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Visiting Churches

Saturday Evening Mass

A few months ago, we went to church on Saturday morning. Now we head off for a Saturday evening mass.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #50

1. The worship leader directs us to “page one in the white book,” but what we find doesn’t match what they say. We’re confused and can’t follow along. 

How can you make it easier for people to participate in your service?

2. For the Eucharist, the priest says nothing about nonmembers, though I know we’re excluded. Still, I can have the spiritual encounter of Holy Communion without physically taking part. 

How can you serve Communion in a way that includes everyone?

3. The tradition of sharing the chalice still disgusts us. Most participants receive the wafer and bypass the cup. I suppose some must avoid alcohol, while for others it’s a sanitary issue. 

What traditions should you change to address the concerns of today’s visitors?

4. Afterward I chat briefly with the priest. He knows we’re visiting but doesn’t ask our names. This might be because a member hovers about, anxious to talk to him. Though I don’t feel slighted, many people would. 

What behaviors do you need to change to be more visitor-focused?

[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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Reviews of Books & Movies

Movie Review: Silence

A Thought-Provoking Look at Faith, Persecution, and Navigating Right and Wrong

Reviewed by Peter DeHaan

The movie Silence is a fictional account of two Jesuit priests from Portugal who seek permission to travel to Japan in 1639. They desire to investigate what happened to their mentor. His written communication had stopped, and a rumor circulated that he had turned his back on his faith and his missionary work, having committed apostasy.

The story takes place in seventeenth century Japan, one with open, state-sponsored hostility to Christians and their faith. Seeking to end conversions to Catholicism and wipe away the church, an inquisitor is tasked with finding believers and forcing them to commit apostasy. He resorts to extreme measures—including torture and executions—to do so.

The inquisitor, however, makes a startling discovery and changes his tactics.

Silence is a can’t-miss movie that every Christian should consider watching. Click To Tweet

Silence is a riveting portrayal of extreme religious persecution and torture. It is faith-friendly and thought-provoking. It’s a can’t-miss movie that every follower of Jesus should see.

Though critically acclaimed, the movie Silence was not a financial success. This may be in part to its long two hour and forty-minute runtime. It’s also rated R for its graphic portrayal of persecution, torture, and execution—though not excessive nor gratuitous.

The movie Silence is based on the 1966 acclaimed novel by Japanese author Shūsaku Endō and took Martin Scorsese nearly three decades to complete.  It stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson.

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

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Bible Insights

Do You Know You Are a Priest?

As Followers of Jesus We Become His Priests. It’s Time to Start Acting Like It

Aside from sharing my first name, I like Peter in the Bible. His concise writing packs a lot of practical teaching into his two short letters. He writes to those who follow Jesus. He talks about us being priests.

Peter describes us in four ways: as “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” and “God’s special possession,” (1 Peter 2:9). While all four labels pack much value, I particularly like the idea of priesthood.

In the Old Testament, only select people could become priests. Priests had to come from the tribe of Levi, which ruled out everyone from the other eleven tribes.

In addition, they had to be a descendant of Aaron; this eliminated most of the rest of the tribe of Levi. Plus they had to be male, thus removing all women from consideration. Last they couldn’t serve until they turned twenty-five, making younger men have to wait.

That was quite restrictive. Either someone was in or not. There were no exceptions. Jesus changes all of that.

Under Jesus, spiritual service is not limited to a select few born under the right conditions or possessing certain credentials. In Jesus’s church the door to priesthood is thrown wide open. We are all eligible to be priests. In fact we are all priests by virtue of being his followers.

Under Jesus the priesthood becomes something we all should embrace as our calling. Click To Tweet

As priests we minister to each other and shouldn’t expect someone else to do the job for us. As priests we don’t need special clergy to serve as our liaison to God; we can approach God directly. Under Jesus the priesthood as a special ordained position becomes obsolete.

Instead the priesthood becomes normal, something we all should embrace as our calling.

