April 21, 2010
Each week during the welcome and announcements, my eyes scan the congregation for the people that I love, dear friends. Many are the folks on my worship teams. They are my brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, even those whom I’ve not yet met. My heart fills with joy and love and my spirit lifts as I see the ones I love. I know that we are experiencing God together in this most important gathering of the church for the purpose of worshiping him and listening to what he has to say to us together. That experience draws us together bringing unity of heart in purpose. (Of course, I can’t see everyone in our large room, not to mention those who come late to our family gathering. Nevertheless, I try to observe who it is that I am privileged to worship together with that morning.)
I find myself perplexed, no, saddened by the fact that there are many who do not attend church regularly each week. Content with casual attendance, both they and we are the ones who lose out. They are missing out on the family gathering, a weekly reunion and corporate encounter with God, and an important part of the life of the church. I miss them. I miss sharing the worship experience together. There is a unity that results from experience as God speaks to us through the teaching of his Word and our corporate response through worship.
Don’t get me wrong. I by no means equate church attendance with salvation, but I do think that it is part of the way that God sanctifies us (makes us holy) – one of the ways that we draw closer to him, he draws near to us and we subsequently draw closer to each other. His forgiveness and unconditional acceptance of us is based solely on the gospel – on his initiative to rescue and restore us through Jesus Christ and our simple confession of faith in him. God does not give us brownie points for attending church. There is the danger in equating church attendance with a spiritual judgement of who is more or less spiritual. I do not intend to do that. Yet that very gospel is what we corporately proclaim, celebrate and gather together each week to let shape and transform us by the renewing of our minds and the engagement of our hearts. There is a danger in considering attendance at church as one of many options on par with competing sporting events, family gatherings, home improvement projects, and time to sleep or relax. Yet, I think many approach it that way. No! Participation in corporate worship is God-ordained and commanded. Hebrews reminds us, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25 NIV)
Okay, I’m the worship pastor. I should feel that the worship service is of utmost importance. To design an opporunity to corporately encounter the Living God each week is in fact the primary role of my job. However, I felt this way far before becoming a full-time pastor. Next post I will share three reasons why corporate worship should be a high priority for those of us who profess faith in Christ.