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Christian Living

Father, Son, or Holy Spirit?

Which Part of the Trinity Do You Focus On?

The Bible talks about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We intellectually know that these three parts of the Trinity exist, but what is the reality of our spiritual practice? Most Christians prefer one part of the godhead over the other. They make that facet of God their primary focus, while diminishing or even forgetting the other two.

Churches, too, tend to emphasize one part—Father, Son, or Holy Spirit—in their religious practices. I’ve gone to all three types of churches, have friends in all three, and understand all three.

In what follows, I’ll speak in generalities; that means there are exceptions. If one part of my summary offends you, ask yourself if I may have hit too close to home.

In our discussion of Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, I outline three considerations:

Father God

The first group of Christians focus their faith on Father God. They worship him and serve him. He is the reason for their existence—intellectually so—and the center of their worship—albeit more stoic in nature. Though he is their Heavenly Father, they are more apt to refer to him as God than as Father. He also tends to be a more distant deity in their faith practice and daily living.

Jesus is a secondary part of their faith. They revere him as a good man, a wise teacher, and a worthy example. Mentally they acknowledge him as Savior, but it doesn’t often go beyond that. And they give the Holy Spirit minimal attention, treating him like an eccentric relative that they know exists but try to ignore.

Jesus, the Son

Another group of Christians celebrate Jesus as the center of their faith. Having a personal relationship with him—according to their specific theological constructs—is the only thing that matters. Once they’ve done that, their card is punched, and they’re going to heaven, where they’ll spend eternity with him. Oh, and Father God will be there too.

The Heavenly Father is part of their faith, But in practice and in thought, he’s often secondary to Jesus. They forget that Jesus is the way, not the destination. They acknowledge the work of the Holy Spirit but have scaled back their acceptance of his work from what the Bible proclaims to what better aligns with their own practices and experiences today.

Holy Spirit

The third group of Christians put the work and power of the Holy Spirit in the center of their faith and daily practices. It starts with a relationship with Jesus and culminates with the infilling power of the Holy Spirit in their lives—often proved by speaking in tongues. Once a rigid expectation, speaking in tongues is now more a preferred—but not required—outcome for most practices.

Though Jesus and the Father are part of their faith, the extreme emphasis on the Holy Spirit tends to diminish them in the process.

Our perspective should be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May we move forward to embrace all three. Click To Tweet

A Holistic Perspective

Though you might insist on some exceptions, you likely identify with one of these three camps over the other two. But before you affirm your perspective as right and the other two as wrong, let me suggest that despite the good aspects of each group, none are correct. It is not an issue of Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, but a holistic call to equally embrace all three in our theology, worship, and service.

It should be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May we move forward to evenly embrace all three.

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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Visiting Churches

Not Welcoming: Discussion Question on Church #58

The website of this large church boasts that we’ll find “a warm and friendly group of people.” If you must claim you’re friendly, you might not be; they might be not welcoming.

Experience tells me they may try but will fall short. 

Consider these seven discussion questions about Church 58.

Always anxious before visiting a church, my gut churns even more. A sharp pain jolts me. My heart thumps. I later learn I had an anxiety attack. How can we best help people who struggle to enter a church building?

Inside, preoccupied people mill about. We walk slowly, giving someone time to approach us. No one does. And we see no one for us to approach. How can we be more aware of people longing for interaction?

When the countdown timer reaches zero the worship team begins to lead us in song. Most of the people, however, aren’t ready to worship. They aren’t even sitting down. How can we better prepare ourselves to worship God?

As I settle into the chorus of an unfamiliar tune, a reunion between two people hijacks my focus. Their loud conversation distracts me well into the third song. How can we balance a desire for community with the goal of worship?

We end up with about three hundred people, half of whom wander in several minutes after the service starts. How can we make sure we arrive on time and not distract others from experiencing God?

The minister leads us in Communion. “Everyone is invited to the table to encounter Jesus in their own way.” This is most inclusive. How can we better include people and help them encounter Jesus?

