Is Sunday morning Church important?
With the rising list of activities and committments facing us today, is gathering with our Church family each and ever week really that important?
Is gathering with your local body of Christ a priority for you and your family?
Should it be?
Do you find yourself saying “No” to other things so that you can physically gather with your brothers and sisters in the faith to worship our risen Lord Jesus?
Why do we attend Church on Sunday mornings? What do we show up expecting? How, if at all, do we prepare ourselves for Sunday worship?
When we look at the bulletin, and the order or service, are we thankful for how the service has been planned and laid out in order to bring us to God?
Are we conscious of what we sing, when we sing, and why we sing?
Are we eager to pray and be prayed over?
Are we hungry to receive the food of the right preaching of God’s Word?
Is there any purpose to the service? In purpose and intention in its order? Its elements?
There's a lot more that could be said here, but here are a few thought around what acutally happens when Christian Churches gather on Sundays...
What is Sunday morning Church all about?
Thankfully, there is rich meaning that supports and gives shape to Sunday morning Christian worship gatherings. Primarily, Christians gather each and every Sunday morning of the year (52 times) to celebrate and reenact the Lord Jesus' resurrection. Not reenact as in a dramatization where there are actors on a stage, but reenact in the sense of living out the new-life, praise, and thanksgiving that are provided through Jesus’ resurrection.
Sunday worship services should not be hasty events. They should be the singular priority of our Sundays. These services should be thoughtful, well planned, and be full of meaning, hope, and purpose.
When a person looks at the bulletin, or the order of service, they should see a service that guides them—heart, mind, and soul—to the feet of the resurrected Lord Jesus.
When they see the physical presence of other Christians, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer notes, they should be immensely thankful and encouraged.
When we hear the many voices raised together in song, we should be thankful for those collective confessions of truth.
When we witness a fellow saint pass through the waters of baptism, we should celebrate another life raised into eternity.
When we bow in prayer, we should humbly receive the gift of approaching God by faith through Christ.
When the bread and cup are served, we should humbly receive the spiritual life that our Lord grants us by His death and resurrection, and the unity it achieved for us with our brothers and sisters in the faith.
And when the sacred Word of God is opened to us by our Shepherd-Elders, we should sit in holy silence, receiving the very Words of God for us that day.
Consider a few elements of the Sunday gathering…
The Fellowship of the Saints
We often walk through hard things in our lives — very hard things sometimes. One of the gifts of God’s grace to His people is the regular gathering of the Christian family. Each and every week, on the first day of the week, God calls His people together to receive from His Word, be blessed by His Spirit, and to be encouraged by the gathering of the saints.
The writer of Hebrews says it this way, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
There is great value when Christians gather today every Lord’s Day — we gather to be reminded of our eternal hope in Jesus Christ; we gather to be reminded that our God is faithful and is to be trusted; we gather to encourage our fellow saints, and to stir each other up to love and good works; we gather so as not to fall into the habit of not gathering; and we gather to regularly remind each other that heaven is coming!
One of the biblical and historical elements of Christian worship is singing. For as long as humanity has existed, we have been singing. In fact, the first recorded human words are a mixture of poetry and song.
Singing is one of the ways that God has given us to express ourselves, to find comfort and help, to create art, and to praise Him. The Psalms are full of prayers and songs, often woven into one.
Song is a natural and meaningful way for us to express our humanity. So much emotion and feeling comes out through music.
It's hard to describe the emotion when a treasured song begins to play and the lyrics pour forth into our souls.
Just yesterday, our Church body sang these lyrics,
"Jesus saves, Jesus saves!"
Together, on our Lord’s resurrection day, our Church body lifted our voices in one accord, proclaiming the greatest truth in all the world: Our Lord lives, and He alone saves!
Go back and read those lyrics. The gospel saves from hardship and struggle, its saves from sickness and death, it helps the downtrodden and depressed, it gives hope to the dying saint, and it spurs the Church onward!
