Updated: Nov 12, 2019
There seems to be a growing number of able-bodied Christians that do not attend church on a regular basis. There are a myriad of reasons given for skipping Sunday services, but I think most of them "assume that the exclusive purpose of public worship is to help the individual in their private pursuit of moral betterment; in other words it is assumed that worship is a means to an end."*
The thinking goes: I want to be a better person. Moral betterment can be achieved through various means. Worship is not necessarily one of them. Therefore, worship is optional; just one of many ways I can better myself.
But I contend that worship is an end in itself. We do it for its own sake, not for the sake of gaining something else.
Moral betterment is a product of worship; but it is a long-term secondary product, meaning it's very hard to notice on a week-to-week basis. There are many benefits to worship. But we have advocated the benefits of worship to the detriment of the duty of worship and the value of public worship has lessened in the minds of many Christians because we say, "I just don't feel any better when I leave."
Below are some common phrases passed around as to why Christians should come to church:
"You should come to church because _________ ."
"Our spiritual family is only partially present when you are absent."
You will feel better if you come.
"By coming to Church you cast your vote for God in a world where God is widely ignored."
You will get encouragement for the coming week.
It will help build good morals in you and your children.
The correct answer is - None of the Above. Worship is an end in itself. We should come because God is worthy of all praise; as the Church proclaims every day in Evening Prayer (Phos Hilaron, BCP pg. 64):
"You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices, O Son of God, O Giver of life, and to be glorified through all the worlds."
We don't worship to get something from it, whether it be comfort, moral betterment, encouragement, growth, etc. We do it because God is worthy of it and in gratitude of having received His grace, we faithfully fulfill our duty to Him.
To the modern mind, duty can seem an ugly word. Seeming rigid and devoid of joy, bordering on legalism. We can almost hear it in Eeyore's dreary voice as he saunters off, saying, "I'll go do my duty now."
And, honestly, at times, that's what Sunday mornings might feel like. But our feelings should not dictate our actions and decisions like an unchallenged tyrant. We go, we worship, because it is the characteristic activity of heaven. We say our prayers every Sunday whether we feel good about them or not. We simply trust that the Holy Spirit works in us to accomplish His good will according to His good pleasure in His good timing. But God is the object. He is our focus.
The angelic beings that stand in the presence of God cannot help but say over and over again, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts! Heaven and Earth are full of Your glory." The beauty of the One whom they stand before compels praise from their mouths. This is not for their moral betterment, but to fulfill the very purpose of their existence.
In worship, we join our voices with theirs, voices on earth with the voices in heaven, not to get something we think we don't have, but to give thanks for something we have already received.
Join us this Sunday.
* Colin Dunlop, Anglican Public Worship, pg. 8