Friday, May 29, 2015

Why Do So Many Christians Gather for "Worship"?


If you ask most Christians why they gather together (usually on Sundays), they will tell you that it's for worship. If you then ask them why they get together for the purpose of worship you will likely receive a blank stare. This is because most Christians have never pondered this before. It's also because the bible gives no indication that the body of Christ comes together for worship.

In the New Testament we see the church meet for a different purpose: edification. I Corinthians 14:26 says, "How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification." The point of the gathering was the building up of the members. No confusion there.

However, there is plenty of confusion today. How did we get into this mess? In order to find out we must look back at church history (in fact, we'll find many of the answers to these fifteen church-related questions by searching through church history).

Not long after the first century a clergy system began to form. Specialists emerged who did the bulk of the stuff as the church gathered. This gradually morphed into the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church. The priests led the Mass, which became the primary gathering of the people of God.

Enter the Reformers. Men like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc. rejected the Mass for the heresy that it was (and still is). They recognized that when churches came together something other than "another sacrifice of Christ" must occur. The Reformers did a good thing by jettisoning the Mass. However, they failed to follow the biblical model when they replaced it. The Reformation saw the rise of preaching as the center point of body meetings.

Fast forward to today. The Catholic Church still performs its Mass. Protestant churches focus their gatherings on music (now known to many as "worship") and preaching. Neither group gathers specifically for edification. Over the years the Protestant versions have become known as "worship services." This is fascinating because the worship is poorly defined and no actual service takes place. Regardless, because the gatherings are known as worship services, many of the people think that they gather for worship.

The biggest problem with this situation is that it leaves the church largely unedified and spiritually immature. Gatherings are supposed to build up the body. However, in worship service ceremonies very little communication occurs or is encouraged among the people present. Edification happens mainly through the carrying out of the one anothers; this cannot happen during a ceremony. Thus, the body does not grow spiritually.

Many, many Christians think they gather for worship because they know little else. It's what they have always done. It does not stem from scriptural teachings, but rather church history. The church suffers because of it.

We do well to challenge this way of thinking.

Let's tell and show our brothers and sisters in Christ that edification occurs best in simple gatherings.

3 comments:

Aussie John said...

Eric,

It's a good but rough road you have chosen, and I believe, the right one. I trust you will not receive the flak I have for expressing similar thoughts.

Eric said...

John,

I have not faced the difficultues you have. I'm just largely ignored. That's O.K. by me.

Neil Braithwaite said...

Today’s churches are nothing more than self-serving “religious” institutions, which by nature are divisions among those who call themselves Christians. These divisions are more on the order of competing “franchises” than a unified body. These franchises bear their own name brand of “Christianity” and ceaselessly compete with each other for the same target customer – those who call themselves Christians. They market their particular brand of Christianity as the truth, yet condescendingly endorse competing brands as legitimate while encouraging their members never to stray from their brand. The ultimate goal for their franchise is no different than any secular provider of consumer goods or services – to increase their market share and profits and to put their competition out of business.

In this case, churches are similar to restaurants in that they both compete for the same target market – hungry people looking for a particular type of food. Restaurants compete for those hungry for organic food and churches compete for those hungry for religious food. Restaurants offer many different kinds of organic foods like Chinese, Mexican, Italian, etc.; likewise, churches offer many different kinds of religious foods like Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, etc. However, the big difference between the two kinds of foods is that most restaurant food recipes come from different ethnic regions and cultures, whereas somewhat strangely, church food recipes all come from the same book – the bible.

When someone invites you to go to a restaurant you will probably ask, what “kind” of restaurant? You ask this question to determine what kind of food to expect. And that’s understandable because everyone has different food preferences and tastes. Likewise, when someone invites you to go to church you will probably ask, what “kind” of church? You ask this question to determine what kind of religion to expect. And that’s also understandable because everyone has different religious preferences and tastes.

There is however one common element between restaurants and churches - the “words” restaurant and church. A Chinese restaurant and a Mexican restaurant are both restaurants that serve food, but the two serve totally different cuisines. A Catholic church and a Baptist Church are both churches that serve religious food, but the two serve totally different religions.

This church-restaurant analogy serves to confirm that as there are many different kinds of restaurants serving many different kinds of food, so too there many different kinds of churches serving many different kinds of religion; with both restaurants and churches trying to beat-out or eliminate their competition.

People may call themselves “Christian” and say that being a Christian is the common bond and that it doesn’t matter what “church” you belong to. So if that is the case, why don’t they stop serving and supporting divisions created by church “brands” and come together to resolve their differences as instructed by the Apostle Paul to unite as one body and be led by the one who said no one should call themselves leaders and that there is but one who leads – Jesus Christ?

The answer is simple. The “leaders of the brands” know that their stature, power and financial livelihood depend on divisions in the body of Christ.