Weekly Worship – Necessary?

It’s funny. When we interview disciples about their participation in worship, the answers we typically receive are so different than those received in the recent past. “Yes, this is my church and I’m very active here. We attend worship once or twice a month.” This response comes from insiders, not peripheral church participants. The people we get to interview in churches are active insiders, those who are willing to be interviewed in discernment processes.

While that’s the typical answer now, most congregations expect a different answer. “Four out of four Sundays,” is the answer for which we are structured and organized. Recently, in a Lead Pastor Cohort this subject arose, with these pastors engaging the question, “Is weekly worship necessary?” We looked to history, recognizing the weekly pattern of Sabbath in our Mother Faith (Judaism) which directly contributed to the formation of our weekly worship practice on the first day of the week. We remembered the very direct guidance from Hebrews recommending we avoid neglecting gathering together (10:25). We acknowledged we are biased, given we are worship leaders. But the Bible doesn’t prescribe weekly worship, instead describing disciples who were eager to gather for worship. So where does that leave us? Is weekly worship necessary? Worshipping weekly seems like it’s in the DNA of our faith, but also does not appear to be a prescribed rhythm.

Stepping back, reflecting with those Lead Pastors, here’s where this discussion takes me. At this point in life, I’m very clear that I NEED to worship weekly. This isn’t a legalistic religious requirement to check off some heavenly ritual list. Instead it’s a disciple survival activity. Here’s why.

Weekly worship makes me less selfish and self-centered.
Nearly everything in my world tells me life is all about me. Living in this first-world consumer-focused culture, one can get the idea the world is there to make us happy or otherwise meet our needs. Worshipping weekly calls me out of self-focused living, redirecting my vision toward God and not my own little world. Worship reminds me life’s not all about me.

Worshipping weekly refocuses me on others who are hurting or struggling.
When pastors lead prayers in worship, we are led to pray along for a world which is broken. When I pray along, this shifts my focus again from self to others. I learn, simply by praying for others, that I’m walking this planet in order to help others be well and do well. Again, worship reminds me it’s not all about me.

Worshipping weekly helps me stay grounded while living in a crazy world.
Spiritual disciplines are like that; they connect us with what’s genuine and lasting. The weekly worship rhythm regularly calls me back to what’s centering and grounding in this crazy world. If I miss this grounding opportunity enough, part of me starts to grow frazzled around the edges.

Worshipping weekly challenges me to be a better disciple.
Certainly there are times we need the comforting healing balm of worship. Just as often, I need other disciples to challenge me, calling me forward into God’s love-shaped movement. Worshipping weekly provides the opportunity for me to become more conformed to the image of Christ.

Worshipping weekly connects me with other disciples, even those very different than me.
There is something wonderfully mysterious about these faith-based kinships which rise up when we are church together. Sharing meaningful worship experiences connects us in some unexplainable way. When this happens, the human barriers we allow to separate us recede in importance. We become church together.

I could go on. Obviously I highly recommend worshipping weekly. Though this doesn’t appear to be a requirement for Christ-followers, it’s clear to me that I’m a more able Christ-follower when I practice weekly worship rhythm. So what’s the next step for congregations around this? How about having this discussion? Gather your church and ask the question, perhaps sharing these insights as a starting place. See if invigorated disciples who are joining God on mission in this crazy world see the need for regular and consistent worship. May God bless your faith community as you discern together what it means to be church in 2017.

Mark Tidsworth
President, PLA