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52 Churches

A Laity Led Service

Discussing Church 29

As we pull into the church parking lot, we realize our daughter attended preschool here, many years ago. What we don’t know is that we will experience a laity led service.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #29:

1. We amble in and one woman approaches us and mutters to herself, “Where’s the guest registry?” She moves toward an ornate wooden stand that holds nothing. As she searches for the missing book, I walk past her. 

How ready is your church to receive visitors?

2. The minister is gone, and a member fills in. Though not an accomplished speaker, I applaud what she’s doing. In fact, members lead the entire morning. It is a laity led service. 

Can your church hold a service without your minister or staff? If not, what should you do?

3. They invite kids to come forward for the children’s message as music plays. Though the song is appropriate for preschoolers, the five who come forward are much older: later elementary through high school. 

What traditions does your church persist in even though it no longer makes sense?

4. During the message, someone passes us a clipboard with a sign-in sheet. I watch the clipboard weave its way in the rows ahead of us. I’m so distracted that I never reconnect with our speaker. 

What church practices distract people from hearing the message and worshiping God?

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

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

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

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52 Churches

An Intriguing Liturgical Church

Discussing Church 28

We learn of this church when we spot their name in a local paper’s church directory. Still, we struggle to confirm their meeting time. We expect to experience a liturgical church service.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #28:

1. We walk inside and a lady shares some basic information about the liturgy for today’s service. Without her help, we’d have been lost. 

Whether you’re a liturgical church or not, how can you help people better navigate your service?

2. During the sermon the minister forewarns us we will greet each other later with a holy kiss. Though there’s only a handful of people, they’re all strangers. This is the creepiest of practices. 

What does your church do that may cause people to squirm? (And before you say nothing, think harder.)

3. After the service they invite us to stay for fellowship. A neighbor and her dog join us. Though she missed the service, she’s welcomed anyway. 

How do you feel about people skipping church and showing up afterward to hang out?

4. Even though it was hard to participate, some of this church’s strange worship traditions fascinate me. 

Do your church practices and worship intrigue others or push them away? How can you make your liturgical church service more accessible?

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

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

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

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Christian Living

Don’t Elevate Human Traditions Over God’s Commands

We Must Reform Our Behaviors Through the Lens of Scripture

In the Bible we see example after example of Jesus extending love, grace, and mercy to people, especially those who are searching, who don’t fit in, and who the religious leaders reject.

There’s only one group of people who Jesus regularly criticizes. Who might that be? Yep. It’s the religious leaders, especially the Pharisees who value their human traditions and practices.

Human Traditions

One time Jesus sarcastically affirms their excellence in elevating their own human traditions above God’s commands (Mark 7:9). Then he gives them an example. From a safe distance of our perspective some two millennia later, it’s easy to see their hypocrisy.

It’s easy to shake our heads in dismay and boldly affirm that we would never do such a thing.

But we do. Every day.

It’s just that it’s hard for us to see our shortcomings when we elevate our human traditions over biblical commands. It’s as hard for us to see our hypocrisy now as it was for the Pharisees to see theirs two thousand years ago.

And I say us, because I include myself. To claim I’m impervious to this problem would be to confirm a bit of self-righteous arrogance.

What Does the Bible Say?

Though I’m not immune to placing human traditions, spiritual practices, and religious customs above what the Bible teaches, I’m always on the lookout for my failings. Please join me in this search.

We must look at everything we do with a critical eye. We must ask, “Why?”

Why do we do what we do? When it comes to church, the unexamined answer is that we’ve always done it that way. But that doesn’t make it right.

As we look at our practices, we must do so through the lens of Scripture. Does the Bible support—truly support—what we do? In many cases it doesn’t. Much of what we do on Sunday has strayed from what God commanded and Jesus desired.

Yes, we can prooftext about anything to support our actions. But that doesn’t make it right. It just gives us a smug satisfaction to ease our guilt for falling short of what God has in mind for us.

