Visiting Churches

Still Sparsely Attended

Where Two or Three are Gathered

A church that popped up during our initial online search for nearby houses of worship was Church #21. We’d never heard of them, and no one we talked to knew anything about them.

We vacillated whether we should visit, and when we had trouble finding their location on Sunday morning, I almost skipped them, spotting their small sign only after driving by their building three times.

Although their main room would accommodate a couple dozen, only five people showed up that morning: the two pastors, their son, my wife, and me.

They explained that most ministry happens on Saturday. Having a Sunday service is for the people they meet while doing street ministry. Those unchurched folks expect a Sunday service.

Although the sparse attendance presented an initial degree of awkwardness, our Holy Spirit led time with them was powerful and profound.

For most Saturdays, they start at 3:45 p.m. for a time of “intercession, declarations and decrees” after holding an orientation for first time attendees.

Next, they offer strategic prayer for our county, state, country, Israel, and the world.

Then they take a supper break, returning for praise and worship, wrapping up at 8:30 p.m. On the first Saturday of the month, however, they start even earlier, at 2 p.m.

We visited them on the Sunday after the month’s first Saturday. With over thirty people there the night before, many driving long distances, no one wanted to leave.

Their worship lasted well past 8:30 p.m., extending it to the early morning. Our pastors were noticeably tired on Sunday.

I wanted to return on Saturday to experience one of their fuller services. Yet with regular plans for most Saturdays, it would be months before I could make a return trip.

With my regular commitment to volunteer at the food pantry the first and third Saturdays of every month, it’s almost impossible for me to go to their service on the first Saturday, so I picked the second one, showing up several weeks later.

The Second Saturday of the Month

I arrive, expecting to see a parking lot full of cars and people milling about. I see neither. I’m the fourth—and last—person to arrive. That’s when I realize that for the full experience, I need to be there the first Saturday of the month.

The pastors both recognize me, and one calls me by name, as though she was expecting me. For all I know, she was.

Although dismayed at another visit with single digit attendance, I resolve to make the most of it, expecting another powerful, Holy Spirit led experience.

We don’t need a lot of people present for God to move powerfully (Matthew 18:20), though it is more fun when experienced with a larger group.

One of the pastors, aware of my 52 Churches journey and the book I am writing, gives me some prophetic words.

She proclaims my book will encourage others and go deep, serving as a plumb line and a survey—with both vertical and horizontal application. She envisions a chapter on resolutions, which I later add to the book.

“Ask the right questions,” she says. She proclaims my wife will write part of a chapter, something our pastor also suggested. I later invite her to do so, and she does.

Most significant for me was when she says my book “will set people free from denominationalism.” This touches the deepest yearning in my soul, for I see denominations as the antithesis to the unity for which Jesus prayed (John 17:20-23).

As long as denominations exist, we will never fully realize harmony in his church. (I even addressed this in my dissertation The Convergent Church: Moving Towards the Unity for Which Jesus Prayed.)

She concludes with, “There will be more to do next, after the book.”

Overcome with hope for the future of Jesus’s church, the consequence of her words overwhelms me, as tears of joy well up. For the first time I sense the magnitude of my little book and the results of what will follow.

Although they offer the opportunity for active involvement, I take a more passive role, mostly observing and absorbing. What unfolds is not foreign to me but does stretch me.

The pastors function at a spiritual level that is only somewhat within my comprehension and barely within my grasp. Their attempts to draw me into God’s movement, produces some response on my part.

Maybe next time I’ll feel better at ease and will more fully participate.

When it comes time to offer strategic prayer, they offer me first choice: county, state, country, Israel, or the world. All the options loom as too big, too vast for me to cover. I opt for the smallest. They hand me a county map to guide my prayers.

I take the map and sit cross-legged on the floor. I stare at it, looking at familiar names and wondering what to do. The words flow freely from the ministers as I sit mute, listening for the Holy Spirit’s direction. I want to be Holy Spirit led, just like the pastors.

Eventually he gives me words to share, halting at first and then growing in confidence. The leaders affirm my prayers and add to them. Though my contribution is small, the scope of our collective prayers is profound.

The leaders sense God’s perspective on a global level, possessing a spiritual perception I seldom see in others. It’s a beautiful thing.

With forty-five minutes for strategic prayer, time moves slowly for me at first, but then I move into the flow of our intercession. Eventually I am mentally spent, with no more to give. But that comes towards the end of our prayer time, and it soon winds down.

We head to a local restaurant to eat. A few others join the four of us and we enjoy a great time together, sharing life and embracing God.

The food and the break rejuvenate me for part two: praise and worship. I expect it to match my Sunday experience with them—and it does. God’s presence fills the room as we sing to him—and for him.

Though the day was powerful, it fell short of what I anticipated. I’ll need to come back on the first Saturday of the month for the full experience. And I plan to—as soon as I can work it in.


Who really leads your services, the church staff or the Holy Spirit? The answer should be Holy Spirit led, but is it?

My wife and I visited a different Christian Church every Sunday for a year. This is our story. Get your copy of 52 Churches today, available in ebook, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

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.