Many consider going to church an option. Not if they know better. Check the Bible!


Lone rangers are unhealthy. Those not sharpened by others get strange ideas. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). Sunday is training for Monday. Isolation is a really bad idea. “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Proverbs 18:1). People say, “Don’t tell us to go to church; we are the church.” Okay, pardner. You can’t be the church without going to church.


“Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24,25). The closer we get to the end, the great the need to gather.


“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46). “Every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus” (Acts 5:42).


We need a day of rest. Jesus kept the Sabbath. It was written into the cycle of life from the beginning. God rested after six days of creation. Part of our rest from regular work includes corporate worship and fellowship.


Can’t do that unless we are together. Common phrases in the epistles are the “one another’s.” We are called to “encourage one another” and “love one another.” The way to do that is to be with each other. It is more to give than to get: “Let all things be done for building up” (I Corinthians 14:26), written in the context of New Testament corporate worship.


“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).His followers love what He loved. Going when it suits us is not showing love for the church and the local expression of it. Jesus shows up when His people meet. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Sitting around the dining table can be rich, but it is not church in the New Testament sense. The apostles would not have called that “church.” Leaders are raised up in local churches to give oversight. We need instruction and guidance from people farther along than we are. Church is worshiping together, listening to and exhorting each other, teaching and training time. Corporate worship takes loving God to a new level. Be there with the whole family. You’ll be glad you did!


Abuse is hardest to handle when you had good reason to trust those who abuse you–like parents or pastors. Jesus delivered His strongest words to the spiritual leaders of His day who were fleecing sheep instead of feeding them. Unfortunately, it is common in all kinds of churches. Check out these signs.


Some church leaders don’t mix with others because they consider themselves better. Arrogance plays into abuse: “I need to do what God tells me to do.” And the cronies listen up.  “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).  You don’t want to be supporting someone God is coming against. Blind and naive loyalists do.


If you don’t know where the money is going, and a leader doesn’t want to tell you, leave. He has issues. The books should be open to any mature inquiry. If you don’t get answers to financial or other legitimate questions, and your opinion doesn’t count but your offering does, don’t stick around.


Vulnerability releases grace. Hiding behind a reputation releases suspicion. Don’t trust someone who doesn’t respect others enough to walk in the light. Koinonia is not possible with pastors who do not exhibit humility and honesty. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8). Fellowship happens with the open and broken.


Abusers have friends. If you are not one of them, you may need another family. This one could be sick unto death. They have their in-groups. You will be glad you’re not in it when you see signs of a sick family system that gives privilege to insiders and scoffs at outsiders.


Jesus taught servant leadership–from the bottom up. Abusers like the view from the top; strong on legalism, weak on grace. They expect things from others they don’t do themselves, and they are blind to their own hypocrisy. Then again, they may know they are hypocrites. But they won’t tell you.


A wolf in sheep’s clothing still acts like a wolf. If you see glaring weaknesses in a spiritual leader, like harshness, anger, or sensuality, you don’t have a worthy shepherd. He needs to deal with his issues and surrender leadership. If he excuses bad habits, don’t you. He doesn’t understand grace, and he will abuse his position.


Independent ministries can be training stations for lone rangers. Find out who your leader is subject to. If he says, “God,” someone should suggest he find a person with skin on. But trying to correct abusers seldom works. They don’t want your opinion. They talk about unity, but they are after uniformity. Unity requires diversity. Uniformity requires keeping your mouth shut. Plenty of healthy churches around. This doesn’t sound like one of them!



I was not trained at seminary to deal with conflict and I avoided it as much as possible. Wrong. When I learned to walk toward tension rather than away from it, I discovered that it almost always gave us closer relationships. Leaders who do not deal with conflict have unfinished business wherever they look. Paul addressed conflict head-on.


The Pharisees lived and talked a lie. Legalism breeds pretense. Fake it–because you’ll never make it. Vulnerability releases grace and creates a safe place. When pastors and leaders are appropriately transparent, it levels the playing field. It closes the distance between the high and mighty and Mr. Normal. Jesus knew how to get close to people. So do good leaders.


Generosity is a big clue to joy, a major fruit of spiritual health. Defensive people hold onto what they have while they grab for more. Healthy people hold their life and their possessions lightly and they give themselves and what they own away freely. They believe what Jesus said about his Father, “Give and it shall be given unto you…” In healthy churches leaders don’t beg for money; people ask to give. At Lydia House we emptied out our reserve because of the horrendous water shortage in Uganda. They needed it more than we did.


The sermon is a great place for humor. It’s important for us to laugh at ourselves. People who take themselves too seriously don’t take the Bible seriously enough. John was the sober one and they thought he was demonized. Jesus was the happy one, and they figured he was a drunk. I want to be like Jesus. If people think you’re high on something, they may be right!


Chuck Swindoll said, “Preach topics that people go to bed worrying about.” In other words, make it real. If sermons fill the mind but don’t change the behavior, they are missing the mark.


As God healed me from an elder brother complex, I found myself feeling lighter and laughing more. This found its way into healthier staff relationships and down-to-earth sermons. We learned how to walk in the light together and share our struggles freely, which increased fellowship, like I John 1:7 promises.