We must scrutinize everything we do through the lens of Scripture. Click To Tweet

We must scrutinize everything we do through the lens of Scripture. The goal isn’t to justify the status quo of our human traditions but to reform our behavior.

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

How Far Do We Go To Protect Tradition?

How Far Do We Go To Protect Tradition?

Whether or not we realize it, all aspects of our lives include traditions: unexamined habits and mindless rituals. But perhaps traditions most often exist in our approach to God and our worship of him. While some traditions had a positive origin, others were misguided from the start.

With little thought we pass our traditions from one person to the next, one generation to another.

Churches often protect their traditions with adamant, unyielding passion— sometimes at the expense of obeying God and doing what the Bible says. This is not a new problem. Jesus addressed this two thousand years ago.

The religious leaders of the day (the Pharisees) were quick to point out that Jesus’ followers (disciples) broke from tradition. They didn’t bring this up to provide correction but to pronounce condemnation. They thought they could discredit Jesus and embarrass him in front of the people.

Their plan didn’t work. Jesus foiled them. He declared that what the Bible said took precedence over their traditions. Jesus put his detractors and their ideas of what was important in their place.

What are some traditions or rituals that you have jettisoned? What are some traditions that might warrant reconsideration?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Matthew 14-16, and today’s post is on Matthew 15:1-6.]

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

Realizing Holy Spirit Power

Realizing Holy Spirit Power

Although the terminology and even the timing vary between the various Christian traditions and perspectives, a generality is that first, someone decides to follow Jesus and then the Holy Spirit is given to guide and direct them.

While each stream of Christian thought assigns different terms to these events and has a diversity of understanding as to how and why this is the generally prescribed order.

So how then does this square with John the Baptist being “filled with the Holy Spirit even before he was born?” Things certainly seem out of sequence for him.

Not everyone’s journey to God is exactly the same. Click To Tweet

True, it would be unwise to rewrite our theology on the basis of one verse that seems to offer an exception to our understanding of the normal order of how things are done.

However, at the least, this verse should give us pause before we adamantly assert there is a specific way and time for one to receive the Holy Spirit.

Apparently, not everyone’s journey to God is exactly the same.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 1-3, and today’s post is on Luke 1:15.]

Read more about the book of Luke in Dear Theophilus: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus through the Gospel of Luke now 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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Bible Insights

The Error of the Pharisees

The Error of the Pharisees

In The Error of the Sadducees and Pharisees, it was noted that the Pharisees’ mistake was adding to the Bible and then esteeming their additions as more important.

Jesus notes that they break God’s commands in order to keep their own, man-made traditions (that is, the religious rules they added to the Bible). He then gives an example and quotes Isaiah, deeming it as worthless worship.

While most God-loving people would shutter at the thought of doing this, their actions often belie their intentions.

Consider being fixated on what a certain scholar says about the Bible and knowing his or her work better than the Bible or jumping on the bandwagon of the latest “hot” author, pouring over his or her writings with great fervor, while relegating the Bible to second-class status.

Studying scholars and writers who point us to God can be a positive and helpful thing, which should not be dismissed. However, giving them undo importance, or diminishing God and what the Bible says about him in the process, is never good.

It is the error of the Pharisees.

[Matthew 15:3-9, Mark 7:5-13, and Isaiah 29:13.]

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

Traditions Have Their Place

Traditions Have Their Place

In the book of Matthew, Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for placing their traditions ahead of God’s commands. From our perspective, in a different time and culture, it is easy for us to see their error. However, we likely do the same type of thing and are blind to it.

What might some of those traditions be?

If our traditions distract us from following and serving Jesus, then it is time to set them aside. Click To Tweet

Certainly a lot of what happens at many church services today are based more on tradition than command. While many of those traditions have a solid basis or are good for us to follow, it is all too easy for our man-made traditions to take on more importance or priority than is wise or warranted.

If our traditions distract us from following and serving Jesus, then it is time to set them aside.

What traditions have you placed too high of emphasis?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Matthew 14-16 and today’s post is on Matthew 15:3-7.]

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.