The Elephant in the Sanctuary: Spiritual Disciplines that Enhance Worship

Introduction -The Relationship between Discipleship and Worship

A philosophy is defined as specific thoughts and ideas that are held to be true by a specific person or group as pertaining to a specific subject.  As we explore the options one has in seeking discipleship with Jesus Christ, there are several different avenues one can travel to learn more about exploring a relationship with Jesus and the type of life He desires for His children.  First, a definition of discipleship and worship must be explored so that a foundation is laid to build a philosophy to apply to both discipleship and worship ministries.  Dr. Rob Morgan describes discipleship as “someone who is openly yielded to Christ as Lord in every area of their life.”[1] A fuller explanation of discipleship from Rosenberg is “a person who actively seeks a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and has a passionate commitment to know him, love him, follow him, and obey his Word, no matter the cost.”[2] This definition entails a complete surrender of one’s self in order to follow God and know more about him.

A short definition of Worship is establishing worth to any person or thing within one’s life.  Jesus established that the greatest commandment is loving God which is the basis for worship.  His definition is to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”[3] Therefore the whole heart, soul and mind are the elements that consist of loving God.  Desirable worship includes all three of these traits as well.   To bring these elements to worship, one must know how to connect the heart, soul and mind together.  The only way to connect these three is to know Jesus on a personal level and have a relationship with him.  Discipleship brings these traits of the inner self together.

So, as we take both definitions and attempt to meld them together to create a philosophy involving both worship and discipleship; elements of both ministries must be used to strengthen each other.

Discipleship and Worship and important aspect of obtaining a relationship with Jesus that leads us into the world of worship. The discipleship and worship from this student is as follows:  In order to worship God, the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit fully, it is imperative that a personal relationship be formed with the Godhead.  It is only through this relationship that a full comprehension of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit will be discovered.  Through this relationship with Jesus a fuller worship experience is gained and a knowledge of God more complete.  Stetzer and Rainer state that, “There can be no renewal, revival, or rebuilding without . . . an experience of the all-consuming, all-illumination presence of God.”[4]  As followers begin to know God more fully, they begin to hunger for God’s presence.  Discipleship that includes bible study, daily prayers, confession, adoration, thanksgiving and interaction with other Christians, and reliance on the Holy Spirit cultivates a closer relationship with God thus sparking worship.

            Discipleship is an important aspect of the Christian walk.  Although over the past decade it has been a topic of concern for churches, the people have not grasped how important it is their walk with Jesus.  Kenneth Boa states in his book about discipleship that “To know God is to love him, because the more we grasp – not merely in our minds but also in our experience-who he is and what he has done for us, the more our hearts will respond in love and gratitude.”[5]  Part of the love and gratitude we feel when we start to know God deeply is clearly expressed in worship.  Worship then becomes an avenue of release so that we may show God our love and appreciation and how we long to be in his presence.

Discipleship takes the raw inner self through the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit and shapes the person into a Christ-like figure.  Dallas Willard states that “Spiritual formation, with regard to any specifically religious context or tradition, is the process by which the human spirit or will is given a definite “form” or character.”[6] As this character takes shape; it brings the human spirit into connection with the Holy Spirit, as relationship is fostered traits begin to alter, attitudes start to change and the will begins to long for the presence of the Lord. The more we know about God, the more we want to worship him and give him the glory that he deserves.  Through the Word of God, we realize how trivial our lives are in comparison to the almighty God and the gift of salvation he freely shares. As Jesus taught his disciples, so we must bring new converts along and teach them the way to maturity.  J. Oswald Sanders gives this comparison, “As His disciples heard the Master pray, they could not help but discern the depth of intimacy that existed between Him and His Father. Aspiration after a similar experience was kindled in their hearts and they asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). He gladly responded, for was not this the very road along which He had been leading them. . . A sense of the true fatherhood of God in all the richness of that relationship cannot but kindle worship.”[7] Leading disciples into the disciplines of the spirit provides opportunities for baby Christians to deepen their relationship with God so that he becomes a true Father to his children.  Therefore, it is imperative that leaders take care to disciple followers; only then will a true understanding of worship be possible.  “Worship glows from love. Where love is meager, worship will be scant. Where love is deep, worship will overflow. As Paul wrote his letters, his contemplation of the love and glory of God would spontaneously cause his heart to overflow in worship and doxology.”[8] The same will be for the Christian who actively works out his discipleship. Dr. Rob Morgan says that discipleship involves coming to the cross and accepting Christ as Lord; going into our own spiritual closet where learning about God is embraced through the reading of God’s word; and impacting other to be disciples.[9] Through discipleship we have a clear path that leads to worship.

[1] Dr. Rob Morgan, Video 4: Balance and Discipleship – Part 2(accessed January 26, 2016),

[2] Joel Rosenberg and Dr. T.E. Koshy, The Invested Life: Making Disciples of all Nations One Person at a Time (Carol Stream, Illnois: Tyndale House, 2012), 28-29.

[3]  (accessed January 30, 2016) Matthew 22:37, NIV

[4] Ed Stetzer and Thom S. Rainer, Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2010), 15.

[5] Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2001), 32.

[6] Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ (Colorado Spring, CO: NavPress, 2012), 19.

[7] J. Oswald Sanders, Enjoying Intimacy with God (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 2000), pg. 19.

[8] Sanders, 21.

[9]Dr. Rob Morgan, Video 3: Balance and Discipleship 3 – part I (accessed January 26, 2016),


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