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Christian Living

Who Says We Should Give 10 Percent to the Local Church?

Fundamentalist preachers twist what the Bible says and misapply it for their own benefit

I was taught to give 10 percent of my money to church. I’ve heard many evangelical preachers assert that their followers had to give 10 percent to the local church. It was a tithe, an obligation. You could, of course, give more.

That was a voluntary offering, but the 10 percent baseline was a requirement. If you failed to do so, it was a sin.

Says who?

It turns out the preachers who proclaim the 10-percent-to-the-local-church rule made it up. They want to fund their operation and ensure their paycheck.

Seriously, it’s not in the Bible.

The Bible never says to give 10 percent of our money to the local church. It’s not a command or even a guideline. Any place the New Testament mentions a tithe it’s in reference to the Old Testament Law, which Jesus fulfilled.

And don’t forget that the Old Testament tithe was from the harvest, not a paycheck. It was to the national temple, not a local assembly. Besides that, how many of the other 613 Old Testament Laws do you follow? Not many, I suspect.

So if you want to re-interpret the Old Testament and forget that Jesus fulfilled it, go ahead and tithe as a legalistic requirement. Just don’t act like it is an obligation or command others to do so.

The New Testament never says to give 10 percent to the local church. Click To Tweet

Here’s what the New Testament has to say:

In the New Testament we see a principle of stewardship, of carefully using what God blesses us with to help those around us. If you feel God calling you to give 10 percent to your local church, than go ahead and do it. But know that the Bible doesn’t command it. (It doesn’t prohibit it either.)

What I see in the Bible is a clear principle to help the poor and assist those who go outside the church to tell others about Jesus.

May our focus be on advancing the kingdom of God more so than on perpetuating the manmade institution of what many today call church.

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

Be Careful If You Tithe

We’ve talked about tithing, giving 10 percent of our income to God. If we do it as a way to honor him or draw closer to him, then tithing with this attitude is a great idea and an example of a spiritual discipline.

However if you tithe because the Bible commands it, then be careful. You may owe a lot more.

First, know that the New Testament doesn’t command us to tithe. The early church effectively replaces the tithe with a spirit of generosity and good stewardship.

Whenever the New Testament writers mention tithing, they always refer to the Old Testament practice. Tithing is part of the Jewish Law that Jesus came to fulfill.

Today people think a tithe is 10 percent of their income. But the Bible says it’s one tenth of their land’s produce. People who lived in outlying areas would sell their tithe and give the proceeds to God.

However the Law requires multiple tithes at various times and for different purposes. There are two annual tithes and a third tithe every three years. (See Leviticus 27:30-32, Deuteronomy 14:22, Deuteronomy 14:28.)

So the result of all this tithing averages out to 23.3 percent a year, almost one quarter and far more than one tenth.

The three biblical tithes average out to 23.3 percent a year. Click To Tweet

Furthermore, if we are to be biblically accurate, we must present our tithes at the temple. So technically we have no place to give our tithes to today.

Perhaps this is why many pastors say we need to tithe to the local church. They reframe the Law of Moses to fit their context (and meet their church’s budget). Also, since we no longer live in an agrarian society, they restate that a tithe means 10 percent of income instead of the land’s produce.

They skip the parts about the second tithe and the third tithe every three years. Maybe that’s because they know it would be a hard sell to preach that people need to give 23.3 percent of their income to them. Of course if we’re not farmers and want to take the law literally, then our tithe is zero.

Applying the Old Testament Laws about tithing becomes a murky endeavor. To do so literally presents two problems since there is no temple and few people are farmers.

To apply its principles, a reasonable conclusion is to give it to the local church: 20 percent of our income every year and 30 percent every third year.

Or we could just follow the example of the early church to be generous with all that God gives us.

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

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

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Christian Living

We 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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Christian Living

9 Perspectives That We Must Change about Church

Re-examine Our Church Practices from a Biblical Viewpoint

Over the past few months, I published a series of posts about assumptions we should change about church.

