Why We Meet on Sundays
GATHERED TOGETHER: ELEMENTS OF CORPORATE WORSHIP
By Mike Augsburger
Walking through the crisis of 2020 caused everyone to reevaluate life, habits, and practices. Churches were no exception. When we were forced to cease in-person operations, we had to look at the “whys” behind the “whats.” In other words, we meet every week for church. Why? We have a Wednesday night ministry. Why?
The result of this introspection led to some critical changes and modifications. If I could give a one-word summary of the driving force behind these changes, it would be “intentionality.” Throughout the rest of 2020 and into 2021, the principle of intentionality molded and shaped conversations, approaches, and practices in every area of ministry, not the least of which was the Sunday morning service. Did you know the elements of the Sunday services are designed intentionally?
We are launching into a series of blog posts entitled “Gathered Together: Elements of Corporate Worship.” The aim of these posts is to give the “whys” behind the “whats.” We want to help you understand the intentionality behind the various elements of our Sunday morning services. So, let’s begin. Why do we meet? What’s the intentional purpose behind gathering together on Sundays?
We ARE the church!
Throughout my career as a pastor, I’ve encountered a handful of people who say, “Yeah, we’ve tried the whole church thing, and it hasn’t worked out well. We’re just going to do church at home! After all, we ARE the church, right? It’s not a building. It’s people!” That’s not just an average red flag, it’s a red flag the size of the one that flies over Perkins Restaurant!
Why is this a red flag? Because the New Testament assumes that believers are meeting together under the leadership of elected elders and being served by elected deacons. I’ve learned through the years when people take this approach, what they’re really saying is, “We regularly get our wires crossed with other church people, so we’re hitting the eject button.”
We ARE the church…kind of…
Yes, the church is not a building. It’s the people. Yes, we are all indwelt by the Holy Spirit and have access to the throne of God. However, the Greek word for “church” means “a called out assembly.” The word itself assumes a gathering.
Someone might rebut and say, “Yes, but where two or three are gathered together….” True, the Bible does say that. However, it’s found in Matthew 18 in the context of two or three people confronting a fellow church member concerning sin. Jesus is promising his authority and presence in this context, and then follows up by saying, “If that doesn’t work, bring it to the church – gathered assembly.”
Someone might ask, “What about our bodies being the temple of the Holy Spirit?” That’s a great point and certainly is true. However, that’s a separate issue from how the church is composed.
First Peter 2:5 demonstrates the relationship of Spirit-filled believers to the local church:
“You yourselves, as living stones, a spiritual house, are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Notice what he’s saying: individual, spirit-filled believers (stones) come together like bricks in a wall to create an assembly (church) for the purpose of worshiping Jesus. Quite simply, this is why we meet. We gather together to worship Jesus.
How does this happen? Though there could be more, here are four ways that gathering together worships Jesus.
Corporate togetherness worships Jesus. First Peter 2 teaches us that the body of Christ is disembodied unless it is assembled together into a temple. The New Testament also describes the church as “the body of Christ.” A body is not experiencing life if it is dismembered. A body is alive and functioning when it is together. Therefore, when we gather together, we assemble the body of Christ. When the body is assembled, we experience life in Christ. In other words, knowing and experiencing Jesus happens in a special way when His body is gathered. This is worship!
Corporate encouragement worships Jesus. Hebrews 10:25 is the classic verse pastors quote to encourage people not to skip church. However, we seldom look at the context. The next section warns of defecting from the faith. Earlier in Hebrews 4, the author encourages people toward meeting together to avoid defecting from the faith. These texts show us that defecting from the faith is often preceded by dereliction from the fellowship (skipping church). Therefore, Jesus is worshiped when we meet together in order to encourage each other to run the race and keep the faith!
Corporate serving worships Jesus. First Corinthians 12 explores the glories of a body that is running smoothly. It talks about the necessary function of various body parts and the indispensability of each body part. Every person in the local church has something to contribute, and every person needs what everybody else contributes. The only way to experience mutual serving is by gathering together. When we use our gifts to serve each other in love, we worship Jesus.
Corporate loving worships Jesus. The New Testament commands us to “one another” each other 59 different times. This includes things like, love one another, serve one another, forgive one another, and 56 others. One anothers can only serve one another when we gather with one another instead of avoiding one another (is that clear as mud?) More simply, the one anothers can only happen when we gather together. Jesus commanded the one anothers, and he is worshiped when we obey.
An occasional family reunion can be an enriching experience because there’s power in gathering together. The bond of mutual DNA strengthens when you’re together. Attending a high-stakes playoff game of your favorite sports team might be inconvenient, but the electric atmosphere is worth the sacrifice. The bond of thousands of fans rallied around their team is powerful.
In-person gatherings are powerful. They shape affections and persuade hearts in formidable ways. That is why Jesus expects his body to meet together, and that is why we meet together each week – to worship Jesus in a way that can’t be done if we are alone.