as i continue the list of the five values of “a community of those who get it,” i want to talk briefly about the gathering. it goes by many names: sunday worship, church service, the big meeting, the weekend experience. whatever you choose to call it, the purpose of the gathering of the local church is deeply rooted in scripture. and there is much debate on whether or not one needs the gathering in order to serve god and the kingdom effectively. i hear no one suggesting that christians do not need other christians. fundamentally, the argument over the gathering is about 1.) number (how many people make up a gathering?) and, 2.) venue (can the gathering happen at a coffee shop? or in my living room?).
my contention is that the gathering is necessary for the spiritual health of christ-followers.
i’ve begun following a missionary named brett harrison (tanzania) and he seems to have a healthy perspective on the reasons we need to gather. i would like to suggest one litmus test for the motivation for our gathering. i have people say to me on a regular basis, “i have church by myself at my house…i don’t need the gathering.” and occasionally i even get, “the preachers on tv are much better than you.” but here is the real test, and it is just one simple question:
why not gather?
if you are one of those who choose to “worship” (if that’s what it is) at home, i would ask you why you resist joining us (the local church) on the weekend? is it because you’re busy? it’s inconvenient? it’s your only day off? the music/sermon/meeting is too loud/long/boring? is it about your preferences? the leader rubs you the wrong way?
if any of those excuses apply, then you have totally missed the point because you’ve made the gathering about you. and it was never supposed to be about you, it is supposed to be about god and others. paul said it this way…
Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25 – The Message)
i think flesh gets involved. we inadvertently, over time, shift the focus of worship from god/what he wants to us/what we want. the definition of idolatry is making something other than god the object of our worship/devotion. so if i skip the weekend gathering because i’ve got something more important to do, have i made myself the object of my devotion? have i ejected god from the throne of my life? am i an idolater?
so what about you, dear reader? why do you go to church?