Tag Archives: unity

When Should You Change Churches?

Changing Churches Should Be Rare, Not Commonplace

When Should You Change Churches?In our Facebook group we discussed the post “When Not to Change Churches.” Justin asked a pertinent question: “When should you change churches?”

I knew part of the answer, but I needed to contemplate how far to take my response. Part of my hesitation stemmed from the reality that sometimes I changed churches for the wrong reasons.

I’ve changed churches eight times in my life. Some of you might think that’s a lot and others might think that’s not much at all. Of the eight times, five were for the right reasons, while the other three fall into a gray area and may lack a sound motive.

Here are the reasons for when you should change churches.

Change Churches When You Move

When you move out of the area and it’s no longer practical or feasible to continue going to your old church, it’s time to find a new one. Don’t delay. Set about finding a new church right away. Each Sunday you take a week off from church makes it a little bit harder to return to that practice. And if you wait too long, you may never go back.

Change Churches If Yours Closes

Each week churches close. It’s a statistical fact. And if it’s your church that shuts down, then you’re faced with the task of finding a new one to plug into. Churches seldom shutter abruptly. There’s usually plenty of warning. They’ve been dying a slow death over months, years, and sometimes even decades.

It’s sad anytime a church closes, and there may be a time of mourning over what you lost. In addition to not having a place to go each week, the friends you’re used to seeing typically scatter and end up at various churches. So, in addition to losing your church home, you’ve also lost your church family.

When this happens it’s time to find a new spiritual community and make a new church home.

Change Churches If You’re Called to Do a New Thing

Sometimes one church will start another one. It may be a satellite location or planting an independent church. You may be part of the launch team. Though this could be a short-term responsibility, it’s usually a long-term commitment.

Another scenario occurs if God calls you (that is, the Holy Spirit prompts you) to move to a different area and help start a new church. Whether in name or in function, this is being a missionary. Leaving one church as a missionary is an obvious time when it’s appropriate to change churches.

Change Churches If Jesus Isn’t Part of It

Jesus is central to Christianity, and he must be part of every church that bears his name. If you go to a church that has pushed Jesus aside or fails to acknowledge him and what he did for us, then question if it’s truly a Christian church. A church without Jesus is a church that doesn’t warrant your attention. If Jesus isn’t there, you probably shouldn’t be there either. It’s time to change churches.

Change Churches If Your Present Church Is Hindering Your Faith

This one is harder to define, but sometimes we may find ourselves in a church that is so misaligned with who we are and where we are in our walk with Jesus, that it gnaws at our soul. Persevering in that environment pulls us away from God and threatens to derail our faith. I would never encourage anyone to persist in a church community that is damaging their relationship with God. If this happens, it’s time to find a new church community. Seek one will help you draw near to God and encourage you in your faith.

Are There Other Times to Change Churches?

What about other beliefs? Christianity is filled with various viewpoints on faith and theology. If Jesus remains the core, I encourage us to accept one another for our other differences in belief and practice. Yes, some people view these differences as heretical, but I don’t think Jesus does. Based on what he prayed in the Bible (John 17:20-26), I know that he wants us to get along, to remain united, and to act as one. Leaving one church because we disagree with an element or two of their religious platform is a bad reason to leave.

Of the eight times I’ve change churches four were because of moving and one was for a church plant. The other three were more dubious. The first was because I was bored, the second was because our kids weren’t plugged in, and the third was to fulfill my deep desire to go to church in my community, with my neighbors, and worship with my family. The first was selfish—though I did meet my future wife there—while the other two were more laudable, even though they fall outside my list of five reasons to change churches. Leaving one church because we disagree with an element or two of their religious platform is a bad reason to leave. Click To Tweet

This implies there may be a sixth reason to change churches, but it’s one that’s hard to define. Its subjective. And any time something is subjective it means that our emotions can replace logic, which allows us the latitude to make about any determination we want. And usually that decision leads us to change churches even though we probably shouldn’t.

But regardless of the reasons of why you want to change churches, before you do, take a careful look at when not to change churches. Pray about it, and ask for Holy Spirit guidance. If he says it’s time to move on, then move. And to help you on this new adventure, check out “How to Find a New Church.” May God bless you in your search for a new church home and guide you to the place he wants you to be.

Three Ecumenical Guidelines

Ecumenical is a word some may be unfamiliar with

Three Ecumenical GuidelinesOne definition of ecumenical means “relating to the worldwide Christian church.” A broader understanding is “establishing and promoting unity among religions.” More generically, ecumenical simply means “worldwide; universal.”

In simple terms, I understand ecumenical to mean unifying.

