And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’ ”
~ Luke 4:8
“The church service is the most important, momentous and majestic thing which can possibly take place on earth…”
~ Karl Barth
There is no higher calling, no greater pursuit in life than worship. Yet, according to a recent study by the Barna Group, the average “active” church member attends church 1.7 times a month… that’s not even half the time! And those are the “active” members! There are some legitimately good reasons for a person to occasionally miss church, but the reality is many Christians simply fail to make worship a priority–we’re just too busy to be bothered with going to church (thankfully, Jesus wasn’t too busy to be bothered with going to the cross!). So, as a little incentive at the start of a new year, here are six reasons why it’s important to worship together, in church, as the church.
1. It’s important to worship together because we’re commanded to.
Many times the Scriptures call us to come together to worship the Lord. Consider Psalm 95, which begins, “Come, let us sing for joy…” Everything in the entire Psalm is written in the plural. In fact, it’s impossible to practice Psalm 95 by yourself, because Psalm 95 calls God’s people to gather together and worship Him. So, we have a simple choice. Either we will choose to be obedient to God’s Word, and make worshiping together a priority; or we will choose to be disobedient to God’s Word and skip church. Which way will you choose?
2. It’s important to worship together because it drives our beliefs down deep into our souls.
I’ve had many conversations with people who tell me they don’t think Christianity has any real impact in their lives. They don’t sense God’s presence with them ever, and they don’t have any connection to the power of God in their daily lives. I wonder if this might be because their beliefs are little more than ideas in their heads? See, beliefs don’t really change your life until they drop from your head to your heart. It’s not enough to simply think things, you need to hold those beliefs in the depths of your soul. And, corporate worship is designed to engage your entire being–heart, soul, mind, and strength. When we sing our beliefs, pray our beliefs, study our beliefs, discuss our beliefs, and interact with other Christians who share our beliefs, those beliefs become more than just ideas in our heads. They become life-transforming truths driven deeply into our souls and expressed daily in how we live.
3. It’s important to worship together because you can’t truly know God as He is by yourself.
I’ve talked with many, many people who say, “I don’t have to go to church to know God.” The fact is, they’re wrong. God is not just your God or my God–He is our God. Through my study, and my experience, and my relationship with God, I have a different knowledge of Him than you do. And you have experienced God in ways I haven’t. If I want to truly know God as He is, I need to be with other Christians and learn from their stories, their worship, and their experiences. When I hear sermons from other pastors, I learn more about God than I would just by studying those verses by myself. When I hear other Christians pray, I see what God means to them and how He’s worked in their lives, and I get a bigger picture of God than I ever would have just praying by myself. On my own, I have one tiny perspective on God–a drop in the ocean. If I truly desire to know more of God, I must be together with other Christians in worship.
“You will never know God as He is unless you are in a worshiping community.”
~ Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City
4. It’s important to worship together because it’s where life together begins.
There’s no such thing as a Lone Ranger Christian. The Christian faith is personal, but it is never private. We do not have a private faith! Everywhere the gospel went, it formed Christian congregations, churches, where Christians would gather. The Christian life is a life together, and that life together begins with worship.
“The whole common life of the Christian fellowship oscillates between Word and Sacrament, it begins and ends in worship.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
5. It’s important to worship together because it reminds us what’s really important in life.
Guess what? Your kids’ sports are not really what’s important in life. How much money you make isn’t really the ultimate value of life. Sleeping in doesn’t rank super high on the list of what matters most in this world. What is really important in life is knowing God, hearing His voice and responding to it in worship. We were created to “glorify God and to enjoy Him forever,” as the Westminster Shorter Catechism says. When we make going to church to worship together a priority, we proclaim to ourselves, our kids, our friends, and the world around us that we are not the center of the Universe–God is.
When I was a kid, we were not allowed to play sports that caused us to miss church. If there was a game Sunday afternoon and we could play after church, that was fine. But we didn’t miss church to play ball because how many points you score on the field isn’t really what’s important in life. And let’s be honest, I wasn’t going to be a professional athlete (and neither will your kids). I can’t remember a single Sunday when we woke up, sat around in our PJ’s and asked, “Do you think we should go to church this morning?” Was it Sunday? Were we breathing? Then we were going to worship God. When I was old enough to have a job, my dad told me I wasn’t allowed to work on Sunday mornings and skip church. My high school job wasn’t important enough to take me away from the worship of God!
Parents, when you allow your kids to skip church because of sports, working at McDonald’s, and just being too tired to get up, you are teaching them that God is only worthy of our worship when it’s convenient for us. If you allow your kids to be the center of your family’s Universe, they will grow up thinking the world revolves around them. But, your kids are not awesome… God is awesome. They are not the center of the Universe–God is. Making church a priority reminds us and teaches others around us of what’s really important in life, namely, God.
6. It’s important to worship together because we need to “rest” in Christ.
In the Old Testament, the people of Israel observed the Sabbath Day. Every Saturday, they stopped what they normally did the rest of the week and physically rested. They stopped their work and worshiped God. They acknowledged that God was truly the One who provided for them, cared for them, and worked for them. As Christians, we are not bound by the Sabbath law, like the Israelites were. However, through Jesus Christ’s work on the cross, He offers us a spiritual Sabbath. We don’t celebrate our “Sabbath” on Saturday, but we “rest” in Christ on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the day when Jesus rose again. And, we need that spiritual rest.
An aircraft carrier carries planes across the ocean. Those planes fly out on their mission, but they can’t stay out forever. If they don’t come back to land on the carrier, they will run out of fuel and crash. They need to come back, be refueled, refitted, repaired, and relaunched to accomplish their mission. That’s exactly what worship does for us. You are out there Monday through Saturday, trying to live a godly life in a godless society. If you stay out too long, you’ll run out of fuel and crash. You need to stop, come back and rest in God’s sanctuary, and be refreshed. You need to be reminded of what’s most important in life. You need to be refocused on God’s Word, and you need to be encouraged by other Christians. Then you need to be relaunched back into the world, full of the Spirit and ready to accomplish God’s mission for you.
Going to church on a Sunday morning is important. It’s not just some meaningless activity Christians do, but it’s a vital part of your life as a believer. We need to worship together, and God is worthy of our worship. He gave His one and only Son to die on the cross in our place. He forgives all our sin. He provides for all our needs. The least we can do is give Him a couple hours one day a week!