Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Church Covenant Series: Part 2 of 11

This series covers the eleven paragraphs of our JPBC membership covenant. We read this covenant at each church conference when we welcome new members and ask them to affirm it. The second paragraph reads:

We will worship God together regularly.

I would break this down into three parts:

First, We will worship God. This reminds us that worship on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) is fundamental to the Christian life. The Biblical pattern is of Christians gathering on the first day of the week to worship God through the risen Jesus (see John 20:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10). It also makes clear that our focus in on God Himself. We do not come to worship to have our needs met, to receive a spiritual pick-me-up, or merely to enjoy fellowship and friendship with each other. We come to serve the Lord by singing, praying, and preaching before him. This is our glad duty.

Second, We will worship God together. I was speaking once to a member who had been absent from our meetings for some time, and I mentioned this part of the membership covenant to her. She quickly, and rather indignantly, told me that she had been visiting other churches and listening to worship on television, so she felt she was keeping this part of the covenant just fine. I pointed out that the important point is not merely that we worship but that we are intentional about worshipping together as a church family.

I can worship as a guest in another congregation, but the place I worship best is at JPBC. It is my church family and my spiritual home. Each Sunday worship service is like a family reunion. And when I do not show up the family misses me. Sunday morning worship is also the prime time when we are able to offer a visible and public witness to the world of our commitment to and love for Jesus. Worship attendance is our primary ministry as a believer. What does it look like to the world when Christians are not zealous to be in the Lord’s house on his day?

It is when we come together in worship that we hear the same Scripture and experience the same happenings. It is the occasion when we are able to spend time in prayer for our various needs. It is while we are together that the Holy Spirit leads us in ways we need to go. I have found that those members who most often have the hardest time understanding directions the church is taking are those who have failed to worship together with us. They wonder why the church is out step with them, when, in fact, it is they who are out of step with the church.

Third, We will worship God together regularly. The Biblical mandate for the frequency of worship is each Lord’s Day. The key Scripture passage is Hebrews 10:24-25: "And let us consider how to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching."

You will note that the covenant avoids legalism. It does not define regularly in legalistic terms. It does not say, We will worship God at least 50 out of 52 Sundays in a year. Or, We will worship God at least once a month (12 times a year). No, it leaves this up to our Christian conscience and life circumstances. Of course, we know that all our members will not be able to be present each Sunday. It is certainly understandable if we are absent for reasons of illness or travel or for circumstances beyond our control (this includes our elderly and homebound members). But when we are in good health and in town, we should make it a part of our personal spiritual discipline to be present in worship at JPBC each Lord’s Day.

Again, our regular gathering for worship is not a toilsome burden but an incredible joy!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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