The Importance of Corporate Worship
We live in a day in which the importance of the weekly worship service for Christian growth and discipleship is being undermined. There are many reasons for this. Certainly the individualism of our culture which has led to a "me and Jesus" approach to our Christianity is a big factor. After all, why do I need to go to church when I can have a personal experience with Jesus as I listen to a sermon and say a pray from my own home? No doubt also our love for something "extra-ordinary" has caused us to under-appreciate weekly worship. Most churches do the same things over and over every Sunday, very ordinary things like preaching, prayer, and serving the Lord's Supper. We have trouble remembering that God uses the ordinary to do his extra-ordinary work through them.
But it was not always so. From the very beginning of Christianity the disciples of Jesus Christ formed churches that met together regularly and “devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, and to the fellowship, and to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.” Corporately gathering for worship in this way with fellow believers was considered such an essential part of Christian life, that the author of Hebrews warned the church to “not neglect the meeting together, as is the habit of some.” Indeed, the entire New Testament presupposes that a healthy Christian will be part of a local congregation of believers that meets regularly. In light of this, we should remind ourselves why it is that corporate worship is so vital to our growth as disciples.
First, we experience God’s presence in a unique way. Although God is with us individually throughout our week, there is a special sense in which God is present to bless and encourage his people when they gather together for Worship. Even in the Old Testament, God had set apart a special location (the tabernacle/temple) where He was uniquely present for his people. Today, God’s special presence is no longer tied to a physical location, but is found in the corporate gathering of God’s people for worship. As Jesus promised, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.”
Second, when we are gathered together for worship corporately, we receive grace from above which strengthens our faith, hope, and love, to a higher degree than in our private worship or individual devotions. As important as private disciplines are, it is only in corporate worship that the word of God is proclaimed to us, only in corporate worship that the Sacraments are administered, and only in corporate worship that we enjoy the love, fellowship, and encouragement of other believers.
Finally, corporate worship is the closest thing we have to heaven on earth. We don’t know much about what we will do in heaven, but we do know that it will be filled with all of God’s people together worshipping our God. “And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘to him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever.’”