By Randy Bloom. US East Regional Director
Have you ever woken up on a Sunday morning and felt like staying home from church? I’m not keen on admitting it, but I have. Sometimes there were legitimate reasons such as illness or extreme exhaustion; but other times I was just being lazy. After getting up and moving around—even when I don’t feel like going—something compels me to head out. Why is this?
I credit the Spirit drawing me to rejoin my fellow believers in our weekly sojourn to worship God. I’m also sure there is a human sense of obligation; all my life I’ve been taught—and as a pastor I’ve taught—that we should go to church and I want to “walk my talk.” But more than an obligation, I feel the need to gather with others and join them in worship. This is part of the purpose of church and why the church has, since its inception, provided times and places for corporate worship. But why this need? Why should we participate in corporate worship? Can’t I worship at home with just God and me? What’s the big deal about Sunday worship services?
Joining Jesus in worship
While there are many scriptural references about corporate worship, the purpose of traditional Sunday worship services is to worship God! We have the indescribable privilege of being able to join in Jesus’s worship of “the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible” (to quote the Nicene Creed). We participate in Jesus’ worship of our Father—that’s amazing if you think about it. We are invited into God’s presence in a special way and there we experience his love and grace.
Worshipping in communion
We also have the privilege of worshipping God with other believers—joining them in a communion of worship. The Sunday worship service is a time to rejoin fellow believers in a community of faith, hope and love. Many of us live and work in isolation from other believers; the Sunday service is a weekly family reunion. It’s a time to be with people of like mind and heart (and some who are not quite of the same mind and heart). It’s a time for sharing the joys and challenges of life with each other and encouraging each other to stay focused on Jesus and to remain hopeful and faithful. In this way we are spiritually refreshed and nurtured.
Being transformed into God’s image
In worship we are also transformed, bit by bit, into the image of Christ. After all, how can we be in the presence of God and not be transformed? (We are always in the presence of God, but not always with others in a worshipful environment.) The Bible shares story after story of people who are transformed in the presence of God. In the Sunday worship service, we hear the gospel of Jesus, which is “the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Hearing the gospel changes us. True, we may not “feel” transformed with any given worship experience, and the transformation may be imperceptible to us, but transformation is occurring.
This is why it is good to remind ourselves that worship is not primarily about us and our feelings; it’s about God and what he is doing in our lives. Worship is about coming before God, worshipping him, and within the context of worship, trusting the Spirit to relentlessly work in us in ways we do not understand or realize. Even when I enter into a worship service not feeling particularly worshipful, by the end of the service I often realize I have not only worshipped, I’ve been transformed (at least a bit). I’m sure you have had the same experiences.
Helping new believers experience God
In most cultures Sunday worship is the time when most people have contact with Jesus’ church and his people. It is where many non-Christians experience God’s presence for the first time. It is often the place and time they begin to realize who God is and recognize he is inviting them to participate in a spiritual journey with Jesus. The Sunday worship service is where they can experience the transformational power of the gospel as they hear it and as they see how it has had an impact on those around them. In addition, non-Christians need to see Christians worship God. You may not have thought of it before, but our worship has an evangelistic impact on people who are non-believers and perhaps even critics of Christianity. As Ed Stetzer writes, “The purpose of worship is also to allow unbelievers to observe the divine-human encounter and to yearn for their own personal relationship with God.” (Planting Missional Churches).
Joining Jesus in serving others
Worship, particularly corporate worship, has the effect of inspiring people to commit to service in Christ. This is expressed in Romans 12:1: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy [which we experience in worship], to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” Worship inspires us to commit ourselves afresh to Jesus, in acts of service. In so doing, our service, indeed our whole life, is worship. So much more goes on than we realize when we worship with others in the body of Christ.
As I complete this article and prepare to send it to editor Rick, I realize I have the urge to go to a worship service. But it’s Tuesday and I must wait. Oh, well. It will be good to be in God’s presence with sisters and brothers in Christ, even if I have to wait five more days. I hope you feel the same way.