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Entries in attendance (5)


Christmas Day 2011: Forcing the Issue of Ultimate Allegiance Between Sunday Worship and Family Traditions 

Starting around six months ago, there began a flurry of exchanges among worship leader Facebook groups, email groups, and online forums.  “What is your church doing for Christmas Day this year?”  The subtext of the dialogue was largely, “Are you going to have a worship service or not?”  There was at least a small amount of panic about how this could all possibly work.  People aren’t used to going to church on Christmas Day.  But many are very used to their tried and true family traditions.  (“We always open presents on Christmas morning.”  “We always have Christmas brunch together witht the family.”)

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Worship Without the Gospel is Not True Worship

Any worship we participate in, without engaging the good news about Jesus Christ and what He has done, is false worship.  It is idolatry.  It is self-justification.  My friend and up-and-coming pastor, Nathan Hoag, brought back from the Gospel Coalition Conference the April 2011 edition of TableTalk, which contained a wonderful little article by Donald Whitney on “The Gospel & Worship.”1  Here are some choice quotes which work really well as stand-alone reflections on how the good news relates to corporate worship.  The third quote is my favorite:

There may be nothing in the realm of religion by which people vainly attempt to establish their acceptability to God more than by acts of public or private worship. As a result, worship can degrade into one of the most legalistic activities a person can pursue.  In the minds of many, you are right with God if you go to church…Though perhaps they do not expressly state it, they believe that because they discipline themselves to regularly attend an event where the gospel is proclaimed, they have sufficiently participated in the gospel.

The gospel takes the natural, worldly view that worship is a person justifying himself by reaching up to God and corrects it with the truth that worship is a person responding to the God who has reached down through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

People do not decide to become worshipers of God; rather the gospel produces worshipers.

God made our hearts, and He made them to find their greatest joy and satisfaction in Himself. So when, through the gospel, we “come to know God, or rather be known by God” (Gal. 4:9), our hearts turn to God and open in worship to Him like flowers turn and open to the sun. Thus it is that worship begins with an understanding of the gospel.

We also need the gospel during worship in part because of the sins we commit in worship. We may sing, speak, or pray thoughtlessly or hypocritically in various moments of worship. The application of the gospel to our minds and hearts in worship encourages us that our sins during worship are forgiven and that the Lord receives us even though our worship is imperfect.

Love of the gospel and love of worshiping the God of the gospel are inseparable. A true grasp of the former leads to devotion to the latter.


1Donald S. Whitney, “The Gospel & Worship,” in TableTalk, 35.4 (April 2011), 58-59.


Personal Piety is Not Enough; We Need Worship, Too

Luke Stamps has blessed us with a fabulous post on the Gospel Coalition site.  He observes the historical reasons why evangelicalism has placed a lot of emphasis on personal piety, perhaps to the neglect of corporate worship as a primary means through which God shapes and forms us into the image and likeness of Christ.  He contrasts this with (perhaps a caricature, I would admit, of) Roman Catholic spirituality, with its lack of emphasis on personal piety, so he’s not making light of the importance of our need for an individual, ongoing, and personal relationship with God.  But, in making his point about worship, He frequently interacts with the Westminster Shorter Catechism, including with this question and answer:

Question 89: How is the word made effectual to salvation?

Answer 89: The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.

Stamps’ comment:

It is interesting that the catechism places special emphasis on the formal preaching of the Word, which can only take place when the church is gathered together. It is often said that the corporate worship of the church is diminished when the individuals that make up the church have not been worshiping God in their daily lives throughout the week. Anyone who has ever had the responsibility of leading a local church in public worship can testify to the truth of this claim. But it seems to me that the opposite is true as well: If the church is not engaged in biblically ordered worship through Word, sacrament, and prayer, then it will be very difficult for its members to be equipped for their daily tasks of loving God and loving neighbor.

Stamps goes on to point out that worship is “not incidental, but vital,” meaning that while attending and participating in worship certainly is optional for every one of us, it is not optional if you are desirous to grow in your faith.  God chooses to do too many special things that are unique to the worship context for it to be replaced with any other practice.

