What are we doing when we gather together to worship God?

The visitor gave the invitation, “We’re from the local church, We’d like to invite you to join us at our church services. The reply was unhesitating: “I can worship God without going to church.” The visitor, continuing to extend the invitation, said, “We’d like to strengthen your worship by giving you the opportunity to share in fellowship with other worshippers.” The conversation continued, “I can be a good Christian without going to church.” Determined not to be put off, the visitor replied, “Isn’t that a bit like saying, I can be a good footballer without playing in a football team?”
A young boy can kick a football against a wall for hours. He can play “keepie-up” all day long. But, until he joins a team, he’s not really playing the game of football. football is a team game.
We need one another. If we’re to grow in faith, worship and Christian living, We need the encouragement which comes from sharing in fellowship with other people who are also committed to growing in faith, worship and Christian living. We cannot go it alone. We weaken ourselves when we go it alone. we dare not isolate ourselves from the fellowship of God’s people. Fellowship with God and fellowship with one another: they belong together. They are not to be separated. Personal worship is to be strengthened by public worship. Worshipping together, learning together, growing together – never forget the word, ‘together.’ Alongside our fellowship with God, there is fellowship with one another. The two are to grow together: not the one without the other, but both together. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are brought into fellowship with God. He also brings us into fellowship with one another. If our fellowship with God is to grow strong, we need to continue in fellowship with his people.
Our fellowship in Jesus Christ is a special kind of fellowship. It is grounded in Christ. It is centred on worship. It’s not just getting to know other people better. It’s getting to know God better, as we worship in the company of his people.
What are we doing when we gather together to worship God? Worship can be described in a variety of ways. Let me suggest to you three words which, together, describe our gathering together for worship: proclamation, praise and prayer. They are words which teach us that our worship must never be separated from our witness. Worship leads to witness.
(1) Our worship is a proclamation. It’s a declaration. we are declaring our faith. We’re making a confession of faith.
In his well-known words concerning the Lord’s Supper, the apostle Paul writes, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). “You proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” What does this mean? Does it refer to preaching? or Is there something more than that?
* “You proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” When Paul wrote these words, he was writing to the whole congregation: “You  proclaim the Lord’s death … “
Every time you come to church, you preach a sermon. Your neighbours see you, making your way to church. This lets them know that you intend to keep on worshipping God and remembering the Lord Jesus Christ. You take your place in church. Your presence in church conveys a message of encouragement to your fellow-worshippers and your minister. We encourage one another when we meet together for worship.
* “You proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Paul’s words refer directly to the Lord’s Supper. They also direct our attention to the message that’s preached: “we preach Christ crucified … I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians  2:2). Together with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, there’s the preaching of the Lord’s Word.
Remember the feeding of the five thousand. Before the feeding with bread and fish, there was the feeding with the Word of God – “the crowds … followed him; and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:11).
* “You proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. “The Gospel story tells us what has happened: the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It also tells us what is happening: “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
True worship is more than remembering something which happened a long time ago.
It is participating in the reality of the risen and living Lord. It’s being changed by the Lord, learning to love him more and going out into the world to show his love to others.
In the context of praise and prayer, “we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” As we worship the Lord, our faith grows and we are equipped for witness, for proclaiming Christ’s love to the world, outside of the church. This is very important – those who worship the Lord Jesus Christ are to go on to become his witnesses.
(2) Our praise is directed towards God. Our prayer is directed towards God.
We do not, however, forget the world out there. When we praise God, we also call upon others to praise him: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands” (Psalm 100:1). When we pray, we do not only pray for ourselves. We also pray for others.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there” (2 Chronicles 7:14-16).
This is more than personal prayer. This is the prayer of God’s people, gathered together for worship. This is more than prayer for the church. It’s prayer for “the land.” We may expand this to “lands”, since the God to whom we pray is “exalted over all the peoples” (Psalm 99:2). He “makes known His victory … in the sight of the nations” so that “all the ends of the earth will see the victory of our God” (Psalm 98:2-3).
As we call on men and women to praise the lord, as call upon the Lord on behalf of men and women, what are we to expect?
There are two extremes we need to avoid.
  (a) An unrestrained optimism which imagines that a kind of spiritual “Utopia” is just around the corner, a kind of spiritual fantasy world in which there are no problems and difficulties, and everything is just fine. Such an unrestrained optimism is not realistic. It doesn’t take account of the real world in which we live.
  (b) A gloomy pessimism which has become completely resigned to the idea that the church will become increasingly irrelevant to today’s world. Between these two extremes, there’s a third way: the realism of faith. We need realism, and we need faith. We need realism if we are not to be taken aback when difficulties come our way. we need faith if we are to overcome the obstacles and move in the victory of the Lord.
If our society, the wider society, the world out there, is to be changed, then we, in the church, need to be changed. We need to grow stronger in our commitment to both worship and witness.
 * Who is going to proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes, if we, the church, fail to do so?
 * Who is going to call the world to praise the Lord if we, the church, do not keep on praising him?
 * Who will pray for our needy world, if we, the church, stop praying?
We are called to worship God. We are called to be Christ’s witnesses in the world.
How can we do this? We can do it with the help of the Lord: “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2).
We will receive help from the Lord, as we learn to look to him. Looking to him, we will receive strength to proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
 * We must look backward, with gratitude, to the cross.
 * We must look onward, with hope, to the crown.
 * We must look upward, with confidence, to the Christ.
As we learn to look to him, we will be given his strength to be his true worshippers and his faithful witnesses, He will help us to praise him, to pray and to proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.   

3 thoughts on “What are we doing when we gather together to worship God?

  1. Seriously, this post needs far more likes. This was an excellent defense of attending corporate fellowship and worship.

    And, I also like the way you gracefully addressed the application of 2 Chron. 7:14-16. Many theological know-it-all’s in America make fun of their fellow Christians who lean on these verses, for they say, “You are taking that out of context.” However, God also says that the nations who forget God will perish, not just Israel. Yes, we can take the application to the extreme where it does become unbiblical, but the Lord is very clear that he wants to draw all nations, tribes, and tongues unto Himself, and how better than by humbling ourselves, confessing our sins, and calling upon Him?

  2. Thanks, Anthony, for your words of appreciation and encouragement and your comments on 2 Chronicles 7:14-16. We should be aware that the Old Testament context is different from our present situation – but we must also emphasize that it’s not so different that we can close the Old Testament and stop reading it and learning from it. May God bless you and make you a blessing to many.

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