Friday, September 24, 2010

Jealous for the Gathering of the Church

“Are you goin’ to church this Sunday?” That was the question I would sometimes hear from friends in high school who were in my youth group at our church. Of course “goin’ to church” meant going to the building where the church gathers for worship.

Church is not a building. Church is the collective group of people who follow Christ.

And, the gathering of the church for worship of Christ is one of the most important things in life that we ever do. To “show the worth” (worship) and celebrate and exalt and freshly commit ourselves to God is important because, 1) God deserves it and, 2) we undergo some transformation every time we truly worship Him.

I’m jealous for the gathering of the church to worship God. By jealous I mean that I view the other choices that we can make to work, recreate, sleep, visit with family or friends, watch sports, do yard work or a dozen other things, as competitors to God. When we choose to do something else rather than gather to worship God we have in effect valued that other thing more highly than God. That makes me jealous for God.

When I first became a pastor the commitment to gather as a church for worship was Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening. One was considered a “Sunday morning only” worshiper if he or she didn’t participate in all three. No school or community organization would schedule anything during those blocks of time because no one would come to those things if they competed with church gatherings.

I watched through the 80’s when gatherings on Sunday evenings and Wednesday evenings began disappearing. Today few churches have regularly scheduled gatherings at those times.

Now I’m witnessing another trend, regular gathering for worship is no longer every Sunday morning but every other Sunday morning. With respect to many in my congregation I at best see them twice a month instead of four times a month.

What’s going on? I’m afraid that the busyness of life is crowding out the gathering for worship of God. People who want to get ahead in their career often need to work on Sunday. Parents who want their children to play sports often play on Sunday. The only day to sleep, hike, boat, garden or visit is often a Sunday.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not primarily concerned about my work of ministry that reflects poorly if attendance is down or offerings are down or fewer participate in programs, etc. I’m jealous for God. I think we clearly make statements of value and priority when we choose something else instead of the worship of God.

Also, don’t misunderstand me to be griping and harping and pining for a day gone by. Rather, I’m grieved and saddened because less worship reflects less knowledge and experience of God. You worship not because you know not the One you are devaluing and disrespecting. If God is the One who gave us life, sustains our life, atones for the sins of our life, forgives our life, redeems and saves our life, then how can we not worship Him every day and gather at least once a week with other believers to worship? The answer for most is “they know not what they do.”

So, here’s a friendly plea. Stop dissing God. Say no to lesser things. Say yes to gathering and honoring the One who deserves all honor, praise and allegiance.