Motives and Worship

Most churches get various phone calls through the course of a day. Throughout my time as a preacher, I’ve received numerous calls on numerous subjects. I must say, however, occasionally I get a call I had never considered before. This happened this past week.

An anonymous caller was wanting to know if we had singing. I responded yes, but she again asked if we sang in the service, and I asked if she was speaking of our assembling together. She again responded yes, and I responded we do indeed sing, as God wants us to do so in worshipping Him. She sighed, thanked me, and hung up. I didn’t get the chance to talk to her further about this question, but it dawned on me she had reference to our assembling this particular Sunday, on Easter. It then started to make sense. Many people feel the need to “go to church” on Easter Sunday, as that seems to be the time the world considers such is required, or what one should do, annually anyway. However, in a world of COVID, she had decided it was dangerous to attend where people sang, as she feared getting the virus if she was in the presence of people singing. So, she was determined to find a church that wouldn’t sing, so her conscience could be appeased.

How tragic it is, that Satan has so deceived people that their fears and desires compel them to dictate to God how He should be worshipped and served. Worship is the prerogative of God as deity, not of us as His creation. Only God knows best how He should be worshipped, and it must be in spirit and truth (John 4:24). Scripture also states, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). The word for speaking comes from the Greek term λαλέω (laleo), which emphasizes the fact of speech versus speechlessness. Couple this with the fact it is to be conducted “to one another,” it obviously must be vocalized, spoken by the mouth, and not just contained in the mind or heart, remaining private. A congregation, or an individual, in corporate worship, which refuses to sing aloud, is refusing to worship as God has commanded (the verb “speaking” is a participle that carries the imperative sense, thus a command).

Worship is also something we should offer more than once a year. It reveals God’s love to us, in sending Jesus to die for us, and Christ’s love for us, in dying on the cross for us. The resurrection powerfully proclaims Jesus as Lord, the Son of God, and that His death atones for our sins. Our worship corporately on the first day of every week (1 Cor. 16:2), is to honor and remember Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:3-4). It is to be important enough to us that we are commanded not to forsake our assembling together (Heb. 10:25). To attend sporadically at best cannot truly honor God or Christ.

What is my takeaway from this phone call? In one sense, I am grateful the world has still not forgotten what God in Christ has done for us, albeit just once or twice a year. In another sense, it is sad that we think so lightly of God, and of Jesus our Savior, that only once or so a year we are motivated to express our devotion to them. God said, “For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations” (Mal. 1:11). The Hebrew writer also reminds us, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 10:28-29).

I wish I could speak personally to this person again, to sit down and discuss how one is added by the Lord to His church. I would speak of what it means to be a follower of Christ, of what each first day of the week should mean to us, of what true worship is all about, and how courageous we should be living for Him. If we truly seek Christ, He transforms our lives and prepares us for eternity. In Christ, fear can be changed to courage, being released from it to experience life that is eternal (Heb. 2:15). May every Lord’s Day, every day, be so lived, knowing what God has prepared for us.

μαράνα θᾶ (1 Cor. 16:22)