Monday, April 1, 2013

The Worship Service vs. Discipleship

In our church* there is a tension/debate about placing priority on the worship service or discipleship. On one side, you have people claiming that if we just bring people to worship on the Sabbath and place them in front of the pastor and they hear the word, then they'll begin to grow in Christ. On the other side, meet with the person weekly, share your applications from your ABC Bible study, check each other's memory verses and talk.

Arguments for which side? 
It's easy to take a side on this debate depending on how the Holy Spirit has worked in your life. In my life, relationships with men who shared their applications and reviewed memory verses with me have helped me grow in Christ more then listening to sermons on Sunday. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who have grown tremendously from hearing sermons week after week. In fact, some claim that the spirit works primarily through the preaching of the word. Perhaps this means I'm a stunted Christian....

So, what should the church emphasize? Discipleship or the worship service? In answering any question, I have always tried to say "both" as much as possible unless a clear contradictions presents itself when you agree with both sides. So, public worship and discipleship are both of equal importance and worthy of equal emphasis in the church. I haven't understood why this is the correct answer, until now.

A Question that Explains why "both" is right
I've been reading Pipa's work "Public Worship, 101" for a class I'm taking on public worship at 2nd RP. He asks this profound question in chapter 2, "where do we anticipate our most profound encounters with God?" It is profound on a couple levels. First, we encounter God on different levels in different contexts. The question asks whether we work to figure out where? Second, in our relationships with people, we know that there are certain things to anticipate. For instance, I anticipate that I need to converse with my coworkers about NCAA basketball so I make sure to know who is in the Final Four. Likewise, we should anticipate what kindles our relationship with God. Third, where does God most profoundly affect us?

Pipa points to the worship service, citing Revelations 5. If you think about it, the most profound experience we will have with God is going to be in heaven, worshipping King Jesus. The worship service is a preparation for that glorious day, and it's no surprise for us to find that our most profound moments will be in the worship service.

Here is where we pause. At this point, one will think that this means the church ought to emphasize the worship service over anything and everything else since its a preparation for the most glorious encounter with God! It's a "well, duh!" thought. But no, there is more.

Why It is Both
I don't know about you, but if I don't know the people around me and how God is working in their lives, it is difficult for me to worship God with them. It's like being around a really good friend with a stranger. You can't focus on getting to know better your good friend as much.

The greatest and closest encounters I have had with God in a worship service are at my home church, 2nd RP where I know my pastor's life, he knows mine, I am meeting with others in that particular body, and we're praying for each other. If I know the people I'm worshipping with better then I'm much more able to have a close encounter with God.

So if worship is to take a priority in the church, it won't fully blossom unless there is discipleship. At the same, time, discipleship can't fully function on its own since the worship service is a bringing together the body of Christ. It doesn't make sense to neglect Worship when throughout the New Testament worship is seen as a very important part of the Christian life.**

*This debate takes place at my church as well as in theRP Church broadly speaking.
**I myself have noticed that when I miss church, I tend to have a tougher week. I'm crabbier, sullen and things just don't go as smoothly. 

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