Read an Excerpt
Before joining the youth ministry staff at Saddleback Church, my wife Cathy and I visited one of the worship services. I didn't know a lot about the church,
but I did know it had a great reputation and was known by pastors all over the world. With this in the back of my mind, I found it comical when I looked through the worship bulletin and found spelling errors. I smugly laughed to myself and was eager to share my discovery with Cathy.
As I nudged her I immediately realized she wouldn't be interested. I could tell by the look in her eyes. She had entered into the worship experience and had already shifted her focus from the rush of getting to church on time to the presence of God. Within minutes of our arrival, she had left the world behind. She was worshiping with passion and thankfulness as I had seen her do thousands of times before.
I, on the other hand, was focusing on the human efforts that went into the bulletin.
I had missed the point of being at church, and I was missing out on a great opportunity to worship God.
Cathy was a worshiper. I was a spectator.
When people are asked about worship, many people mention their favorite church songs. Unfortunately in many churches singing and worship are considered the same. But worship is so much more than singing. That's only one component of worship. At its core, worship is surrendering your entire life to God, to his way and his control.
My prayer is that these six sessions will lead you to a more intimate relationship with God. Consider making that your prayer too. You'll never be the same again.
Neither will the others in your small group.
22 SURRENDERING your life to honor God
Fellowship: CONNECTING Your Heart to Others'
[goal: to have students share about their lives and listen attentively to others]
To worship we need to take our eyes off ourselves so we can focus on God. When we go too long without worshiping God, the overwhelming details of life begin to weigh us down and ultimately to trap us. That's when we begin to believe we're too busy or too tired to focus on God. So slow down! You don't have to rush through these questions. Use them as a guide to trigger conversation with friends who you want to know better. Relax. Talk. Enjoy.
Brainstorm a list of ways to worship God. Write your ideas down. (If you're stuck, look at page 30 for ideas.)
Write a definition of worship below and then share your definition with the group. (Don't worry about getting it perfect. You'll have a chance to revise it after you've finished this book.)
If you haven't discussed the Small Group Covenant on page 88,
take time to read it together and discuss it now. Make commitments to one another that your group time will reflect those values. You may want to have one person read the covenant to the group before you begin each lesson as a reminder.
Use the Small Group Roster (page 90) to record the names and contact information of the small group members.
Discipleship: GROWING to Be Like Jesus
[goal: to explore God's Word, learn biblical knowledge, and make personal applications]
Christians talk a lot about worship, yet somehow misconceptions continue. A lot of the discussions are about the particular styles people prefer. For example, some might talk about their love for contemporary music while others think hymns lead to 'real worship.'
Others prefer silence followed by loud praise songs.
Everyone has a preference or two. That's one of the great things about how God has created humanity---we're all different!
But the words to a song, the style of the music, and the environment where Christians gather aren't as important as the heart of the worshiper. The apostle Paul describes worship like this:
1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy,
to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God---this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is---his good,
pleasing and perfect will.
3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
Terms that look like this are described in Learn a Little More near the end of the session.
What personal mercies have you experienced from God?
Living Worship 23
What does it mean to offer your body as a spiritual act of worship?
What's the relationship between mental transformation ('be transformed by the renewing of your mind') and worship?
What are some signs that you're being transformed by the renewing of your mind?
Worshiping God leads to renewal, which leads to transformation. According to this passage, what follows transformation?
Would you consider yourself to be a discerning person (meaning that you regularly know the will of God)? Explain why you think so.
24 SURRENDERING your life to honor God
How do thoughts about yourself impact your thinking about God?
How would you describe the last week or two of your life if you were to look at it through a lens of 'sober judgment?'
We don't worship God on our own initiative. Worship of God is in response to something. What are we responding to? What specific clues do you find in the text to support your answer?
How can a better understanding of God's mercy improve your worship of him?
What's the connection between the worship of the heart and the worship that happens within a church building?
Living Worship 25
Ministry: SERVING Others in Love
[goal: to recognize and take opportunities to serve others]
Although you receive spiritual benefit when you worship God, worship is not about you. Worship is about God and honoring him.
When you serve others with a right heart, you're also worshiping
God with your life.
Below are four actions that will affect your attitude when you serve others. These same actions are also evident when you take time to focus on God and worship him. Next to each attitude evaluate yourself in your worship and in your service. Write a plus (+) if this attitude is a strength of yours and a minus (-) if you need to improve.
Actions When I worship When I serve
(praise, statements of worth)
(declarations of love)
(a focus on God and his activities)
Share a few of your answers (perhaps your strongest and weakest areas) and explain why you graded yourself the way you did.
26 SURRENDERING your life to honor God
Evangelism: SHARING Your Story and God's Story
[goal: to consider how the truths from this lesson might be applied to relationships with unbelievers]
Do you think the following sentence is true or false?
Unbelievers can't worship God since worship flows from a relationship with him. Unbelievers can be ministered to by observing authentic worship in the life of a believer.
*Explain your response. What do you like about this statement?
What don't you like?
At the beginning of small groups such as this one, you should decide whether your group is open to inviting friends to join. If your group is open, list who you would like to invite and make plans for talking with them. Your small group leader or your leadership team may have already determined the group is closed at this time. If so,
a good group respects and follows that decision. You may be able to invite friends to join you in the next LIFETOGETHER book.
Read How to Keep Your Small Group from Becoming a
Clique (page 92) when you're at home.
Worship: SURRENDERING Your Life to Honor God
[goal: to focus on God's presence]
Just like breathing, worship can happen naturally in your life. The life-altering difference between breathing and worship is that we don't have to remind ourselves to breathe. It happens naturally.