Barna polled Christian women to get a fuller picture of how they view themselves and what is most important to them. This poll was taken in 2012, but I think it would still be relatively representative of the female demographic within the Christian Church. What do you think? Surprising results, or as expected?
“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”
—Hebrews 12: 1–3
Run with Passion, Purpose, and Perspective
Hebrews 12 develops the theme of endurance. The first three verses teach us that the key to persistence is passion.
All the men and women of faith in Hebrews 11 “made it” because they felt passionate about their cause. The writer compares our lives to a race and tries to convince us that we must run with endurance if we plan to finish well.
The text also suggests that if the key to persistence is passion, then the key to passion is purpose. We must run with purpose, not aimlessly.
And the key to purpose? Perspective. The writer of Hebrews admonishes us to consider three things that will help us to finish well:
1. Consider them (12:1)
Since a great cloud of witnesses has gone before us, we must get serious about finishing well.
2. Consider ourselves (12:1)
It is now our turn to run the race and watch for pitfalls. We must lay aside every encumbrance that would prevent us from finishing well.
3. Consider Jesus (12:2–3)
Jesus ran His own race and endured hardship by fixing his eyes on the rewards; we must follow His example.
Drawn from an article in The Maxwell Leadership Bible.
Each year I lead a High School Senior International mission trip over spring break. I am always captured by the personal and group growth that takes place during these weeks. I am humbled by God.
- That we can serve Him
- That the Gospel has reached me and reaches around the globe
- That we live with so much blessing without saying thank you often enough
- That those with so little can love so much
- That God is the God, and He moves when, where, and in whom, as He sees fit
This year we are going to Belize. Here is a quick video of the people and places we will encounter.
I am blessed to have met and worked with this pastor before. Pastor Mark is a man of God, full of grace, passion, and a big smile.
I encourage you to go on mission trips and engage in other experiences that remind us of the truth of scripture, that we are all equal before the cross, that God does not show partiality, that we are brothers in sisters in christ.
In a different cultural environment we get to see a new perspective, yet the same God. He is at work all around us. Let’s join Him as He offers hope through Jesus Christ.
Mark 9:35 “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
Philippine 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”
Matt 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Have you ever read through Matthew 5 and saw the completely opposite way in which Jesus describes what it means to be a Kingdom citizen as opposed to a citizen of this world!?! It is truly striking when you dwell on these words. What our culture tells us to pursue, Jesus flips it totally on its head! It is no wonder unbelievers consider us fools. Look at the subjects of each sentence. The worldly man has no desire to be characterized by such words, it would be an insult and an embarrassment.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.
10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Josh Harris, the senior pastor at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD, preaching on this very topic and let his creative energy flow. He wondered what it would look like if these were rewritten from the worlds perspective. Here is his artistic interpretation.
- Blessed are the self-confident because they rule the world.
- Blessed are positive-thinkers because they don’t need anybody’s comfort.
- Blessed are the cocky and assertive because they get what they want.
- Blessed are those who hunger for fame because they get reality TV shows.
- Blessed are the vengeful because they get respect.
- Blessed are the impure, pleasure-seekers because they see a good time.
- Blessed are those who beat their opponents because the victors write the history books.
- Blessed are the popular because everybody loves them.
As you read these, note how they correspond with the way we really see people living in our schools, jobs, homes, and society. Note also how they are the inverse of the biblical text as quoted above. It is scary to see how our culture values the exact opposite of what God says is truly valuable. The world, and our own sin natures, push us to live in these anti-biblical ways. It is hard to go against the flow. But when we allow God’s words to fill us up we find His strength to live out His plan.
Be counter-cultural today!
Your fellow worker in the field, Adam
A title like “Worship is More Important than Your Small Group” is nothing more than Christian click-baiting. For this assistant pastor to make this nearsighted-misleading remark is ridiculous, meant for nothing more than shock value. It’s equivalent to a blog/sermon title of “Why Men are Better than Women”. The more I read it the more ridiculous it sounds.
I am a fan of Gospel Coalition, but I think “Worship is More Important than Your Small Group” missed the mark.
This blog seems to drive a wedge between two things the bible doesn’t separate. Yes, we need corporate worship. I fully agree with this. But just as essential to the Christian life as corporate worship is the need for real relationships. The bible does not place a value scale on these things, they are both essential in their own way. Just because corporate worship is unique (Heading 1) does not equate it being more intrinsically valuable. I’ve heard a pastor in my own church say, and rightly so, “people may come because of the preaching, but they stay because of relationships.”
If the author says several times throughout his blog, “But as much as you and I may love small groups…” “I love small groups. Don’t misunderstand me…” I take note. If you don’t want to be misunderstood, then say clearly what you mean. And here is an idea, don’t title your article something you aren’t trying to say.
No church is perfect, but to value corporate worship more than personal worship or real relationships, or vice versa, neglects the full counsel of God. When all the emphasis centers on one aspect of worship, you are missing the fullness of the Church the way God intended. If you only engage in small groups to the neglect of corporate worship, you are wrong. If you only engage in corporate worship to the neglect of small groups, you are wrong.
