It seems to be an increasing phenomenon that more and more professing Christians consider joining with other believers on Sundays for worship to be an optional aspect of their life as disciples of Jesus.
I've heard it all. I've said it all. I totally understand and sometimes wonder, if I weren't the preacher, whether I would show up either.
Regardless of how I feel and the reasons I give for not attending, are there compelling factors other than law, duty, guilt, and fear that should supersede my excuses?
I think so.
There actually are at least six grace-driven, gospel-motivated reasons why we should attend gathered worship every Sunday.
In 1 Corinthians 15:1, the apostle Paul declared to his friends, "Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand."
When we remember that the gospel is not a set of instructions to follow but a truth to embrace, it becomes clear how easily we drift into a "doing" Christianity rather than a "being" Christianity. I forget the completeness of grace. I forget the love of God. I forget that I have a sovereign Father who is in control of everything; that I am fully forgiven, perfectly accepted, dearly loved, and empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
The more I miss, the more I will be inclined to forget the gospel and slide into either the ditch of legalism or license. This is why I need to be reminded of the gospel over and over again.
That is one primary reason to gather on Sundays.
In Matthew 4:4, when protecting himself against the temptation of Satan, Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'
Whether it is the reading of Scripture, praying the Scriptures, singing the Scriptures, or having the Scriptures explained and applied in a sermon, we need to hear and receive the word of God--not as the word of men, but as the Word of God.
We need to hear God's voice. The primary way God speaks to his people is in gathered worship through the preaching of his Word. This is why I pray before each sermon that we would hear the voice of God speaking to each of us individually the word that we need to hear for this day and this week as we live as his disciples. Yes, God speaks in his word as we read it personally. However, what we learn from narratives such as in Ezra is that the primary, ordained means of God speaking is through a preacher expounding the Word publicly for the all the community to hear.
It is the truth and grace substance of this word that not only converts us, but is what sustains and grows the soul as we continue to abide in Jesus by faith. Since Paul says in Romans 10:17 that faith comes by hearing, we should hear often--at least once a week as we gather together on Sundays.
What happens when I don't take advantage of the banquet of grace that is the Sunday morning gathering? It is the same thing that happens when I don't eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Yep, I grow weary physically. It is the same way spiritually.
Sundays keep us from starving by providing the spiritual nourishment that our souls need to survive and thrive.
In Colossians 3:16, Paul writes, "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts."
What we hear in preaching and what we sing in gathered settings influences us more deeply than we think. This is why attending Sunday gatherings have such a shaping effect on our souls.
Hearing gospel-centered prayers, singing gospel-centered songs, and hearing gospel-centered teaching shapes our hearts and minds with the grace of God that has been expressed in Jesus. Over time, themes of God's sovereignty, providence, wisdom, goodness, justice, mercy, and kindness begin to form the fabric of our worldview. And not just our worldview, but the worldview of our children.
In the same way that a stone is shaped and smoothed in a creek over time, we and our children are shaped as we consistently put ourselves in the stream of gathered worship Sunday after Sunday.
The author of Hebrews knew this, exhorting us in his letter, “Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:25).
Jesus did not die merely for individuals, but for a people. A family. A body. What the Bible calls "the Church." In this light, we can consider the Sunday gathering a family reunion, where we share life and spiritually recharge together.
One of the great joys of my Sunday morning experience is seeing people sticking around after the service to talk, share, and even pray together. Since we meet in a high school, the custodial staff can sometimes be found patiently standing around waiting for us to leave. I love that. People don't run out of the service to their cars. They stick around. I consider that to be a huge win.
Put simply, we need each other. We need others to know our needs and celebrate our victories, so that we can "weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice."
Your presence is a blessing for you and a blessing for others. We all know how much mere presence affects the morale of a sports franchise. When only a handful of fans are present for the game, it is deflating for morale. But when the stands are full with an expectant, enthusiastic crowd, well, it is profoundly motivating.
I can attest to this as a preacher. If I were to look out and see less than half of our community present for a Sunday gathering, I would wonder what I'm doing wrong and why folks don't value the gathering. I may be tempted to preach with less vigor than with a full house of eager worshippers. It really shouldn't matter how many people are present. Nevertheless, presence has a dynamic effect on the singing and teaching and overall worship experience of the church family.
Your presence matters. It makes a difference. When you are not there with us, you are missed.
You don't have to be an evangelist to play a part in evangelism. While every gift exercised in the body contributes to the mission of the church in the world, there may be no easier way to introduce others to the gospel of Jesus than by simply inviting them to join you for the Sunday morning gathering, where you know for certain that they will have the opportunity to hear the gospel clearly and respond personally. It will at least be a starting point for a follow up conversation about their experience.
What we have discovered at Creekstone is that many first-time attendees (even if they have a church background) attest to hearing the message of Christianity in a different way that they have ever heard it before. We are not teaching anything novel. We simply take pains to distinguish between moralism and the gospel.
Moralism says that we are forgiven and blessed because of our obedience and sacrifice. But the gospel says that we are forgiven and blessed because of the obedience and sacrifice of someone else in our place--Jesus.
It is the purity of the grace message that makes the difference. This is what is proclaimed in prayer, song, and through sermons every Sunday. We all need this. It is the life-blood for every believer and the reason why we should attend gathered worship every Sunday--not as a duty or out of guilt or fear, but compelled by a need to freshly experience and embrace the grace and love of God.
Matthew 11:28-30 records Jesus inviting us to himself, saying, "“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Drawing near to Jesus together in worship is one way we respond to this invitation to soul renewal.
If my Father, in places such as Hebrews 10:25 (see above), tells me that it is for my good that I connect with my brothers and sisters to be reminded of the gospel as we celebrate Jesus together, as well as spur each other on to persevere in faith, then it probably is wise to heed his invitation to draw near to Jesus in gathered worship.
After all, worship is unto God, but it actually is for us. God doesn't need our worship. But we need to worship God because it centers us, helping to keep us from worshipping other, lesser gods that deceive and destroy rather than save and bless.
Yes, gathered worship is good for me. It is good for my marriage. It is good for my kids. What if I really believed that?
I've just listed 6 reasons. Certainly there are many more. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section.