Towards this goal, three ecumenical—that is, unifying—guidelines advance our understanding:

“In essentials, unity;
in non-essentials, liberty;
in all things charity.”

Though the author of this brilliant advice is in debate, its wisdom is not.

How Big Is Your Tent?May our list of essentials be short, our non-essentials held loosely, and our mercy and tolerance without limit.

[This quote is often attributed to Augustine, but cannot be confirmed. John Amos Comenious advocated this in the 1600s and he may have been citing Peter Meiderlin.]

Read more in Peter DeHaan’s book How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love. Get your free copy today and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus

Accepting Those Who Believe Differently

From my research for 52 Churches I learned a great deal about the larger faith community I’m part of.

Accept those who who have had Charismatic Experiences and those who haven'tPerhaps the most significant so far is courtesy of the United Methodist Church and their document “Guidelines: The United Methodist Church and the Charismatic Movement.” It’s a bit formal, but contains some profound principles that when followed will allow charismatic and non-charismatic believers to peacefully coexist, realizing the unity that Jesus prayed for and desires from his followers. Though it was written by the denomination for itself, the truths it contains are applicable to any Christian group.

Consider some of the document’s headings:

  • “Guidelines for All”
  • “For Pastors Who Have Had Charismatic Experiences”
  • “For Pastors Who Have Not Had Charismatic Experiences”
  • “For Laity Who Have Had Charismatic Experiences”
  • “For Laity Who Have Not Had Charismatic Experiences”

Some observations:

  • The first guideline is foundational: “Be open and accepting of those whose Christian experiences differ from your own.”
  • The two sections for pastors are virtually identical.
  • The two sections for laity are quite instructive and helpful,
  • These principles are applicable to just about any polarizing disagreement in the church over doctrine or practice.

How Big Is Your Tent?The main point of all this is we need to be ready and willing to accept those who may have different faith perspectives and experiences.

That’s unity; that’s what Jesus wants.

Read more in Peter DeHaan’s book How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love. Get your free copy today and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus.

 

Pursuing a Balanced Trinitarian Faith

There is an amazing little booklet, sporting a tongue-twister of a title. It is The Threefold Art of Experiencing God: The Liberating Power of a Trinitarian Faith by Christian A. Schwarz. In a stellar example of “less is more,” this diminutive book carries a profound punch.Pursuing a balanced trinitarian faith

The central theme is that Christianity exists in three streams, the liberals (mainlines), the evangelicals, and the charismatics. In general terms, each places their faith focus primarily on one part of the Godhead: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, respectively.

The perspective of each stream is correct, but at the same time, incomplete. Each of these three segments carries with it corresponding strengths. However, it simultaneously contains risks inherent from persisting in an unbalanced point of view of the Godhead.

Schwarz’s prescription for this is that all Christians should equally pursue the three parts of the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, experiencing God in totality, not in part. A Trinitarian faith. In doing so, our understanding of who God is will become more balanced. The result is that we will all arrive at the holistic center of who God is, being more unified in the process.

How Big Is Your Tent?As I learn more about each of Christianity’s major streams, I become more appreciative of what each as to offer, making my faith fuller. This helps me be more accepting of my brothers and sisters from all Christian walks.

[Read my review of The Threefold Art of Experiencing God: The Liberating Power of a Trinitarian Faith.]

Read more in Peter DeHaan’s book How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love. Get your free copy today and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus.

 

42,000 Protestant Denominations

Christianity Today recently reported that there are 42,000 Protestant denominations. That is shocking.42,000 protestant denominations

However, given that in the United States we have a consumerism mentality, this development is hardly surprising. Consumerism says that if you don’t like the church you are at, you keep shopping until you find one. If you can’t find one that fits, you start your own.

Compounding consumerism is the celebration of the individual. Individuals don’t value community or the collective good. Instead, blazing one’s own trail is celebrated and exalted. But individualism is selfish and self-centered. The attitude is, “it’s all about me.”

However, 42,000 Protestant denominations are not what Jesus had in mind at all. His intent was one—and that includes the other streams of Christianity, too.

How Big Is Your Tent?Why can’t we just be one in Jesus and forget about our denominations, our disagreements, and our doctrines?

Consumerism and individuality is not the goal, unity is.

Read more in Peter DeHaan’s book How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love. Get your free copy today and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus.

 

Take a Step Toward Christian Unity

In my neighborhood, a fair number of people attend church. None of them go to the church I attend and, as far as I know, no one else attends the same church as their neighbors. Even more confounding is that there are two churches within a mile, but no one attends them either. In fact, we all drive by other churches as we motor to our own church of choice.We must pursue Christian Unity

How sad.

