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Public Worship Affects Private Worship

In my last post, I argued that we reap in public what we sow in private. In other words, our private practices and pursuits have implications on our public life. This is especially true in our relationship with Jesus. If we never spend time cultivating the relationship in private, there will be no speaking of him in public because there will be no well to draw from. If we do not engage in private prayer, we will certainly not enjoy public prayer. If the Word of God is not enjoyed in private, it is doubtful that we will exult in the Word as it is preached.

To that end, private worship affects public worship. What we do in private fuels what we do in public. But the reverse is also true. Public worship affects private worship.

In the last post, we considered how private worship affects public worship from Psalm 40 (You can refresh here).  This time, let’s look at a few implications that Psalm 40 has on how public worship affects private worship.

  • The Psalm is written down for us. We are reading of David’s experience with the Lord and are supposed to be encouraged by it. David wrote that we might find hope in the God who inclined his ear to him, heard his cry, drew him out of a pit, put his feet on a rock, and gave him a new song (Ps 40:1-2). David’s public worship is supposed to encourage your private worship even as you quietly read the Psalm.

  • The “new song” of praise to God leads others to put their trust in the Lord (Ps 40:3). The new song, sung for all to hear, leads others to faith. What greater earthly benefit can there be to our worship than the salvation of souls!

  • The wondrous deeds and thoughts of the Lord have been multiplied towards us in Christ. This leads to public proclamation (Ps 40:5) that others may benefit from knowing the work of God. The reason you tell someone about a glory you have seen is for their delight to increase. Telling the wondrous deeds of the Lord fuels worship when we are no longer gathered together.

Our souls need fuel for worship. The reason is that we don't naturally wake up with hearts oriented toward the glory of God. Instead, we wake up with hearts oriented toward ourselves. We know what we want. We think we know what we need. We spend most of our days toiling after both. But, when we come to the Bible, we cannot read much of the New Testament without bumping into the “one another” phrases. We’re called to love, exhort, forgive, sing over, bear with, serve, and encourage one another.

Public worship is one of the ways that we live out the “one another’s” of the Christian life. To be sure, God is worthy of all of our worship and our worship is for him. But, if I purchase flowers for my wife, who benefits? Well, she does, for sure, but so does everyone who enters the house. We all smell the aroma and we all get to enjoy the beauty. Worship is for God, but we all benefit from the aroma.

Our faith is personal, but it was never meant to be private. O, how we need to remember this when we gather together. Why? Because your engagement in corporate worship was never meant to only be an expression of your personal delight in God; your worship is also designed to help the church (and non-christians) believe the gospel. Your worship has horizontal implications. By way of encouragement, engage in worship when we gather together. Sing with all your might. Lift your hands. Bow your knees. Worship - because God is worthy, and because your public worship fuels and affects not only your private worship, but the private worship of all who gather with you.  

Private Worship Affects Public Worship

Have you ever heard someone say, “I want to write a book”? Or, “I want to learn to play piano.” Or, “I want to learn Spanish.” Or, “I want to get in shape”? When I hear statements like that, my usual response is, “You mean, you want to have written a book, or have learned to play piano, or be in shape…because no one wants to run scales until you hear them in your sleep. No one wants to do pushups.” We want the reward without the investment. We want to reap, but we don’t want to sow.

A general life principle is that we reap in public what we sow in private. That is, the practices we spend time cultivating in private often have public implications. For example, someone who spends hours watching movies in private will probably be the guy at the party quoting the movie to his friends (who mostly won’t get his jokes).

As it goes with movie watching, so it goes with Scripture memory, private prayer, Bible reading, singing, and all of the biblically prescribed postures of worship. If you never cultivate a heart for God in private by spending time in his Word then you will probably have difficulty valuing a sermon preached on the weekend. If you never cultivate a heart that responds to God in worship on Wednesday morning then what we do on Sundays will mostly seem foreign to you. Think about it like this: at most, we spend 2 hours per week in gathered worship. That’s about 1% of our week. It’s hard to believe that 1% of our week will be sufficient to shape the other 99%.

