The weekly worship gathering can be a significant and empowering spiritual discipline for Christians to participate in. There are several good reasons why gathering for corporate worship is both helpful and important for establishing and sustaining an empowered Christian life.
Firstly, we gather for the purpose of glorifying God with our lives and to devote our full attention – head, heart and hands – towards Him in honour and praise. “It is a fundamental truth that we become like what we worship1” (Psalm 115:4-9). Therefore sincere and intentional devotion toward God in worship can empower us to continue to grow in the lifelong process of becoming like Christ.
We gather to proclaim and embrace the great story of salvation that God has woven throughout history – the same story that we are now swept up through Christ as His followers and representatives. We are empowered as those who have said “yes” to Jesus and have been invited by Him to participate in the unfolding of this story across the earth.
We gather to remember the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ by participating in meaningful patterns and “liturgies” that help to shape what we believe and how we live. We are empowered in worship as we remember that the same power that raised Christ from the dead now lives in us (Romans 8:11).
We gather to remember who God is, what He has done, what He has promised to do and to anticipate his return. By gaining renewed perspective (through preaching, proclamation, and prayer) on God’s past, present and future actions, believers are empowered because we are reminded that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
We gather to meet with God (Psalm 42:2) and in doing so we encounter His healing, restoring, renewing and reviving presence. Zephaniah 3:17 provides us an incredible glimpse of what God does when He is present amongst His people. We are empowered by God through His Word in order that we “may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
When we meet to worship God on Sundays we gather not only to meet with God, but also to be filled with God. Romans 15:13 tells us that the outcome of being filled with God is that believers experience joy and peace, the power of the Holy Spirit and, ultimately, that they may “abound in hope.” We are empowered by the hope that we have in God’s goodness, His power and His faithfulness to His promises.
When we gather, we are empowered to edify and encourage our fellow believers. We seek to contribute to the Body of Christ and to look beyond ourselves for opportunities to serve and bless others. We can bless others through our contribution in the worship gathering as Paul tells the Corinthian believers, “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” (1 Corinthians 14:26)
We gather to be re-commissioned in our kingdom calling – to seek to be those who bring the hope and light and love and truth of God into every corner of our world. We are empowered as those who are called to embody truth and contribute to the coming of the kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) In this way, our gatherings send us again each week as ambassadors of the kingdom of God and as missionaries into all spheres of life, bearing the Good News of Jesus and bringing a foretaste of His love and justice to the world.
When we gather for worship we are, of course, empowered by the Spirit of God to be the people that God has made us to be. We cannot fulfil our God-ordained purpose (Psalm 139:13-16) in our own strength or capacity. The Spirit empowers us to be God’s “witnesses… to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). The Spirit strengthens us to emulate and follow Jesus by leading us “into all truth” (John 16:13). He equips us “for every good work” that we may be “pleasing to him” (Hebrews 13:21) He empowers us to keep Jesus’ commands, which is the ultimate the expression of our love for Him (John 14:15) and of our gratitude for His ever-present mercy and grace in our lives.
Out of all of the possible ways of measuring and assessing the effectiveness of our worship, the most important outcome for our weekly gatherings is that together we meet with God for in Him there is life – eternal and abundant. It is His presence and work in our lives that sanctifies, restores and empowers us for the Christian life.
How do we know if we have encountered the empowering presence of God? Jesus told his disciples “where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)
“Coming together” in the context of corporate worship doesn’t mean we have to agree with each other on every little detail about how to do church. But it usually does mean being humble enough to place the preferences and needs of others before our own. It often means taking the time, energy and initiative to serve, encourage and pray with others. It may mean leaving your gift of worship at the altar and first reconciling with your Christian brother (Matthew 5:24). Coming together in worship means investing in building relationships of honour and trust over time. It involves serving the greater good of the community of faith, celebrating God’s goodness through the ups and downs of community life and continually testifying to the faithfulness of God. Ultimately, I think that “coming together” in Jesus’ name means “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2) as a community in order that we may keep “the main thing the main thing” and not get distracted or consumed with incidental and unimportant details. We come together in Jesus’ name, not the name of a particular church, denomination or good cause. When we gather in Jesus’ name and make Him the purpose, goal and centre of our worship gatherings, we can meet with and experience God together – and in His presence is the most empowering place we could ever be.
Which begs the question, why would you rather be any place else?1. Peter Leithart, Transforming Worship, Foundations 38 (Spring 1997): 27.