Chapter OneLiving Worship
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
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
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.
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.
1 Brainstorm a list of ways to worship God. Write your ideas
down. (If you're stuck, look at page 30 for ideas.)
2 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.)
3 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
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:
4 What personal mercies have
you experienced from God?Get specific.
5 What does it mean to offer your body
as a spiritual act of worship?
6 What's the relationship between mental transformation ("be transformed
by the renewing of your mind") and worship?
7 What are some signs that you're being
transformed by the renewing of your mind?
8 Worshiping God leads to renewal, which leads to
transformation. According to this passage, what
9 Would you consider yourself to be a discerning
person (meaning that you regularly know the will
of God)? Explain why you think so.
10 How do thoughts about yourself impact your thinking about God?
11 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?"
12 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?
13 How can a better understanding of God's
mercy improve your worship of him?
14 What's the connection between the
worship of the heart and the worship
that happens within a church building?
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.
15 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.
16 Share a few of your answers (perhaps your strongest and weakest
areas)and explain why you graded yourself the way you did.
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. Worship isn't as natural
as breathing, so we can find ourselves spiritually suffocating if we're not
taking regular opportunities to focus on God.
Worship can be a spiritual form of breathing. At the end of every small
group time, you'll be asked to take some spiritual breaths by focusing on
God. As you continue to meet together, this will become easier and more
18 End your group time by sharing one goal you have for yourself spiritually.
(Choose a goal you can pursue through all six sessions). What do you hope to
gain by going through a Bible study on worship?
19 Share one specific way the others in the group can pray
for you. Write down the prayer requests. (See the Prayer
Request Log on page 132.)
20 Pray together as a small group and commit to
ending all your small group times with worship.
21 Before your group breaks, read At Home This Week together. (If
everyone in the group has already done this in another
LifeTogether book, you can skip the introduction if you'd like.)
AT HOME THIS WEEK
Each week, you'll have at least four options to help you grow and learn on your
Own - which means you'll have more to contribute when you return to the group.
Daily Bible Readings
On page 104 you'll find Daily Bible Readings, a chart of Bible passages that correspond
with the lessons - five for each week. If you choose this option, read one passage
each day. Highlight it in your Bible, reflect on it, journal about it, or repeat it
out loud as a prayer. You're free to interact with the Bible verses any way you
want, just be sure to read God's love letter - the Bible. You'll find helpful tips
in How to Study the Bible (page 105).
Memorizing Bible verses is an important habit to develop as you learn to grow
spiritually on your own. Memory Verses (page 108) lists six verses - one per
week - for you to memorize if you want to plant God's Word in your heart.
Memorizing verses (and making them stick for more than a few minutes) isn't easy,
but the benefits are undeniable. You'll have God's Word with you wherever you go.
You'll find blank pages for journaling beginning on page 113. At the end of each
lesson, you'll find several options and a question or two to get your thoughts
going - but you aren't limited to the ideas in this book. Use these pages to reflect, to
write a letter to God, to note what you're learning, to compose a prayer, to ask a
question, to draw a picture of your praise, to record your thoughts. For more suggestions
about journaling, turn to Journaling: Snapshots of Your Heart (page 110).
If you'd like to choose journaling this week, respond to these questions:
When have you had a great worship experience?
What made it great?
Wrap It Up
Write out your answers to the session questions your group didn't have time
This week share with the others in your group which option seems most appealing
to try during the coming week. The variety of preferences is another reminder of
how different the people in your group are.
During other weeks, take time to share with the group what you did At Home
1 Therefore, 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. 2 Do 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.
3 For 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.
You'll find three prayer resources in the back of the book. By reading and
discussing them, you'll find your group prayer time more rewarding.
* Praying in Your Small Group (page 126). Read this article on your own
before the next session.
* Prayer Request Guidelines (page 128). Read and discuss these guidelines
as a group.
* Prayer Options (page 130). Refer to this list for ideas to give your
prayer time variety.