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Is Corporate Worship an Essential or Unessential Business?February 6, 2023
During the covid pandemic a phrase that became very familiar was “essential business.” Many essential businesses were obvious, like hospitals, first responders, and other businesses that provided front-line care. But other businesses were unexplainable, like liquor and marijuana stores, strip clubs, and entertainment venues (but not all venues). One unessential business all political leaders seemed to agree on was the church. Ministers all over the country were jailed or threatened with jail for continuing to hold services.
Now that the dust has settled we have learned a few things. The first thing we should all agree on is you can’t quarantine a virus, especially an airborne virus. We need only look at China right now to see the wreckage of a zero-covid policy. Sweden never locked down and had one of the smallest impacts on population of any industrialized country in the world. Their public health minister concluded that if the healthy people got sick it would diminish the transmission rate and natural immunity would diminish the threat to vulnerable people in a shorter period of time. This is known as “Herd Immunity” and it worked in Sweden as it always has in the past.
As I look back over the years of covid I regret most that I didn’t challenge our congregation to keep our doors open for anyone throughout the pandemic. Just about everyone in our church contracted the disease. No one died of the disease, whether vaccinated or not. Our church leadership did open the church doors as soon as the governor of Kentucky said it would be safe and a small group of church members attended regularly. They stayed emotionally and spiritually healthy while I felt those who continued to try to stay quarantined struggled with spiritual and emotional health.
Some reading this article may agree that worship is not an “Essential Business.” When I look at that thought I couldn’t disagree more. The first four of the Ten Commandments make it clear worship is much more than a suggestion. The Psalms are full of songs that call us to worship. Psalm 100:4 sings, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” For mature Christians worship is no longer a habit. That is, they don’t go to worship out of habit. Worship becomes a spiritual discipline, that is, something the mature Christian does regularly to come closer to God.
There are so many things God does with us through calling every believer to be a part of a church family and worshipping regularly with that church family. The spiritual family strengthens one another. If you think you have it together and don’t need the church family I can guarantee someone in your church family needs you to help them be stronger. People struggle with all the hypocrites in church. I prefer to see those difficult church members as God’s way to teach us to love our enemies. Church enemies are much safer than other enemies and loving our enemies is of the highest importance to Jesus (cf. Matthew 5:44). Learning to forgive like Jesus forgives can be done more safely in the church as well (cf. Matthew 6:14-15).
Most importantly, we join with others to praise God. When we regularly praise God, it keeps us grounded so we can be a better light of Christ for those we meet during the week. Remember, the demons are fallen angels who stopped praising God. When worship is a spiritual discipline one does not think, “Am I going to church this weekend.” One knows that s/he need to go to church to praise God, as well as strengthen and be strengthened by their spiritual family.
Private worship is an essential part of growing in faith. The music we listen to, the books we read, how often we pray and do personal Bible study are an integral part of our faith journey.
We must see corporate worship in the same light. Satan does. Worship is the first thing satan attacks to weaken a person’s faith journey with the Lord. It starts simply. It won’t hurt me to miss one Sunday. One Sunday becomes more commonplace until it is more common to miss than attend worship.
Before covid did you go to worship a lot more regularly? Since limiting or ending worship attendance do you find your life is more or less meaningful? If you have renewed regular worship can you tell the difference between worshipping with people and internet church? I hope you will decide today to stop worshipping God out of habit and see it as a spiritual discipline, something you do regularly to come closer to God (To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see, www.lagrangepres.org).