Question 5 (Why Worship Together?)
A look into the importance of unity, worship gatherings in the Bible, and why we’re better together
There are many activities we do together, and many activities we do alone. If we want to focus on writing an essay, we try to seclude ourselves, but if we want to go bowling, we usually ask others to be with us. So why do we choose to worship together instead of worshiping apart? If our goal is to focus on God, wouldn’t it be easiest to focus on Him without anyone around? Allow me to share some thoughts on why worship, like many other things, is a community project.
Being unified is extremely important. Right before Jesus was arrested, He prayed that the believers “may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you,” (John 17:21a). We are called the body of Christ in Paul’s letters (1 Corinthians 12: 12-14, Romans 7:4, Ephesians 4:12, 15, etc.), and he uses this language to specifically point out that although we are different, we need to be unified (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). This emphasis on unity makes sense. After all, the greatest commandments we have are to love the Lord our God and love our neighbor as ourselves (Mathew 22:36-40) and loving each other would be pretty hard to do if we always kept to ourselves. Being completely alone has never been good. Even when Adam was in the garden, in perfect paradise, with nothing between him and God, it still was not good for man to be alone. If we needed others even when we were in perfect communion with God, how much more do we need each other now! That isn’t to say being unified will be easy, or even that we’ll be inclined to it; the fact that Jesus himself prayed for us to “be one” says that unity is both important, hard, and against some of our sinful inclinations.
We know that coming together and building relationships is important. But why must worship arts be together? If we are supposed to focus on God and ascribe all glory to Him, wouldn’t be easier to remove all the distractions?
For the first and most influential reason, the Bible approves of it. In the Old Testament, songs were taught to all of Israel so they would remember what God has done and what he had in store for them (Exodus 15, Deuteronomy 31-32). Before the Lord’s supper, the disciples and Jesus sang a hymn together (Mathew 26:30). The early churches sang together in their meetings (1 Corinthians 14:26, Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, etc). Worship through music can lose its purpose if we never worship with each other; we remind and proclaim God’s truths to each other, which glorifies God in a way worshiping alone doesn’t. Together, we are unable to only pick the things we want to hear and leave the rest out. Together, we can uplift one another instead of only uplifting ourselves. Together, we see how God has affected everyone around us; we realize we aren’t the center of everything.
Another reason I think worship is done together is because communities can glorify a cause more than one person can. Think about a one-person protest on the side of the street. They may get some stares, but they won’t gain much attention for their cause. However, if you multiply the people, the protest is suddenly on the news and gaining the attention of a much wider audience. Their cause is glorified more when more people are a part of it. I think God might be more glorified in communal worship. This isn’t to say that individuals aren’t important; on the contrary, an individual decision is where it all starts and grows. But put those individuals together, and you get something much bigger than the individuals themselves.
If coming together glorifies God, lets us obey the greatest commandments, and strengthens us, why wouldn’t we want to worship together?
Next week, we’ll talk about something that can threaten unity; music style. Are some styles better for worship than others? Is there a wrong or right style? Does it even matter to God?