The church is community, both in its corporate setting and in its relational setting. It is the Body of Christ with multiple pieces and functions. Each piece needs to work the way it was intended, without saying this function is more important than that function. Eph 4:15-16 “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
In this blog, Jason Helopoulos addresses four problems with corporate worship services, not four legitimate reasons why worship is “more important” than small groups. His title is misleading and of an arrogant tone.
Lets look at his four “points” in support for the greater value of Corporate Worship. (please re-read the original points as I am dealing directly with their content.)
Too “pastor-centric” – This point seems to imply that God speaks only in the corporate context! God speaks in many ways, one of those being in the corporate worship setting, but there are many other ways! YES we need to listen. That happens in my private worship time, my small group time, and my corporate worship time! Since when did Job’s hand over his mouth in 40:6 refer to being attentive to the public sermon of a pastor? Wasn’t this a private encounter between God and Job? And to use the NT reference of Mary as choosing the best thing in Luke 10:38-42 as a support for corporate worship being more important than small groups is preposterous. The article says, “Mary was commended by the Lord because she chose what was best. She knew that when the Lord speaks, we are to listen, absorb, and delight in hearing His voice.” Umm, wasn’t this a small group meeting in Mary’s house, of Jesus teaching to believers? Seems pretty clear that God does speak in small group setting just as easily as the corporate setting. God speaks when He wants, we need to listen. WE NEED BOTH ENVIRONMENTS!
Too Passive/ Too Boring – These points are basic Discipleship 101, not support for corporate worships being of greater value than small groups. In any setting – my personal bible study, my small group, my corporate worship experience – if I come to the table passive and bored, it is my sin problem. It is not the problem of the environment. What about the environments Helopoulos uses as examples? Is there a corporate emphasis in Romans 12:1-2? No, in fact it the pronouns are pretty personal: “present your bodies” “your spiritual act worship, “renew your mind” “that you may discern what God’s will is”. In Hebrew 4:12 is “our soul pierced” expressly in a corporate setting? NO, it is a general statement about the active nature of God’s word in ANY setting. Was Isaiah’s experience in a corporate setting in Isaiah 6? NO. Was John’s experience in a corporate setting in Revelation 1? NO, he was under house arrest on an island. Are any of these references lending support to the arrogant claim that “Corporate Worship is More Important than Your Small Group”??? Give me a break, NO.
Too Impersonal – The author points to the communal prayer, singing and participation in the sacraments as aspects of real fellowship within a corporate context. Has anyone said it is not? Do vibrant small groups somehow diminish these? Fellowship happens in a variety of contexts and modes. Is one form of fellowship more valuable and one less valuable?
What about the Lord’s Supper? Didn’t the early church do this in homes? Wasn’t it based around a real meal, aka the love feast? How are these first century house churches not more akin to our small groups of the modern age than the modern corporate worship service? Helopoulos says, “And nothing declares that louder than our partaking of the Lord’s Table together in worship” – This is one piece of the puzzle, yes. But a very biblical idea is not how often you receive the elements but rather as Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” When Jesus had his small group in the upper room and ordained the Lord’s Supper, he did so with acts of service within intimate relationships. How well does that characterize our corporate worship services today?
I’m not calling any church out, but I am calling for a holistic well-rounded view of the Christian life, one in which the corporate worship experience is just as vital to the growing Christian as the intimate relationships within small groups.
Here comes the big bait and switch. The main point of the title is directly changed in his closing paragraph. Helopoulos says, “I love small groups. Don’t misunderstand me. They serve a real purpose in most churches, but their importance cannot and does not supersede our gathering together in corporate worship.” So all of a sudden this article is about small groups superseding corporate worship? It sure seems that the title and opening lines say clearly this article is about how the importance of corporate worship supersedes small groups.
The title is not even really discussed in this article. As a whole it represents a shortsighted view to its readers about what the Body of Christ look like in a modern American, context. To pit the two environments against each other is not healthy, as both are integral to Christian development. Why this author feels the need to make such superficial claims is probably an extreme reaction to an equally extreme position, namely “my small group is more important than your worship service”. In trying combat the error he errors in the same manner. I believe he is does a disservice to a generation that is seeking Truth in the context of authentic community.
My prayer is the Church would see the need for both sides of the coin; engaged corporate worship and intimate Christian relationships. One is not “more important”, both are essential.
*** side note: I am sure Jason Helopoulos is a great guy and if we were able to hang out we would have tons in common. My blog is addressing the ideas (both stated and implied) within his content. Grace and peace to you Jason and may your ministry be fruitful.***
Discipleship is the key to the Christian life. One of the best “disciplers” I know and look up to is my friend and co-worker, Duane Geib. He has an undeniable passion for connecting people to Jesus, for the long haul, not just for a moment. If you are looking for a good blog that will challenge you to take that next step in your faith, and probably a few laughs along the way, check out Let’s Do Coffee.