DO I REALLY HAVE TO GO TO CHURCH?

church service platform  Last Sunday I had to miss church. We had grandchildren at our house through the weekend and on Saturday my oldest grandson got sick in the night (I’ll spare you the details). I had planned to take this 7-year-old with me to worship, and the three-year-old and seven-month-old would stay at home with their grandmother. With the illness we ended up all staying home, and I was disappointed. Missing out on church worship participation is quite rare for me. Even though my ministry position has me traveling and attending different churches, mostly leading worship music, preaching, or serving in some way, I still make it a point to worship with a body of believers every Sunday, including of course my own church, every time it is possible. I could say it is a habit, and it is that, but I would also say it is a disciplined pattern born in spiritual commitment.

The habit of worship attendance was established for me when I was just a child. Dad was pastor of the church and Mom was church organist. As a “P.K.,” a Preacher’s Kid, I was in church every Sunday since nine months before I was born. We went to church. It was just what we did. I have wonderful memories of those early childhood years. I surely did not understand all that was going on, but had a sense of belonging and nurture among the people that gathered weekly to sing songs, hear a sermon (at that time from my dad), pray, baptize, and take the Lord’s Supper. As I grew older I had questions, and found that the constant exposure to these habitual actions fostered my inquisitive attitude. I was blessed with a dad who was encouraged by my questions, not threatened. I do recall a time in late teen years that I challenged my parents and tried to invoked the right to stay home if I wanted.   At the close of a “discussion” about my being out late on Saturday night, I ventured to ask, “Do I really have to go to church tomorrow?” In an assured voice Dad answered, “No, you don’t have to go.” The next morning I slept a little later. No one came to roust me out of bed, or get me to breakfast. Doors opened and shut and the house got quiet. The family was gone for church, and I was still there contemplating this newfound “freedom.” We lived next door to the church in the parsonage at the time, and I was dressed and in my spot by the time worship service started. It was just in me to go and be a part.

In time the habit became commitment, and this commitment to be a part of weekly worship has grown immensely over the years. As I read Webster’s definition of “habit” I am comfortable saying that weekly worship continues to be a habit. In the sense, however, that some think of habit as a mindless function, it is not. As a spiritual discipline and integral part of being grafted into the body of Christ, joining with that body, the Church, in regular praise, prayer, confession, proclamation, celebration, and sending, is a profound joy. In many ways modern culture looks down upon regular worship attendance, especially Christian worship. This presents us with all the more reason to devotedly shield Sunday as the Lord’s Day, to guard against interruptions that would take us away from physical presence with other believers joining in the everlasting song. Parking our car in front of the church building carries a degree of witness to our faith. Kneeling to pray, standing to sing, bowing in reverence, and listening to hear “Thus saith the Lord,” are routines that are aimed at helping us practice the postures and attitudes of worship that we might live them out in daily representation of the Christ we proclaim.

I have been reading Rob Moll’s book, What Your Body Knows About God: How We Are Designed to Connect, Serve, and Thrive. I am finding a unique blend of spiritual truth coupled with anatomical interests. My own continued interest in ways congregational singing in corporate worship helps shape us is well served in this tome. Moll includes enough neuroscience to offer some logical explanation for ways persons respond to spiritual engagement, but does not attempt to “demystify” what remains a miraculous, grace-induced reality of communion with a Triune God and His community of faith. Moll reinforces for me a conviction that worship, as all spiritual disciplines, is just as much about forming us as it is about us populating it. The heart of these issues really lie outside of the whole cheapening of Christian worship through attempts at hijacking it for alternate purposes like so called “church growth.” Rather, they are rooted in the very theological foundations of Jesus’ prayer that His followers would be unified, and His institution of acts in which we might engage “in remembrance of Him.” The core discussion centers in consideration of things like what happens to us when we are lowered into a watery grave and raised into the fresh air of a family of like faith, caring little about how our hair looks when drenched, but rather caring to let fellow believers and the rest of the world know that we are One with others who bear His Name.

In God’s providence He has made us to be worshiping beings. “We are accepted by God’s love, not our efforts. But growth in love, joy, peace, patience, hope, goodness, faithfulness, and all traits of spiritual unity with Christ involves the disciplined actions of our bodies.”[1]

And all of this has to do with why I hate that I had to miss worship attendance last Sunday. By the way, my grandson is fine and is well on his way to being set toward the same pattern of Sunday worship.

I was glad when they said unto me, “Let us go to the House of the Lord.” –Psalm 122:1


 

[1] Stanley Hauerwas, “The Sanctified Body: Why Perfection Does Not Require a ‘Self,” in Embodied Holiness: Toward a Corporate Theology of Spiritual Growth, ed. Samuel Powell and Michael Lodahl (IVP 1999), p.22

 

Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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