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52 Churches

Key Questions from Churches 45 through 53

To wrap up our adventure, we picked churches to provide the most varied experiences. For this phase my thoughts center on church size, coupled with my desire for community with other believers.

We’ve completed the final phase of our adventure. Even though most of these churches in this group are medium to large in size, consider these two discussion questions that address smaller churches: 

1. Community is easier at smaller churches, yet I don’t go to one. Curious. 

Regardless of the size of your church, how can you better connect people in community?

2. Smaller churches are usually older congregations. They often have traditional services, don’t embrace newer methods, and are mostly composed of aging parishioners. I’m not against older people, but I am against complacency. 

How can you guard against complacency?

[See the prior set of questions, the prior post, 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

Two Services: Another Doubleheader

Experiencing a Traditional Service and a Contemporary One

Today we’ll enjoy two services, another doubleheader: a traditional service followed by a contemporary one.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #45

1. As we wander inside, several people acknowledge our presence, thanking us for visiting. But beyond that no one says anything more, so we meander into the sanctuary. 

Acknowledging a person is a great start, but what more can you do to connect with them and show you care?

2. At one point, the minister invites people to come forward to the altar. Doing this in the middle of the service is unusual, and I don’t catch the purpose. 

When you do something people don’t expect, how can you make your intentions clear?

3. Between services is a pastor’s breakfast for guests. It’s a great chance to learn more and experience community. They say it’s in the library but fail to explain how to get there. Eventually someone gives us directions. 

How can you help people better navigate your facility?

4. The crowd is lethargic at the contemporary service. It’s as though they just crawled out of bed and rolled into church—and many rolled in late. 

What must you do to engage in worship? How can you help others in their worship?

The two services gave us completely different experiences.

[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

A Church Doubleheader

Discussing Church 17

This church has a contemporary service followed by a traditional one. It’s a church doubleheader. We’ll go to both.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #17:

1. Their idea of contemporary is vastly different from mine, with this service being one of the more reserved ones we’ve attended. 

If you state a certain type of service, what do you need to do to better deliver on your promise?

2. They provide a sign language interpreter for the hearing impaired, who sit in the first three rows. It’s a treat to watch them sing with their hands and sign interactive portions of the service. 

What can your church do to help those with various limitations better engage in worship?

3. For communion, there’s no invitation for nonmembers to partake. We decide that we shouldn’t, but the usher motions us to go up. 

Do people know what to expect when you serve communion? What can you do to include visitors and welcome them to participate?

4. No one mentions it, but we find coffee and donuts in the fellowship area. Next to each is a donation basket. I feel guilty for grabbing a treat without feeding the fund. 

What practices in your church would seem odd or off-putting to outsiders?

[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.

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

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52 Churches

Reflecting on Church #52: Misrepresented Services

Don’t Misrepresent Your Church Service

With our journey of visiting fifty-two churches over, I can reflect more on the complete experience. Today, I’ll add to my thoughts about Church #52.

This church offers two services. They call the first one blended, combining traditional and contemporary elements, whereas the second one is promoted as contemporary. Both are mislabeled. The church has two misrepresented services.

Church #4 successfully combined traditional and contemporary elements into their service. Though this church makes the same claim for their first service, it comes off more as a traditional service with a contemporary element awkwardly tacked on the end. For me it was too little, too late.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

I also found their second service mislabeled. It was less contemporary and more so “safe.” A friend who attends this church flinched at my description of safe. She also knew I was right.

I suspect what we saw was not so much an effort to provide a contemporary service, but an effort to connect with unchurched visitors while not offending members clinging to the past.

To be correct, they need to either relabel their two services—calling the first one traditional and the second one blended, would be more accurate—or they need to do a major overhaul of each.

Change is in order, with the first option likely appeasing members, whereas the second option would be more effective at connecting with the unchurched.

[See my reflections about Church #51 or start at the beginning of our journey.]

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

Breakfast and a Doubleheader (Visiting Church #45)

Today is a doubleheader: a traditional service followed by a contemporary one. Aside from an older crowd, there’s little to suggest a traditional service is about to occur.

Everything gives off a progressive vibe, from the informal space, to the padded chairs, to round tables in the back and large screen up front, to the array of musical instruments.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

Accompanied by piano, keyboard, and trumpet, our worship leader stands behind the pulpit, keeping time with his hands. We sing old hymns with the words displayed overhead; there are no hymnals. Interspersed among the songs are announcements, a prayer, an offering, and a video testimony, foreshadowing the sermon.

Between services is a pastor’s breakfast for guests. We enjoy Belgium waffles, sausage, fruit, coffee, and juice. Besides us, there’s another couple, and the pastor and his wife, with two members serving as our hosts.

After getting to know us and sharing the church’s vision, the pastor excuses himself for the next service. I’d like to talk more with the other visitors, but if we do, we’ll miss the contemporary service.

Aside from different songs and instruments, other contrasts exist as well. The first service was brightly lit, whereas this one uses only indirect and natural light. The stage was rearranged and the pulpit, removed.

An hour ago everyone was our age or older. Now we are among the eldest. We see families and young kids, but aside from the worship team, not many youth. The first service crowd was friendlier, whereas now there’s less interaction.

Today we experienced a traditional service that wasn’t as formal as we expected and a contemporary service that was not as outgoing as we anticipated, but overall we worshiped God and experienced community.

[Read about Church #44 and Church #46, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #45.]

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

The Right Mix of Music (Visiting Church #4)

The church is a traditional-looking building, constructed of brick and stately in appearance. In checking out the sanctuary, I anticipate the service will be just as Facebook promised. It said “a blending of traditional and contemporary.” Will they have the right mix of music?

The service begins with several familiar choruses. A few people lift their hands in praise, though this is limited and low-key. A team of four leads us: the worship leader on guitar, vocalist, keyboard, and the minister on bass.

The drums sit idle. However, they don’t use the piano during the singing, but it is expertly played for the prelude, offertory, and postlude.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

After a time of singing, they give several announcements. The church is a busy place and there’s much information to share. A glance at the bulletin reveals activity every day of the week.

They excuse the children and the offering follows, accompanied by an impressive piano performance. At its conclusion, applause breaks forth. I’m a bit uncomfortable with this. I wonder if we’re worshiping God with our hands or praising an accomplished musician.

The minister is in the second week of a series on the book of first John. Using an expository style—going verse by verse—he guides us through the text, zeroing in on 1 John 2:16, which is the impetus for his sermon title, “Pollution Free.”

We need to guard against the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—thereby controlling the pollution in our lives.

We conclude the service singing a well-known hymn.

The way they successfully integrate hymns and choruses into their worship service impresses me. They meld the old and new. Their worship music is both traditional and contemporary. They have the right mix of music. I enjoyed the experience, and I’m glad we were there.

[Read about Church #3 and Church #5, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #4.]

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.