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52 Churches

Misdirected and Frustrated

Discussing Church 30

When Candy asked about the service time, the pastor confirmed what their website said: 10 a.m. When we arrive, they tell us to sit anywhere. After fifty agonizing minutes, they say, “Thanks for coming. The service will start in about ten minutes.” They used the old bait and switch tactic on us.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #30:

1. We just endured an agonizing Sunday school. They must think they’re clever, but I feel manipulated. They should be honest and say church starts at eleven. 

How might people feel tricked or misled about your church’s practices or the information posted online?

2. We sing old-time hymns with piano accompaniment. They sing with vigor. 

How might people characterize the singing and worship at your church? Is their assessment acceptable?

3. One man wears a lapel pin of the Baptist flag. He thinks his pin is a conversation starter, but his dogmatic discourse pushes me away. 

In what way might our words, passion, or doctrine repel people?

4. Today we heard a powerful message and worshiped God with people passionate about singing, but their bait and switch trick to get us into attending Sunday school remains my key memory. What parting memory do people leave with from your church? (If they don’t come back, you made a bad impression.)

[See the prior set of questions, the next set, or start at the beginning.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

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

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52 Churches

Key Questions from Churches 14 through 26

Discussing Churches 14-26

For the past twenty-six weeks we’ve sought to expand our understanding of how others worship God.

Consider these two discussion questions about the second part of our journey: 

1. I now realize that church is not about the teaching or music. It’s about community. 

How can your church foster community and promote meaningful connections?

2. Consumerism is rampant in today’s church. People seek a church with the most engaging speaker and entertaining musicians. They stay until a better preacher or music comes along. 

They are church consumers, looking for the best value.

How can you move your church away from a consumer mindset? From church consumers?

[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

We Need to Stop Interpreting Scripture Through the Lens of Our Practices

The Bible should inform our actions, not justify our habits

Christianity has its traditions and religious practices. We often persist in them with unexamined acceptance. And if we do question our behaviors, we can often find a verse in the Bible to justify them. But that doesn’t make them right.

The Lens of Scripture

We need to interpret the Bible through the lens of Scripture and not from the perspective of our own practices. The Bible is the starting point, not the ending. When we begin with what we do today and work backwards, looking to the Bible for support, we will usually find it, but we may be in error.

Consider the following.

Church Attendance

The Bible says to not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25). Most people interpret this as a command to go to church. That’s not what the verse says. This command is a call to Christian community.

This may happen at church on a Sunday morning, but it could also happen at a different location the other 167 hours of the week. This meeting together thing happens whenever two or three are gathered in his name.

The point of this verse is that we shouldn’t attempt to live our faith in isolation.

Communion

Another area is our practice of communion. We even read the Bible when we partake. This makes us wrongly conclude that our celebration of communion is biblical. It’s not. The context of communion is at home with family, not as part of a church service. We’re doing communion wrong.

Sermon

Why do we have a sermon every Sunday at church? Because it’s in the Bible, right? Yet biblical preaching is to those outside the church.

You’ve heard the phrase, “preaching to the choir,” which is understood as the futility of telling people the things they already know. Yet preaching to the choir is effectively what we do at most churches every Sunday. Preaching is for people outside the church.

Worship Music

Why does a significant portion of our Sunday service include music? While singing to God is prevalent throughout the Bible, it’s interesting to note that nowhere in the New Testament is the use of musical instruments mentioned.

Does this mean our singing to God should be a capella? It’s worth considering.

And the idea of having a worship leader is also an anathema to the biblical narrative. When we gather together we should all be prepared to share and to participate, which might include leading the group in a song.

Sunday School

The justification for Sunday School—aside from tradition and “that’s the way we’ve always done it”—often comes from the Old Testament verses to train up a child (Proverbs 22:6) and teach your children (Deuteronomy 11:19 and Deuteronomy 6:6-8).

But who’s to do this training? The parents. Delegating this critical job to the church is lazy parenting.

But if we’re going to persist in the practice, let’s at least give Sunday School a meaningful purpose.

Tithing

Giving 10 percent is an Old Testament thing. The New Testament never commands us to tithe. Think about that the next time you hear a minister say we’re supposed to give 10 percent to the local church. That’s wrong. Though tithing might be a spiritual discipline, it’s not a command.

Offerings

Though there is some basis for the Sunday offering, we’ve co-opted it into something it wasn’t meant to be. Paul’s instruction to take up a collection each week was for the express purpose of giving money to those in need (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). How much of a church’s weekly offering goes to that?

