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Christian Living

The Bible Tells the Church to Meet Together, Worship, and Witness

We Can’t Witness for Jesus When We Sequester Ourselves on Sunday Mornings

Just before Jesus leaves this world to return to heaven, he instructs his followers to go into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). In an expanded version of this incident, Jesus tells his followers to wait for Holy Spirit power and then be his witness, both near and far (Acts 1:4-9).

Witness and Make Disciples

The church of Jesus doesn’t do a good job of being witnesses and making disciples. To do so requires an outward perspective, yet most all churches have an inward focus: they care for their own to the peril of outsiders, with many churches excelling in doing so.

Yes, God values community and wants us to meet together (Hebrews 10:25). And the Bible is packed with commands and examples of worshiping God, with Jesus noting that “true worshipers” will worship God in the Spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

Meeting Together and Worship

Most churches do the meeting together part reasonably well, albeit with varying degrees of success. Many of those churches have a time of worship as they meet together, though perhaps not always “in the Spirit” or even “in truth.”

Yet few churches look outside their walls in order to go into their community to witness and make disciples. Though Jesus said to wait for the Holy Spirit, he didn’t say to wait for people to come to us, to come to our churches so we could witness and disciple them.

No, we are supposed to leave our church buildings to take this work to them. We can’t do that at church on Sunday morning, safely snug behind closed doors.

Maybe we should forego the church service in order to be a church that serves. Click To Tweet

Go into the World as a Witness

Yes there is a time to come together and a time to worship, but there is also a time to go. And we need to give more attention to the going part.

I know of two churches that have sent their congregations out into their community on Sunday mornings, foregoing the church service in order to be a church that serves. One church did it a few times and stopped after they saw little results and received much grumbling.

The other church regularly plans this a few times each year and garners a positive influence on their community.

Shouldn’t every church make a positive impact on their community? Yet so few do. They are too busy meeting together and worshiping.

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

Read more about the book of Acts in Dear Theophilus, Acts: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church 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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52 Churches

Misdirected and Frustrated

Discussing Church 30

When Candy asked about the service time, the pastor confirmed what their website said: 10 a.m. When we arrive, they tell us to sit anywhere. After fifty agonizing minutes, they say, “Thanks for coming. The service will start in about ten minutes.” They used the old bait and switch tactic on us.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #30:

1. We just endured an agonizing Sunday school. They must think they’re clever, but I feel manipulated. They should be honest and say church starts at eleven. 

How might people feel tricked or misled about your church’s practices or the information posted online?

2. We sing old-time hymns with piano accompaniment. They sing with vigor. 

How might people characterize the singing and worship at your church? Is their assessment acceptable?

3. One man wears a lapel pin of the Baptist flag. He thinks his pin is a conversation starter, but his dogmatic discourse pushes me away. 

In what way might our words, passion, or doctrine repel people?

4. Today we heard a powerful message and worshiped God with people passionate about singing, but their bait and switch trick to get us into attending Sunday school remains my key memory. What parting memory do people leave with from your church? (If they don’t come back, you made a bad impression.)

[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 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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52 Churches

A Charismatic Experience

Discussing Church 27

This charismatic church meets in an old, run-down building, originally built for shared-tenant use. It looks abandoned and forms our first impression.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #27:

1. With a half dozen equally accessible doors, we don’t know which one to use. Regular attendees know which entrance to head to; guests do not. 

What changes should you make so that you don’t hamper people from entering your church?

2. We sit and an unpleasant odor assaults me. I eventually grow to accept it, but I never like it. 

What offensive smells and other distractions do you need to remove from your church? (And don’t cover one smell with another.)

3. During their “testimony and prayer” time, each person who prays does so loudly, to the point of shouting. 

How do your prayers come across?

4. They encourage us to worship any way we wish, but during the sermon the minister chastises us: “Forty percent of you did not worship God today.” He does indeed have expectations in how we worship, and he judged us as falling short. 

What worship expectations does your church have? What needs to change?

Though I expected at charismatic experience, unnecesaary issues got in the way.

[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

Does Your Church Use Nametags?

Discussing Church 25

The website of this church shows captivating photos of their worship team, implying high energy and an edgy sound.

Consider these four discussion questions for Church #25

1. Everyone wears an adhesive nametag, and we make our own nametags. At some churches members wear permanent nametags and guests use temporary ones, which single them out. 

If your church uses nametags, how can you best embrace others? If you don’t use name tags, why not?

2. Friends invite us to sit with them. Though we don’t need this comforting gesture to feel welcome, a typical newcomer might appreciate it. 

In what ways can you help a person feel more comfortable?

3. The worship team is far different than their website portrays. Instead of a high-energy, edgy worship band, there’s a laid-back team of two. I’m disappointed. 

Is your website an accurate reflection of your services? If not, what do you need to change?

4. However, this discrepancy between website and reality may be because in a few months this church will cease their Sunday meetings. They’ll relaunch with another church to form a new group, with a new name, and a renewed focus. Change is hard, but these people anticipate it. 

How can your church better deal with change? How can you help?

[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 Good but Atypical Church Service

Discussing Church 24

This church resulted when three dying congregations merged a quarter century ago, but with a worship team of teens brought in, today isn’t a normal gathering. I suspect it’s a more atypical church service.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #24

1. Most of the congregation are senior citizens, with few children. The sanctuary seats about four hundred, but it’s only one-fourth full. 

If you have an aging congregation, what can you do to reverse the trend?

2. The absence of a cross is conspicuous. This isn’t an issue for me, but for many it is. The cross is a prime emblem of Christian faith, but we must remember it’s only a symbol. 

What symbols are present or lacking in your church? What message might this convey?

