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 everyone does not agree on the whole balance thing. (You might also be surprised by this. I heard and 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.)

I have heard Bill Hybels say we need to give a disproportionate amount of time an attention to one purpose–evangelism. He says balance does not work. They try to be unbalanced in favor of evangelism. www.willowcreek.com

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. http://www.servantevangelism.com

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. http://www.gty.org

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 and 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 are 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, worship also correlates positively to growth. Groups that worship together are more likely to grow:

And here is some good news. It is easier than it has ever been for a small group to worship together. Used to be, you had to have musicians–someone who could play the piano or guitar or something. Although that is still the preferred approach–nothing like live musicians–we have good alternatives that we can use in the absence of good live musicians.

A simple and easy way is just to bring in a boom box and crank it up. Let me say a word about volume. Volume matters, and more is generally better than less. Having said that, it can be over done. Unless you are teaching youth, you probably don’t want it rock-concert loud. But, you do want it piano-and-organ-and-full-orchestra-and-choir-and-full-auditorium-singing-loudly-loud. You want it loud enough that people can’t hear themselves. If people can hear themselves sing, they won’t sing.

I have experienced this quite commonly in my seminars. We generally start with one worship song. Occasionally I have brought my guitar, but, honestly, although I enjoy playing, it is more worshipful if I leave it home. A good live musician is better than canned music, but in my case, canned music is better.

I use some wonderful DVDs from IWorship. (Technically, I use the MPEG version. This way, you load them all up on your hard drive and you can play any songs in any order, and you don’t have to lug DVDs around. See http://www.worshipmusic.com/30310.html ) Often, I am not in control of the volume–the sound guy is. Usually they have someone with some musical sense and he or she will get it about right. But, sometimes it is too soft and people just don’t sing. Or, some young guy is back there and cranks that baby up and. . . whoa! It is not worshipful; it is just irritating. More irritating to the older people in the crowd than for me. I have seen them hold their fingers to their ears to block the sound. Not a good sign. A time or two, I have had them walk out. REALLY not a good sign.

Still, let me emphasize, nine times out of ten if the volume is wrong, it is wrong on the side of too quiet, not too loud. Let me say one last time: volume matters. It matters a lot.

Musical style matters too. One musical style is no better or worse than any other musical style. it is a rather egotistical thing when someone refers to a particular style of music as, “church music,” “spiritual music,” or, “God’s music.” To suggest a particular style of music enjoyed by a particular group of people located in a particular geographical location at a particular time in history is special to God and better than music in Africa or South America or music enjoyed five hundred years ago or five hundred years from now is the height of egotism. The music I like is God’s music and the music you like is suspect. Please!

Musical style matters. Some music tunes my heart to sing His praise. Other music makes me laugh. Other music makes me cry. Some music bores me. Some music angers me. Some music makes me want to scream. Style matters.

Style is not the point. The question is not, “what style is best?” But, “How can we lead these people to worship God? What style will help us get these people to God.” Whatever style will do that is a good style.

Quality matters. It is easier to worship God with a piano that is in tune than it is to worship God when the piano is out of tune. It is easier to worship God when the musician knows what they are doing. Look it up; the bible speaks of skilled musicians. Not just musicians with a good heart; skilled musicians. This is why, in my case, I play a video rather than play my guitar and sing.

The worship is going to go a little better with a big, bright, projector and a beefy sound system than it will on a nineteen inch TV with a three inch speaker. I understand there are limits to the quality we can provide. Do the best you can do. Quality matters.

Of course, one thing matters more than all issues of quality: heart. I have a friend, David Delgado who is a fantastic worship leader. Here is how I would grade his skills:

  • Singing B+
  • Guitar playing B+
  • Piano A-
  • Worship leadership A+++

It is all about heart. I know a hundred guys who can sing better and play better, but they can’t bring a crowd to God like David can. It is a gift-a gift that is nurtured and cultivated, but a gift. www.daviddelgado.com

One more thing. Don’t limit your worship to group time. Encourage people to live a a lifestyle. Encourage them to do what I do sometimes on Sunday mornings. Get up an hour early, pop in an IWorship DVD. Crank it up loud. Spend an hour with God worshipping before the worship service. Encourage people to listen to worship music as they drive. Invite them to get a guitar and learn to play it. Lead people to love worshipping God.

We will spend all eternity in worship. Let’s get to practicing.