Church Buildings

Though the Old Testament had their Temple and the Jewish people added synagogues, the New Testament followers of Jesus met in homes and sought to connect with others in public spaces.

The idea of building churches didn’t occur until a few centuries later. Church facilities cost a lot of money and take a lot of time, distracting us from what is more important.

In the Bible, Peter says we are all priests, and Paul says we should minister to each other. Click To Tweet

Paid Staff

The concept of professional, paid clergy also didn’t occur until a couple centuries after the early church started. Peter tells us that we are all priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9), and Paul tells us that we should minister to each other (1 Corinthians 14:26).

When we pay staff to do what we’re supposed to be doing ourselves, we’re subjugating our responsibility and acting with laziness. Paul set a great example, often paying his own way on his missionary journeys. Today’s ministers should consider this. Seriously.

Read the Bible

Prior posts have touched on these subjects in greater detail. They might be worth considering as you contemplate the above items. We persist in these practices out of habit and under the assumption that the Bible commands us to do so.

We conclude this because we read the Bible wearing blinders, focusing our attention on our practices and seeking to find them supported in the Bible.

It’s time we reexamine everything we do through the lens of Scripture and make needed changes. And if we do, it will be a game-changer.

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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52 Churches

Reflecting on Church #24: A Variety of Worship Styles

A Traditional, Friendly Congregation

With our journey of visiting fifty-two churches over, I can reflect more on the complete experience. Today, I’ll add to my thoughts about Church #24.

The people at this traditional church were friendly, much friendlier than most. The message was good and gave me something to contemplate, but it was the teens who led music that left a lasting memory with me. Their worship felt pure.

With no pretense, their focus was solely on God. They gave me a glimpse of what it might mean to worship God in the spirit and in truth.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

The pastor of this church saw my original post and forwarded it to the music director. She contacted me, thanking me for my words, which she shared with the musicians and singers. A week or so later, we met at a coffee shop to talk about worship, church, and faith.

She likes to offer the congregation a variety in worship styles and content, from traditional to contemporary. Her goal is to bring in youth once a month or so. I really want to go back and hear them again, but I fear a second experience would pale in comparison.

Instead, I choose to let my memory of this service suffice.

[See my reflections about Church #23 and Church #25 or start with Church #1.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

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

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Christian Living

Realign our Church Practices of Music and Message

We Must Rethink What Happens at Our Church Services

A friend once said in his Sunday morning message that some people go to church for the music and put up with the sermon. Others go for the sermon and put up with the music.

The minister’s statement suggests that people feel a church service has two primary elements. One is the worship music, and the other is the sermon: music and message.

I get this. At one point in my life I endured the singing as I waited for the teaching. Then my perspective flopped as I pursued worship and endured the sermon. Now neither matters too much to me.

In recent years I’ve not gone to church for the music nor the message. I show up for the chance of experiencing meaningful community before or after the service.

Put Music or Message in Its Place

Though the New Testament talks about both music and message, neither seems central to their meetings, especially not the way we pursue these two items today.

Music: Though music is a part of Jesus’s church, it emerges more as a secondary pursuit. Paul doesn’t ascribe music to a worship leader but to each person gathered. The purpose of this is to build up Jesus’s church (1 Corinthians 14:26).

Music is part of the one another commands as a way of ministering to each other (Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:18–19).

An interesting side note is that the New Testament never mentions using musical instruments in their worship of God, as happened throughout the Old Testament. This doesn’t imply that our church singing today should be a cappella, but this is something we might want to contemplate.

Sometimes New Testament singing to God happens apart from a church gathering, such as when Paul and Silas are sitting in jail (Acts 16:25). Let’s consider how we can apply their example to our reality today.

Sometimes the music set at one of today’s church services is worshipful, drawing us into closer fellowship with God. But too often it’s more of a performance for attendees then a tribute to our creator.

This makes the music portion at some churches more akin to a concert, even to the point of including a light show, smoke machines, and accompanying video projection behind the performers.

And if you claim our church worship time isn’t a performance, then why are the singers and musicians positioned in front of everyone and elevated on a stage? If the music is truly a tribute to God and not a performance for us, then why not station the musicians behind the congregation or out of sight so their presence won’t distract us from God?

Message: Another friend calls the church sermon a lecture. I’m not sure if he’s joking or serious, but I get his point. I’ve heard sermons that so sidestepped the Bible, faith, and the good news of Jesus that the resulting words were no different than a lecture from a secular speaker.

There are, however, three instances where New Testament writers describe activity that we might equate to a sermon. These are in specific situations.

The first is educating people about their faith (Acts 2:42). This implicitly is for new believers, giving them spiritual milk as we would feed a baby (1 Corinthians 3:1–3). This basic training grows them in their salvation (1 Peter 2:1–3).

