Maybe It’s not just about community: trinitarian reasons for worshiping faithfully on sundays
James H. Lee | AUGUST 22, 2019 | 4 MIN READ
The most common reason college students give me for why they come to Sunday worship is community. Community is also a popular keyword I hear every graduation season. Post-grads look for churches with good “community” – which often means a church with enough number of 20-somethings for adequate peer relationships and a large but not-too-large number of nice and successful older people for relevant mentorship.
Please note: I am not against a good community! I definitely want robust peer relationships and meaningful mentorships not just for me, but for my wife, and for my daughter. As Jesus calls the entire church His body, all local churches should strive to become better communities made of genuine relationships. Human beings are relational beings, for our Creator God is a relational being Himself (Father, Son, and Spirit). I believe that God wants us to be communal and worship him communally.
However, I also believe that community should not be the only, nor the primary, reason why we worship faithfully on Sundays. Community can be found anywhere; it doesn’t have to be at a church. Secular communities can seem more attractive because people mistakenly translate loose morality into loving inclusivity. If we base our Sunday worshiping on the community we worship with, then a relational issue with another person will drive us away from worshiping relationship with our God. As worship is what we give to God to show His worth and not ours, it seems insensible to show up to worship if the community is good for me, or vice versa.
If community should not be the primary reason for worshipping faithfully on Sundays, then what should be? Is there an alternative that lets us worship God for God’s sake? I propose the following three reasons collectively as a Trinitarian view for worshiping faithfully on Sundays.
1) God the Father has continually demanded rightful worship from Israel
2 Kings 16 tells the story of Ahaz son of Jotham who becomes the king of Judah (the Southern Kingdom). Ahaz is an evil king – he allies with Assyria to attack Israel (the Northern Kingdom). Yet the chapter pays more attention to what Ahaz does after the war. He builds a new, more prominent altar that is modeled after an Assyrian altar in front of the Temple of Yahweh. He orders regular sacrifices to be made to the new altar, while only going to God’s altar for occasional guidance (verse 17).
Basically, Ahaz demotes God and elevates an idol. He only worships God to receive benefit. The books of Kings and Chronicles are full of such stories of perversion of worship. In fact, God sends almost all the prophets of the Old Testament to tell the people and kings that they are not worshiping correctly, whether by idolatry, neglect or distortion. Are we so different from Ahaz or other evil kings, if we base our worship attendance on the sense of community we can gain from it? Has community become an idol?
2) Jesus Christ worshipped at local congregations
In his day, Jesus worshiped on Saturdays and not Sundays, but the point still stands that the Son of the Living God regularly worshiped at a local congregation.Scholars widely agree that Jesus in the New Testament is a faithful Jew, meaning He would have kept the Sabbath, therefore communal worship, every week.
In fact, the Gospels record Jesus repeatedly entering the synagogue to preach and minister. In addition, judging from the way He began His ministry in Luke 4 – serving as the Scripture reader – it seems unlikely that Jesus went to the synagogue to do His thing and leave. He was there to worship God with the people of God.
To Jesus, it did not matter whether He enjoyed the community present at a local gathering or not. (Some of them tried to kill Him. See: Luke 4:29). The Son of God came not to be served but to serve. How about us? Are we more likely to attend Sunday worship if we know our friends will be there? Or should we attend Sunday worship to serve God?
3) The Spirit of God is a creative spirit who established orderly rhythm of worship
The Holy Spirit is often associated with the powerful miracles of the book of Acts. There, the Spirit comes to the disciples who are in hiding, empowering them to boldly claim the Gospel, consequently jumpstarting the church.
But we can’t forget the Spirit was also there in the very beginning, hovering over the formless earth (Genesis 1:2). The creation story continues to unfold with God methodically placing celestial and earthly bodies, and then it finally culminates in a rhythmic rest. This rest is the famous Sabbath day commanded to be kept holy.
We see in creation that the Spirit of God established order in the world, a rhythm in life. Can we say that we are filled with the Spirit of God if our lives are not conformed to the pattern of regularly offering ourselves to God in worship (Rom 12:1)?
Life during and after college can be tough, and a good church community can really help. But if community is the only or primary reason why we join a church and worship God together, then we will continue to see many of us drop out because life will always happen. People will get tired. Relationships will sour. Work will get tough. Bills will need to be paid. We will constantly feel the pressure to meet expectations. I hope that we start worshipping God faithfully on Sundays not for community, but for the Triune God Himself, so that we can truly become a worshipping community together.
James H. Lee is the college pastor at Young Nak Church of Los Angeles. God has been ministering to him, his wife Hannah and their daughter Abigail powerfully. They occasionally fantasize about going on family mission trips.