Why do we worship?
For many of the people in our pews—or increasingly our chairs—it’s a question we haven’t given much thought to in a long time. Maybe we worship because it’s what we’ve always done. Or we worship because our parents brought us to church and taught us that going to church was important. Many of us worship mostly out of habit—and that’s not entirely a bad thing—holy habits are good.
Habit, though, might not be exactly the right word for worship. There’s nothing routine or habitual about the holy worship of an all-powerful God. So before we go much further, we should distinguish between what it means to worship and what it is to simply go to church. We go to church because it’s what we’ve always done. We go to church because our parents taught us that going to church was important. We go to church out of habit.
Some people go to church because it’s good for business. Some people go to church to burnish their reputations. Some people want to be seen at the right church by the right people on Sunday.
The social reasons to go to church, though, are disappearing. People no longer feel guilty for missing church. There’s no longer any social expectation that anyone will attend church regularly or at all. Fewer and fewer people find themselves attending church out of habit or because their parents raised them to attend.
Today you’re more likely to want to be seen by the right people at the right brunch spot on Sunday morning than at the right church.
So now that many of the reasons for going to church are beginning to disappear, we’re increasingly forced to struggle with the real question for church attendance. Why do we gather as communities of professing Christians to worship? Why worship? And remember, worship isn’t just going to church, worship is participating in the presence of God.
We asked that question in our Wednesday Bible study two weeks ago, and this is what the HERITAGE community of professing Christians came up with.
We worship because the Bible calls us to worship. We worship out of obedience to scripture. That’s a pretty simple and straightforward answer. As we commit ourselves to obedience to scripture, worship is one of the things we learn to do.(Psalm 95, Psalm 100, Hebrews 10:24-25)
We worship to remember and retell the stories of the faith. Worship is instructive. When we worship, we remember the underdog who finds courage to slay the giant, the wayward prophet who God protects in the belly of a whale, the men who escaped the fiery furnace alive. We remember seas that parted, the 5000 who were fed, the blind who received sight, and the hopeless who are given hope again. And we find courage and protection--and are blessed and healed and restored ourselves.
To borrow from G.K. Chesterton, in retelling the stories of our faith, we gather to remember not that dragons exist. We already know that. We gather to remember that dragons can be killed.
Worship is a natural response to an authentic experience of God. When we experience God directly, we worship. When God is especially present and active and powerful in our lives, we worship. As naturally as day follows night, worship follows an authentic experience of the living God. Scripture points us to that fact. Our experience points us to that fact. When we’re hungry, we eat. When we’re hurt, we cry. When we’re happy, we laugh. When we experience God, we worship.
We worship because it’s good for us. Worship keeps us centered and grounded. It’s a reminder that God is what we cling to and who we trust in. It’s one of the things we were created to do. The uplifting transformative experience of God is good for us. Acknowledging God helps us to be the best people we can be.
Worship gives a sense of safety and security. As we talked last Wednesday, one of our members who traveled a lot in her career talked about getting home on the weekends to go to church. As she was speaking, she used the phrase “safe at church” instead of the more familiar “safe at home.”
Those who worship regularly, describe worship as safety. A focused experience of the presence of God, shared in a gathered community of professing Christians, makes us feel safe and secure.
None of us will truly worship every time we go to church. But the more we go to church, the more likely we are to be people who regularly participate in the presence of God.
We were created to worship. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the most natural things we can do. Worship though—going to church—can feel unfamiliar or uncomfortable, even stilted at first to the growing number of our neighbors who were never raised to go to church. That new reality requires that we continue to find new, low threshold ways to help our friends participate in God’s presence, maybe even for the very first time.
Over the next several months at HERITAGE, as part of our strategic plan, you’ll start to see us begin to do some things aimed at just that. It’s an exciting time to be the church. It’s an exiting time to be at HERITAGE.
See you Sunday.