I wrote the following for tomorrow’s emailed church newsletter. I had to get it off my chest! As you can see, while I’m writing mostly to myself, I hope these words can benefit others. What if all of us Christians placed a priority in our lives on worshiping?
A few weeks ago, when I preached a stewardship sermon on 2 Corinthians 9:6-14, I didn’t mention an important theme that runs through this passage. I neglected it because it didn’t fit in with our church’s theme for Stewardship Sunday, which was financial generosity.
Nevertheless, it’s important, and it relates to the season of Advent and Christmas.
In this passage, the apostle Paul highlights three reasons why he wants the church at Corinth to be generous with its financial gift to the church in Jerusalem: First, and most obvious, their giving helps meet a desperate need, since their brothers and sisters there were facing starvation in the midst of a terrible famine. Second, God wants to bless them through their giving. (This was the main theme of my sermon.)
Finally, when the people in Jerusalem see the Corinthians’ generosity, they will “overflow” in “many thanksgivings to God” (v. 12) and they will “glorify God” (v. 13).
In other words, what does Paul say will be an important result of their giving? Worship! The gift will inspire people in Jerusalem to worship. Worship is so important to Paul in these nine verses that he mentions it twice. Can we safely say that it’s Paul’s top priority for his churches? If not, it’s certainly near the top.
This convicts me as a pastor for a few reasons. Since I spend so much time pouring my heart into my sermon each week, I think of “worship” mostly in terms of the sermon I preach. Notice that doesn’t even factor into Paul’s thinking!
I also tend to think of worship more as a noun than a verb. What I mean is, “worship” is that place we gather every Sunday morning, at either 9:00 or 11:00. We go to worship the way we go to a movie, a sporting event, or a restaurant. It’s an event that we sit through more than an activity that we engage in.
I’m not alone in thinking this way. After all, what do we often say when we go to church on Sunday morning? If someone asks us, “Did you go to worship this morning?” we may answer, “No, but I did go to Sunday school.”
Do you see what I mean? Worship is a noun.
Often, a more truthful answer to the question, “Did you go to worship this morning?” might be, “No, but I did sit in a pew in the sanctuary between 11:00 and 12:00.”
Another way Paul’s words convict me is that I’m far more interested in the number of people who show up for worship than the number who actually worship—if you know what I mean. I could blame it on the system. After all, we have to turn in “worship attendance” numbers each week to the conference. No one can objectively measure how many people are actually worshiping or the quality of that worship.
I could blame it on the system, but who am I kidding? If attendance numbers are good, I don’t care much about those other things!
Which is another reason I’m not like Paul!
Paul—please notice—does care. Deeply. He cares because he knows that worship is the best medicine for our souls. We need it like we need oxygen. Hampton, Georgia, needs it. The world needs it! We are made to do it, and we cannot live the abundant life that Christ wants us to live without it.
So of course we should place a priority on showing up on Sunday for the worship services. We can’t worship the way Paul describes without gathering as a community to do it. But showing up, at least in this case, isn’t nearly half the battle!
Can you join me in praying today that the Lord will bless our worship services this Sunday, that he will enable each of us attending the service to worship him, that our lives will be touched and changed through the experience? Can you also join me in praying, especially during these seasons of Advent and Christmas—when many people are looking for a church to go to—that unchurched people will find a welcome place where they, too, can do that thing for which they were created: to worship!