It prepares them to teach others (Hebrews 5:11–14). It’s not something to persist in Sunday after Sunday. Instead it’s a temporary situation we should grow out of.

The second is missionaries who tell those outside the church about Jesus. This can’t happen at a church meeting because those who need to hear the good news of Jesus aren’t there.

Spreading the gospel message requires going out to encounter people where they are, not expecting them to come to us and our church services (Acts 8:4, Acts 8:40, Romans 10:14–15, and 2 Corinthians 10:16).

And the third is traveling missionaries who give updates at the local churches (Acts 14:27, Acts 15:4, and Acts 20:7).

Everyone Participates: Regarding these two elements of music and message—that we place so much emphasis on in our churches today—Paul gives instructions to the church in Corinth. It’s not the job of a worship leader to lead us in song.

Nor is it the role of a minister to preach a sermon. We—the people in attendance—are to do these things, and more, for each other. It’s an egalitarian gathering where we all take part for our common good to build up Jesus’s church (1 Corinthians 14:26).

Remember, through Jesus, we are all priests. It’s time we start acting like it.

Community

What does show up as a reoccurring theme throughout the New Testament is community. But this goes way beyond the time of personal interaction that I seek before or after a Sunday service.

The church, as a group of people, should major in community, on getting along and experiencing life together. Community should happen before, during, and after all our gatherings—both those on Sunday, as well as throughout the week. In all that we do, community must be our focus.

We should enjoy spending time with each other, just hanging out.

If we don’t like spending time with the people we see for an hour each Sunday morning, then something’s wrong: not with them, but with us. Yes, community can get messy.

But we have Jesus’s example, the Holy Spirit’s insight, and the Bible’s wisdom to guide us in navigating the challenges that erupt when people spend time with each other in intentional interaction.

Here are some of the aspects of community that we see in the early church, and that we can follow in today’s church.

Share Meals: A lot of eating takes place in Jesus’s church. We must feed our bodies to sustain us physically, so why not do it in the company of other like-minded people?

In community, sharing food becomes a celebration of life and of faith. (Read more about breaking bread in “10 More New Testament Practices, Part 2”.)

Fast: Although Jesus’s followers do a lot of eating together, they also fast (Matthew 6:16–17 and Acts 14:23). Fasting is an intentional act of devotion that helps connect us with God and align our perspectives with his.

Remember that although Jesus’s disciples didn’t fast, once he left, it was time for his followers to resume fasting (Luke 5:33–35).

Prayer: Another reoccurring New Testament theme is prayer. This isn’t a minister-led oration on Sunday morning. This is more akin to a mid-week prayer meeting, with everyone gathered in community to seek God in prayer together (Acts 1:14 and Acts 12:5).

Listen to the Holy Spirit: As the people pray, sometimes associated with fasting, they listen to the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28). Then they obey what the Holy Spirit calls them to do (Acts 13:2–3).

Minister to One Another: In their community they follow the Bible’s one another commands, which teach us how to get along in a God-honoring way. (See treat one another.”)

Serve Others: We serve one another in our faith community (Galatians 5:13). We should also serve those outside our church, just as Jesus served others. And we shouldn’t serve with any motive other than with the pure intent to show them the love of Jesus.

Loving others through our actions may be the most powerful witness we can offer. We need to let our light shine so that the world can see (Matthew 5:14–16 and James 2:14–17). All of humanity is watching. May they see Jesus in what we do (1 Peter 2:12).

Tell Others about Jesus: The New Testament gives examples of people telling others about Jesus in their local community (Acts 3:11–26 and Acts 7:1–53). It also mentions sending people out into the world as missionaries (Acts 8:4–5 and Acts 13:2).

Witnessing, both local and abroad, springs from the foundation of community.

We need to rethink what happens at our church, deemphasizing the significance of music and message while elevating the importance of community, one that functions in unity for Jesus. Click To Tweet

Unity

In our community we should pursue harmony. Jesus prayed that we would be one (John 17:20–21). The early church modeled unity (Acts 4:32). We also covered unity in the “The Acts 4 Example.”

When issues arise among Jesus’s followers that threaten their single-mindedness, they work through it to avoid division (Acts 11:1–18). This unity includes the agreement of their theology (Acts 15:1–21).

Conclusion

We need to rethink what happens at our church, deemphasizing the significance of music and message while elevating the importance of community, one that functions in unity for Jesus.