I was once the guest preacher of an average-size church. The pastor invited me to the back after the benediction, where I shook hands with people–on their way out the door. Really bad idea!. Church was over, and people were ready to leave. It emptied out in seven minutes. In healthy churches the closing prayer means time for fellowship–lots of it. Healthy, happy people love being together. Food makes them stay even longer.


What we do on Sunday impacts how we live the rest of the week. If it doesn’t, why go? We are not playing church. We are in a war, not on a picnic. We are representing the King, who will be returning soon. We have given up our life to follow His mandates. On Monday we carry out the instructions we hear on Sunday.


Paul gives us a picture of what worship looked like in New Testament house churches. He writes (I Cor. 14:26):

God’s people had been gathering for centuries, first at the tabernacle, then the temple. When it was destroyed, they had no central gathering place, so they met in synagogues, which literally means “assembly.” The early church gathered first at the temple. As it spread throughout the Empire, Christians met in homes.

Paul admonished them (and us) to “not neglect to meet together” (Heb. 10:25). In other words, you don’t need to wake up on Sunday and say, “Shall I go to church today?” I found that out as a sophomore in high school when I asked my dad if I could go to Johnny’s house. He said, “Yes.” Later he asked me how church was. I said, “I went over to Johnny’s, so I didn’t go to church.” He never raised his voice with me–ever! But he made it clear that the people of God (including the Andersons) met together on Sundays. How about you? What is the greatest pull to keep you from gathering? Deal with it. Might not be wise to get up Monday asking, “Shall I go to work today?”

Hard for this to happen with two hundred. Works with twenty. Sounds like you come to give. Guess what? You get. Maybe not the usual way to go to church. If we don’t get what we needed, it’s okay because eighteen others did. We are not consumers or spectators; we are participants. “Each one” includes me–and you.

Is there a song that fits what God is saying today? Sing it. This small group meeting doesn’t mean that we don’t worship. Just means that we don’t need a band. Do need a heart of worship. Let it happen in your heart and in the home.

Did God teach you something this week about overcoming discouragement? Disciplining your child? A right attitude at work? Somebody needs your testimony. Two minutes worth will do, and attach it to a Scripture. Someone will be thanking God at lunch for your word (rather than having roast preacher).

We are listening to one another–and to the Holy Spirit. He will give us words to edify, exhort, and comfort. Keep your ears open. It might make their day–or their month! “For you can all prophesy…”

Needs to happen more among God’s people. The gift of tongues is underrated and underused. Speak and sing together in tongues, then be open to a tongue that will be interpreted. It becomes like a prophetic word. Bingo!

This is not about me; it is about us. What if we all came to give? We’d all win! Hey, cool way to do church.



Maybe on Saturday, not on Sunday. We have mocked the holy rollers. Does dancing fit worship? Consider these truths:


  1. Dancing can be godly. The Bible gives examples when it is not (think golden calf or Salome before Herod). But if the Bible exhorts worshipers to dance, it can be godly. Then it’s also like God (check out Zeph. 3:17 and the prodigal’s homecoming dance). Hey, Jesus told the story.


We try to get spiritual—and God gets physical. Think baptism, the Lord’s Supper, laying on of hands. Dancing can be a great way to get physical. It both elicits and releases joy. It’s a physical way to get spiritual—quick! But first we’ll need to overcome awkwardness. Jews have us beat. Their culture sets them up for dancing—guys as much as gals.


  1. Dancing is a Biblical expression of worship. Let’s learn from the Hebrews. The command to love God includes our strength. The exhortation is clear: “Let them praise his name with dancing…” (Psalm 149:3). The next verse tells why: “For the Lord takes pleasure in his people” (4). We celebrate because He celebrates. Psalm 150 calls for everything that has breath to praise the Lord, with dancing. King David used his body, to God’s delight and Michal’s disdain.


Our Sunday exercise is standing and sitting. Christians have a reputation in the world as anything but fun-loving. Not the Son of Man. Mainline churches emphasize reverence more than celebration. Not Israel. When they crossed the Red Sea, Miriam led the dance. When David returned from war, women rejoiced with singing and dancing.

  1. When joy leaves, so does dancing. Spiritual revival was accompanied by its return. “You have turned my mourning into dancing” (Psalm 30:11). Silence is not the most effective way for expressing joy. People in sorrow tend to be more passive: “The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning” (Lamentations 5:15). C. S. Lewis wrote, “Expressing an emotion prolongs the emotion.” It is time to let the joy out—with voices and bodies. There is “a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Sunday’s a great time.


  1. Dancing illustrates grace. Jeremiah spoke of a new day, when God would demonstrate His love. In that day “you shall adorn yourself with timbrels, and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers” (Jeremiah 31:4b). The new day would be marked with dancing—and it came with Jesus and the year of Jubilee (Luke 4:21). The Bridegroom came—let’s dance! He’s coming again. Get ready for the Party!