The insightful message was worth the hour-and-forty-five-minute service, but the rest disappointed me. I didn’t worship God today or experience community. I walk out feeling lonely. This church was not welcoming at all. What can we do to make sure people don’t leave church disappointed or ignored?

[Read about Church 58, Church 59, or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of More Than 52 Churches and The More Than 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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Visiting Churches

Church #58: Not So Friendly

Today, we head to one of the area’s larger churches. In the past, they had a visible presence, but I’ve not heard much about them recently. Their website boasts that we’ll find “a warm and friendly group of people.”

I bristle. It’s like telling someone you’re humble or you’re honest: if you have to say it, you probably aren’t. Experience tells me they’ll try to be friendly but will fall short. 

Their “First Impressions Team,” sporting blue name badges, will be located “throughout the building” and available to answer questions. I suspect I should dress up, but their website says to “come as you are.” What a relief.

Charismatic Church

I can’t tell it from their website, but I know they’re a charismatic church, part of the Assemblies of God denomination. Even their name obscures that fact. Their website has only one mention of their affiliation, which is in small type at the bottom of one page. 

So many of the charismatic churches we’ve visited have left me disappointed. I wonder what today will bring. I see a photo of their lead pastor.

He’s a thirty-something hipster and not at all what I expect for a church with reputed conservative leanings. With this enigma confronting my mind, my anticipation for their service heightens.

The church facility enjoys a visible presence with easy access from the Interstate. We follow the arrows for visitor parking, but we don’t find it. So we park where everyone else does, glad for a spot under a shade tree, which will keep our car cool on this warm July day.

An Urge to Flee

Always anxious before visiting a new church, today my gut churns even more, and then a sharp pain surprises me. My heart thumps. In near panic, I fight the impulse to flee.

Unaware of my anxiety, Candy presses forward, and I fall in step alongside her. It’s going to be okay. I begin to pray. By the time we reach the door, my breathing is back to normal, and my pulse has slowed. I’ll be all right. Thank God!

Two greeters stand at the nearest entrance. The pair smiles broadly and holds open the doors. “Welcome youngsters!” The man is twenty years or so my elder.

I wonder if this is his attempt at flattery or if we represent youth to this congregation. While we have been the youngest people present at too many churches, I don’t expect that to happen today.

“I don’t know you,” says the woman. Affable, her directness carries an edge.

We admit to being first timers and exchange names. I don’t catch theirs, and I doubt they remember ours. We soldier on in. Despite people milling about, all act preoccupied. Once again, we’re invisible.

First Impressions

We walk slowly, giving people time to approach us, but no one does. And we see no one for us to approach, either. Where are those blue-name-tagged “First Impressions” folks mentioned on their website? We have yet to see one.

Based on the facility and decor, I expect an usher handing out bulletins, but there isn’t one. With nothing else to do, we stroll in and sit down. 

The large sanctuary seats about eight hundred on the main level. The sloped floor and auditorium seating, although contemporary in intent, gives a stoic vibe. There’s also a balcony, but, unlit, it must be closed. With only a smattering of people sitting down, they’re not even close to needing it. 

A countdown timer on dual screens tells us the service will begin in a few minutes. At some churches the counter signals the launch of the service, while at others it serves as a mere guideline, an anticlimactic tease. Today it is both.

Trying to Worship

The worship team of nine begins leading us in song when the display hits zero. Most of the people, however, aren’t ready to worship. Many aren’t even sitting down. Conversations continue as the band plays.

Just as I’m settling into the chorus of an unfamiliar tune, a reunion between two people occurs to my left, with their loud conversation distracting me well into the third song. I want to worship God. I must focus on the words I’m trying to sing. Even so, focus evades me. I can’t worship.

The band boasts three on guitar, with an electric bass, keyboard, and drums. Three vocalists round out the group. The vocals balance nicely with the instruments, though they’ve cranked the overall volume too high.

