Welcome back! We’re in our series on the five habits of a healthy Christian. In this session, we’re going to talk about the first spiritual habit, which is weekly worship. Here’s what we mean by “weekly worship.” The spiritual habit of weekly worship is your in-person presence at the worship service of a local body of believers where you belong as a member. There are going to be times when we miss church or can’t get there, and so there are great ways to watch online and stay connected that way. But the regular habit that will form us as disciples is belonging to a local church and being there to worship each week.
Biblical Basis for Weekly Worship
It has been the norm for the people of God, throughout the Old and New Testament, to set aside a day for worship. Old Testament Israel met on Saturdays in observance of the Sabbath, whereas the New Testament church meets on Sundays in remembrance of Christ’s resurrection, but the larger principle is the same. The people of God assemble together to worship the Lord on a weekly basis. This is even part of the First Baptist Dallas articles of faith, which are based on the Baptist Faith and Message. Article VIII says: “The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord’s Day should be commensurate with the Christian’s conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.” This is an essential and vital practice for our faith.
Biblical Content of Weekly Worship
We learn early on in the church’s life what worship gatherings involved for Christians. In Acts 2:42, we read that the church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” The church read the Scriptures together and they prayed together. Those are things we should do on our own, but we learn how to do them first in community with others, as a team. The personal relationship each church member had with Christ flowed out of the corporate relationship they all had together with Christ. They prayed together, they learned about Christ together, they ate together, and they fellowshipped with one another. This is where they celebrated the two ordinances of the church, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, together. This is what the Christian community did each week when they met together on the Lord’s Day.
At First Baptist Dallas, the way we try to embody this each week is to have a shoulder-to-shoulder element to worship as well as a face-to-face element. Our worship service is when we are shoulder to shoulder, singing praises to our Lord together and hearing from God’s Word through preaching. And then Sunday School is where we are face to face. We dig into God’s Word, we discuss its implications for our lives, we pray for each other, and we enjoy a time of fellowship together in smaller groups based on age and life stage in classes all across our campus.
Biblical Goals of Weekly Worship
When we worship together each week, important things happen. First, we are formed together in unity around the shared truth of our faith in Christ. Paul says it this way in Ephesians 4:4–6:“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” We become unified together by actually being together on a regular basis in worship. Remember, unity is not a universal sameness or uniformity. Paul goes on to say in the next verse, Ephesians 4:7, “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” So the Holy Spirit is building us up into one body that has many members, each with its own unique and important role to play in building up the church and accomplishing the mission God has entrusted to us.
Paul explains a few verses later, that the Lord “gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11–12). With Christ as our head, “the whole body” of the church can work together to “grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:16). By coming together, God builds us up and uses each member of the body to build the others up into Christian maturity, stability, and mutual love.
So many good things happen when we come together. God’s Word comes alive in us through the teaching, encouragement, and singing that we offer to our Lord. Paul says in Colossians 3:16,“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” When we sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs together, our gratitude for the Lord grows, and we have the chance to express that to one another.
When we see the immense benefits of what happens when we come together, we can also understand why Scripture warns us against neglecting it. In Hebrews 10:24–25, the writer of Hebrews says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some...” Some are already neglecting to meet together, even in the first century church. But God’s Word says this bad habit has to be broken, so that we can weekly gather together to stir each other up to the love and good works God has called us to do. It is our weekly encouragement and focus on eternal things each Sunday that helps us live well as Christians Monday through Saturday.
The ultimate goal of all this is that worship would be more than something we do one or two hours a week. The ultimate goal is that it would fundamentally shape who we are. As Paul says in Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” The goal is not to make sacrifices, the goal is to become sacrifices! We want our whole lives to be a holy worship offering to our Lord. That is driven by the weekly habit of coming together to worship.
Practical Guidance & Encouragement
I also want to give you some practical guidance and encouragement about weekly worship.
I think the best way to develop the habit of church attendance is to find a place to serve. If you have a job, that means people are relying on you. If you’re not there, then that job won’t get done! The body of Christ will be missing one of its members. Serving can be as simple as helping people find parking spaces, welcoming guests and showing them where to go, or volunteering to assist in a children’s or youth class. It can take many different shapes, but the important thing is that you’re faithful and available to help wherever is needed.
Having a place to serve also changes your mindset. In our culture, we often think of ourselves as consumers who go somewhere to be entertained. But church isn’t like that, or at least it shouldn’t be. When you serve, you go from a consumer mindset to a team mindset. You think less about your needs and preferences and focus instead on how you can contribute to the team, how you can help others grow in Christ. When you serve, I think you will notice you actually enjoy coming to church more and find it to be more rewarding than you ever have before.
When you come to church week after week, you also begin to have a community of people who will love and care for you when life gets hard. If you’re disconnected or uninvolved and something hard happens in your life, there may be very few people who can recognize it and offer their help. But if you’re in weekly community with other believers, it’s amazing how quickly and how well they can come around you and care for you when you’re going through a hard time. I’ve seen so many examples of that in our church. People rally around those who are sick or who have experienced a tragedy, providing for their needs and offering all kinds of help. But you have to be consistently investing in those relationships in order for this to happen. You have to be known. You have to be present. You will also find that God can also use you to minister to others when they go through a hard time or experience something difficult, which is also a great joy for us as believers.
Finally, it’s OK to admit it. It’s not always easy to get to church. We say often, and we’re only half-joking, that “Satan likes to attack on Sunday mornings”! When Sundays roll around, we feel all the aches and pains of the week. We are busy, we’re exhausted, we’re worn out. Staying home may sound a lot better than getting ourselves up to go to church and see a bunch of people. The church is also messy. It’s full of sinners. It’s imperfect.
That’s all true and it always will be, until Christ returns. Like anything that’s worth doing, it’s going to be hard at times. It will require commitment, forgiveness, love, understanding, and forbearance. But what I’ve learned is that God meets us here, when we gather together. He recharges us in ways that we cannot explain or describe.
I know there are many challenges to practicing the habit of worship on a weekly basis. But the best way to think about it is to determine first what God says is essential and vital for you, and then build your life around it. When you do that, you’re going to get so much out of it and you will in turn become a blessing to all the people around you.
So this has been our first habit, weekly worship, the first of the five habits of a healthy Christian. Next up, we’ll be talking about the second habit, daily prayer.