Here is a list of all nine:

9 perspectives to change about church. Click To Tweet
  1. We Don’t Need a Church Building
  2. Exploring Church Staff from a Biblical Perspective
  3. How Much Money Does the Church Need?
  4. The Fallacy of Church Membership
  5. Seek First the Kingdom of God
  6. How Important Is Seminary for Today’s Church Leaders?
  7. We Must Rethink Sunday School
  8. Love God and Love Others: A Call to Christian Unity
  9. Make Disciples Not Converts

What perspectives should you change about your view of church? Pick the assumption that most convicts you and work to reform it, first in your mind and then in your practice.

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

The New Testament Approach to Church

Consider the Example of Jesus’s Followers in the Bible

The commands in the Old Testament about the tabernacle/temple, priesthood, and tithe are clear. The New Testament, however, lacks specific instructions for us to follow. But this doesn’t mean we should adhere to the Old Testament model as a default.

Instead we look at the practices of the early church to guide us in our interactions with God, to worship, serve, and tell the world about Jesus. We need to be a New Testament church.

Let’s start with Stephen. In his lengthy message before the Sanhedrin, he reminds those gathered that God does not live in the temple, in a house built by people (Acts 7:48-50).

But Stephen isn’t spouting a new idea. He quotes Isaiah (Isaiah 66:1-2). This verse finds support from other Old Testament passages (1 Kings 8:27 and 2 Chronicles 2:6).

Even in the Old Testament God is already countering his people’s idea that he lives in the temple, and that they must go there to engage with him.

Remember that God didn’t issue his commands about the temple, priests, and tithes until after the people refused to let him speak to them directly and insisted that Moses stand in for them (Exodus 19:6).

Could it be that God gave his people the temple, priests, and tithes as a concession to their desire to keep him at a distance?

Interesting.

Regardless, Jesus fulfills this Old Testament way to approach God.

What does this mean for us? What should change? Let’s look at the New Testament narrative to gather insight in how to adapt God’s Old Testament model of temple, priests, and tithes into a New Testament approach to church.

The New Testament church meets in homes. Click To Tweet

They Meet in Homes

The first place Jesus’s followers meet after he returns to heaven is in the upper room, a part of someone’s home (Acts 1:13).

They spend time at the temple (Acts 2:46, Acts 3:1, and Acts 5:20) and visit synagogues on the Sabbath (Acts 9:20, Acts 13:14, and Acts 14:1)—until they’re no longer welcome (Acts 18:7). They also meet in public spaces (Acts 16:13 and Acts 19:9).

Mostly they meet in people’s homes (Acts 2:46, Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15, and Philemon 1:2). But this isn’t a once-a-week occurrence. They meet daily to eat together (Acts 6:1) and encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13).

The early church continues in their practice of meeting in people’s homes for about three centuries.

At this time, Constantine legalizes Christianity and begins building churches. This starts a shift from gathering in people’s homes—as the early church practiced—back to going to dedicated worship spaces—as the Old Testament did.

The book of Hebrews confirms this transition. It states that the Old Testament tabernacle is an earthly, manmade sanctuary and part of the first covenant—the Old testament way (Hebrews 9:1-2). Whereas Jesus, as our high priest, gives us a more perfect tabernacle, one not manmade (Hebrews 9:11).

The New Testament church serves a priests. Click To Tweet

They Serve as Priests

We’ve already covered that as Jesus’s followers we are his holy and royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). John also confirms that Jesus made us to be his priests (Revelation 1:6, Revelation 5:10, and Revelation 20:6).

In Hebrews we read that just as the priesthood changed—through Jesus—the law must change as well (Hebrews 7:12). In one grand stroke, God’s law of the Old Testament becomes Jesus’s love in the New Testament. (Not only does the priesthood change in this transition, but so do the accompanying practices of temple and tithe.)

The book of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is our high priest (Hebrews 3:1). This makes him the ultimate priest, with us looking to him as an example of how to be priests serving under him.