3. Today’s sermon is about friendship. True friendship, the minister says, requires constancy, honesty, and wise counsel. Jesus is the ultimate friend. 

How well do you do at being a true friend to others?

4. Both before and after this atypical church service, people thank us for visiting. Their conversations aren’t to share faith but to entice us back. They’re desperate to grow. 

How do your efforts to grow your church come across? Are you willing to ask a visitor their thoughts to get a firsthand account?

[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

Paul Teaches What to Do at a House Church Gathering

What Scripture Teaches About Meeting Together Is Far Different Than Our Sunday Services

We talked about three options for a house church gathering: duplicate a typical service, participate online, or just hang out. Each of these three approaches have their strengths and weaknesses.

However, in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul gives us some ideas of what we could do for a house church (1 Corinthians 14:26-27). He gives five activities that could take place: singing, teaching, sharing a revelation, speaking in tongues, and giving an interpretation.

But before we dig into these five areas, let’s look at some other key items first.

When You Gather

Paul says when you gather, not if you gather. This reminds us that getting together with other followers of Jesus should be a regular occurrence, not random (check out Hebrews 10:25).

This idea of meeting together can occur on Sunday morning or can happen at any other time. The Bible doesn’t command the day or the hour when we should meet, nor is the timing sacred. Gathering Sunday morning is merely a practice that developed over the centuries.

Each Person

Next, let’s look at the phrase that precedes Paul’s list. He says, “each of you.” This means everyone should participate. The idea of all those present taking part suggests an egalitarian house church gathering, where everyone contributes, and everyone ministers to each other.

This instruction removes the divide between leader and follower, which happens in today’s church services. On a typical Sunday morning a few people lead, while most people watch. This means that a few people are active during church, while most sit as passive observers, as if going to a concert or attending a lecture.

Five Actions for House Church Gatherings

Instead Paul wants everyone involved, where each person can minister to one another. He lists five activities that should take place in our house church gathering.

1. Sing a Song

When we meet together, we should sing a hymn or share a song—likely more than one. This could mean playing a musical instrument so that others can sing along. For those who can’t play an instrument or lead others in singing, a modern-day option might be to play a recording of a song. Anyone can do that.

It could also mean—it probably does means—launching into a song or chorus a cappella as the Holy Spirit leads. This requires no preparation at all, just a willingness to listen to the direction of God’s Spirit.

2. Teach a Lesson

The same approach applies for giving a word of instruction. We don’t need to preach a half-hour to an hour-long sermon. In this case less is more. We can often communicate much by speaking little. Saying something concisely in thirty seconds may be more meaningful than droning on for thirty minutes. Again, no preparation required. And everyone present can do this.

All we need is a willingness to share something that God taught us during the week, or that we learned through studying Scripture. In addition, we can rely on the Holy Spirit to tell us what to share during our meeting. It can build off what someone else has already said, or it may be a new topic.

3. Share a Revelation

The idea of having a revelation to share will seem normal to some and a bit mystical to others. Think of a revelation as special knowledge that God has given to us. He could do this through a writing we read or an action we observe. And it can be through Holy Spirit insight. Regardless of the source of our revelation, Paul wants us to share these perceptions with those gathered.

4. Speak in Tongues

The last two items on the list may, or may not, be a comfortable activity in our group, depending on our practices and comfort level. The first of these two items is speaking in tongues.

The Bible talks about speaking in tongues, and Paul instructs the people in Corinth to do it. It’s biblical, and we should consider this for our house church gathering. But it may be optional, because Paul later says, if anyone speaks in tongues. This implies it’s not a requirement. But he does say that if people speak in tongues, only a few people should do it and then one at a time.

5. Interpret the Tongue

After someone speaks in an unknown language, someone must interpret it. Implicitly, if no one can interpret the message, then the person shouldn’t share it. After all, how can words that no one understands build up the church?

Holy Spirit at Our House Church Gathering

Much of the activity for a house church gathering means listening to the Holy Spirit and responding as he directs. Implicit in this we will encounter times of silence—sometimes lengthy—as we wait and listen. Silence unnerves some people, so if this idea of waiting for God to speak is new to you, move forward with care as you build up the ability to sit, listen, and share. Hearing from the Holy Spirit, however, is central to our house church gathering.

Everything we do at a house church gathering must be for the purpose of building up the church, to strengthen the faith and community of those present. Click To Tweet

Build Up the Church

To conclude his list of five items, Paul says everything we do at a house church gathering must be for the purpose of building up the church, to strengthen the faith and community of those present. Doing or saying anything to elevate ourselves or draw attention to our abilities benefits our ego. This detracts from the group.

Instead we should humble ourselves and do things for our common good. This will advance the kingdom of God and the good news of Jesus.

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

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

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52 Churches

A New Kind of Church

Discussing Church 21

Most of this church’s ministry happens on Saturday. The Sunday service is for those they meet during their Wednesday evening street ministry.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #21

1. We turn to Hebrews 6, but as the pastor begins her message, the Holy Spirit sends her to Ephesians 4. We never make it back to Hebrews. 

How much do you depend on the Holy Spirit to lead your meetings? How willingly do you follow? 

2. Later, we discuss how the message applies to us. This mutual interaction is helpful, building community in the process. 

What can you do to allow for more interaction to occur during church?

3. Ninety minutes later we move into worship. The first song lasts twenty minutes. I kneel in reverence and then bow in awe of God. 

How often does worship cause you to bow in reverence and awe? What’s missing?

4. If you view church in a traditional manner, then we didn’t go today. If you understand church as two or more people gathered in the presence of God, then today offered much. 

What are the essential elements for church to take place?

Overall, this was a great experience, and I wish more churches operated like this one.

[See the prior set of questions, the next set of questions, 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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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.