Today’s paid ministers and pastors are an extension of the Old Testament priesthood, something Jesus effectively eliminates when he fulfills the Law of Moses. It’s time we start acting like his priests and stop expecting the clergy to do our jobs for us.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Peter 1-3, and today’s post is on 1 Peter 2:9.]

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

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.

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Bible Insights

Living Stones: What the New Testament Says About Temples and Priests

Through Jesus we become his priests and his temple, which should change everything

In the Old Testament the people go to the temple to encounter God. The priests help them in this. They act as a liaison between them and God.

In many ways we still do this today. We go to church to encounter God. We look for our ministers to help us in our quest, to act as a liaison between us and God.

But this is a wrong perspective. We cling to the Old Testament practice and largely forget how Jesus fulfilled it. Peter helps us understand this in his first letter.

He says we are living stones built into a spiritual temple, prepared for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus (1 Peter 2:5; also see Ephesians 2:22).

Yet from our perspective of going to church to encounter God, this verse is confounding. It turns what we do upside down, and that’s the point. Jesus came to turn the old ways upside down and make something new for us.

We need to embrace this. We need to change our perspectives.

Living Stones

As living stones our actions matter. We live for Jesus. We live to honor him, praise him, and glorify him. We live to tell others about him through our actions and even through our words. Our faith is alive, and our actions must show it.

Spiritual Temple

As living stones we become part of the construction of his spiritual temple. And if we are part of his temple, we don’t need to go to church to meet him because, as his temple, we are already there and can experience him at any time.

Holy Priesthood

As living stones we are being made into a holy priesthood. 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, and assist us in encountering him. God is preparing us to do that for ourselves as his holy priests.

Spiritual Sacrifices

As living stones and holy priests, serving God in his spiritual temple, we offer to him a spiritual sacrifice. This spiritual sacrifice negates the need for many of the animal sacrifices and offerings we read about in the Old Testament.

Through Jesus we can do things in a new way. Click To Tweet

This thinking is so countercultural to the way 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 a spiritual temple, being prepared for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices.

This can change everything—and it should.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 1 Peter 1-3, and today’s post is on 1 Peter 2:5.]

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

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

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Christian Living

The Excommunicated Martin Luther Gets Married

Luther Saw Marriage, Not Celibacy Vows, as the Preferred Option for Most Clergy

As Martin Luther’s ordeal wore on, he eventually left the castle where he was hiding. He returned to Wittenberg, some five years after he posted his ninety-five theses. Though still a wanted man, some powerful people offered him a degree of protection, so he no longer lived under constant threats.

Even so, he needed to watch for traps and guard where he went. Because of this, he often opted to remain in seclusion. With care, he resumed his teaching and preaching.

Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century

Aside from the abuse of indulgences, Luther went on to find no biblical support for the celibacy vows of priests and nuns. He saw marriage as the biblical preference.

Excommunicated and therefore no longer bound by his pledge to the Church, he married Katherine von Bora, a former nun, on June 13, 1525. It was a small, private ceremony. She was 26 and Martin, 41. He called her Katie.

A suitable complement to Martin, Katie was both strong and intelligent. Her outspoken nature matched her husband’s. Though they often lacked money, their union stood as a happy and successful example of ministerial marriage.

Over the years they had six children—three boys and three girls—and raised several orphans.

Now ousted from the Roman Catholic Church, in 1526 Martin set about to organize a new church based on biblical principles. This isn’t what he wanted, but the Church left him with no other options to pursue his faith in community. In doing this he sought to avoid excessive change, lest he confuse or upset people.

Once excommunicated, Martin Luther was no longer bound by his celibacy vows. Click To Tweet

In addition to establishing a reformed church structure, Luther wrote catechisms, a German liturgy, and a German Mass—though he intended it to supplement, and not replace, the Latin Mass.

He established his famous doctrine of the priesthood of all believers and authored the Augsburg Confession to clarify essential beliefs and practices. The Augsburg Confession continues as a formal expression of Lutheran teachings today.

Having a lifetime of writing to his credit, his voluminous output could fill a hundred books.

