Small Group Worship Matters!

Rick Warren taught us there are five purposes of the church and five purposes for our lives. They key to life and the key to church is to keep these purposes in balance. Do not emphasize one at the expense of another. You might be surprised to learn that not everyone agrees on the whole balance thing. (You might also be surprised by this. I heard an early teaching by Rick–back when his church was small, like five or ten thousand–and he taught about the four purposes of the church. He didn’t add fellowship in until later.)

Steve Sjogren doesn’t believe in balance either. He believes that the purpose of service can be the driver for all the rest. Servant evangelism, he calls it. Service drives the evangelism, which gets people in the church where they can be disciples, worship, and fellowship. Service drives the train.

From one perspective, you could argue that my plan–the double your class through hospitality plan — is a fellowship-driven plan. Fellowship drives people into groups where they are saved, discipled, worship, and serve.

If I understand John Macarthur’s philosophy of ministry, he is all about discipleship through hour-long expository sermons. This is equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. The saints are equipped, the service gets done, the evangelism gets done, worship and fellowship get done. Discipleship drives everything else.

Jack Hayford teaches we ought to emphasize one purpose above the rest as well, but he chooses a different purpose–not fellowship, not service, not evangelism, not discipleship, but worship. Worship is the key driving purpose that raises the tent for all the others to work under.

What do you think? Should we:

  • Keep the purposes balanced? (Rick Warren)
  • Emphasize evangelism above the rest? (Bill Hybels)
  • Emphasize service above the rest? (Steve Sjogren)
  • Emphasize fellowship above the rest?
  • Emphasize discipleship above the rest? (John Macarthur)
  • Emphasize worship above the rest? (Jack Hayford)

You might be surprised by my answer: I’d give the nod to putting worship slightly above the rest. It is one of the reasons we start every conference with worship. Why?

  • The Bible says it is fitting. It is just right. It is fitting that the upright would praise Him.
  • Jesus said that if He is lifted up, He will draw all men unto himself. Lifting up seems an obvious allusion to worship. This is the message of Sally Morgenthaler in Worship Evangelism. There is something inherently attractive to the world to see a people enthusiastically adoring God.
  • We are taught that we get close to God through worship. Isn’t Christian living all about getting close to God? What is discipleship if it is not learning to live close to God? Psalms teaches that we enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. We might say, “We get into God’s neighborhood with thanksgiving and into His living room with praise.” We get into God’s area code with thanksgiving and up close and personal in praise.
  • Praise helps us to get the Lordship issue right. Christian living is centrally about who is boss, who is Lord. Worship helps to clear our thinking about this. As we sing, “I exalt you!” we are reminded that He is God and I am not. Discipleship is all about learning to live under the Lordship of Christ. Worship helps us with that.
  • Worship builds fellowship. There is something about the common experience of exalting our one God together that makes us feel closer together. We cannot all get closer to God without also getting closer to each other.
  • Jehoshaphat demonstrates the importance of worship in one of my favorite Old Testament stories. He faces his enemy with the choir leading the army. The enemy is defeated. Gotta love that story. Here is a great line: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. Love it.
  • Worship is just a wonderful experience. Worship at its best is joyful worship. Piper: “He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” You love to worship, don’t you? It is, for me, more fun than Six Flags. If there were not any redeeming, noble quality about worship, I’d still want to worship because it is so much fun.

Worship creates spiritually vibrant people. Groups that regularly worship together are almost twice as likely (86%) to be spiritually vibrant when compared with those who don’t worship together.

By the way, small group worship also correlates positively to growth. Groups that worship together are more likely to grow.