One of the things that I’ve appreciated most from the various pastors I’ve had is the taking of time to explain why the church does the things they do. Specifically in regards to Sunday gatherings, many churches have similar liturgies, or “forms of worship”—preaching, worship through song, communion—yet the purposes behind these elements often varies church to church. And its helpful to know what these purposes are.
Over the next couple of months, I will share our convictions and purposes for the various elements of our Sunday gatherings.
But in this first post, I want to lay the groundwork and simply ask, Why do we regularly gather together as the church in the first place? What are we doing when we come together week after week?
The answer is that we are refocusing and realigning our lives on God’s story: his work to reconcile humanity to himself and to be the center of our lives and worship. And we need this because our tendency is to forget and drift from God’s story: to make ourselves the center of the story, to use God as a means to an end rather than the end and goal Himself, and to downplay sin and our need for reconciliation.
We need to regularly (at least weekly) remember and readjust. And the corporate gathering of the church does this in several ways.
As we hear God’s Word preached and explained, we are reminded of God’s grand story, that he is the center of that story, and that he has graciously invited us to play a role in that story.
As we worship in song, we learn to respond to God’s grace and glory in appropriate ways, ways that bring forth various emotions.
And through things like prayer and corporate confession of sin and belief (i.e. Apostle’s Creed), we learn how to approach God in fitting and glorifying ways. We learn that we can come to him honestly with our struggles, doubts, temptations, and fears. And we learn to let God’s unchanging nature be our center of reference and the glue that holds us together through various emotions and situations.
And all of this functions to equip us to be in tune to God’s story and to live for his glory in the rest of our lives. We don’t cease to be the church Monday through Saturday. We don’t cease to worship when we go to work, rear our children, go on vacation, or hang out with friends. The church is certainly more than what we do in our Sunday gatherings, but the Sunday gatherings are absolutely essential to what it means to be the church.