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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52 Churches

Reflecting on Church #20: Worship God in Any Language

Embracing a Service in Mandarin

With our journey of visiting fifty-two churches over, I can reflect more on the complete experience. Today, I’ll add to my thoughts about Church #20.

Although I’m uncomfortable in situations where language differences make conversation hard, if not impossible, something about this church draws me. Despite not knowing Mandarin, I want to return.

My language limitation did not limit my worship of God. He was present and his presence enthralled me.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

Experiencing the singing in Mandarin provided a time of deep worship. I wonder if this is unique to Mandarin or this congregation—or if perhaps hearing God worshiped in any language would affect me the same way.

Our focus will be on God regardless of the language we use. Click To Tweet

If I do return, I’ll first ask friends to pray that I’ll be able to supernaturally understand the message.

It seems like a big, bold request to make, but God can do that, of this I’m confident. And if he doesn’t, it will still be a wonderful time because our focus will be on him regardless of the language we use.

With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can worship God despite the language or language barriers. Even if we don’t understand the words, we can still connect with the Almighty in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23).

[See my reflections about Church #19 and Church #21 or start with Church #1.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

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

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Christian Living

What We Can’t Get from Online Church

Embrace the Benefits of Meeting Together

When we can’t attend church, to meet in person, and must experience a service online, does that count as going to church? The essential parts of the service are the same. There is music, a message, and a prayer or two. For these three key elements, the result is the same whether we experience them in person or remotely from a distance.

In addition, we may hear announcements, see a communion celebration, and even watch ushers take the collection. These last two elements are a bit harder for us to engage with online. Yet we can embrace them too. For communion we can experience the spiritual aspect of the rite without partaking in the physical elements. And for the offering, we can always give online or mail a check.

Yes, when we must attend church online much of the experience is the same as if we were there and able to meet in person. And we can make accommodations so that the physical separation doesn’t affect the overall outcome.

Yet some considerations remain that cannot happen in absentia.

Interaction

Watching the service online removes all opportunity for interaction with others, aside from those sitting in the same room with us. This means we can’t wave to people, talk with friends, or offer a smile. To experience these exchanges requires being in the same physical space, not a virtual one that occurs online.

Connection

Beyond the basic interactions of talking with others or relating through nonverbal communication, we have a chance to enjoy a meaningful connection. This can occur when the socially acceptable question of “how are you?” goes beyond the rote response of “fine” to allow the space and time for the true answer to emerge. This significant sharing enables the opportunity for a deeper interaction that forms, or reinforces, a personal connection.

In some cases, this personal sharing of information might provide the opportunity to pray for someone or offer help in a tangible way. These things can’t take place when the online experience isolates viewers from each other.

Community

Interaction is a great start and connection moves relationships forward, but the goal is forming community with one another. Again, worthwhile community is hard—though not impossible—to pursue and develop over the internet. In person, face-to-face contact strengthens community. This applies to physical community and sacred community. Both are important for our mental health and spiritual well-being.

We should embrace the opportunity to spend time with one another. Click To Tweet

Meet in Person

Sometimes we cannot meet in person with other followers of Jesus. Yet whenever the occasion arises, we should embrace the opportunity to spend time with one another. This will allow for personal interaction, meaningful connection, and spiritual community to take place.

This may be why the writer of Hebrews reminds us to not give up meeting together. Instead we are to gather and encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25).

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

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52 Churches

A Family That Likes to Sing (Visiting Church #37)

Including us, twenty-one people have gathered. Up front, a rugged wooden cross has a purple cloth draped over it and a white dove perched on the crosspiece. The bird seems out of place until my wife reminds me we’re at a Pentecostal church, and it represents the Holy Spirit.

We stand to begin the service, open the hymnal to the announced page, but see the wrong song. Everyone else sings. We’ve never heard the tune and without the words, we can’t participate. It’s lonely, standing mute while others sing with abandon.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

The accomplished pianist’s playing reminds me of ragtime. The bass player accentuates the sound. Some clap with enthusiasm, and it wouldn’t have surprised me to see someone slapping their thigh or stomping their foot. We seem to have traveled to a different time.

We discover there are two hymnals, and we both grabbed the wrong one. For the second song, we pick up the right book. The congregation sings with fervor. The kids participate loudly, with a few belting out the choruses, off tune but full of passion.

The minister announces a birthday and we sing, not the traditional birthday song, but an alternate version. There’s also an anniversary. We sing again, using the same tune with slightly different words.

The pastor doesn’t ask who has a birthday or anniversary; just as with family, everyone knows important dates.

They use an overhead projector, something I’ve not seen in years. One of the teens operates it, a role he takes seriously. After sharing prayer requests, the pastor prays for his flock and then gives his message.