Every single Christian is helped and encouraged in that one verse! And most churches sing multiple songs every week.
Congregational singing is one of the ways we accomplish Heb. 10:24, “...stir up one another to love and good works…”
We gather to sing, and in our singing, we praise our God, encourage and strengthen our Christian siblings, and find needed help for our own souls.
One of the most sacred elements of Sunday Christian worship is prayer, and in particular, pastoral prayer. Unfortunately, prayer can often fall into the category of a space filler, or a transition tool. But, prayer is sacred, and should be guarded and prioritized. In many ways, prayer should be a central feature of the gathered worship service.
For many Christians, prayer can be a great struggle: How to pray, what to pray, how long to pray, how to stay focused in prayer, etc.
One of the beautiful gifts of Sunday worship is seeing and hearing prayer demonstrated by the shepherds of the congregation. One of the callings of Church Elders is the ministry of prayer (Acts 6:4), and one of the greatest gifts Elders can give to their people is to both pray over them, and pray in front of them.
Even the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to prayer (Mt. 6), and Jesus Himself often prayed publicly for the sake of those listening (Jn. 11).
When our Elders pray over us in the gathered congregation, not only are they fulfilling their God-given ministry, if we will listen, they are teaching us how to pray.
In my own Church, we use the pastoral prayer time in several ways:
To highlight certain mission projects and emphases;
And to bring needs and concerns before the Church;
But most often, our Pastoral Prayer time is used to open the Word and to pray the word.
We are praying for our people, and teaching our people how to pray.
When the people of God are led in prayer in this way, we are helped, encouraged, taught, and protected.
The right preaching of God’s Word is the single most important element of Christian worship. The opening of the sacred and eternal Word of God is the quintessential worship act.
In a right theology of the Word of God, we understand that God speaks through His Word; and it is a living and active Word. And when our Shepherd-Elders rise to open and preach that Word to the congregation, we understand that it is God Himself speaking to us through the right dividing, explaining, and application of that Word.
Gustaf Wingren says it this way, “One Day Christ shall be the visible King. But for now, Christ is in the Word; now, He is preached by the messengers whom He has sent; right now, He lives in the heart, which is by faith. The time for the Word is the time that precedes the Last Day. The time for faith is that same time; its the time before faith becomes sight. Therefore, the Word and faith belong together.
Jon Griffiths writes, “…the preaching of the word of God is at the heart of God’s plan for the gospel in our age; that it is vital for the health of the Church; and that it is the central task of the pastor-teacher.”
Of all the things that Christians gather to do on Sundays, receiving the right preaching of the Word of God from our Elders is far and away the most important.
Preaching should occupy the central place in the Worship service.
It should be guarded and protected.
The pulpit in the place where the Word of God is opened for the people of God.
The sermon is the central act of worship each and every Sunday.
Sunday worship is incredibly important. Important enough for it to be our top priority each and every week. So much occurs on Sunday’s; so much is given from heaven; so much is received in the soul.
Therefore, Christians should make it a priority to be with their churches each week, singing, praying, and gathered under the word.
**Addendum: Is Corporate Worship more Important than Sunday School?
The answer: YES.
If you’re going to choose one over the other, corporate worship is always the more important of the two. In fact, corporate worship is the biblical command, whereas Sunday School is not.
While Sunday School or small groups are very helpful, and many churches rightly encourage their people to be involved in these groups, they are no substitute for the corporate gathering of the saints and the right preaching of the Word.
Church members are called to submit themselves to the teaching and oversight of their shepherding Elders, and that means to faithfully and regularly receive their teaching through preaching.
Our Elders are the guardians and keepers of the Church’s doctrine (1 Tim 4), and thus, they are the only ones deputized and permitted to teach the Scriptures authoritatively in the Church. Elders are those permitted to say, “Thus saith the LORD…”
That does not mean others cannot teach in the life of the Church, but it does mean that God has entrusted a special measure of teaching authority to the Elders, and the Church is to recognize and receive it (Heb. 13:17).