Most disconcerting, however, is the subwoofer that sends out sound waves to press against my chest with each beat. It causes me discomfort, but Candy can’t feel it.

Eventually we end up with about three hundred people, half of whom wander in well after the service starts. They’re mostly older than us, with few families and no children that I can see.

By the end of the fourth song, the flow reduces to a trickle. Is worshiping God in song not important to them or was this just a prolonged prelude?

After ten minutes, with most everyone finally seated, the lead pastor welcomes us. He’s everything I expected. I can’t wait to hear his message.

Welcome

His open, casual demeanor is geared toward visitors, yet his occasional use of church jargon would leave the unchurched confused. I wonder how much of my speech is likewise salted, despite my efforts to purge my words of Christianese. 

He refers to the bulletin, and I’m irked no one gave me one. I can’t look at the section he mentions or read the additional information. Then he sits down as a series of video announcements play. 

Communion

When he returns to the stage, he leads us in communion. “Everyone is invited to the table,” he says, “to encounter Jesus in their own way.” He explains the process, so we know what to expect. They serve both elements on one platter.

The “bread” is small oyster crackers. As for the clear liquid, I wonder if it’s white wine or clear grape juice. This is the most inclusive communion service I’ve ever experienced.

As a teetotaler, communion wine unsettles me, and I brace myself for its assault. It turns out to be grape juice, but my preoccupation over it fully distracts me from celebrating communion as I want.

Guest Speakers

We sing some more, and then the senior pastor introduces the guest speakers. I groan, hopefully to myself, at this news. I really wanted to hear their pastor, not some missionaries. But theirs isn’t a typical missionary message.

Instead, they share their story of how God prepared their future restoration even when they were in the middle of deep turmoil. 

They are effective communicators. God’s work in their lives is compelling. I jot down three one-liners: “Storms in life are inevitable,” “God is present in the storms,” and “May we see God’s hand in the center of our storms.”

Though the message doesn’t apply to me now, it one day might. I’m glad to know their story of hope.

Wrapping Up the Service

Afterward, the senior pastor returns to the stage and introduces the offering. The ushers pass the offering plates with quick efficiency, yet they somehow miss a few rows. Miffed because they skipped him, one man chases down an usher so he can present his gift.

Having completed his mission, the man returns to his seat while the pastor asks the prayer teams to come forward after the service to be available for prayer. As for himself and the rest of the staff, they will scoot out for their monthly visitor reception. The service ends, and most people scatter.

Post-Service Interaction

Candy thinks she sees someone she knows and goes over to investigate. I tarry, waiting to meet the man at the other end of my row, but he’s already talking to someone else, and it seems it will be a long conversation.

I scan the auditorium but see no one I can approach, and no one comes up to me. Soon I’m standing alone, with a gulf of emptiness around me. Not wanting to look too pathetic, I meander over to Candy. As I do, I look for the prayer teams up front but see no one.

After my wife wraps up her conversation, we head toward the door. 

“We could check out the visitor thing,” says my bride, “but why bother? We’ll never be back.”

I’m relieved. “Good point.”

Service Overview

We didn’t hear their lead pastor speak, but we did hear a worthy message, one that will stay with me. I’m glad to know this couple’s story of God’s provision and restoration.

From that standpoint, the hour-and-forty-five-minute service was worth it, but the rest of our time here left me disappointed. I didn’t worship God today or experience Christian community.

I walk out feeling lonely.

At the door stand two people with blue nametags, the first ones I noticed all morning. At least now I know what the tags look like. Pleasant folks, we say our goodbyes and step out into the warm sunshine.

[Read about Church 57 or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of More Than 52 Churches and The More Than 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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Bible Insights

When Is the Best Time to Do Good?

Helping Others Is One of Many Ways to Worship God

I like the stories about Jesus helping people in need, such as by feeding them and especially by healing them. Even more I like it when Jesus confronts the religious practices of the day. We have so much to learn from his example.