J.C. Ryle once wrote how most people in public worship looked to be “taking up a fresh thing.” What an indictment! The people of God gather to hear his Word preached, sing his praise, encourage the other believers, and give a brilliant testimony to the watching world, and yet, we look to be attempting it for the first time. I’m convinced that one of the reasons that my flame for God is small is that I don’t spend the time during the week stoking the coals.

The Bible is full of examples of this pattern of private action affecting public action. Take Psalm 40:1-3:

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”

A few things worth noting in this Psalm that fuel private worship:

  • The God of the universe hears and listens to us in Christ Jesus

  • The Lord responds by rescuing us “from the pit of destruction.” Our deliverance has come through the person of Jesus.

  • The Lord puts a new song in of praise to God in our mouths. The Christian has been given a song that serves the mission. The song is the means by which many see the glory of God and respond in faith.

For these things to fuel our relationship with God, and our worship of him, we must spend time reflecting on them. We must call to mind his deliverance. We must remember that we were all in the pit of destruction before he came to our help. We must remember that the new song serves the mission. Then, in private, we must respond in worship. We must sow.

Private worship affects public worship. But, the reverse is also true: Public worship also affects and informs private worship. That’s part 2...

This is our story.

One of our Summit Worship plumb lines is: "The depth of your theology affects the height of your worship.” A less wordy version is, “Knowing things helps you appreciate things.” This may sound like some of your Grandpa’s advice, but I think it’s true. When I go to a hockey game with Candace, I’m constantly explaining the rules. Why? Her enjoyment of the game is dependent upon her knowledge of the game.  

A few years ago (2011), Bryan Chapell preached a message entitled “Gathering to Rehearse” at a WorshipGod Conference in Maryland. In essence, Chapell’s message was a condensed version of his book “Christ-Centered Worship,” which was published in 2009. One of the most helpful parts of the book (and the message) was Chapell’s treatment of liturgy for gathered worship. In fact, you can find a quick summary and review of the book here. 

Chapell says that the shape of our service and patterns of worship communicate a message. I think he’s right.  Structure sends a message. So, is there a shape to a worship service that serves the message? That’s the question. Again, Chapell is helpful because he gives biblical categories. He suggests that the “message shapes the container.” What he means is that the content itself determines the order of delivery. Chapell suggests the following “liturgical categories,”: 

  • Adoration
  • Confession
  • Assurance of Pardon
  • Thanksgiving
  • Petition
  • Instruction
  • Charge and Blessing

I won’t expand all of the categories in this post, but want to draw your attention to the shape. These categories are the shape of Isaiah 6:1-9, Exodus 3, Ephesians 2. A sight of the Glory of God leads to a confession of sin. Confession and repentance bring the assurance of pardon in Christ. A heart that knows full forgiveness bears the fruit of thankful lips, and on the liturgy goes. 

This order is powerful because it is a rehearsal of the gospel message. It is your testimony. To be a Christian, every one of us saw the glory of God, and saw God as overwhelmingly beautiful. In view of his holiness, we said with Isaiah, “Woe is me, for I am ruined.” In our confession of sin came the promise of forgiveness (2 Cor. 5:21, Rom. 10:10-13). Assured of God’s promise to save us and seal us for redemption, our hearts respond in thanksgiving. And so the “liturgy” moves. This is our story. 

In sharing this brief overview, my aim is to invite you to rehearse the gospel story when we gather together. As we rehearse the gospel story together, take joy in the God who showed you his glory in the face of Christ (2 Cor 4:6), heard your prayer of repentance, gave Christ as a gift of grace, takes delight in your worship, speaks through his very Word, blesses and sends us out with his very presence. 

This is our story and song. 

Sing to look back, sing to look forward.

Paul says in Colossians 1:28-29: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” This is my pastoral North Star. It’s my aim: proclaim in order to present. I endeavor to use every bit of energy that the Lord works in me to warn and teach you towards maturity in Christ. 

Music is one of the means of teaching and proclaiming. 

Gordon Fee once said, "Show me a church's songs and I'll show you their theology." This is true because songs help us remember. We all know this by our experience with nursery rhymes and alphabet memorization. We all know this when our song from High School Prom comes on the radio. We all know this from the experience of trying unsuccessfully to get that song out of our heads! 