With his lifelong love of singing, Martin emerged as a prolific songwriter, too, authoring many hymns. Having completed his New Testament translation of the Bible into German earlier in 1522, he (with the help of others under his direction) finished his Old Testament translation in 1534.

However, he continued to refine it throughout his life. The principles he used to guide his translation work would later influence other Bible translators.

Read more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in Peter DeHaan’s book Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

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.

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Christian Living

The Old Testament Approach to Church and Worshiping God

Moses Presents a Model for Connecting with God

When God gives Moses the Law, he sets three key expectations for worship, along with a lengthy set of mind-numbing details to guide the practices he wants his people to follow. God addresses this throughout Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

These three main elements relate to the worship space, the worship team, and their financial support: tithes and offerings. Much of the Law of Moses relates directly to these trio of items. The rest of God’s instructions support these three tenants indirectly by guiding the people into right living as a daily way of worshiping God through their personal practices and interpersonal interactions. These prepare them to move into relationship with him and worship him more fully through their many annual feasts, festivals, and celebrations.

A Place

In the Old Testament God is most particular about the place where his people are to worship him. And he gives detailed instructions in how they are to do it.

First, God sets specific parameters for the tabernacle and surrounding worship space. He gives exact instructions for its size, materials, and construction methods. In some cases, he even specifies who is to oversee the work. (See Exodus 26-27 and 35-36.)

The tabernacle and adjacent area function as a home for the various objects used in the people’s religious practices. God gives detailed directions for these implements of worship too. He specifies dimensions, base components, and fabrication instructions. Again, he sometimes names who is to head up the construction. (See Exodus 28-31, 33-34, and 37-40.)

Later the people get situated in the land God promised for them. In doing so they transition from a roaming people to a nation with borders. They no longer need a portable tabernacle that they can set up and tear down as they roam about the desert.

Years later King David has a God-approved inspiration to build a temple to honor him. Although prohibited from erecting this grand edifice himself—because he was a warring military leader with blood on his hands—the king sets aside provisions for its construction (2 Samuel 7:1-17). It’s David’s son Solomon who builds this permanent worship space for God’s people (1 Kings 6). In doing so the tabernacle built by Moses transitions to the temple built by Solomon. The portable tabernacle of the desert as the focal point of worship shifts to the permanent temple in Jerusalem.

With little exception, the people must go to this house of worship, the tabernacle—and later the temple—to approach the Almighty. His people see the tabernacle/temple as God’s dwelling place here on earth. They must go there to experience a divine encounter with him.

Clergy

But the people won’t connect with God directly. They refuse. They’re afraid of him. Here’s what happened.

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? Did you catch that?

God intends for a whole nation of priests. And who will they be priests to? Implicitly other nations. But this doesn’t happen. I’ve not found any evidence in the Bible of them as a nation serving as priests. What happened? It could be the people were afraid of God.

Just one chapter later in the book of Exodus, the people see a display of God’s awe-inspiring power. They pull back in terror. They keep their distance. God’s magnificent display of power terrifies them.

Because of their immense fear, they don’t want to hear what he has to say. Instead they beg Moses to function as their intermediary between them and God. They ask Moses to do what they’re afraid of doing: hear from God. Moses serves as their first liaison with God (Exodus 20:18-21). In effect this makes Moses the people’s first priest, though the duty officially goes to Moses’s brother, Aaron.

After this, God seems to switch to plan B.

Instead of his people being a kingdom of priests, he sets some of them aside—descendants of Aaron—to serve as ministers, functioning as the middleman between God and his people. This is something far different than what he originally wanted with everyone being a priest.

Recall that God talks with Adam in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8-10). And after sin forces Adam and Eve’s exile from their paradise, God speaks directly to Cain, confronting him for his sinful murder of his brother, Abel (Genesis 4:6-9). Then once sin fills God’s creation with evil, he approaches Noah with a solution (Genesis 6:11-22). Much later God has multiple interactions with Father Abraham (such as in Genesis 17:9), as well as his wife Sarah (Genesis 18:10-15). God then meets Moses through the burning bush (Exodus 3) and later talks with him face to face (Exodus 33:11). And God speaks to many other people in the time between Adam and Moses.