It’s a bonus for me when in one action Jesus does both: helps someone and challenges religious conventions. Such is the case in today’s reading when Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath, the Jew’s holy day of rest.

A religious authority, intent on preserving his devout heritage of keeping the Law of Moses, is quick to criticize Jesus for his miraculous act of compassion.

Though Jesus does the right thing for the right reason, the Jewish synagogue leader can only see Jesus as breaking one of their long-held rules and deviating from their all-important tradition.

The church today has many rules and expectations for us to follow. Some are well intended and others are unexamined, but I suspect there are exceptions to each one, such as to do good by helping a person in dire need.

We worship God when we help someone in trouble. Click To Tweet

What about skipping church to come to someone’s aid? Some people would never consider such an act, while others would never question it.

What is important to remember is that we can worship God in church by singing to him and we can worship God in our community by helping someone in trouble.

Which should we choose? Perhaps to do good, the option that benefits others. And what better day than Sunday to do good?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 13-15, and today’s post is on Luke 13:10-14.]

Read more about the book of Luke in That You May Know: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus from 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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Visiting Churches

The Worship Team: Discussion Questions for Church #57

During our 52 Churches journey, many people suggested we visit today’s destination, but it was too far away. When the building’s former occupants became too few to carry on, another church took over the building and launched a new gathering.

Consider these six discussion questions about Church 57.

A sign in the drive, too small to easily read, directs traffic in two directions. Unable to read it without stopping, I guess. Do we need to rework our church signs so that they actually help?

After we enter, the worship team begins playing to start the service. This church has a reputation for its many talented musicians, and we’re seeing the results. What is our church’s reputation? What do we need to improve?

A leader asks us to break into groups and discuss the purpose of church. We’re nicely started when she tells everyone to wrap things up. What is the purpose of church? How should it function to meet this intent?

With their minister gone, the intern fills in. He shares a string of Bible verses and intriguing soundbites, but I fail to grasp their connection with the purpose of church. What should we do when the message falls short?

The worship team plays softly to end the service, while the prayer team comes forward to pray for those who seek prayer. How open are we to pray for others at church? And away from church?

When the music starts for the second service, we hustle out of the sanctuary and leave. How can we allow more time for people to experience community after the service and not shoo them away?

Both before and after the service we had rich interaction with people we knew. But I wonder about our reception had no one known us. How can we make our pre-church and post-church interaction more inclusive of people we don’t know?

[Read about Church 57 , Church 58, or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of More Than 52 Churches and The More Than 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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Visiting Churches

Discussion Questions for Church #54

I’ve read books about emergent churches, but I’ve never been to one. At this church, the church leaders want to serve this underserved neighborhood: the poorest and least safe, crime-laden and hopeless.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church 54.

They meet at 5:30 p.m. The plan is to share a meal, offer a brief teaching, and go for a prayer walk in the neighborhood. How open are we to go to church Sunday evening instead of Sunday morning?

My wife, Candy, asks what food to bring. As visitors, they’d forgive us if we showed up empty-handed, but during 52 Churches we did our share of mooching. How open are we to include people in our potluck who have nothing to contribute?

Our leader says that sharing a meal is Communion. As we eat and drink together, we do so to remember Jesus. How open are we to embrace Communion as a meal and a meal as Communion?

The sanctuary lights remain off, with mood lighting taking their place. It provides a peaceful, subdued setting. Some women dance in the back with graceful movement. What role can we let dance play in our worship experience?

May we remember Jesus in all that we do at church, at home, at work, with family, and throughout our lives.

[Read about Church 53, Church 55, or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of More Than 52 Churches and The More Than 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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Bible Insights

What Do We Do When God’s Commands No Longer Make Sense?

