United in worship: The church’s call to gather and glorify God

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United in worship: The church’s call to gather and glorify God

July 1, 2024 -

Christian congregation worship God together. By tutye/stock.adobe.com

Christian congregation worship God together. By tutye/stock.adobe.com

Christian congregation worship God together. By tutye/stock.adobe.com

To read the first four articles in this series, you can go to these links:

The functions of the church are derived from its purpose. Moreover, the nature of a church’s function is ministry. Rick Warren defines ministry as “demonstrating God’s love to others by meeting their needs and healing their hurts in the name of Jesus.”  People’s needs can be both spiritual and physical. And while the church must never neglect its obligation to lead people spiritually, it is also present to help them in physical ways. In both, the church demonstrates that its purpose is internal as well as external, and its day-to-day function should demonstrate that reality.

Furthermore, the functions of the church have been presented in many forms and principles. Warren has offered a five-point list of the church’s functions, which boil down to worship, ministry, evangelism, fellowship, and discipleship. This paradigm is biblical, and a church would be reasonable to implement it. That said, a slight adjustment to these functions will better align them with the three-point purpose that we discovered in “What is the purpose of the local church?” Presently, we are going to explore the first purpose, which is worship.

Worship

As the first commandment demonstrates, “The church exists to worship God.”  One of the main opportunities for this is when the praise band leads the congregation in song. Warren asserts that “Throughout Scripture, we’re commanded to celebrate God’s presence by magnifying the Lord and exalting his name.”  If our hearts are focused on God, then celebrating his presence and exalting his name is a natural product of singing songs to him. The church should be intentional in using the “worship” portion of a service to glorify God.

Worship can and should extend beyond the music portion of the service though. Truthfully, one can worship God in anything they do. Colossians 3:23 instructs the worshiper: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Everything a local church does must be an act of worship to the Lord, and this even applies to its practice of assembly.

Worship through assembly

A sense of corporate worship and fellowship has always been a part of the church’s function, and the importance of believers gathering was conveyed through the previous assessment of qahal and ekklesia. However, especially in recent years, many Christians have been tempted to neglect the practice of attending a corporate worship meeting.

This was no different for the audience of Hebrews. The writer encourages his audience to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24–25, NIV). That said, meeting together could carry a variety of connotations. Clarification requires a deeper dive into the context of the verse.

It was not common, insignificant meetings that were being neglected. F.F. Bruce informs “towards the end of the apostolic age we are made aware of a tendency in some quarters to withdraw from the Christian fellowship.” Why was this the case though? Bruce further notes that many of these people were recent converts from Judaism and “were actuated by fear of the authorities; they shunned attendance at public worship to avoid being recognized as Christians.”  This provides insight into the persecution Jewish converts faced, as they could have been severely punished for attending Christian worship services, which might have been considered a form of treason against Judaism.

Furthermore, meeting together is translated from episunagogen. Upon completing a full translation of the word as it is used in the passage, Bruce finds there is no evidence to interpret “‘episynagogue’ in a different sense from ‘synagogue’ or ‘meeting’, and our author may simply be urging his readers not to give up attending the general meeting of the church, as some were doing.”

Bruce further concludes, “Under the various pressures that were being brought to bear upon them, to withdraw from the society of their fellow believers was to court spiritual defeat; only by remaining united could they preserve their spiritual faith and witness.”  It seems the writer was stressing the importance of assembly to a believer’s faith. Convening for worship carries an intent to help keep faith strong, in light of challenges he or she faces.

Still, some people may be led to downplay this passage as some sort of outlier to an opposite theme. They should know that the New Testament is filled with the theme of Christians coming together for worship. Ferguson provides a collection of passages in the New Testament where the terms “come together,” “assemble,” and “gathering together” are embedded in relation to different gatherings of Christians to worship: Acts 2:6, 44; 4:31; 10:27; 12:12: 14:27; 15:6, 30; 16:33; 20:7-8; 1 Cor. 11:17, 18, 33-34; 14:26.  Upon reviewing them, he concludes that “The assembly exemplifies the doctrine of the church.”  Moreover, he reiterates a previously mentioned notion and claims that  the “assembly of Christians is part of their total service to God.”

Connecting worship and assembly to purpose

Clearly, the local church is meant to worship God and do so through gathering together. Why is this so important in loving God? We might be able to think of endless reasons. However, experience has given the impression that when believers gather in unison, and submit to the Savior of the world, this produces a powerful connection and sense of belonging. We were created to worship God, and doing this together augments his exaltation.

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