As followers of Jesus we are his priests, a holy priesthood, a nation of priests. Are we doing this? No. Instead 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 God’s priests. We delegate this holy responsibility to a select few who have put in their time at seminary and received their ordination papers.

Yet God expects us to obey his call to serve as his holy nation of priests. What are we waiting for? What must we do? There are three elements to address in serving our Lord as priests: minister to those in his church, tell others about him, and worship him.

1. Minister to Those in the Church: God intends all those in his family to serve as priests. We’re all priests. This means there are none in our group who aren’t. Within our church—where everyone is a priest—there’s no longer a role to represent God to his people.

As priests we can all approach him directly, without the need for an intermediary.

Within the church body, as priests we minister to each other. As Jesus’s priests we need to love one another and treat each other as the New Testament tells us to.

2. Tell Others about Jesus: In the Old Testament, the priests have an inward focus on God’s chosen people. They do little to reach out to those outside their group.

This is one of the things Jesus changes when he fulfills the Old Testament. No longer are we to have an inward focus as his followers, as his priests. Instead he wants us to look outward.

The resurrected Jesus makes this clear before he returns to heaven. He tells his disciples to go throughout the world and make disciples. This includes baptizing them and teaching them about him (Matthew 28:19-20).

Paul—who God sends to tell the Gentiles about Jesus—acknowledges this is his priestly duty (Romans 15:15-16). As Jesus’s priest, Paul tells the Gentiles—that is, non-Jews, which means the rest of the world—the good news of salvation. This is so they can be made right with God.

Peter also touches on this in his writing about us being Jesus’s priests. He says we are to declare our adoration of Jesus to others. Implicitly this is to address those living in darkness so we can bring them into his light (1 Peter 2:9).

Jesus instructs us to tell others about him. Paul and Peter say that we do so as his priests.

3. Worship Him: Much of what God establishes in the Old Testament about the tabernacle/temple, priest, and tithes relate to worshiping him. Does this Old Testament worship have a place in the New Testament church?

Yes.

But whereas worship was the goal in the Old Testament, it might more so be the means to reach the goal in the New Testament. It is as Jesus’s church worships him and fasts that the Holy Spirit tells them what to do (Acts 13:2).

Note that they are doing two things when God speaks to them. It isn’t just worship. They also fast. Don’t lose sight of this.

Let’s consider some other mentions of worship in the New Testament.

We’ll start with Jesus and his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. She asks about the appropriate place to worship God. Jesus dismisses the discussion about location and says that his followers will worship Father God in the Spirit and in truth (John 4:20-24).

This means we can worship God anywhere and don’t need to go to a dedicated space. What matters is our attitude toward worship, to do so honestly under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Just as Peter talks about us offering spiritual sacrifices as our worship (1 Peter 2:5), Paul uses the phrase living sacrifice. It’s holy and pleasing to our Lord, serving as honest and right worship (Romans 12:1).

Paul also testifies that as a part of his faith journey he continues to worship God (Acts 24:11 and 14). Furthermore, in his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul goes into much detail about having orderly worship (1 Corinthians 14).

The author of Hebrews talks about us being thankful for the eternal salvation we received as worshiping God in reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28-29).

And remember that John’s Revelation overflows with worship. This suggests that not only is worshiping God a New Testament act, but it will also be an end times and everlasting practice (Revelation 4:10, 5:14, 7:11, 9:20, 11:16, 14:7, 15:4, 19:4, 19:10, and 22:8-9).

Yes, we will continue to worship God. But it should look much different than the Old Testament way.

The New Testament church helps their own who are in need. Click To Tweet

They Give Generously

Not only do Jesus’s followers meet in homes and minister to one another, they also have a fresh perspective on giving. Instead of tithing, which isn’t a New Testament command, they practice generosity.

The New Testament doesn’t mention Jesus’s followers taking collections to support the church infrastructure. Instead they receive offerings to help other disciples in need (Acts 24:17, Romans 15:26, 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, and 2 Corinthians 8).

Notice that the focus of their generosity is to those within the church.

