’t celebrate his arrival, the stones will cry out to exalt him (Luke 19:39-40). To do this, the rocks would have to come alive.

As Jesus’s living stones, our actions matter. We live for Jesus. We exist to honor him, praise him, and glorify him. Our purpose is to tell others about him through our actions and—when needed—even through our words. Our faith is alive, and what we do must show it.

Next, as living stones, we are part of God’s holy temple, a spiritual house. We become part of the construction of his new worship space. If we are part of his temple, we don’t need to go to church to meet him.

This is because, as his temple, he’s already in our presence, and we’re already in his. This means we can experience him at anytime, anywhere. Through Jesus, God’s temple exists everywhere we go. This is the first of our three new perspectives about church.

2. New Priests: A Holy Priesthood

After saying we’re living rocks built into God’s spiritual shrine, Peter adds two more mind-blowing thoughts. He says these first two truths—that we’re breathing stones shoring up God’s temple—sets up two more spiritual concepts.

Through Jesus we become a holy priesthood so that we can offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus (1 Peter 2:5). If we are truly priests through what Jesus did for us, then we don’t need ministers to point us to God, explain him to us, or help us know him.

God wants us to do that for ourselves as his holy priests.

Remember that back in Exodus, God calls his people to be a nation of priests (Exodus 19:6). But they recoil from that and refuse to cooperate. Later, Isaiah looks forward to the time when the children of God will become the Lord’s priests, ministers of the Almighty (Isaiah 61:6).

At last, through Jesus we’re poised to do just that. And Peter confirms this. As followers of Jesus—his disciples—we’re a royal priesthood. This makes us his holy nation, an elite possession of God.

Our purpose is to praise him for what he did when he saved us from the darkness of sin and moved us into the light of his love (1 Peter 2:9).

But there’s one more thing in this first passage from Peter. As living stones and holy priests, serving our Lord as part of his temple, we offer to him a spiritual sacrifice (1 Peter 2:5).

Though Jesus is the ultimate sin sacrifice to end all sacrifices, we honor what he did by living lives as holy priests that serve as an ongoing tribute to him. This spiritual sacrifice (see Romans 12:1) replaces the animal sacrifices we read about throughout the Old Testament.

This thinking is so countercultural to how most Christians live today that it bears careful contemplation. Through Jesus we can do things in a new way. We are living stones built into his spiritual temple, serving as a holy priesthood to offer him spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5).

Read that again: We are living stones built into his spiritual temple, serving as a holy priesthood to offer him spiritual sacrifices. Wow!

This can change everything—and it should.

No longer do priests (ministers) need to serve as our liaison between the creator and the created. Instead, all who follow Jesus become his priests, a nation of priests, just as God wanted back in Exodus 19:6.

This means that the laity, serving as priests to each other, should minister to one another, not hire someone else to do it for them. No longer is there a need for paid staff to be the link between God and his people. Everyone can now approach God directly, hearing from him and acting on his behalf.

The Holy Spirit who Jesus sent to us sees to that—if we are but willing to listen, hear, and obey what he says.

This is the second of our three new perspectives about church.

3. New Finances: Generosity

Last is that pesky temple tax, which we call a tithe. Today, a church’s building and employees can make up 90 to 100 percent of its budget. But once we remove the facility and the paid staff from the equation, there’s no longer so much of a need for money.

Does that mean we can forget about tithing?

Yes . . . and no.

The Bible talks a lot about tithing. In the Old Testament, God instituted tithes to support the religious institution he mandated for his people. This sacred institution included the tabernacle/temple, the priests, and the Levites.

To extend the financial support of the Old Testament temple and its priests to the modern-day church and its ministers is a misapplication. When Jesus fulfilled the law, he replaced both, turning us—you and me—into priests and making us into his temple.

Instead of the old way of doing things, Jesus talked about helping those in need and being wise stewards (Matthew 25:14-29). The early church in Acts shared all they had with each other (Acts 4:32).

That’s 100 percent. And being a faithful steward of all God has blessed us with also implies 100 percent—all things (1 Corinthians 10:31). We are to use every penny in the best way possible (1 Corinthians 10:24).

Whenever the New Testament mentions tithing, it always refers to the Old Testament practice. Nowhere do New Testament writers tell us to give 10 percent to God. And they never command us to donate 10 percent to the local church. Yet this is precisely what many ministers preach.

Instead we see New Testament commands and examples to use the money God blesses us with to cover our needs—not our wants (Hebrews 13:5), help others (1 Corinthians 10:24), and advance God’s kingdom (1 Peter 4:10).

Rather than tithing to church, we see a principle where everything we have belongs to God. We are to be generous stewards of his blessings, in turn using them to bless others (Genesis 12:2). We must use our resources to help those in need and advance God’s kingdom, not to support and perpetuate a religious institution.

If you feel a responsible use of God’s money is to support your local church, then do so. However, if you think the money is better used somewhere else, then donate to that cause. But never let preachers mislead you—or rile up guilt—by insisting you do something the Bible doesn’t say to do.

This is the third of our three new perspectives about church.

Status Quo Perspectives about Church

Yes, it’s easy to do what we have always done. It’s comfortable to cling to the status quo, but Jesus offers us so much more—and he yearns for us to take hold of it. There is a new way to worship God, to worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24)—and it doesn’t involve attending church each Sunday.

So stop following the Old Testament model of church: going to a building to meet God, revering the clergy, and tithing out of guilt or obligation. Instead, be God’s temple, act like priests, and share generously. This is the new model that Jesus gives us.

We should be God’s temple, act like priests, and share generously. This is the new model that Jesus gives us. Click To Tweet

So why do we persist in following the Old Testament model of going to church to seek God, being served by a minister, and tithing when Jesus died to give us something new, something much better?

Jesus turned us into his temple, promoted us to priests, and changed the 10 percent temple tax into a principle of generosity.

Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament. He offered himself as the ultimate sin sacrifice and then overcame death by rising from the grave. In doing so, he turned us into his temple, promoted us to priests, and changed the 10 percent temple tax into a principle of generosity.

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.