No More Public Worship
By: Rev. Brandon Dirks
This article WILL get me in trouble. But I am already troubled by the emphasis on public worship.
It is not hard to look around the world at the overall Christian church and clearly see that the emphasis is on public worship. We have cathedrals built for public worship and light and sound shows in contemporary worship. Forms are filled out year after year reporting on “worship attendance.” The local church calendar is centered around the days and times of worship services. Churches invest a large portion of the tithes and offerings to staff and resources to build bigger, bolder, louder, more impactful services of public worship. Usually the biggest complaints about the church are centered around the quality of preaching. A local church advertised that they were increasing the number of their Easter services from 24 to 32 this year!
Many churches may not say it, but let’s admit the truth; most congregations’ top priority is the public worship.
I have nothing against public worship, and in fact, I think it is important for every Christian to be a part of a worshiping community, but I think it is a tremendous mistake to emphasize this spiritual discipline above all others. After all, Jesus NEVER emphasized public worship.
Devout Anglican priest William Law (1686-1761) wrote, “It is very observable that there is not one command in all the gospel for public worship. One could say that it is the duty that is least insisted upon in Scripture.”
What Jesus did emphasize is a life of discipleship. As William Law would put it, Jesus and the Apostles emphasized having the kind of faith that governed the ‘ordinary actions of our lives.’ “Pick up your cross and follow me.” “Faith without works is dead.” Deny yourself. Give yourself away. Do God’s will. Be instruments of peace. Choose to have less. Seek the lower places in life. Desire to be filled with God’s will. Pray. Pray daily. Pray without ceasing. Give your cloak away. All of scripture is dripping with how to live a holy life. There is simply not nothing on frequent attendance to a holy hour once a week.
What would a church look like that emphasized being obedient to Jesus’ commands in the “ordinary actions” of one’s life? My guess is…it might be a very small church. Attendance at worship might be haphazard. But I bet the small group experience is life-giving and life-transforming!
Well, Jesus never was concerned about the number of his followers, but he seemed very concerned about the quality of their faith. Hmmmm………maybe Christians ought to start paying attention.