The only time the New Testament mentions a weekly collection (1 Corinthians 16:2) is simply to set aside money to help the struggling believers in Jerusalem, not to support a minister.

They also share what they have with one another (Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:32). This is significant, but it isn’t a command. Instead it’s an example.

In his letter to the church in Galatia, Paul confirms the importance of helping the poor. In this case, however, he seems to be talking about all who are poor, both those within the church and those outside (Galatians 2:10).

Jesus talks a lot about money and generosity. He says that there will always be poor people among us (Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:7, and John 12:8), but this isn’t a reason to not help them. On several occasions Jesus tells people to give money to the poor.

He says this to the rich man seeking eternal life (Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21, and Luke 18:22), the Pharisees (Luke 11:41), and his disciples, which we can rightly apply to ourselves as his present-day disciples (Luke 12:33).

There is evidence in the New Testament that the church provides financial support to missionary efforts, though Paul holds up himself as an example of paying for his own expenses as the ideal. This happens even though he feels he has a right to receive financial support as God’s messenger (1 Corinthians 9:4-18).

Regardless, this financial support is for those who travel to tell the good news of Jesus to those who don’t know him, not for local ministers at various city churches.

The New Testament churches practice of generosity is to help the poor and support missionary efforts, not to pay the salaries of local ministers or build and maintain church buildings.

A New Testament Church

This is the New Testament model for church, Jesus’s church. We have much to do.

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

Today’s Church Follows an Old Testament Model

Moses Explained the Three Key Elements of Worship and We Still Follow Them

Our churches today function in much the same way as outlined in the Old Testament. We follow the Old Testament model for church. We pursue these same three key elements. We meet in a building, hire paid staff to represent God to us, and have an ongoing need for money to keep the institution afloat and moving forward.

Building

We often hear the question, “Where do you go to church?” This is an inquiry about location. In standard usage, the word church refers to a place not a people. It’s a structure more so than the community that meets there.

This mindset is pervasive within the church, but it’s universal outside it. In short, people go to a church building to experience God. The implication is that we can’t connect with him at other locations or through different situations. We want a Sunday morning service in a church building.

We go to church. We connect with God. Then we go home. Once we leave the parking lot, we revert to non-church mode and resume our everyday life.

Most people, both those with a religious background and those without it, view a church without their own facility as suspicious, as second rate, or even as somehow less than. People assume—both those inside the church community and those outside it—that this church without a building will one day mature to a point where she can have her own place to meet. Then she will be a real church.

In addition, for many churchgoers, the thought of attending in a non-typical space is an anathema to having a true worship experience. They feel that to truly connect with God they must travel to a dedicated church building.

This is part one of an Old Testament model for church.

Staff

The second element of today’s church is the staff. In most all cases they are paid employees. Yes, sometimes volunteers help, donating many hours of their time each week, but despite their generosity most churches rely on paid personnel to function.

For small churches, the paid staff is the pastor alone, while for larger congregations it’s a pastoral team, made up of full-time and part-time paid personnel.

A church-growth expert once advocated that a single pastor could sufficiently shepherd a congregation of up to 150 people. Beyond that level, the sole pastor requires help to address the needs of the congregation and deal with the details brought on by this expanded scope. The expert had a formula for that too: each additional one hundred people in the church required one more staff person. This formula seems to track at the various churches I’ve been part of over the years.

In the same way that most people expect to go to a dedicated worship space on Sunday, they carry expectations of the paid staff who work there, especially the minister. Just as the people in the Old Testament lined up each day to see Moses, overburdening him and keeping him busy from sunup to sunset (Exodus 18:13), we tend to do the same for our clergy today.

This is part two of an Old Testament model for church.

Collectively we insist that our ministers be available for us whenever we need them. This includes a crisis, such as a death, health scare, financial need, lost job, or wayward child. We also want them there for our celebrations. This means our family births (baptisms, christenings, or dedications) and our weddings (officiating), even milestone birthdays and anniversaries. We also presume their support for our own God-honoring initiatives. And we freely dump our burdens on them in the form of prayer requests. When we call, email, or text, we expect a quick response.

