As we enter the Digital age, it would be very feasible to download the sermon of your favorite minister, put in a popular Christian music CD and “have worship” in front of your computer. If worship is merely listening to a sermon (or as my roommate calls it–the “talky” part of church) and singing along to some songs, why is this not sufficient?
Reading through CS Lewis—a mid-20th century author and theologian—he writes,
“When I first became a Christian, about fourteen years ago, I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and I wouldn’t go to churches and Gospel Halls…I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quiet different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit.”
Written in 1944, I think CS Lewis words are even more appropriate in our culture. If we just gauged our worship attendance on whether we “got something” out of it, we are missing the main point of gathering for worship. The gathering of a community of people to give glory to God.
Notice how CS Lewis acknowledges his dislike for going to church, yet persists in his attendance such that he eventually does discover the “great merit of it” and sees the great spiritual depth of the people he felt superior to. This is the same encouragement the writer of Hebrews gives the early church. “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day approaching” (10:24-25)
The writer of Hebrews was seeing the energy beginning to fizzle from the church community, but he knew that it was important to gather together, to encourage, to provoke one another towards love and good deeds.
How might you be encouraged towards love and good deeds? Who is someone that you once felt superior to that you later realized you were not fit to clean “their boots?” Who may be someone that you would like to see growing in their faith?