Contrary to the Law of Moses King David Reassigns the Duties of the Levites

In the book of Numbers, Moses details the assignments and responsibilities of the tribe of Levi, mentioning them over fifty times. Though the priests, descendants of Aaron, are from this tribe, the rest of the Levites have God-assigned responsibilities too.

Chief among them is taking down, moving, and setting up the tabernacle and related elements of worship. They must do this each time God’s people move camp as they wander about in the wilderness.

The nation of Israel spends about four decades in the desert, sometimes moving frequently and other times not so much. This keeps the Levites busy.

Then they get to the promised land, conquer it, and occupy it. No longer is there a need to disassemble, transport, and reassemble the tabernacle. What do the Levites do now that their primary job is irrelevant? That’s a good question.

Over four hundred years later, some four centuries with the Levites having nothing to do, King David arrives on the scene. He reassigns the Levites to new tasks that relate to worshiping God.

Who does David think he is to countermand the commands of Moses, as received from God? It seems ill-advised to ignore what’s in Scripture—God’s written word—and replace it with something that makes better sense to us. But this is precisely what David did.

Though we could concoct a principal from this and say that when Scripture—God’s past commands—no longer makes sense in the present, we are free to change them. Just like David did. Yet, I’m not going to go there. I think it’s an overstretch, a misapplication.

Remember, after all, David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). That’s significant.

Hold to what the Bible says and apply it the best we can to our life and culture today. Click To Tweet

Whenever I encounter something in the Bible that doesn’t make sense, I don’t ignore it. Instead I meditate on it. I ask the Holy Spirit to supernaturally explain it to me.

Sometimes he does so right away, in other instances it takes a few days, and on occasion I wait for years. But until God instructs me otherwise, I’ll hold to what the Bible says and apply it the best I can to my life and our culture today.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Chronicles 24-26, and today’s post is on 1 Chronicles 24:3.]

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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Visiting Churches

Church #54: Emergent Church, Maybe

Someone once quipped, “There are more books about emergent churches than there are emergent churches.” That seems like hyperbole, but my experience confirms it.

I’ve read several books about the emergent church, but I’ve never actually been to one. Tonight’s experience may change that, but I’m not sure.

My wife, Candy, and I have an opening in our normal Sunday evening plans. This is an opportunity to visit a site plant of our home church (Church #53, “Home for Easter Sunday”). They meet at 5:30 for a community meal and then have a service afterward—more or less. 

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve discussed going. I’m in favor of it, but my bride is reluctant. It’s not that she fears adventure, but she fears the neighborhood. I offer the suggestion, but I don’t push it, hoping she’ll agree to go, without me having to talk her into it.

Talking with the Pastor

Sunday morning, I’m still waiting. The decision happens as Candy talks with one of the site plant leaders. He’s a friend and fellow writer. We hang out a couple times a month. 

His plans for tonight are to share a meal, offer a brief teaching, and then go for a prayer walk in the neighborhood. I’m sure his intent to wander the streets surrounding the church building will discourage Candy from going.

It’s one thing to drive to a semi-safe area and scurry inside a building, but it’s another to traipse around the neighborhood. (In all honesty, I’m apprehensive of the semi-safe prayer walk, too, but I’m willing to push through.)

His words don’t offer the assurance Candy seeks, but she asks what food to bring.

A Shared Meal

As visitors, they’d forgive us if we showed up empty-handed, but during our year of visiting fifty-two churches, we did our share of mooching, and I don’t want to do so again.

Vegetables, we learn, are typically lacking at their weekly potluck, so on our way home from the morning service, we stop by the store to pick up our contribution for the evening meal. 

The building is familiar to us. It’s the one our church first used until outgrowing the facility and moving. At first, a contingent of people remained, but our church leaders did poorly at managing multiple locations and eventually shut the site down.

Now—wiser, better equipped, and armed with a new plan—a cadre has returned, intent on serving this underserved neighborhood: the area’s poorest and least safe, crime-ridden and void of hope.