Please read this important article!


I believe in this subject.  Here are some previous posts that have addressed it:

Worship's Unique Ability to Give People Spiritual Wisdom and Insight

Flippant Worship Attendance: Stats and Consequences

Why the Gospel Shines Brightest in Worship

Taking Children to Jesus in Worship


Flippant Worship Attendance: Stats and Consequences

Justin Taylor, along with Gene Veith, cite an article by Robbie Low in Touchstone about the statistical relationship between attendance of church by a father/man-of-the-house and whether or not their children will be regular worshipers as adults.  The gist is that the likelihood that children will attend worship regularly as adults decreases dramatically when the father is not a committed attender.  For what it’s worth, the data was collected from Christians in Switzerland in 1994.

I’d encourage you all to read those posts and that article just to get your head around this beast of an issue, but I’d like to extrapolate to a broader point, not based on international research, but based on pastoral observations of the struggles of one local church here in Denver.

I cannot tell you how many families I engage with who are committed followers of Jesus whose worship attendance averages 2 out of the 4 weeks in a month.  A year and a half ago, I posted on why skipping church is like shooting yourself spiritually in the foot.  Here are the contributing factors, in my opinion:

  • Postmodernity, which is anti-institutional, anti-authority
  • The success of the emerging church movement in captivating a sizeable minority of evangelicals (and non-evangelical Christians)...for the many helpful things the emerging church has done, they have helped encourage the above postmodern values
  • Our hyper-busy culture: when young couples start having kids, or when many adult singles bury themselves in a work-hard-plus-party-hard lifestyle, they get sucked into the vortex of hyper-busyness;  there is always something to do, always something to get distracted by

Furthermore, I wonder how many worship leaders experience what I experience.  My most committed worship musicians and leaders tend to follow the same trend of 50% worship attendance.  This truly breaks my heart…for them and their children.

Some folks have told me that they end up “doing church” at home with their nuclear family or “worshiping God” as they behold His beauty skiing or camping in the Rocky Mountains (a particular problem out here).  Unfortunately, at home and in the mountains: (1) your God-ordained leadership (your pastors) are not there to lead you in worship; (2) you can’t rightly celebrate the sacraments (because they are a communal act of the whole local assembly); (3) you can’t receive the edification of the Holy Spirit that only comes in the sacred, communal act of the gathered local church (Eph. 5:18-19).  The longer I pastor, the more I am convinced that there is no replacement for the regular, weekly worship-gathering of God’s people.

What's the remedy?  Though some in my church would encourage me to do this, I don’t believe it is helpful to “preach against” this sin (yes, forsaking the assembly of the people is a sin, folks [Heb 10:25]), because that just creates worship-attendance Pharisees, big on legalism and small on the Gospel.  My only options, I feel, are to:

  • Continually preach the gospel as the perpetual starting place of all growth and maturity
  • Continue to pour my heart into designing and praying for worship services which captivate the heart
  • Find creative ways to winsomely communicate the benefits of worship-attendance

Do any of you folks out there find the same things going on in your churches?


skipping worship = soul-emaciation

I've been struggling, even within my own church, to encourage Christians that Sunday mornings are not just important, they're vital.  I don't know why, but it seems like evangelicals (at least out here in the West) take church attendance lightly.  In Colorado, Yahweh wars with the gods of nature for the attention of the hearts of sinners and saints.  Skiing in the winter...hiking/camping in the summer.  There's always a reason to "skip church."  But worship is where we receive the REAL spiritual nourishment of the sacraments.  Worship is where we receive the genuine encouragement from being in fellowship with God's people.  Worship is where we receive the faithful preaching of the Word.  Worship is where we are SUMMONED BY GOD to be on Sunday mornings (or Saturday if you're a seventh-dayer).  We don't question the need for physical nourishment.  Unless we're fasting or just have out-of-the-ordinary eating habits, we regularly nourish our bodies 3 times a day with food.  God forbid that we Americans forget to eat!  So what about our spiritual nourishment?  If duty is not enough to get us there, maybe our skin-and-bones starving soul will eventually cry out for some self-care.

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