By Rev. Douglas Rollwage Special to The Guardian
Hebrews 10:25 (CEV) - Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.
“I don’t have to go to church to worship God. I can worship God just as well on the golf course.” I can’t count the number of times people have said this to me, usually right after finding out I am a Presbyterian minister. And each time, I give the same response: “But do you?” This reply is often met with a stunned silence. In one instance, I continued on to say, “I’ve heard God’s name invoked by golfers on many occasions, but seldom in a positive manner, and usually after a bad shot.”
One fellow persisted. “My point is,” he said, “you don’t have to go to church to worship God, you can worship God just as well in the out-of-doors.”
“Of course, that’s true,” I said, “the building is immaterial. It is the intentional setting aside of time to worship, the focus upon God for that time, the communication with God through prayer, Scripture and reflection, and the gathering together with the community of faith to engage in service and discipleship which count, not the building. If you do that in the out of doors, or even on a golf course, then you’re correct; you don’t have to go to church to worship God. But the question remains: Do you?”
Now the fellow was getting defensive. He had expected to score a quick and easy point on an unsuspecting clergyman, as well as justifying his non-attendance, and now he was engaged in a conversation of greater depth than he anticipated. “Well, it doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that you have to go to church to be a Christian.”
“Sure it does, countless times. The New Testament is filled with examples of the believers gathering together for worship, often at great personal risk. The books of the New Testament are written both within and to particular communities of faith. One letter, known as ‘Hebrews,’ specifically warns against failing to gather in worship. It was understood that without the support of a community of believers, a person’s faith would greatly struggle to survive.”
“So you’re telling me that I have to go to church,” the fellow said.
“No, I’m inviting you to come to church,” I responded. “And I hope you will. I’m sure you’ll find it a blessing.”
I hope he did. And I hope you do, too. Because while it is true that you can praise God through enjoying the world around you, that you can draw close to God by standing under a starry sky on a crisp, clear winter night – the Psalms, after all, are filled with nature expressing the Glory of God – the question is, “Do you?”
The fact is, God has called us together not as individuals, but as a gathering, a family, a community of faith. God has called us to be together, to worship together, to work together for the glory of the Kingdom of God, and for service to others. The early church of which we read in the New Testament could not conceive of not attending regular Sabbath worship; the faithful throughout the centuries regarded worship as not only an obligation, but as the central focus of their lives.
Come and see why. If you haven’t been attending church, January, the month of New Beginnings, is a great time to start. Don’t miss the chance to spend time together in worship, in service, in encouragement, and in the love of the God who made and loves us all. We’re open every Sunday! And this time of year, the PEI golf courses are closed!
Rev. Douglas Rollwage is a minister with Zion Presbyterian Church in Charlottetown. A guest sermon runs regularly in Saturday’s Guardian and is provided through Christian Communications.