Even though we are all of the Christian faith, we fail to abide in that reality. Instead we denominate ourselves into disparate subgroups based on our individual traditions, preferred practices, and pet perceptions of what it means to be Christian.

This wasn’t what Jesus had in mind. He wants us to be one—just as he and his father are one.

Unity was the intent, but disunity was the result.

Although our enemy would prefer that we not follow God at all, his backup plan seems to be to hold us in adamant disagreement. This may be almost as an effective ploy.

How Big Is Your Tent?While we can’t quickly repair these centuries old rifts, a good first step is to be open-minded towards our brothers and sisters, willing to listen to what they have to say and accept them regardless. This would show God’s love to another, something that is also important to Jesus.

Read more in Peter DeHaan’s book How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love. Get your free copy today and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus.

Three Streams of Christianity

In my post, “Let’s Get Together,” I pointed out the importance of not going alone on our spiritual journey, but rather enjoying the company fellow travelers and the collective safety of going together.

While this is best accomplished in person, sometimes that is not feasible. Towards that end, I recommend magazines as a supplemental source of spiritual formation. There are hundreds of worthy periodicals to consider, but there are three that, in my mind, emerge as the prime contenders for consideration. Listed alphabetically, they are:

Check out all three, as each is roughly aligned with a major stream of Christian thought and practice. For me, one of them I mostly resonant with, another stretches me in a good way, and the third frequently irritates me. While each response to the three magazines has merit, it is the third one is most beneficial. After all, if I only read articles that I agree with, what good is that? However, when I am exposed to sound, biblically-based thoughts that are foreign to me, my perspective of what it means to follow Jesus widens and my acceptance of others becomes more inclusive.

How Big Is Your Tent?After all, isn’t this what Jesus taught?

[Although a magazine only permits one-way communication, most magazines offer on-line forums and resources that allow readers to interact with others, thereby facilitating true dialogue and aiding the spiritual journey.]

Read more in Peter DeHaan’s book How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love. Get your free copy today and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus.


Jesus Offers a Prayer for Unity

The last thing that Jesus did as a free man was to pray. The last thing in prayed for was that his future followers would get along. This strongly suggests that unity was important to Jesus.

While unity among his followers was largely realized in the first century that has not been the case in the two millennia that followed. The record shows that Jesus’ followers have been increasingly polarized, divided, and strife-filled.

Although we will never all get along without God’s help, we can be aided by taking to heart the sage advice:

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; it all things, charity”

How Big Is Your Tent?Furthermore, the list of essentials should be short. Very short. As short as possible. My list has but one item: to pursue the God who is revealed in the Bible.

That is it, nothing more. Everything else is a non-essential and for that I advocate tolerance along with a generous portion of brotherly love.

It’s a great first step towards getting along.

[The quote is often attributed to Augustine, but there is no support for that assertion. It most likely originated several centuries later, from Peter Meiderlin, a 17th century Lutheran priest.]

Read more in Peter DeHaan’s book How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love. Get your free copy today and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus.


What is Post-Denominational?

Dividing the church by forming denominations isn’t biblical, and it’s time to move past it

Jesus prayed for our unity, that we would be one—just as he and his father are one. He yearned that his followers would get along and live in harmony. Dividing into religious sects wasn’t his plan. Yet that’s exactly what we’ve done as we formed 43,000 Protestant denominations.Be one in Jesus.

Instead of focusing on our similarities, our common faith in Jesus, these denominations choose to make a big deal over the few things they disagree about. They should get along, but instead they develop their own narrow theology, which they use as a litmus test to see who they’ll accept and who they’ll reject.

How this must grieve Jesus.

While there has been some disagreement among the followers of Jesus almost from the beginning, the divisions started proliferating 500 years ago with the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. And since that time, it’s escalated out of control, with a reported 43,000 denominations today. This represents the most significant degree of Christian disunity ever.

The push for denominational division traces its beginning to the modern era. While the modern era assumed that reason would allow us to converge on a singular understanding of truth, the opposite occurred. Instead, the pursuit of logic resulted in wide-scale disagreement. And this is perhaps most manifest among the followers of Jesus, who love to argue over their individual understandings of theology.

Yet there’s a sense we’re moving away from denominations and the divisions they cause. The word to describe this is post-denominational. Just as we are moving from the modern era to the postmodern era, we are also moving from a time of denominational division to a time of post-denomination harmony.

In understanding postmodern, we don’t consider it as anti-modern but instead “beyond modern.” The same distinction rightly applies to post-denominational. Post-denominational is not anti-denomination, as much as it is “beyond denominations.”

