Perhaps like me, you read the Fox News report about North Point Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and Crossroads Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, delaying in-person services until 2021. (Crossroads does plan to hold some outdoor events, however.) Needless to say, this information prompted me to evaluate corporate worship on a deeper level. Searching God’s Word for specifics, I ended up reading the entire book of Hebrews.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
Before I communicate thoughts based on the Bible, let me share a little background. Corporate worship always has factored into my life. My parents faithfully attended church—my dad serving as an elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and my mom helping the hospitality committee. Our family usually sat toward the back of the sanctuary, but we were there. In retrospect, God used church life to shape my life in many ways.
In college, then as a newlywed, and later as a young mom, I continued to gather with other Christians. Weekly worship with God’s people has remained constant throughout my life. Until March 15, 2020. Now this regular practice has ceased for more than four months. I join with my family in the living room to worship online, and I understand the church isn’t a building—it’s the people—but I long to return to our local congregation.
How about you?
IN THE BIBLE
Hebrews 10:24-25 reads, “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.”
BENEFITS FOR US
God created us as relational beings. He knows we need to spend time in each other’s presence to experience certain benefits. Being with one another encourages us. A genuine smile, a gentle hug, an appreciative look, a kind word—all of these in-person expressions impact us. Granted, social distancing limits interactions like these. Yet gathering in person can’t be replaced because communicating online fails to meet some human-to-human needs.
OUR ENEMY KNOWS THIS
The evil one’s mission remains as stated in John 10:10a: “The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy.” It gratifies him to see the body of Christ separated and hindered from worshiping God “together in one place,” which is the definition for episynagōgē, the Greek word for assembling together. Yet we can take heart at Jesus’ words, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18, KJV).
Even more important than the advantages we obtain from assembling together, God calls us to corporate worship. Remember when He directed Moses to speak to Egypt’s Pharaoh? God told him to say, “The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to tell you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness, but so far you have not listened” (Exodus 7:16, CSB). The LORD called for His people to come out and worship Him together because it was important to Him. And it still is.
The Greek word for church, ekklesia, is “defined as ‘a called-out assembly or congregation.'” Just as God called the Israelites out to worship Him corporately, we also are called out for this purpose. After all, we are the body of Christ, connected as one, and the Lord delights in our togetherness. When we act according to God’s design, He is honored and pleased.
God instructs us not to forsake assembling together—particularly as we see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:25). What day? The Day of the Lord that commences with the rapture of the church. More than ever, I see that day approaching, and I long for the Lord to find me faithful when He returns.
We live in “perilous times” (2 Timothy 3:1, KJV). For those of us who are still meeting virtually, let’s continue to lift up our pastors and leaders to the throne of grace:
Heavenly Father, You are almighty and glorious, worthy of all our worship. We confess we’ve taken our freedom to gather together for granted. Please forgive us! Thank you for our pastors and leaders, who are faced with unusually tough decisions right now. Please grant them wisdom, increasing faith, and Spirit-inspired actions. Please enable us—the body of Christ in numerous congregations—to assemble together as the Holy Spirit directs.
For Your glory and in Jesus’ mighty name we pray, Amen.