At FPO, corporate worship is the heart of our life together as a church, such that our presence as individuals and families is not merely expected, but also important. We understand that faithful presence in corporate worship is often a challenge. It is a challenge for students because there are hours of sleep to get caught up on. It is hard for a young family because kids can’t sit still, babies need to be nursed and naps need to be had. It is hard for older families because teenagers put up resistance and dad’s work during the week leaves him tired on Sunday. It is hard for empty-nesters because they have their weekends back and want to travel and rest. And on and on it goes.
With these dual realities in mind, the elders offer these thoughts on corporate worship, as well as some pastoral responses to common questions, meant to encourage you in your faithful participation in the means of grace.
Why is corporate worship important?
First, it is a biblical mandate. We are told in Hebrews 10:24-25 not to give up meeting together. The recipients were under the threat of persecution and simply meeting together could open them up to abuse. But it is clear that the benefits and value of meeting together far outweighed any possible threat they would face. The life of the Christian was never meant to be a solitary one and ALL biblical metaphors for a church are plural, never singular. We are His body. His flock. A building. A holy nation. There are no “Lone Rangers” in biblical Christianity.
Second, it is good for us. Church attendance provides oversight, protection and blessings that are crucial for the spiritual health of the Christian. Corporate worship that is centered on biblical proclamation protects against a myriad of ever-present dangers that we all face as believers in a fallen world – from heresy at the hands of false teachers to unnecessary despair that arises from false thinking. At the same time, it also provides many blessings such as fellowship, encouragement and accountability.2 Church attendance provides for us what no other organization, nor solitary living, can.
Third, it is the loving thing to do. The Hebrews passage tells us that as we come together for worship, we stir up one another to love and good works. So, you might think you’re just sitting there, but you’re not! In a God ordained way, your presence and your voice (even when it is off key) stir up and encourage those around you to faith and faithfulness. We ought to remember this – the decisions that we make to neglect the ordinary means surely have consequences for us and our families, but also for the whole of the body. We remember the words of 1 John 3:14: We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.
Fourth, it is good for our witness. It is in gathering together regularly on the Lord’s day that we communicate to the world our commitment to the Lord, his gospel, and his people. Our faithful participation speaks of the fact that the gospel, and the Church which rests on it, are not just philosophies or ideas that we look to when it is convenient, but that on which we depend for life.
Fifth, in corporate worship we participate in the sacraments – the Lord’s Supper and baptism – which the Lord has set aside to feed and strengthen us for faith and faithfulness. To withdraw from corporate worship is to deny and withhold grace from yourself. When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we publicly profess the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus which is our life and glory. When we witness the sacrament of baptism, we affirm God’s covenant by welcoming, corporately, others into the fellowship and life of the church, even as we think back on the way that we have been welcomed.