Take a moment and imagine you are in a sanctuary you have worshiped in many times. Run your hand along the worn-in pews, look over at where Mrs. Jones used to sit, scuff your feet across the burgundy carpet, kneel at the prayer-seasoned altar, savor the communion bread that never seemed to change, recall sermons that the Holy Spirit used to form you… Remember…
Perhaps you cannot easily fill your mind with favorable memories of sanctuaries in your life. Or, maybe it was all too easy to recall a place where the Holy Spirit formed you more into the image of Jesus Christ. Whatever our experience, we must ask ourselves, “Why is it important to go to a place of worship consistently?”
In 2014, Gallup conducted phone interviews and found that 35% of Hoosiers said they attended church weekly [i], meaning that about 2.3 million out of the 6.6 million total population claimed they consistently went to church [ii].
In the 2016-2017 season, The Wesleyan Church saw 239,842 people walk through the doors regularly in North America; this is a 22.9% increase over the past decade—what a praise [iii]!
Why are a majority of Hoosiers not finding value in attending Sunday Worship weekly? What is standing between Hoosiers contributing to the growth of The Wesleyan Church in North America? Have we failed to communicate the full extent of the unique grace that is available on a Sunday morning?
The Media is bound to catch and highlight when a politician fails to attend a political event. Classmates notice when someone fails to show up to their class reunion. However, no one asks or is concerned when one fails to attend a meeting of a committee of which they are not a member. No one bats an eye when Michael Phelps, world class swimmer, neglects to walk up to bat in the World Series.
All that being said, while we should desire for non-Christians to accept Christ and join us on Sunday mornings, should we not wonder where our brothers and sisters are when worship begins? I am not speaking of condemnation but of a benevolent concern; a concern that asks, “Where were you on Sunday? I missed you.”
There are many people who claim Christ as their Lord but all too often can attest, “I wasn’t there on Sunday.” Other things grab our attention—kids that have baseball games, lakes that gleam with fish, pillows that persuade a few more minutes, oil that needs to be changed, lawns that need to be mowed, car shows that need to be attended, antiques that beg to be purchased, exotic animals that need to be gazed upon, driveways that need to be vacuumed, and poison ivy that needs to be watered.
Some of those examples are a little facetious. The point is, there can always be an excuse. A Christian’s salvation is not in jeopardy if they ever miss church. However, if a Christian misses Sunday worship and their heart does not miss this holy event, there may be something amiss.
I began attending church regularly around the age of ten. I can recall the many Sundays when the sanctuary was filled with my apathetic presence. Singing seemed like a chore, the lyrics we sang came off weird, and my GameBoy appeared much more interesting than the preacher’s sermon or the tambourine player’s rhythm. At that point in my life, I saw worship as a waste of time; all that I cared about was how far I was on my latest video game and what was for lunch in the fellowship hall.
The cause of that attitude was that I was not a true Christian at that point. On top of that, I did not truly understand worship! James Torrance, in his book Worship, Community, & the Triune God of Grace, says this:
Christian worship…is our participation through the Spirit in the Son’s communion with the Father, in his vicarious life of worship and intercession. It is our response to our Father for all that he has done for us in Christ. It is our self-offering in body, mind and spirit, in response to the one true offering made for us in Christ, our response of gratitude to God’s grace, our sharing by grace in the heavenly intercession of Christ [iv].
We worship through grace in order to be obedient. God commands us to have no other gods before Him—to worship Him alone (Ex. 20:3). We respond in obedience not only by not possessing any idols but in worshiping Him. While it is an act of obedience, Christian worship is only possible by grace—a perfect gift that is only made possible through the sacrifice and eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ who unceasingly goes before us in worship (Heb. 7-8).
From the moment the service begins at 10:30 on Sunday mornings until the pastor finishes the closing prayer, we are worshiping Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through prayer, announcements, song, baptism, communion, Scripture, sermon, and more. We come together to worship our holy and triune God who is worthy of all praise. We come together to remember all that God has done in the past and anticipate all that He will surely do in the future [v]. We come together to give what God deserves.
Going to Sunday worship is not about making us feel better, satisfying a membership requirement, looking good to other people, getting into heaven, or seeing a performance. Going to Sunday worship is about the Body of Christ coming together to focus on and glorify the God who creates, redeems, sanctifies, and loves His people. The Father sent the Son so that the Holy Spirit might dwell within us. Will we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, follow the Son to the Father?
When we discover the true joy and grace of worship, we can’t help but desire to praise God. So, do you want to see others at worship on Sunday? Do you want God to receive even greater glory? Then worship God in obedience through the grace of Jesus Christ in the fullness of joy that is brought by the Holy Spirit. Join us on Sunday morning while we are led by the literal presence of Jesus Christ into the holy of holies. Join us while we spread the love of worship, taking the land for Christ, and growing His Church. For, there is truly no better place to be than in the presence of God together.
Jared M. Webb, Assistant Pastor
[iv] James B. Torrance, Worship, Community & the Triune God of Grace, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 15.
[v] Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2008), 43.