Monday, July 16, 2012

Why Go to Church? Part 1

I. Introduction

Many people, who claim to be people of faith, don’t regularly attend worship services. In doing so, they are missing out on the blessings God has for them through worship. Some of the material in this post is based on the book Five Practices of Fruitful Living by Robert Schnase (© 2010 Robert Schnase, Abingdon Press, Nashville). Schnase is a United Methodist bishop in the Missouri Episcopal area. While this post is directed at Christians I believe the principles apply to all religions.

II. Why Worship?

Why do we come together every week to spend an hour or so in worship? Because God is worthy, and we are commanded to do so – but it goes even beyond that. We worship because it gives us a way to express our love for God – it is our response to God’s great love for us. We set aside a certain time to focus strictly on God and God’s Word, not on ourselves or our own agenda.

A sustained pattern and practice of regular worship gives coherence, meaning, depth, and connection to our lives. Even though worship is all about God and not us, God uses it to transform us. Not only does worship connect us to God in a special and unique way, but worship can change us. God uses worship to open closed hearts, reconcile broken relationships, renew hope, heal wounded souls, and motivate personal growth.

God doesn’t need our worship, but God desires it. God wants to have fellowship with us through corporate worship and well as personal devotions. We see in the Gospels the example of Jesus and his disciples, who regularly attended synagogue worship. Jesus frequently engaged in private prayer as well.

III. Why Does Worship Matter?

Let’s take a more in-depth look at the question, “Why does worship matter?” What happens in worship and why is it important?

1. Orienting Ourselves Towards God

First, worship matters because it is a good way to orient ourselves towards God. All week we are not thinking much about God, so worship connects us to God and to other believers in a focused way. How many times have you felt God’s presence in worship through the music, a prayer, the reading, or the sermon?

2. Discovering the Transcendent

Second, worship matters because it connects us with the transcendent. In other words, worship brings us into contact with the spiritual aspects of life that we typically don’t think much about. Being focused on God and the transcendent opens us to being receptive to what God might want to tell us.

For example, many questions can’t be answered by intellectual or scientific means, or by more information and analysis. Questions of meaning, purpose, love, suffering, connection, life, death, and hope require insights that are spiritually discerned, often thru worship. In silence, prayer, reflection, liturgy, and community coming together, we find often insight, sustenance, and peace.

3. Engaging the Spirit

Third, worship matters because it is a good way of putting ourselves into a position in which we can engage the Holy Spirit. In worship we purposefully search for God and we listen for what the Holy Spirit wants to tell us with greater intentionality. That can only happen when our whole focus is on God, God’s Word, and the worship of God thru prayer, music, and the reading of the Word. God’s Holy Spirit will use these to connect with us in a powerful way.

4. Bringing Us Back to Ourselves

Fourth, worship brings us back to ourselves. Worship centers us, grounds us, connects us, and anchors us. We can reflect, reprioritize, and renew ourselves as we drink in the prayers, music, Scripture, and sermon. Worship reminds us that we belong to God and to one another, and this sense of belonging is essential to our spiritual well-being.

Worship is a means of grace that God uses for our re-creation and transformation. Think of how little growth takes place in those who rarely, if ever, attend worship.

IV. Why “Passionate”?

In his book, Bishop Schnase uses the term “passionate worship.” The author says that the adjective “passionate” describes worship that isn’t merely routine or performance, but a means of connecting with God. Passionate worship is an important part of a dynamic, vibrant and fruitful relationship with God. It isn’t contrived but is authentic, coming from the heart and not merely going through the motions. Its purpose is to connect ourselves to God while expressing our desire to put God in the center of our lives.

V. The Role of Music

Music is an important part of worship, and has been for thousands of years. It is a mystery how music affects the human spirit, but we know it does because we’ve all experienced it. A song on the radio may bring back powerful memories from 50 years ago, and might even bring us to tears. Certain hymns may affect us because of their meaningful words, wonderful melody, or the role they played in our spiritual growth years ago.

Music remains with us, embedding rhythms, tunes and words within us without us even realizing it. People with Alzheimer’s may not be able to remember much, but often they can sing many of the old hymns perfectly. I believe music was given to us by God, not so much for entertainment as for worship because of the powerful affect it has on us. Even if you aren’t the greatest singer, I encourage you to sing the hymns and focus on the words. The more people singing, the better it sounds – even if you aren’t that good.

More on this topic in a future post.

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