So, what is post-denominational? Post-denominational moves beyond the Protestant divisions that proliferated in the last 500 years, during the modern era. Post-denominational sets aside the man-made religious sects that divide the church of Jesus. In its place, post-denominational advocates a basic theology to form agreement and foster harmony. This allows the followers of Jesus to live together in unity, which will amplify their impact on the world around them.

The people who follow Jesus are beginning to realize this. Many new churches label themselves as non-denominational. This reflects a general mistrust among today’s people for the brand-name Protestantism of yesteryear, that is, denominations. People are weary of the criticism, finger-pointing, and disunity that denominations have caused. Click To Tweet

They’re weary of the criticism, the finger-pointing, and the disunity that denominations have caused. That’s why the label of non-denominational is so attractive to many people. This includes those who go to church, those who dropped out, and those who have never been. They don’t want to align themselves with a denomination anymore. They want a spiritual experience in a loving Christian community, one without denominational division.

For the sake of Jesus and our witness of him to our world, can we set our denominations aside and agree to work together to move forward in unity?

It’s a lot to ask, and it seems humanly impossible. But Jesus already prayed for our success (see John 17:20-26.) May this generation be the answer to his prayer. May we be one.

The Bible Teaches Us How to Live With One Another

Scripture is packed with instructions of how Christians should treat each other

Last year I shared 13 Reasons Why I Love the Bible, and I periodically expand upon one of those thirteen reasons. Today we’ll explore how the Bible teaches us to live with each other. Although these lessons occur throughout the Bible, let’s focus on one reoccurring theme. I call these the “one another” commands. These instructions teach us how to treat each other. The Bible teaches us how to live with one another.

The Bible contains thirty-one of these one-another instructions. Most only occur once, but four of them occur multiple times. This must mean they’re more important, or else they wouldn’t be repeated. They are:

Love One Another: The command to love one another occurs ten times in the Bible, all in the New Testament. John writes about this the most but so do Paul and Peter.

Unfortunately our society today has a skewed understanding of the word love. Consider the following.

  • I’d love to go to the movies with you.
  • I love pizza.
  • I love to read the Bible.
  • I love my family.
  • I love God.

These are all phrases I’ve used. But they convey different meanings of the word love, ranging from preference to passion. What is love? Our society often treats love as an emotion, but let’s consider love as an attitude that prompts unselfish action. When it comes to loving one another, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 gives us some helpful instructions on how to do this. By following these verses we can begin to love others in a biblical way.

Encourage One Another: In four places, both the Old and New Testaments, the Bible tells us to encourage one another. Using positive words to lift others up and inspire them in their life and faith is a simple thing, yet most of us fail to do so most of the time. This is a skill we need to learn and then apply.

We all know people who encourage us. We enjoy our time with them, because we feel better about ourselves afterwards. May we be like them.

However, we also know people who we don’t enjoy being around because they discourage us, either directly through negative talk or indirectly through their attitudes. May we not be like them.

Let us encourage others and provide a positive, nurturing relationship that motivates them to do better.

Live in Harmony With One Another: Paul and Peter tell us we’re to live in harmony with one another. This is key. Harmony comes out of biblical love and is bolstered by encouragement, but there is more to harmony than that.

Two words come to mind that relate to harmony. The first is peace. We should strive to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).

The second word is unity. It’s critically important for followers of Jesus to live in unity with one another. When we do so, we point others to Jesus. When we fail to do so, we push people away from Jesus. May it never be so.

Unity—that is, harmony—is important to Jesus. In one of his prayers he asks his father that we will live in unity, that we will be one just as he and his father are one (John 17:21).

Greet One Another With a Holy Kiss: The fourth of the one-another commands that appears multiple times in the Bible is a perplexing one. It’s the instruction to greet one another with a holy kiss. What does that mean?

I explored this in another post where I speculated that this command might be a “sacred act of intimacy for the church community.” Then I admitted that I’m not really sure.

Another thought is that greet another with a holy kiss might be like a secret handshake, a way to express Christian affinity without saying a word. I suppose that works, too.

Or we could interpret this command to greet one another with a holy kiss as a principle that implies acceptance and affection with all others who follow Jesus. This also might be a viable interpretation of this confusing phrase.May we learn to treat one another as the Bible tells us. Click To Tweet

In addition to these four, there are twenty-seven other one-another commands in the Bible. As we strive to follow them and put them into practice, the Church of Jesus will grow, and the world will be better for it.

May we learn to treat one another as the Bible tells us.

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