Most Christian's first thought on what the purpose of the church is would be to carry out the Great Commission given by Jesus in the Gospels. But why do we need the local church to do that? Certainly being organized helps carry out any mission, but I think the real reason for regular gathering together goes much deeper.
The main purpose for believers assembling together on a weekly or some other regular basis is for empowerment. In Luke 24 and Acts 1, Jesus tells his followers to wait. Wait? Why? For what? This instruction to wait follows the command to go and tell. So Jesus is saying, "I want you to spread the gospel far and wide, but not yet." First they had to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Many churches seem to have forgotten this vital part of evangelism. They try to go out and witness without power and are thus ineffective. Our most impacting witness is our day to day behavior, and without a constant filling and empowering of the Holy Spirit we will fail.
How does "going to church" empower Christians? In his book Worship His Majesty, Jack Hayford writes, “Worship is to God, but for man. God deserves and demands worship because He alone is worthy, but we’re the ones who benefit from worship." This is referring to the corporate aspect of worship. When we come together as individuals seeking and worshiping God, our spiritual energies come together in a way that God simply cannot resist. His presence will come down supplying fresh excitement and power. The result is strength to live holier, to be more like Christ, to know Christ more, and to spend more time with Him. Then we get back together and do it all over again. Each time we should leave desiring more of Him and to be more like Him.
Hayford writes in A Place for the King: The Biblical Foundation for Worship, "When we come together in a worship service, God’s people are built up as a habitation for His presence, as the 'living stones' of His temple. Through our worship, an intimate and vibrant relationship with the living God is made possible: His assignment for us as His 'royal priesthood' is restored; we become ministering agents of His resurrection life to the world; and we are enabled to move in the expanding dominion and rulership He intended for humankind from the beginning.
"David’s reign saw both the boundaries of worship and the boundaries of territorial land expand in an unprecedented manner. David had a heart for worship and taught his people a great deal about praising the Lord out loud. He wrote many of the Psalms, which ultimately became the early Church’s handbook for worship. Under David’s leadership, the use of instruments and choirs was expanded. These things were not new in the worship of Israel, but they began to be systematized and structured in a way that reveals the important place worship occupied in the nation’s life."
David was not afraid to outwardly express his worship either. God never called David's worship inappropriate, in fact, He said just the opposite. Under David's rule, there was growth, prosperity, and liberty. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (2 Cor 3:17)
Stephen Newman, Pastor of Worship at McKinney Memorial Bible Church in Fort Worth, Texas writes, "A friend once asked me, 'If I feel like falling on my face before the Lord, can I?' My response was, 'If you feel like it, and it is what God is telling you to do, you better do it!' 'What about the others in the church?' she asked. I responded with, 'What about God? Is He is telling you to do it? Which is more important?' The next time you feel like falling on your face before God, do it. The next time you feel like raising your hands to the Lord, do it. The next time you feel like dancing before the Lord, do it. If your church rebukes you, I would find another church. What this world needs is Christians who genuinely love the Lord, who come before Him in sincere worship, and who aren't afraid to respond to Him in true worship. What we need is worship warriors - those who are willing to do the right thing in our corporate times together."
"The living God dwells where His people worship," states Hayford, "and life happens where He dwells. It is my conviction, therefore, that the life-flow of a church congregation will rise only as high as their worship of the Godhead. We cannot underestimate the importance of teaching the Word of God, but the Word itself reveals that worship is what the Church is all about."
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