True worship flows from the heart in recognition and response to the magnificence of Christ, and because of an understanding of the grace found solely in the gospel. Embracing these truths through the practical experience of daily living is imperative in our relationship with God.
And while true worship always manifests itself in the individual’s response to the majesty of God, true biblical worship manifests itself in experience with other believers as well. We call that corporate worship. In the vernacular of some, we have called it “going to church.”
I love reading the story of the early churches in the books of Acts and Paul’s letters to various churches. Very soon after Peter preached his sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2, the Jerusalem church began gathering in corporate worship. This description in Acts 2:46–47 is one of my favorites:
Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.
Now that’s “going to church”!
They devoted themselves to this practice. They did not gather together to check off some legalistic guideline. The word devoted means it was a motive of a passion, heart, and desire.
They were joyful. Because their focus was on God, they could only be joyful. They did not go for a worship experience. They went to experience God in worship
They had humble attitudes. That meant they put others before themselves. They were not there to complain that the music style was not their preference, that the sermon went too long, or that someone had their seat or pew. They were there in humility before God and others.
They had favor with all the people. “The people” refers to those outside the church, in other words, the unbelievers. And God used the joyful witness and attitudes of the believers for an incredible result: And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved (Acts 2:47).
This biblical perspective of corporate worship is so different from how it’s practiced in many of our churches. We should not “go to church” to get our self-centered needs met. Instead we go to worship the one true God as we serve alongside other believers.
Thom S. Rainer, I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian (Nashville: B&H, 2015).
I have just completed a series of lessons based on Thom Rainer’s book, I Will. They are available as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year. Lessons correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines as well as the International Standard Series.