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Is corporate worship better than private worship? (Part 3)

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series

"Public Worship and Private Worship"

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We have been offering reasons why public worship is better than private. Public worship is the gathered, corporate worship of a local church. Private worship includes times of informal worship apart from the church: small groups, private Bible study and prayer, and family worship. Sometimes Christians today offer a lopsided, over-individualized view of the Christian life, hinging the whole matter on private worship and devotions. And while we agree that the discipline of private worship is an essential part of our religion, I am nevertheless arguing that public worship is better. Between parts one and two, I’ve already offered three reasons for this.1

The fourth reason public worship is better than private worship is that the preaching in public worship is better suited to help you see deficiencies in your Christian life. When your pastor preaches the Word of God to you, he is more likely than you to observe ways the Scriptures push you to follow Christ in ways you are not already.

Even when your pastor generally applies the Word of God across the whole congregation, he is usually better at applying the Word to you for your spiritual correction than you are when you sit and read the word for yourself. There are a couple reasons for this. Your pastor has the calling and time to study the Word to a much greater extent than you are able, and thus normally spends more time meditating upon the Word of God and its doctrine and application than you do.

In addition, we’re often (lamentably) lazy with our personal Bible study. We don’t take the time to think over points of conviction. And even if we were doing this in our personal Bible study like we ought, we are very sympathetic to ourselves. We tend to gloss over our sins (and especially our habitual sins) and not consider them like we ought. Christ Jesus, in his grace, has given to his church pastors and teachers to help us see those matters in clearer light.

There is a fifth reason. Public worship is better than private worship because Christians sing more in public worship. Even if you sing in your times of private worship, you don’t likely sing as much as you do at your church’s gatherings for worship. And, even if you did, you can’t, when you’re sitting at home singing, “sing to one another” in all the fullness of what Paul commanded us to do in Colossians and Ephesians (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). We can only obey the command to sing to each other and together sing to God by gathering with those other believers with whom we’ve covenanted together. So the very command of Paul to “address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” can only be fulfilled in the setting of corporate worship.

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About Ryan Martin

Ryan Martin is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Granite Falls, Minnesota. Prior to that, he served as the associate pastor of Bethany Bible Church in Hendersonville, North Carolina. He is on the board of directors of Religious Affections Ministries. Ryan received his undergraduate degree at Northland Baptist Bible College, and has received further training from Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis, Minn. (M.Div., 2004; Ph.D., 2013). He was ordained in 2009 at Bible Baptist Church of Elk River, Minn. (now Otsego, Minn.). He has a wife and children too. Ryan is the associate editor of Hymns to the Living God (Religious Affections Ministries, 2017). He contributed to the Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (Eerdmans, 2017) and is the author of Understanding Affections in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards: "The High Exercises of Divine Love" (T&T Clark, 2018).

  1. The first reason is that the New Testament emphasizes corporate worship. The second reason is that the praise of the congregation is better. The third reason is that public worship is better planned and organized. []