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?
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.***
Fill your Kindle or iPad with great theology for FREE. I stumbled upon this site after a recommendation from my pastor of a book that was being offered free. As I started clicking around I found many great topics that real people have real questions about. These are answered in free downloadable books.
Thank you Reformation Trust Publishing (click for the link) for not being all about the money, but caring more about the dissemination of Truth.
Also all of the “Crucial Questions Series” books are available totally free. There are many topics addresses that you may be interested in. Here is the tip of the iceberg of series titles:
- Who is Jesus?
- Does Prayer Change Things?
- Can I Trust the Bible?
- Does God Control Everything?
- Can I be Sure I am Saved?
- What is the Church, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper? (3 separate books)
- What is the Trinity?
- and many more…
Here is an Amazon Books link that shows, in order of price, downloads offered by this publisher. Also you can simply search for Reformation Trust in the Amazon search field and you will find these. Note: Amazon has a lot of their offerings, but not all of them. You will find more on their website and can download them (still free) there with a free account. I prefer amazon personally…
While all the books on this site are not free, (they still have to pay the bills too) I’m very happy to see many that are. So I wanted to make you aware of this resource if you have any of these questions rolling around in your mind. Allow these readings to push you not to knowing more theology, but to a relationship with the author of Truth himself, Jesus Christ.
“A good life lived will be better heard than famous last words.” This creative video from Long Hollow Baptist Church, just up the road from me in Nashville, is a great reminder that we may do a bunch of dumb things in life, but in the end, how we live will speak volumes louder than our words.
So yesterday was Labor Day, so what do I naturally do with a day off to celebrate and rest from my labor? Work at home. But while my day started off fine it did not end so well.
Here is the story. We recently purchased a house so there are tons of little jobs always looming. Yesterday I was replacing the old school thermostats with new digital ones. I needed a tool from the garage so made the quick trek out to get it…barefoot (mistake #1). While navigating the clutter that comes from a recent move I tripped (mistake #2) and got a real nice two inch cut across the top of my foot. I came in and assessed the situation. The kids were upstairs entertaining themselves surprisingly well and my wife (who is a nurse) was resting in the bedroom. I decided to clean up my cut and get back to my little job without bothering anyone (mistake #3). I washed it up and covered it with multiple bandaids.
Later that night Leslie and I were talking about my incident and I offered to show her my battle scar. I peeled away the crusty bandaids and she let out a slight gasp. I then proceeded to receive a mild tongue lashing about why I did not let her see it right when it happened. She interrogated me on how I cleaned it and let me know that this gash was potentially worthy of some stitches or at least some super glue. She got out some butterfly bandages and patched it up the way it should have been done from the beginning.
I never even considered a trip to the Urgent Care office just down the road, but because of my manly pride I even missed out on the advice of my nurse trained wife!
Maybe I’m not alone. I think there are others of you out there who consider a trip the hospital the last resort. But do we also have this same mentality when it comes to spiritual matters? When we are wounded do we try to handle it all on our own?
God created us to live in community. We were never designed to be alone. Yet, when we need our brothers and sisters in Christ the most, those are the times we shrink back and isolate ourselves. Is this not a symptom of the pride still residing in our hearts? We do not want others to know that we are weak and needy. We hide our hurts. We refuse the community that God has instituted and seek our own ways. But like the lesson I learned with my foot, when left to our own devices we make bad decisions. Why not seek the advise of those who really love you and can help you?
James 5:16 reminds us of this very lesson. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
So don’t be to prideful to ask for help, whether spiritual or physical. Manly pride is so lame, and because of it, now I am too!
Your fellow worker in the field, Adam
If you have kids like I do you will appreciate this clip from Bob Smiley. Maybe you have dropped your kids off at the nursery and had some similar experiences. All joking aside, I do thank God for faithful volunteers who watch over our kids. We are especially blessed at 3BC with amazing workers who love Jesus and love children!
I’ve been working with teenagers for a long time. It is easy to spot the ones who want to attend church or small group, and the ones who couldn’t care less about being there. More times than not kids adopt the attitudes and practices of their parents. Children are very observant and can discern even the slightest hint of superficiality. Here are 5 ways to make your kids hate church.
1. MAKE SURE YOUR FAITH IS ONLY SOMETHING YOU LIVE OUT IN PUBLIC
Go to church… at least most of the time. Make sure you agree with what you hear the preacher say, and affirm on the way home what was said especially when it has to do with your kids obeying, but let it stop there. Don’t read your Bible at home. The pastor will say everything you need to hear on Sundays. Don’t engage your children in questions they have concerning Jesus and God. Live like you want to live during the week so that your kids can see that duplicity is ok.
2. PRAY ONLY IN FRONT OF PEOPLE
The only times you need to pray are when your family is over, holiday meals, when someone is sick, and when you want something. Besides that, don’t bother. Your kids will see you pray when other people are watching, no need to do it with them in private.
3. FOCUS ON YOUR MORALS
Make sure you insist your kids be honest with you. Let them know it is the right thing for them to do, but then feel free to lie in your own life and disregard the need to tell them and others the truth. Get very angry with your children when they say words that are “naughty” and “bad,” but post, read, watch, and say whatever you want on TV, Facebook, and Twitter. Make sure you focus on being a good person. Be ambiguous about what this means.
4. GIVE FINANCIALLY AS LONG AS IT DOESN’T IMPEDE YOUR NEEDS
Make a big deal out of giving at church. Stress to your children the value of tithing, while not giving sacrificially yourself. Allow them to see you spend a ton of money on what you want, while negating your command from Scripture to give sacrificially.
5. MAKE CHURCH COMMUNITY A PRIORITY… AS LONG AS THERE IS NOTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO DO
Hey, you are a church-going family, right? I mean, that’s what you tell your friends and family anyways. Make sure you attend on Sundays. As long as you didn’t stay up too late Saturday night. Or your family isn’t having a big barbeque. Or the big game isn’t on. Or this week you just don’t feel like it. Or… I mean, you’re a church-going family, so what’s the big deal?
This article was originally posted at the theResurgence.com by Thomas Weaver. Check it out for a lot of good writing on many different topics.
Your fellow worker in the field, Adam