  1. Dancing should be restored to worship. David danced “with all his might.” Michal said he was dancing before women, but “it was before the Lord…” (2 Sam. 6:21). Most Biblical references to dancing are religious rather than cultural. For Hebrews, dancing was a form of celebrative worship. Today dancing is more social than religious. Can we restore it to our life of worship? Would that please God?


Worship is ultimately a heart matter. A paralytic can praise the Lord with the same intensity as a person with two good legs. Nevertheless, the Scriptures speak to us by exhortation and example. Is God calling us to a greater demonstration of love and joy in worship? Do you think that dancing could help? Could we give it a try? Get ready for fun!




“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so I may be cheered by news of you. I have no one like him, who will be genuinely anxious for your welfare. They all look after their own interest, not those of Jesus Christ. But Timothy’s worth you know, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me” (Phil. 2:19-23).


Paul not only loved God—he loved people. He looked for those he could invest in. When he saw the character of a young Timothy on his first missionary journey, he made arrangements for Timothy to travel with him. Bingo! Partners for life.


At the end of Paul’s journey on earth, in a dark and damp prison accompanied only by Luke, he wrote Timothy his last letter and clearly his most emotional one. He knew death was close: “I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come” (2 Tim. 4:6). He said to Timothy, “Do your best to come to me soon” (9), adding a few verses later to “come before winter” (21).


The veteran apostle did not fade out after his retirement dinner. He was relational to the max. At the end of his letter to the Christians in Rome, he referenced no less that twenty-nine people, including ten women, who had meant a great deal to this outstanding apostle who never took solo flights. He died pouring himself out for God and into people. We don’t know if Timothy arrived in time to see the man who made him what he was. It must have moved him that Paul’s final words were penned for him. He owed his life, mission, and destiny to this great missionary, and Timothy responded by living selflessly, giving himself away to others as his mentor had done for him.


Timothy learned life-changing truths from Paul:

  • We are servants and we live for others. We resist a victim mentality.
  • When we suffer, we do it joyfully. It is not about us, even in pain.


I thank God for those who believed in me and taught me the value of investing in others, especially my parents and Larry Christenson. Karen and I have had the joy for the last ten years of investing in young adults. We are grateful that our children are hearing the same message: “You are not here for yourself. Go low and pour out your life for others.” If we are going to be anxious, let’s be anxious for others as Timothy was (Phil. 2:20). Why waste anxiety on ourselves?


The relationships of Paul the father were personal, not professional. He dug into the lives of friends with probing questions, in-your-face admonitions, and shocking vulnerability. That is how a mentor lives. Seniors: consider doing like the apostle, and if God gives you strength, hit the tape running. The final great awakening, which I believe we are entering into now, will feature the hearts of fathers being connected to young ones like Timothy. What could be more rewarding?!


Do house churches work? Could they be an alternative structure to traditional churches?

Things happened at houses in the early church:

  • Pentecost started in a house. “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.       Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:1,2).
  • The early church grew—in homes, with larger gatherings at the temple: “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46). “Day after day in the temple courts and from house to house they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news…” (Acts 5:42).
  • The Spirit fell on Gentiles in a house gathering (Acts 10:25).
  • The Philippian church was likely birthed in Lydia’s house (Acts 16:15; 16:40). Priscilla and Aquila had a church in their house (Ro.16:5; I Cor.16:19). Others had house churches: Nympha (Col.4:15), Archippus (Philemon 2).
  • Paul met with people in homes. His strategy began in the synagogue and moved to homes when a critical mass believed. In his farewell to the Ephesians elders, he said that he taught “publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20).

House churches have some advantages:

Low cost. Just pay the mortgage.

Fellowship. The sharing of lives in a home atmosphere.

Evangelism. More natural to invite someone to a home.

Discipleship. The structure of the house church makes application of truth a more lively potential, where the fellowship hopefully creates interdependence.

Leadership. There’s a shortage of seminary-trained pastors. House churches look for a mature leader, an elder in the faith. They can also answer to the clergy-laity gap.

New Testament model. Church buildings multiplied when Christianity became a state-recognized religion. Under persecution in the first two centuries, the house church model flourished.

History. The success of house churches in places like China and Africa is compelling. Revival and awakening have often been accompanied by a house church movement. Think Wesleyans, Moravians and Mennonites.

Some liabilities:

  1. We’ve only known the traditional model.       House churches seem cultic to some.       Are they legit?
  2. The transfer from program-based church to a relational-based will take us through withdrawal. Programs may need to be replaced by stronger family ties.
  3. House churches could be another fad, the latest answer to pressing needs.
  4. Conventional churches have an endurance factor that house churches do not have.

How might some transition if convinced this could be positive?

  1. Think about underlying values. Are they worth going after? What are they?
  2. Consider the questions involved: Must it be either-or? Could we take some values from the house church model and apply them to the traditional model? Would we do a house church alongside a traditional church? Could we try it as an evangelistic tool for our neighborhoods? How could oversight be given to house churches to guard against heresy?

The success of the house church movement has brought it into the limelight. It is gathering momentum, and the wind of the Spirit is blowing. We would do well at least to understand it. Could be quite a homecoming!