Thursday, January 12, 2006

The value of corporate worship

One of the most influential courses that I took in seminary was a class by Dr. Gary Parrett called "Worship and Christian Formation." It was in this class that I began to understand the connection between our-life-of-worship and corporate worship. He said,

"Individual worship and congregational worship inform and strengthen one another."

This was so profound to me then because there's a lot of talk these days about how worship is not what we do on Sunday, but how we live our lives for God every day. To that I raise a hearty "AMEN!" But to emphasize that "our whole life is worship" to the exclusion of "corporate worship" is wrong. Not only is it wrong, but it is suicidal to our ministry to each other and our mission to the world.

I am convinced that God's total plan and purpose for his people includes a rhythm of the church gathering for edification (corporate worship) and scattering for mission (individual worship). One without the other creates a lopsided church. So on one hand we must remind each other that worship doesn't begin and end on Sunday morning, and on the other hand we must encourage each other that our total life-response to God throughout the week includes the Christian gathering.

My goal in shepherding WBC is that we see our entire lives in relation to God's total plan and purpose for his people. One of the ways to do this is to re-capture why we gather for corporate worship and how that affects our life of worship throughout the week. We gather to remind each other of the promises and character of God so that we might faithfully serve him throughout the week.

All of the elements of corporate worship (responsive readings, music, the Scripture reading, affirmation of faith, the sermon, testimony, the Lord's Supper, words of commission, etc.) are planned to reinforce the good news that Jesus is King. Why is this important? Because when we leave our time of gathered worship, the gospel is called into question almost immediately by the world around us and our deceitful hearts within us. Whether it be the pressure of persecution or the lure of seduction, our exclusive loyalty to God will be called into question. Thankfully, corporate worship is God's provision for his covenant people to remain faithful to him and to each other.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:24-25


jason said...

Thanks for this. We have been talking about worship among the leaders of our church I love the reminder that when we worship together it shapes our lives of worship as we reflect our king during the week. It also strikes me as we recount those promises and retell of the character of God that we are shaped as a people that not only serve him but learn to live in faithful trust of him as well.

Josh said...

Corporate worship ought to be shaping us a people. If it's not, something' bad wrong.

Corporate worship is ultimately eschatological. When Christians gather for worship, we mirror on earth the confident worship of heaven. Right now, before the throne of God, he is praised perfectly, his attributes are enjoyed and cherished as THE absolute fact, and his reign is unhindered.

David Peterson says it this way, "...local congregations or house-groups may be viewd as earthly manifestations of that heavenly assembly alreeatdy gathered around God and Christ. The congregational meeting should thus be a way of expressing our common participation in that eschatological community, gathered, cleansed and consecrated to God by Messiah's Work." (Engaging with God, p. 247)