Arriving at Church

After a minor detour, because I made a wrong turn, we arrive right at 5:30. My all-too-familiar anxiety about confronting the unknown rumbles in my gut. My pulse quickens as we pull into the small, but mostly filled, parking lot.

I want to make a U-turn and race home, but the likelihood of my wife laughing at my panic steels my resolve enough to park our car. Another family exits their minivan, with kids in tow and food in hand.

Feeling a bit assured, we follow them through the back door that leads directly to the lower level.

With only a handful of people present, there’s even less food, mostly desserts. Round tables fill the basement. The one nearest us holds the food while one further away accommodates some people awaiting the meal.

Between the two is a room of empty spaces, except for a solitary woman sitting at her own table. Pleasant-looking and approachable, my instincts are to talk to her, while mindful that she could misunderstand my efforts or feel uncomfortable.

If I can get Candy’s attention, we can go together, but she’s at the food table, talking with someone who just emerged from the kitchen. To my relief, someone eventually joins the woman so she’s no longer alone.

Seeing Friends—and a Dog Named Beau

I scan the room, expecting to see friends who are part of this adventure, but I don’t see them. From upstairs come sounds of the worship team practicing. Surely, some of my friends are there.

Although I see a few familiar faces, I don’t recall any names. While I survey the situation, one of the familiar faces comes up to talk. We have a friendly, yet awkward, exchange that lasts too long. 

A small white dog meanders over to welcome me. I squat, offering my hand for him to smell. All he does is sniff and tremble. He doesn’t withdraw, yet he’s not advancing for me to pet him either. He’s apprehensive and has found a kindred soul in me.

I later learn his name is Beau, nicknamed Bobo. He serves as the church’s unofficial mascot, esteemed by all, and cared for by many. He belongs to our friends: the site pastor and his wife.

They welcomed Beau into their home and later adopted him. This is poetic preparation, for they will soon welcome a foster child into their home with the intent to adopt him too.

Eventually, the site pastor descends the stairs. Dismayed with the low turnout, he concedes we should not wait any longer for more to arrive. We gather in a circle and hold hands while he prays. He reminds us that sharing a meal is communion.

As we eat and drink together, we do so to remember Jesus. With the Amen said, people surge toward the food table. 

We’ve now grown in number to about thirty, yet the food hasn’t kept pace, and it’s still half desserts. Some people bought prepared food at the store, others share leftovers, and one person made some stew.

It smells tasty but is gone before I get to it. I hold back, as do a few others. Some people may depend on this for their evening meal. If I don’t have enough to eat, there’s more awaiting me at home. Others may not have that luxury.

Fellowship

Candy and I sit at a nearby table with our food, and others join us. We get to know them, making connections as we eat. As a bonus, today is the birthday of one of our leaders. We sing to her and share cake.

My focus is more on the fellowship than the food. But I reckon they cut both short when they urge us upstairs. As we do, more friends show up.

With four young children, it’s too much work to get their brood’s tiny mouths all fed before the worship time starts, so they eat at home and show up a bit later.

The Worship Space

The sanctuary is different from the last time we were here some five years ago. The antiquated pews are gone, replaced with comfortable, padded chairs. The ambiance of the coffee house next to the sanctuary is gone with its accessories stripped away to provide only the most basic options.

In the back, areas are set up for kids to play, with plenty of open floor space for physical worship. The overhead lights remain off, with mood lighting taking their place. The result is a peaceful, subdued setting.

There’s a short teaching, though our leader misses his goal of keeping it under ten minutes. He references Exodus 14:19–22, speaking about slavery, drawing present-day parallels for us to contemplate.

He wraps up about fifteen minutes later. With the planned prayer walk canceled due to a light rain, a time of worship starts, now an hour into the evening.

A few of the people from the meal are missing, but several more have arrived, swelling our group to over forty. Candy and I are at the upper end of the age spectrum. Most are in their mid-twenties and thirties, with a good number of children present.