Melodies make words memorable. God has created us this way. He has created us, wired us, to remember through song. When God's people crossed the Red Sea, what is the first thing they did? They wrote a song to remember God's promise kept (Ex. 15:1-18) and to look forward to future grace (v 17-18). When Mary held the Word made flesh, she sang (Luke 2:46-55) to remember God’s promises kept and look forward to future grace (v. 48, 50). This is why we, as a worship ministry, use our energy to plan gospel-centered, Bible-saturated, Christ-exalting, God-glorifying songs for our weekend services. We want to put songs in your mouths and hearts that help you believe, and hope in the gospel today

On Sunday, January 22, 2017, we sang the following truths in our worship gathering: 

“How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word, what more can He say than to you He has said, to you who for refuge, to Jesus have fled”

“Fear not, He is with us, O be not dismayed, for He is our God, our Sustainer and Strength He’ll be our Defender and cause us to stand, upheld by His merciful, Almighty hand”
-Jesus, Firm Foundation

“What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus”

“This is all my hope and peace, nothing but the blood of Jesus
This is all my righteousness, nothing but the blood of Jesus”
-Nothing But the Blood of Jesus

“Guilty vile and helpless we, spotless Lamb of God was He
Full atonement, can it be? Hallelujah, what a Savior!”

“When He comes, our glorious King, all his ransomed home to bring,
then anew, this song we’ll sing: ‘Hallelujah, what a Savior!’”
-Hallelujah, What a Savior

Today, you may be fighting the good fight. You may need to be reminded of God’s promises, and pointed towards future grace. Let me encourage you to sing to remember and believe. Sing to hope in God. Sing to look forward to future grace. 

Open your eyeballs and sing

A foundational passage for our worship gatherings is Colossians 3:16, which says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Since this passage is foundational, it would be difficult to expand and explain all of the implications for us as a campus and worship ministry. So, let me make one observation and one application for us when we gather for worship. 


The observation might be too simple to be obvious: Paul is writing to the church at Colossae. He is addressing the body of believers. We (I) tend to miss this when I read the Bible. Often, I read, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you…” and I immediately put myself in the crosshairs of this verse. I assume Paul is writing to me. But is he only writing to me? To individual Christians? 

The (again, somewhat obvious) answer is “No.” Colossians 3:16 is, well, three chapters and 16 verses into the book of Colossians. This means that Colossians 1:1-2 tells us who the audience is: the church at Colossae.  Zooming in further, we see that Paul is telling us what should happen when we gather. We should teach and admonish one another. Paul says we should teach and exhort one another and that we should use psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to accomplish that end. In other words, psalms and hymns and spiritual songs are a means of the “word of Christ” dwelling richly in us. 


Zac Hicks, writes: 

“Part of loving the church well is reminding her that she is a community. In our day and age, when worship has become such a subjective experience, the church is ever prone to hyper individualizing our faith and practice. We see this very tangibly in worship services in which we’re all explicitly or implicitly encouraged to have our own private encounters with God. Sometimes we can get the impression that the most meaningful worship service looks like one in which each worshiper is having their own private devotional experience with God…and they just all happen to be in the same room!”

“One of the things I like to do is balance the amount of time given to ‘eyes open’ and ‘eyes closed’ in my own leading of the sung portion of a worship service. I make it a point to peel open my privatized experience and look around at the saints as we sing together, as a visual demonstration to say, ‘Hey, church, we are all encountering God together.’” (The Worship Pastor, p. 26). 

By way of application, let me encourage us to embrace the opportunity to encourage one another as we encounter God together. We must be aware of our own tendency towards individualized, privatized experience. Each weekend, look around as you enter the auditorium. You are surrounded by people. Each person beside, behind, and in front of you needs to be reminded of the goodness of God in the gospel, and here’s the thing: God has designed the body in such a way that you are part of the reminding. How? Your singing. Your posture. Your handshake. Your open eyes. 

When we gather this weekend, let me encourage us to open our eyes, look around, and sing with all our might because this is one of the greatest ways we help one another believe the Word of God.