Heard these excuses before? Yeah, I have too. Far too often.
Usually, they are given as explanations of why someone does not attend worship services. Can we worship God anywhere? Sure. Can someone be a Christian and never go to church? Maybe.
There is no doubt people question the practice of attending worship services. And, certainly, there is a bit of truth to these statements.
But, is it really accurate to think a personal experience with God in nature, or in the comfort of one’s home, is a valid substitute for gathering together with the people of God?
Granted, this is often an excuse for not wanting to attend worship! And, I am certain the “private worship experience” never occurs in many cases.
Instead of teasing out all the reasons the above excuses may or may not work, let’s ask some better questions.
1) What is the purpose of gathering for worship?
2) Is there any value in a study of the Psalms to teach us how to worship together?
What is the purpose of gathering for worship?
From the establishment of a covenant between God and man, the people of God have gathered to worship Him. The ancient Israelites worshiped Him in the Tabernacle then continued that practice when the Temple was built.
Why? Because, corporate worship happens in God’s presence.
Second Chronicles chapters 5-7 detail the account of the dedication of the Temple. Solomon asks God to hear the prayers of His people when they pray to Him “from this place.” God responds by promising, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways then I will hear their prayers and forgive their sins and heal their land” (7:14).
The scene that follows is incredible! The Spirit of God falls on the Temple and inhabits the Holy of Holies making it the place on earth where the people of God can gather in His presence to worship Him! Those few chapters demonstrate the value of the Temple to the nation of Israel. In the Temple:
- praises were offered,
- sacrifices were made,
- forgiveness was sought and received, and
- worship was experienced together.
Gathering together for worship was the way of the people of God. It still is. We still gather to worship our God and to cry out to him.
Do you see how pathetic those excuses look now?
- “I can worship God anywhere.”
- “I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.”
And notice this—we don’t use this reasoning anywhere else! Can you even imagine people applying this lunacy to other things that we love:
- “I don’t have to go to the Yum! Center and watch the games to be a UofL fan.”
- “I don’t need to go outside to be a great outdoorsman.”
While UofL fans can watch games on TV, they’d rather gather with thousands of others who wear red & white and cheer loudly. True outdoorsmen are rarely seen inside—rain or shine, they are outside hunting, fishing, camping—whatever, so long as they are outside!
So, we don’t “have to” go to church to be a Christian or to worship; but, we “want to” go to church and to worship. We “want to” gather for worship just like those saints of old wanted to worship:
- we offer praises
- we make sacrifices
- we seek and receive forgiveness, and
- we experience worship together.
They gathered for worship in a specific place—the Temple. And, they gathered for worship to sing certain songs. We still have that song book—the one we call the book of Psalms.
In the next post, we will look at the question:
Is there any value in a study of the Psalms to teach us how to worship together?
And, in coming Sundays we will start a new sermon series: Worship Together—Focusing on Jesus.
Until then, invite someone to worship! And if they give you that line about not having to go to church to worship, well, you know what to do!
Jeff Noel, Lead Pastor