This shows a consistent history of direct communication from God to his people. Now he wants to talk to his chosen tribe (Exodus 19:9), but they’re afraid of him and don’t want to listen.

They demand an intermediary, someone to reveal the Almighty to them. They want an ambassador to represent God to them. To address this, God sets up the priesthood. These priests will serve God in his temple and be his representatives to his people. They’ll serve as the liaison between the people and God.

Though this begins with Moses, the religious infrastructure God sets up requires many people. We have the priests: Aaron and his descendants (who are Levites). And the entire tribe of Levi plays a supporting role in God’s plan to connect with his people.

Finances

Of course, this religious structure is vast. The priests lead the people in their worship of the Almighty God, and the entire Levite tribe supports this effort. Accomplishing this requires financial support. To address this God institutes a temple tax of sorts: the annual tithe (Numbers 18:21). This is a mandated obligation to give 10 percent to support the maintenance of the tabernacle and the needs of the staff.

But it’s not just one annual tithe. There’s another one too (Deuteronomy 14:22-27). In addition, a third tithe for the poor occurs every three years (Deuteronomy 14:28-29). This means that each year God’s people give between 20 and 30 percent to him in support of the tabernacle/temple, all the people who work there, and those in need. This averages out to 23.3%, approaching one quarter.

Take a moment to imagine giving one fourth.

In addition to the mandated tithes are various required offerings and sacrifices that relate to annual events (such as Exodus 12 and Exodus 30:10). God commands his people to adhere to all these obligations. On top of these are voluntary offerings and gifts (such as in Leviticus 22:21). God expects a lot financially from his people.

The Old Testament religious institution is expensive to sustain. And God expects each one of his people to do their part.

The Old Testament religious institution (temple and priests) is expensive to sustain, and God expects each one of his people to do their part (tithes and offerings) to support his church. Click To Tweet

This is the Old Testament model for church: a place (tabernacle and then temple), clergy (priests and Levites), and financial support (tithes and offerings). We still follow this model today.

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

Do We Have a Positive Influence on Others or a Negative One?

The Evil Queen, Her Good-Bad Grandson, and the Influential Priest

In today’s passage we read about Queen Athaliah, her grandson Joash, and the priest Jehoiada. Here’s their story.

The Evil Queen Athaliah

Athaliah’s son Ahaziah is King. As with most mothers, she influences her son. But she doesn’t have a positive impact on him. Instead she encourages him to do what’s wrong, to behave badly. He does.

When he’s executed, Athaliah takes control. She kills the royal family, which includes her children and grandchildren. Then she sets herself up as Queen, with no one in the royal bloodline to challenge her. She rules for six years.

The Boy King Joash Who Starts Out Good and Ends Badly

However, one baby escapes her purge, her grandson Joash. He’s secreted away by his aunt, Jehosheba, who’s married to the priest Jehoiada. Together they protect baby Joash.

When he’s seven, they orchestrate a coup against Athaliah and kill her. Then they make Joash King. He does what God says is right. He’s a good king—at least at first.

The Godly Priest Jehoiada Who Influences the King

Since Joash was rescued by Jehosheba and kept safe by her and Jehoiada, Joash likely views them as parental figures. It turns out that Jehoiada must have influenced the king greatly. But instead of being a negative influence like Athaliah was on her son, Jehoiada is a positive influence on Joash.

But then Jehoiada dies, and without his godly influence, King Joash becomes unmoored. He turns wicked, changing from a good king to a bad one. His life and legacy don’t end well.

May we have a positive influence on others and seek to surround ourselves with those who have a positive influence on us. Click To Tweet

Be a Positive Influence

In this story we have Queen Athaliah who influences her son to ignore God and embrace evil. We also have Jehoiada who has a positive influence on King Joash, but when Jehoiada dies, Joash waivers and does evil.

May we have a positive influence on others. And may we seek to surround ourselves with those who have a positive influence on us.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Chronicles 22-24, and today’s post is on 2 Chronicles 22:3-4.]

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.