They’re here to serve us. That’s what we pay them for.

Then when they wisely refer us to another person who can help us, just as Moses’s father-in-law recommended him to do (Exodus 18:14), we react with indignation. We withdraw our support for this leader who we feel slighted us (2 Corinthians 6:12). And we seldom do this silently, often resorting to gossip and even slander (3 John 1:9-11). Sometimes we launch a campaign to replace our once-esteemed leader. To add weight to our hurt, we may threaten to withhold our support of the church. And to our shame, we sometimes follow through (Malachi 3:6-12).

Money

The third key element of today’s church is financial support. She needs money to function, lots of it. We often refer to this need for money as tithes and offerings. Some churches call for pledges and then urge people to meet their financial commitments each Sunday.

Over the years I’ve heard many ministers plead for money from their congregations, insisting that we must give 10 percent of our income to the local church. I’m not sure if they’re merely parroting what they heard others say, don’t know their Scripture, or don’t care, but the Bible never says to give 10 percent to the local church. Remember, the Old Testament tithe went to fuel the national religion.

In a typical church most of their budget goes to cover facility costs and staffing. This often approaches 90 percent of the total budget and sometimes requires all of it, only to still fall short. This doesn’t leave too much money—if any—for ministry and outreach.

But lest we complain about the size of our church’s budget and our leader’s calls for financial generosity, remember that this is our own doing. We’ve brought this upon ourselves. We expect to meet in our own dedicated worship space. And we hire staff to serve as our liaison between us and God. These things carry a price tag, and our church budget reflects it.

This is part three of an Old Testament model for church.

The kingdom of God will advance more powerfully when we move from an inward focus to an outward emphasis. Click To Tweet

A Kingdom Focus

Though it’s true that some churches are exceptions to this—and take exception to what I’ve just written—they are the minority. To need less financial support usually stems from one of two things. The first is having a non-typical meeting space. And the second is enjoying a lot of volunteers to do the work that normally falls to paid staff. In some cases, both elements are present, which allows for much more of the congregants’ giving to go to ministry and outreach, instead of buildings and payroll.

This allows them to move from an inward focus to an outward emphasis. Every church should strive to move toward this outcome. The kingdom of God will advance more powerfully when we do.

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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Christian Living

Should We Distinguish Between Christian and Biblical Worldviews?

Exploring Christian Practices That Lack Biblical Support

For years I’ve told people that I strive to write from a Christian worldview. That’s what I believed I was doing. I even regularly prayed that God would empower me to do so, that each word I wrote would embrace, support, and advance a Christian worldview.

However, I realized I don’t always write from a Christian worldview. In fact, I often question a Christian worldview because too much of it isn’t biblical. Too often I can’t find support in Scripture for many of the practices, traditions, and beliefs that most Christians include in their worldview.

As a result, my prayer has changed, asking God that I will consistently write from a biblical worldview. This is how I honor him and encourage others.

What’s a Worldview?

First a definition. A worldview is a set of perspectives through which we view and understand our world. More specifically, it’s a group’s collection of beliefs about life and how we fit into our world.

This means that a biblical worldview sees the world and our role in it through the lens of Scripture. The Bible informs those with the biblical worldview how to think and act.

Similarly, a Christian worldview is the set of beliefs that Christians have about their faith. The basis for this assemblage of ideas should be the Bible. If this were the case, a Christian worldview and a biblical worldview would be synonymous.

Unfortunately, there’s a disconnect. Too many things that comprise Christian perspectives and practices lack a biblical mandate. These topics often come up in my writing.

A Christian Worldview

Christian means to be like Christ, that is, to be like Jesus. As Christians (a word I usually avoid because it means different things to different people) we want to be like Jesus. The Bible is the best source to help us understand how to be like him (WWJD).

Our Christian worldview should emanate from Jesus, through the Bible.

