Why do we as a local church gather together every Sunday to worship? We can attack that question from multiple angles. Why do we worship weekly? Why on Sunday? Why not worship individually? Why do we gather corporately? We could probably post a weekly blog for the next year on such questions, and still be left with more ground to cover.
But for now, I want to loosely reflect on the dimension of this question that deals with motivation. That is, what is the purpose of our gathering together? And in this, I want us to think about one answer to that question that I think is unhelpful and potentially damaging, if indeed it is the primary response to that question. That answer is this: We come to Sunday worship to get fed. We come to worship so that we can learn, so that we can grow. We come to worship so that we can fill up on the Bible, or get our weekly spiritual booster that carries us along for the next six days. We come on Sunday to dine, to be fed. I think we’ve all repeatedly heard, and held, that sentiment.
But here’s the problem, as I see it, with this type of motivation; it’s a self-centered motivation that will never be met with any satisfaction. It is a spiritually unhealthy driving motivation because it sees corporate worship as a tool that primarily serves me and my needs, and is concerned about whether or not I am going to get something out of this experience. And in this mindset, there is no concern for who might need my ministry and who might benefit from my service, gifts, and participation.
Furthermore, the motivation to be fed is a great recipe for worship service burnout. Assuming I attend Sunday worship services for the next 10 years, and continually attend to be ‘fed’ the word of God, there is a good chance that at some point I am going to know, or think I know, about as much as the one leading the worship service. At some point, I’m pretty much going to have heard it all before, and the person up front is not going to be able to tell me something new. Imagine if I’ve been going to church for 20 years, and now there is some young pastor who has only been preaching regularly for 8 months: What’s he going to tell me that I haven’t heard in numerous previous sermons? What can I learn from him? How’s he going to help me grow? What’s he going to feed me? It won’t be too long before I jump ship to someone who is capable enough to satisfy my palate, and the cycle continues. You see, if our motivation for worship is primarily to learn new things, to dine on new or tasty or interesting concepts, at some point there will be dissatisfaction in worship, and we will move on to the next new experience that will also eventually leave us dissatisfied.
Yes, the Bible is full of immensities and mysteries, and no one can truly understand the wonders of God in His tri-unity. But after a while, there will come a point that you will not hear much new data week in and week out at a Sunday morning service. In fact, it is our very objective at CBC to give you the same information every week; the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ alone. That is by design, because it is what the Bible is all about; the redemption of God’s people in Jesus. Everything else falls under that old, old story, and every meal we serve will have some arrangement of the same ingredients.
There is a reason the elders and multitudes around the throne of God in Revelation 4-5 are not receiving a lecture on theological intricacies and having an intellectual itch scratched, or gathering together to tell each other about the trials of their week and seek practical counsel on how to forge ahead. Instead, they are gathered together to give glory and honor and praise to the God who creates and the Son who saves. In this, we have a much better motivation for worship. We come together every Sunday by God’s grace to clearly declare the Gospel, for the glory of God and the good of His people.
Our own growth cannot be our primary purpose in worship, or else it isn’t truly worship. To worship is to give honor and praise to one outside yourself, to glory in another. Worship is inherently other-centered. That is God-centered. So, allow me to issue a warning against coming to weekly services to be fed. Instead, come to worship services to worship. Were I a betting man, my wager is that you would find yourself satisfied every Sunday. And over time, you will find that you have grown, you have matured, and you have been fed.