CORONAFORMATION #2: Biblical Reasons to Gather in Worship
For the next two weeks, our church will be gathering together online for Sunday mornings. This does not mean we “take a break” from corporate worship. Rather, it means our gathering together will look “different” during the coronavirus as we participate in worshipping the Triune God of grace in an online worship experience.
I have a hunch that many Christians who attend worship services faithfully each week may still not fully understand the New Testament ideas that undergird our corporate worship. Thus, I offer a short reminder on why we gather together (and why it’s such an unprecedented gut-punch for Christians to not gather in person to worship during the coronavirus).
Four Reasons Christians Gather in Corporate Worship:
1. God said so.
Heb. 10:23-25 – Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The writer of Hebrews encourages Christians in an age of persecution not to neglect meeting together. In fact, when the church faces suffering and persecution, scriptures heighten the injunction to meet together to face the suffering of the world with wisdom, faith, courage, and love.
2. The New Testament presupposes weekly gatherings (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Acts 2:42; Colossians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 16:19) to worship God.
Corporate worship was a natural response to the resurrection of Jesus, to celebrate and worship the God who raised Jesus from the dead. This historical event lead to a robust doxological response from the people of God.
3. Faith comes from hearing the Word of God in a communal setting.
Romans 10:17 – For faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.
The “church” never connotes a single, lone-ranger Christian listening to podcasts, online sermons, or reading Christian books on the beach by himself or herself. The New Testament ekklesia gathered together to read the Old Testament, ponder Paul’s sent letters together, and to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col. 3:16).
We should never pit “just go be the church” against “let’s gather as the church”. The individual who never understands “the church gathered” never truly understands or lives into “the church dispersed”. People who think they can “be the church” without gathering in a church testify by their bible reading (and typically by their actions) that they have not truly understood the inner spiritual dynamics of the Christian life.
The ekklesia (church) means “assembly”. Thus, a few Christians gathering for a dinner party or even to serve the homeless in lieu of gathering for corporate worship is not “the church” because the ekklesia is the NT sense of the word is a gathered church that worships the Living God, hears the Word preached, celebrates the sacraments, appoints elders, gives generously to the work of the Lord, amongst other NT activities.
4. We need each other as Christians.
Acts 2:42-47: And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awecame upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47).
The awe of the Lord that struck the early believers was tied to ekklesia-type activities: careful listening and applying the apostles’ teaching to their lives, the mutual sharing of their lives in Christ, a worshipful participation in the Lord’s Supper (the breaking of bread), and a rich experience of corporate prayer. Notice the communal nature of all these activities. These missional activities (radical hospitality, overflowing compassion and care, and evangelistic outreach resulting in conversions) were all rooted in the worship of gathered believers.
People who advocate that a church should “get back to its mission” and “stop wasting time huddled together” are setting up a Straw Man which pits “mission” against “worship”, whereas the New Testament sense of mission always flowed out of a robust sense of the worship of God.
Final Pastoral Word:
Will you join me in praying a dangerous prayer?
“Lord, my prayer is that you would give me, by your grace, a supernatural experience of loss in not meeting together face-to-face in corporate worship. May I be reminded, by your Holy Spirit, of the ways in which corporate worship fuels my life of faith and ignites in me Christ-centered passions for discipleship in God-ordained and biblically-mandated ways. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”