Perhaps you have heard someone say something like, “I love God but I’m not really into church.” Or “I don’t need to go to church to worship God; it’s more of a private thing for me.”
There’s a common misconception, a common misunderstanding, that our faith is private. There’s confusion between a private faith and a personal faith. Our faith is personal but it’s not private. If faith is really personal, if it has personally transformed someone, then it’s definitely not private.
God has not only called a believer to Himself, but He has called others to Himself and He wants us to worship Him together. So throughout Scripture we see God’s people gathering for worship. Throughout the Psalms we see the community of faith come together to worship (Psalm 95:1-2 for example). After Christ came, the early church gathered together to worship Him. Acts 2 describes the early Christians devoting themselves to the teaching of Scripture, gathering together, and praising God together.
But why? Why is it important that we worship together? Why does a worship leader or worship pastor lead corporate gatherings? What’s the point?
First, our gathering shadows eternity. In Psalm 150, there is a connection between praising God in the sanctuary and God being praised in the heavens. The command to praise Him in the heavens is being fulfilled today. The command is being lived out perfectly. He is praised perfectly and purely by the angels. He is praised perfectly by believers who have died. When we gather to praise Him corporately, our gathering is a foretaste of the eternal gathering, where people from every tribe, tongue, and nation will worship Jesus (Revelation 5:9-12).
Second worship gatherings provide supernatural encouragement. God values private worship, the worship we offer Him through the course of our days, but God also greatly values the gathering of His people. It provides supernatural encouragement that’s not found anywhere else. God designed the faith to be communal. He designed the faith to be interdependent. There are supernatural things that He does in our hearts through the gathering of His people. When we gather together we benefit from all the spiritual gifts of the body of Christ. If we only sing in our cars and read the Bible at our offices–we miss the encouragement and the impact of the body of Christ. In a worshipping community, we benefit from the encouragement of others. We’re reminded that the body of Christ is bigger than us as individuals. The writer of Hebrews challenges believers to gather together and worship, to enter into the presence of God together. Notice the plural language throughout this passage:
Since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way He has opened for us through the curtain (that is, His flesh), and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled [clean] from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our [worship] meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25
The writer of Hebrews says, “Let’s worship God together. Let’s draw near to Him together because in our gatherings–supernatural encouragement transpires.” Worship gatherings aren’t always spectacular. But they are always supernatural. If we come to worship wanting to be wowed with something spectacular, with the style that fits just right, with the order of service and the songs just to our liking–often we may not find the supernatural. If we search for the spectacular, we may miss the supernatural.
A pastor friend of mine was recovering from his heart attack in the middle of rural North Carolina. We would talk every day, and one Sunday, he went to church. It was very un-spectacular. He said the speaker was very unpolished with horrible grammar. He was unorganized and all over the place in his message. The music was painfully bad. My friend said it was awful.
But my friend also said, with a crackling voice, “Bro–it was just what I needed.”
The worship was supernatural. It wasn’t spectacular, but through the gathering of God’s people and the power of the Scripture, God deeply touched my friend in a profound way. If we will come, and teach our people to come, to our worship gatherings hungry for God’s supernatural encouragement–He will meet us right where we are.