The other site leader—the birthday girl—sits at the keyboard and leads us in song. A skillful and spirit-filled leader, she moves us forward with music. For some people the songs are the focus, while for others the sounds become reverent background music.

Candy soon wearies of the repetition, repetition, repetition of the choruses. For me it’s not the words that matter but the atmosphere: a worship space where we encounter God in multiple ways, according to each person’s preference.

Some people stand as they feel led, raising their arms, swaying, and reverently dancing. Others sit, bow, or kneel. 

Some kids wave worship flags, praising God through solemn movement. A few adults join them. Other kids play quiet games, build with foam blocks, or create art on a wall-sized chalkboard. A couple of women dance in the back with graceful movement.

I want to watch, worshiping God through the beauty of their motions, but I fear that in doing so I may intrude on a private moment between them and the Almighty. 

The teaching pastor stands again, signaling his wife to pause her playing. He offers a bit of encouragement and instruction. We sing a final song, and he dismisses us with a traditional benediction.

More Fellowship

The planned service is over, but no one leaves. Everyone tarries. We chat with several friends, offering prayers and blessings as needed. We say our goodbyes to the new friends we’ve made, thanking them for the opportunity to get to know them and wishing them well.

Many people attempt to leave, but they’re unsuccessful. There are simply too many conversations to have. Among the first to exit, we leave at 8:00 p.m., two and a half hours after we arrived.

The time passed quickly for me, as it does when I’m in the company of winsome Jesus followers. I relish the experience, suspecting this group is approaching a truer meaning of church than I’ve ever experienced on a Sunday morning. 

Candy has a different assessment, saying that had she not already gone to church today, this would have left her wanting. This must be one reason why there are so many types of churches.

Regardless of our differing perspectives, I think we just had our first emergent church experience.

[See the discussion questions for Church 54, read about Church 53, or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of More Than 52 Churches and The More Than 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.

Categories
Visiting Churches

Discussion Questions for Church #53

As a reference, I share attending our home church on Easter Sunday. This marks the end of 52 Churches and the start of More Than 52 Churches. Though I strive to remain objective in visiting churches, our home church forms the lens I look through.

Consider these seven discussion questions about Church #53.

I see value in worshiping God with family, and for Easter we go with our children and their spouses. What can we do to attend church and celebrate Jesus with our family?

The 150-year-old building, even with many improvements, still feels dated. What can we do to make our church facility as conducive to worship and community as possible? 

Though the shortcomings of a worship space shouldn’t block us from God, they can. How can we minimize the cumbersome facility elements we can’t change so they don’t get in the way of us encountering God?

There’s no plan for the service, only a general intent. The Holy Spirit will guide the leaders in what to do and for how long. How much of a role do we let the Holy Spirit play in our church services?

Though we were gone for a year, I listened to the messages online. In what ways can we extend the church worship experience and teaching to those who can’t attend in person?

Baptism at churches varies from a reserved rite, to a public declaration of faith, to an enthusiastic celebration. What can we do to better embrace baptism as the early church did in the Bible?

As we leave the building ninety minutes later, some are already arriving for the second service. Not looking at efficiency, but focusing on the human aspect, how can we foster a better transition between services?

Overall, it was a great Easter Sunday, worshiping God with family

[Read about Church 53, Church 54, or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Get your copy of More Than 52 Churches and The More Than 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

How Do We Worship God?

Discover How to Reframe Worship from a Biblical Perspective

What do you think of when you hear the word worship? How do we worship God? What does worshiping our Lord mean?

Worship Service

Many churches refer to their Sunday morning meeting time as “worship” or “worship service.” This is how they list it on their church calendar, online, and in their printed materials, such as a bulletin or newsletter.

This suggests that we go to church to worship God. We do it one hour each week. This implies the other 167 hours a week are non-worship time. We do other things the rest of the week, which implicitly emerges as the time when we’re not worshiping God.

