Why does the church gather? What is the purpose of our meeting Sunday? Is it just to get a spiritual shot in the arm to get me through the week? Is it to have a social outlet that is at least spiritual? Is it to hear a biblical sermon? After all, isn’t that what we pay the pastor for?
In one word, the reason the saints assemble on the Lord’s day is….WORSHIP!!!!! “Wait a minute” you are thinking to yourself. “Don’t we gather to hear the exposition of God’s Word? Why only worship? I mean, I love singing the great hymns of the faith, but I also want to hear the Word of God preached.”
Let me say to you that you do not have a right understanding of worship if you think that worship simply means singing as distinguished from the Word.
Worship is for God. It is God-centered because it has to do with giving God the laud, honor, praise, adoration, exaltation and thanksgiving that He alone deserves. Worship is about the Church gathering to exalt the name of her Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, if the worship of God is why the church gathers, then gathering on Sunday is not about you. It’s about Him. After all, God said…
“I am the Lord; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,”
So, all that takes place during a Sunday morning worship(that is a clue) service is a form of worship. Singing is worship. But not that alone. Preaching and hearing His Word is worship because in doing so His Word shows forth the majesty and glories of the One we worship so that our singing does not become a mindless, emotional excitement stirred by smoke, drums and a light show(i.e. Hillsong), but a deeply heartfelt passion for the one whose divine attributes and divine workings of salvation we’ve come to know and understand.
“Our people can only rise to heights in worship proportional to the depths to which we have taken them into the profound depths of the Word. There is no way they can have lofty thoughts of God unless we have plunged them into the depths of God’s self-revelation. By the way, true worship is not something that can be simulated artificially. A bigger, louder band and more sentimental music might do more to stir people’s emotions, but that is not genuine worship. True worship is a response from the heart to God’s truth(John 4:23). You can actually worship without music if you have seen the glories and the depth of what the Bible teaches.”
John MacArthur, Preaching(Introduction pgs. xv-xvi)
Furthermore, the Scripture reading and the pastoral prayer are also worship. Though part of the pastoral prayer may include bringing the needs of the Body before the throne of grace, it is to give God the praise by praying through that particular portion of Scripture just read. And no less our giving of our financial offering is also a means of our worship and should be seen in no other way.
You may be thinking of yet another objection. “What about evangelism? Isn’t that why the Lord has left us behind? After all, there won’t be any evangelism going on in heaven, but there will be worship.” Indeed we are to bring the Gospel to every person. But the church gathers to worship, not to evangelise. Granted, there may be encouragement and equipping for evangelism through the instruction of the Word and the pastor-teacher may even preach the Gospel and implore people to respond in faith and repentance. But the order of service for the worship service Sunday is geared toward the saints, those who have trusted in Christ alone for salvation. It is not geared toward sinners, unbelievers who are trusting in something other than Christ to save them, such as their own self-righteousness or morality.
Which brings me to another point of contention and misunderstanding amongst many today concerning worship. An unbeliever can come to a Sunday morning service and sing along the great hymns of the faith, but they cannot worship because they are unregenerate and therefore don’t know the God we’re singing about. An unbeliever may come to hear the Word of God, but they cannot worship through the hearing of the Word of God unless and until such a time when the Spirit of God takes the seed of the Word of God to cause that person to be born again.
“These first gatherings of the church were designed primarily for edifying believers, not for evangelizing unbelievers. Of course, they were reaching out to the unsaved, for ‘the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.’(Acts 2:47) But this ‘evangelism explosion’ was the result of their teaching, not the stated purpose of it. They gathered for edification; they scattered for evangelism. The primary focus of their corporate worship gatherings was for building up the believers, not for reaching seekers. When this priority becomes reversed and the church meets primarily to save the lost, the apostles’ teaching soon becomes compromised and diluted.”
Steve Lawson, Famine in the Land
So the church gathers to worship. You, like every other person in this planet, is a worshipper. The question is who or what do you worship? Fame? Glory? Money? Self-satisfaction? Your heart is an idol making factory. There is only one true God(John 17:3). Do you know Him? If you don’t, you do not possess eternal life(1 John 5:20). Won’t you come to Him(John 6:37-40) and together with the church worship the One who will not give His glory to another?