Pastor's Corner: Worship is better togetherBy JOHN CROTTS
Faith Bible Church
Where do you do your best worshipping?
Since God is everywhere all of the time, and since he is always worthy of our whole-hearted response to his worth, we ought to worship lots of different times and places throughout the week.
I respond to her worth by kissing her, giving her flowers, seeking to make her happy and even giving her a phone call just to check in. These are all non-musical examples of worship on a human scale.
In Romans 12:1, Paul tells the church at Rome that in response to God’s amazing mercies given to them because of Jesus and the cross, they should respond with a whole lifestyle of worship. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). In contrast to the dead animal sacrifices of the Old Testament worship, Christians are to stay alive. But just like the sheep and bulls, Christians are to be totally committed to worshipping God with their lives.
Many today don’t think about worshipping God enough or correctly. Too many churchgoers think that worship only happens on Sundays and really only when their church is having the kind of music they prefer.
Others think they worship God just as well or even better in private than with a church family. These ideas are far from the ways the object of our worship thinks about our worship.
You should appreciate your Creator when you are alone all through the week. When you see that beautiful sunset, by all means stop and tell the artist how great he did. When you eat the perfect slice of pizza, it is appropriate to have another blessing in your heart as you make those yummy sounds of satisfaction. God is the maker of taste buds, and he as the Creator inspired his creatures to create good things to enjoy, like pizza.
So praise God!
But it is completely inappropriate to leave your worshipping heart at home on Sundays. God really likes being worshipped in groups of his children gathered as churches. Your best worship of God should be in such settings. There are several reasons why corporate worship should be a Christian’s worship priority.
We are God’s temple. In the Old Testament the temple was the place of Israel’s worship. God manifested his presence there. He commanded the offerings to be done there. He even had three times during the year all the men of the country needed to show up there, like the Passover. While the New Testament does refer to individual Christians as temples, even more often the emphasis is on entire gathered churches being pictured as temples.
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). As Don Whitney notes, “But we must also look at our local community of believers and declare with equal conviction ‘the temple of the Holy Spirit.’ And there are experiences with God that can be known only when you worship within that spiritual house” (Spiritual Disciplines within the Church, Chicago: Moody Press, 1996, 81-82).
The majority of the New Testament examples and instructions about worshiping God are to or about a church. Can you think of individuals in the Book of Acts pausing while hiking in the hills of Israel to have a worship time? Of course not. Even that call in Romans to worship with our lives was given to a church family. It was probably first read to them all together in a church gathering.
While some elevate their musical preferences and even their movements on Sundays in a way that seems like they are in their own little worship world, Paul says that our songs for God are also to each other. Paul calls the Spirit-filled Ephesian church to be “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20).
When you are alone looking at that stunning sunset, isn’t it better when you can share it with someone else? You both elevate each other’s emotional enjoyment of the same scene by enjoying it together. The same is true of worshipping God in church. As God’s Word is read and taught God is revealing more of himself to his people. As he is enjoyed and appreciated by the church a corporate energy develops. Everyone’s passions rise together is response to God’s greatness.
When you worship God together you also celebrate each other’s celebration of God. I suppose going to Disney World alone could be fun, but the whole experience changes when you live it through children. Their delight charges your joy. Likewise, when you see and hear your brothers and sisters singing God’s songs loudly and enthusiastically you are thrilled for them and you are inspired to elevate your efforts.
This mutual encouragement and provocation to exultation occurs in more than just the music time.
Remember, worship should be happening all of the time. In corporate Bible studies as different ones share insights into the Scriptures, we all learn more about God’s greatness and his ways. When a Christian shares an encouraging story of God’s answering her prayer that week, that can also be a launch pad to praise.
Even a discussion about the meaning of a point in the sermon can easily result in adoration to the God being talked about in the Bible. All through the gatherings of the church, worship should be happening and stimulated to happen in ways better than it can when we are apart.
One more example about the importance of worshipping together with God’s people is Jesus himself. The Son of God didn’t just worship on hillsides by himself. He got with God’s people as they gathered together week by week. Whitney provocatively asks about Jesus’ custom of worshipping every Sabbath in the synagogue, “How can anyone claim to follow Jesus who won’t worship God as Jesus did?” (Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church, 82)
Maybe you still think that all of this sounds fine and even biblical, but your experience tells you that your best worship happens on your own. I say again, it is right for you to worship God on your own, so please don’t stop. But don’t stop there! Since the Bible puts such a high value on worshipping together at church, work hard to adjust your priorities to match it.