Mutual Effect of Corporate and Personal Piety

Sometimes we throw the baby out with the bathwater. The neo-evangelical emphasis on personal piety to the neglect of corporate worship and church attendance makes us cautious and suspicious. Reformed evangelicals have another pitfall on the other side. We tend to emphasize accuracy and orthodoxy in corporate worship, Lord’s Day observance, and Sunday church attendance to the neglect of personal piety. We even see many speaking against personal piety because “It sounds so neo-evangelical.” These are two equally perilous ditches on either side of the road.

Both extremes fall into the same trap of emphasis and neglect. We and neo-evangelicals fail to see that in the Bible corporate and personal piety affect each other reciprocally. Reciprocal means a joint, give and take, relationship. Scripture contains both. Take the Psalms for example. There are Psalms of personal praise and piety prayed by a single author (e.g., Psalm 119), and others that speak corporately with all the house of Israel (e.g., Psalm 107, 149, 150). The situation is not an either-or, but a both-and. Worship shapes life and life culminates in worship.

Here are some questions to ask. Does my personal piety culminate in and lead me to attend corporate worship? Does it result in desire to attend the means of grace as often as the church doors are open? If not, you probably fall into the ditch on the neo-evangelical side. Also ask these questions. Does corporate worship change the way I behave or think based on the texts read and taught? Do I listen to scripture as the highest authority in my personal life and get my personal life in order as much as my doctrine of worship?

Each affect the other. Babys often leave dirty bathwater, but we don’t throw them out with it. So, the fact that there are abuses and neglect on either side of personal and corporate piety does not excuse us from the responsibility to both.