Worship Set

Despite calling the entire service “worship,” most people dismiss the sermon as actual worship and focus on the other half of the service as worship. This is the time we hear music and sing to God. However, many of these songs aren’t in anthem to God, but for our benefit.

Since the worship set at most church services is a half-hour (or less), we effectively reduce our worship of God to a mere thirty minutes a week.

Worship Music

Some songs carry the title of worship music. Some radio stations focus on playing this format. And if we lack access to a station that plays worship songs, we can create our own worship music playlist. This means we can listen to worship music throughout the week.

But consider the lyrics of each song that we call worship music. Does it bring adoration to the Almighty? Or does it merely make us feel better? There’s nothing wrong with music that points us to God, but we need to guard against calling this worship music, because it doesn’t worship him.

Worship God by Giving Tithes and Offerings

Something I grew up hearing as a teenager in church, and which I still hear from time to time, is in the Sunday morning service when the minister says, “Now let us worship God by giving our tithes and offerings.”

Then they pass the offering plates to accept our donations. To me this had little to do with worship and much about paying the church’s bills.

Though I don’t see in the Bible any place that directly ties donating money with worship, we can embrace our financial support of the Lord’s work with worship, providing we do so with the right attitude (2 Corinthians 9:7).

These practices are good, but they fall short of answering the question, how do we worship God?

Biblical Answers to the Question of How Should We Worship God?

We’ve talked about the worship service, worship music, and giving as a form of worship. Is that all there is to worshiping God? No.

When it comes to the question “How do we worship God?” the Bible gives us much to consider:

Worship in Spirit and Truth

Jesus says that “true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth.” This is the kind of worship that God desires. Since he is a spirit, our best worship is in the Spirit—as in the Holy Spirit—and in truth (John 4:23-24, NIV).

I’m still working on unpacking this passage, but what I do know is that few church services promote true worship today.

Worship through Stillness

In the Bible, our Lord says to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10, NIV). He wants us to push away all else and to be still. He doesn’t want us to do anything.

Quiet. No music. No activity. No physical display of worship. Just the silent stillness of connecting with him in the spiritual sense.

This is a tangible way to worship God in Spirit and truth. In practice our stillness can focus on worshiping God by meditating on Scripture and listening to the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

Worship through Obedience

In contrast to stillness, doing what God says is also a form of worship, but in this case it’s physical. We obey what Jesus says in the Bible, and we obey what the Holy Spirit tells us to do. We don’t obey God to get his attention. Instead, our obedience is a response to what he’s already done for us.

We worship him through our obedience (consider Daniel 7:27).

Worship by Doing Good

Paul writes that women should worship God through their good deeds (1 Timothy 2:8-10). I see no reason why this just applies to ladies. We should all worship God by doing good and helping others in need.

Worship By Being a Living Sacrifice

In the Old Testament, Scripture connects offering animal sacrifices with worship. Since Jesus fulfills the Old Testament law with his once-and-forever sacrifice when he dies for us on the cross, the New Testament doesn’t connect sacrifice with worship going forward. Or does it?

Paul urges the church in Rome to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice. He calls this true and proper worship (Romans 12:1). This living sacrifice isn’t, however, to earn their salvation; they already have that. It’s more to confirm their right standing with God who saved them.

This idea of true worship, however, doesn’t start with Paul. Recall that Jesus mentions it first when he says that true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

How Do We Worship God?

Worship goes beyond the Sunday service, the music we sing, and the offering.

As we consider what the Bible says about worship, we see it as an all-encompassing mindset that could carry us throughout the week and that is not just an hour or so on Sunday mornings.

So then, how do we worship God?

  • We worship God in the Spirit and in truth.
  • We worship God through stillness.
  • We worship God through obedience.
  • We worship God by doing good.
  • We worship God by being a living sacrifice.
We can worship God in all things and at all times. Click To Tweet

In short, we can—and we should—worship God in all things and at all times.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

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.