[A Note: As I began to write this blog my intent was to address the issue of the “meet and greet time” that most churches participate in during their Sunday gatherings. For the sake of reasonable blog length, I’ll have to wait to address that subject in part 2. As an introduction to this subject, I think it’s important to first address the “why” of gathered worship.]
Generally speaking, the vast majority of Christians share the idea that attending church is an important thing. For some, it’s a periodically important thing, for others it is a consistently important thing. While there is a group out there that is advocating and embracing a “post-church-attendance” type of ‘Christianity,’ most seem to carry church attendance somewhat firmly in their conscience.
I think this is a good thing, because Biblical Christianity is marked by consistent gathering of the faithful together. Here are a couple of well-worn texts that speak to this reality.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
Christianity, from its beginnings, has been a faith that gathers and scatters. The gathering is consistent, and the scattering is intentional. The church gathers to worship together and scatters on mission together (which is also a part of worship).
The question I want to approach here is “Why do we gather?”
We gather to worship together.
I know that what follows will be a massive over-simplification of what it means to “worship together,” but bear with me.
Generally speaking, gathered worship has two primary purposes. First, we worship in order glorify God together. Second, we worship in order to edify one another.
If worship is about glorifying God this means that worship is about God and not about me.
If worship holds the purpose of edifying one another, this means we gather to selflessly participate, not to selfishly consume.
As Hebrews 10 says above, we “stir up one another to love and good works” and we “encourage one another.” Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 also speak to the edification side of Christian community. We “teach and admonish one another in all wisdom” and we “sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in our hearts to God.”
When we study the subject of “why the church gathers in worship” what we do not find in Scripture is any semblance of a self-focused, preference-driven, individualistic, consumer-centered experience. These factors, native to stereotypical American Christianity, are foreign to Biblical Christianity.
Worship is not something I consume, it’s something I am called to participate in. Worship is not about my preferences, it is chiefly about God’s glory, and further about the edification of the body of Christ.