Afterwards a couple people tell us their story of first coming to this church and how much the people mean to them. They found a family here, just as true church should be.

[Read about Church #36 and Church #38 , start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #37.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

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

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52 Churches

No Language Barrier (Visiting Church #20)

There’s a Mandarin service followed by one in English;. We attend both. The worship team leads us. The words to the song are displayed in Mandarin and have the English translation underneath. They sing and I listen to voices of a different tongue. God’s presence engulfs me.

When others raise their hands, I wonder if I should too, even though I don’t understand the specific reason why. It’s a question I can’t answer.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

A prayer follows. I comprehend not one word until “Amen.” Next is the scripture text, read in unison. The woman in front of me has a parallel bilingual Bible, so I know they’re reading Exodus 19 or 20.

Later, the projector displays “20:3-17” surrounded by Chinese characters. I turn to Exodus 20:3-17 and see the Ten Commandments.

The minister is a dynamic speaker, animated, and at times joking. I find myself laughing too, even though I don’t know what’s funny. Laughter is contagious, a universal language.

I don’t expect to understand the message, but I do expect the Holy Spirit to speak to me. He doesn’t—or perhaps he did and I missed it. I know the sermon is over when I hear “Amen.”

We sing the “Doxology.” The tune is familiar, but the words are Mandarin. I consider their English equivalents as others sing. The service concludes with the “Threefold Amen.” This time I can join in.

The second service uses a different song set, but the scripture and sermon are the same, albeit in English.

They invite us to stay for lunch, something they do every Sunday. “Sharing a meal is important to us,” one lady explains. We gratefully accept and sit down to eat, making new connections as we enjoy the food.

Today is a great day at church. Although our only language is not their primary one, we manage just fine.

[Read about Church #19 and Church #21, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #20.]

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

Are You a Sunday Morning Spectator or Performer?

Church services have become an event, with consumers who come to watch a show

Today’s churches contain two types of people. And each of us fits in one category or the other. We are either performers or spectators.

If this seems callous, consider that we live in an entertainment-centered society. We watch TV, go to movies, and attend performances. We go to the game, attend a concert, and watch videos online.

What do these have in common? Each example has performers to entertain us in one way or the other. The masses are spectators, mere consumers of the event. Though we may participate in a way, our involvement is limited to clapping, cheering, or fist-bumping the spectator next to us.

Church is no different. We are spectators there for entertainment, be it emotionally or intellectually, by the performers. The masses consume the church service.

Yes, we may sing along with a couple songs (though many people stand mute during the singing), mumble out a heartfelt “amen” upon occasion, or shake hands with our seatmate during the compulsory greeting time. But the service structure restricts our involvement.

We’re there for the sermon, that is, the lecture, and for the worship set, that is, the concert. And when it’s over we often critique the performance.

Performers

The performers at a church service are the people who stand in front of us, often on a stage. The elevation allows the spectators a better view.

The star of the show is the minister, who gives the lecture and may also serve as the event’s MC. The opening act is the worship team, consisting of singers and musicians.

If this description offends you, consider that most churches don’t select a senior minister or teaching pastor until after they have auditioned and delivered a stirring oratory.

People with spiritual insight but no speaking ability have no place in the modern church. And usually the worship team members must try out before they can sing or play. People with musical passion but not enough skill are turned away and relegated to spectator status.

Yes, we expect our performers to excel in presentation, and if they falter, they are replaced. After all, we don’t want a lack of excellence to mar the performance and drive away the spectators who have a plethora of other Sunday morning performances to select from.

Remember, we live in a consumeristic society.

Spectators

The majority of people at church services are spectators. We sit and passively watch the performance. Though we can view the elevated stage to witness the event, we may best see the back of the head of the person sitting in front of us.

We come. We watch. We leave.

Maybe we leave happy over a satisfactory performance, but maybe we leave unfulfilled, as empty as when we arrived. We wanted community but got a show.

We are church service spectators, watching a performance and consuming carefully presented spiritual content. At best we experience an event that may sustain us until we repeat it next week.

We are church service spectators, watching a performance and consuming spiritual content. Click To Tweet

Instead Participate

The solution is to break down the wall between performer and spectator. Church shouldn’t focus on providing a performance but on offering community by letting everyone participate equally in the service.

We should all be able to share with others during our church services. Or at least have the opportunity to share. Paul tells us how. “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation,” (1 Corinthians 14:26, NIV).

When we start doing this in our church services, we will eliminate both the performers and the spectators, turning us all into full-fledged participants. Then we will build a true community of Jesus followers.

It will change everything.

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

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