Is Private or Public Worship Better for Spiritual Growth?
By Alicia Purdy, Crosswalk.com
Have you ever asked yourself why you go to church? There are plenty of scriptures about meeting together, so, maybe it’s out of obedience. Or maybe it’s tradition, or maybe it’s the fear of being accused of not being a good Christian. Maybe you go to church because it’s something to do or it feels like a good thing to have some sort of faith-based support. Maybe you’ve formed good friendships, or you enjoy the programs churches have to offer. Maybe you like being part of a community of like-minded people. Maybe you’ve just always gone and so you continue to go out of habit or routine.
Everyone has their opinions about church, but does God have an opinion?
Today, when churches almost everywhere are broadcasting online, does it really matter if you actually get dressed and head out on a Sunday morning or a Wednesday night? What about a Bible study, does that count? You can read the Bible alone and grow in your faith and you can pray alone and grow in your faith, and you can worship alone and grow in your faith. Yet each one of these faith actions has two sides: personal and inter-personal.
Most people are comfortable with reading the Bible and praying together, but worship is different. Why is that? People are sometimes less comfortable expressing themselves in worship when others are around than they are worshipping alone. But is one “better” or more spiritually beneficial than the other?
The Power of Private Preparation
The Bible is clear that a private, personal relationship with the Lord is an important part of your spiritual life (Matthew 6:6). “The secret place of thunder” (Psalm 81:7) is a stunning image of the hidden place where you shut out the world, close into the Lord, and let Him open the eyes of your heart, mind, and soul. That is a physical and a spiritual location, where distractions are intentionally and purposefully set aside to minister to the Lord in worship; where you make a point to let the Lord know that you are there for Him.
This spiritual connection with the Spirit of God is a weapon of warfare and a way maker (Psalm 50:23)—and it attracts the Father who is seeking such worshippers (John 4:23)—but it is also the most spiritually attacked point of connection with God.
Why? Because Satan knows the real power of praise even better than the people of God.
Think about it: If having a private life of spiritual preparation, prayer, and maintaining a vital, living connection with the Spirit of God in worship were the only thing it would take to win every single battle you’d ever face in your whole life, ever, you’d do it, right? You’d build your whole life around it. Everyone would.
The problem? We don’t fully grasp the power of praise, but Satan does. “If only you knew what would bring you peace!” Jesus cried out over Jerusalem (Luke 19:42).
Meanwhile, Satan makes sure you’re too busy, too overwhelmed, too angry, too guilt-ridden, too depressed, too self-conscious, too doubtful, and too busy fighting off feelings of unworthiness or sin to construct your natural life around your spiritual one. Instead, we do it the other way around—our private, spiritual connection with the Lord is stuffed into the cracks of whatever our natural life can accommodate.
Satan in the Secret Place
Satan knows that:
- the Father is seeking you in worship
- in His presence is the path of life for you and fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11)
- you enter into His presence with thanksgiving, praise, and blessing (Psalm 100:4)
- the Lord dwells within your praise (Psalm 22:3)
And Satan knows the best, justifiable, and completely reasonable excuses to use to convince you to avoid a private, secret life of worship. They won’t sound like “excuses” to you—he’s that good. He’s the father of lies (John 8:44). But excuses they are.
God has more for you, but there are things you’ll only learn and see and understand in the “secret place” (Psalm 91:1). Yes, the Lord can come to where you are and He loves to do that, but there is a different spiritual dynamic when you enter His dwelling place with thanksgiving and praise. Satan is fully aware of its power—are you?
The Power of Public Declaration
One of the hardest things to figure out in the Christian journey is the point of balance. How much reading of the Bible is enough? How much do I give in offerings and alms? How much time should I spend in prayer when I have a job and kids? Should I give my whole life for the mission field or just give money? Or do nothing except for pray to God to “send laborers into the harvest?” When I worship, how much should be high praise, declaring faith statements and spontaneous worship? What if I only have five minutes?
We all ask ourselves questions like these and the Holy Spirit guides as we seek Him for the answers. So, let’s talk worship: Is public worship or private worship more or less worthy, beneficial, or important?
The answer is this: One without the other leads to spiritual imbalance.
Even the world’s wisdom will tell you there’s power in numbers. “Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but let us exhort one another, especially as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). Paul said that together we should teach and exhort “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16). David wrote, “One generation shall praise Your works to another and shall declare Your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4).
So, worshipping together is an incredibly important part of the balance of the life of faith. You need exhortation. You need admonishment, discipline, and challenges (even if you don’t like them). You need testimonies (Revelation 19:10). Your spirit needs to sing faith aloud, cry out as one voice, hear others sing praise with you, sing scriptures, poetry, and songs from the Word of God. “Faith comes by hearing,” Paul wrote in Romans 10:17. And that includes worship as much as it does the Word.
Satan in the Sanctuary
Remember, Satan’s strategy is to keep the Christian crushed. He wants to divide and conquer. The persecuted church all around the world doesn’t have the advantage of meeting together very often without the threat of death. Yet, they do it anyway. Why? There is power in numbers (Matthew 18:20).
The Lord loves relationships, and He has hard-wired each of us for relationships, too. Without them, you can survive, but you won’t thrive—not for long. Satan’s strategy is to break every relationship you’ll ever have that will strengthen your faith so that you’re always weak, angry, and in pain. Who wants to go to a church filled with people like that?
“One person sharpens another,” says Proverbs 27:17, and Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Satan knows he’ll win the battle if he can disconnect you or even weaken your connection from two powerful aspects of your faith and strength: The Lord of Heaven’s Armies and the Army of the Lord.
Worshipping together with other Christians is a necessary and life-giving, faith-building action that you cannot forsake. Not if you want to win.
There are two types of worship “approaches” for the Christian—one is an outward proclamation—the other an inward exaltation. Is one “better” or more spiritually beneficial than the other? Think of it this way: Without one, the other is incomplete and you are out of balance in your faith.
Maybe you don’t feel out of balance; but maybe it’s fair to say you’ve grown accustomed to how you balance on one leg or see with one eye. If you feel an inner resistance or disconnect in your praise and worship—publicly and privately—you can never, ever go wrong giving God more. Why? Because God has more. God always has more! So does Satan.
Worship wins wars, so fight from a level-balanced ground and create a lifestyle of worshipping the Lord in secret and in the open. Don’t fear the giants in battle—worship the Lord and the giants will fear you!
Alicia Purdy is a worship leader and a full-time writer with an M.A. in Journalism. She is the host of “Living Out Loud!”, a weekly radio show broadcast at the ALIVE Radio Network. You can learn more about Alicia’s books including, “The Way of the Worshipper”, catch up on “Living Out Loud” episodes and subscribe to free devotionals at her blog: TheWayoftheWorshipper.com. Alicia is also a human with an ongoing education in all things life-related! Her passion is to write about real life and a real faith in a real Jesus to inspire, encourage and entertain people from all walks of life. Alicia and her husband have 5 kids ranging from 20 years old all the way down to 4 - and 1 cat, named Chester. You can find and follow Alicia on Facebook and Instagram. She welcomes questions and discussion. You can reach out via email at The Way of the Worshipper. If you meet her in person, she will most likely try and wipe you down with essential oils and then ask if you want to grab a coffee.