Yet Christians hold many beliefs that don’t have a biblical basis. Christians pursue practices that lack a biblical mandate. Yes, this includes me. But I’m trying to shed these erroneous Christian pursuits that lack biblical support.

A Biblical Worldview

Because some ideas that we accept as Christian don’t have much of a biblical origin, I base my faith and my writing on what God says in the Bible. It’s more important than writing about what other people think is Christian—even if it offends.

When I read and study the Bible—both to inform my life and my writing—I strive to do so without interpreting it through the lens of traditions I’ve been taught and the practices I observe.

I don’t look for justification of our present Christian reality in the Bible to reinforce what we do and believe. Instead I seek to study the Bible to inform my perspectives and reform my practices.

Differences Between a Christian and Biblical Worldview

Over the years I’ve noticed many disconnects between what I read in the Bible and how society practices our Christian faith. This often includes my own practices and pursuits.

I can’t list them all in a short blog post. Even a book wouldn’t provide enough space. Knowing that it’s incomplete and without assigning any priority, here’s a quick list of some of the things most Christians accept as correct, even though there’s not much support, if any, for them in the Bible.

These often comprise their Christian worldview. Here are six considerations:

1. Go to Church on Sunday

I go to church most every Sunday. I’ve done so my whole life. But I’m still looking for a command in the Bible where Jesus, or anyone else for that matter, tells us to go to church each Sunday.

Yes, we’re to not give up meeting together, but that verse doesn’t say weekly or on Sunday (Hebrews 10:25).

2. Fold Your Hands, Close Your Eyes, and Bow Your Head When You Pray

My parents taught me to do these things as a child, and my wife and I taught them to our children.

Yet I’m still looking for a verse in Scripture to back up this practice. Though I often assume all three of these postures when I pray, I’m more likely to skip them.

3. Tithe to Your Local Church

I’ve often heard preachers implore the parishioners to tithe to the local church—that is, the organization that pays their salary. The tithe was an Old Testament command, which averaged about 23 percent a year, not ten. It went to support their national religious infrastructure, not local gatherings.

The New Testament contains no command the tithe. Instead we see a principal that all our possessions belong to God, which we must steward wisely to take care of ourselves and to bless others.

4. The Prayer of Salvation

Many people teach that to become a Christian you need to pray and ask Jesus into your heart. Jesus never said that. In fact, he gave different instructions to different people. The most common and general command was a call for people to follow him.

No prayer, no altar call, and no commitment card. Instead we simply do a U-turn (repent) and follow Jesus. (See my book How Big Is Your Tent?)

Salvation is a lifetime practice, not a one-time commitment.

5. Sunday Church Format

Most church services have two components: music and message, but sometimes they seem more like a concert followed by a lecture. Other services focus on worship and Communion, the Eucharist.

The Bible records all these things, and the early church did them, but I’m having trouble finding any verses that commands these activities or shows them as a regular practice that happened each Sunday. Instead the early church focused on meaningful community, something that most churches today struggle to fulfill with any significant degree.

6. The Lord’s Supper

Our practice of communion is another custom that diverges from the biblical narrative. I understand communion (an extension of Passover) as a practice that should happen at home, with our family, as part of a meal, and as an annual celebration in remembrance of Jesus.

Instead it’s become a Sunday ritual that happens at church, apart from a meal, and with little familial connection.

I use the Bible to better inform, and then reform, how I practice my Christian faith. Click To Tweet

Parting Thoughts

The above list may offend you. I get that. Writing about these things makes people mad. It challenges what we hold dear. We want to maintain the status quo.

Suggesting that these practices aren’t biblical can rattle the traditions that we cherish. Pursuing faith from a biblical worldview is an ongoing struggle for me. But this is one way that I work out my salvation (Philippians 2:12).

In doing so, I use the Bible to better inform, and then reform, how I practice my Christian faith. It’s not a comfortable path, but this journey takes me in the right direction. It’s a course to better embrace what the Bible teaches us about God and our relationship to him, society, and creation.

I hope you will travel with me as we move closer to Jesus.

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.