My Lutheran church practices a liturgical worship service. This does not mean we do the same thing the same way every Sunday; rather, this relates to our format. The Divine Liturgy follows the pattern and basic elements of God’s service, many of which have been observed for over 1,000 years. Many Christian denominations do not observe a liturgical service like ours, and that of course is their prerogative, but I personally believe our liturgy serves an important function in my walk with my God.
Our liturgy strongly emphasizes our roots and connection with Christian history and worship practice. We are assured we will experience a complete worship service each Sunday, a service which includes biblical teaching, praise, and prayer. Through our liturgy, we are certain to experience the main Christian doctrinal theme of forgiveness of our sins through a belief in Jesus Christ as we focus on his birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension in each worship service. Our liturgy refers to certain readings, hymns, biblical verses, and prayers specific for each Sunday of our church calendar year.
In post-Christian America, organized religion, represented by our various church denominations, is mocked by unbelievers, of course, and we expect them to do that; but many who claim to be Christians share this opinion with them and claim it’s not necessary to affiliate with a church for them to continue to adhere to Christian beliefs. It seems as though they would rather be affiliated with unorganized religion and call it good. They wonder why it’s necessary for a religion to be organized to be relevant in their life?
A pastor of mine once related a story about his conversation with such a person who claimed to be a follower of Christ but detested organized religion and instead worshiped in his own way on his Sunday hike in the mountains. My pastor answered him by saying, “yes, God is worthy of our worship, and you can worship him in this way, but do you?” Only when we are organized can we be most effective in our worship.
Of course, when religion is organized to serve man and not God it deserves our condemnation; and, of course, we all know the organized church in history has been guilty of this transgression, and there are some church organizations today that seem more about the business of religion than in spreading the gospel in truth and spirit; but the baby shouldn’t be thrown out with the bathwater.
As always, we are to go to God’s Word to guide us. The Bible addresses the fundamentals in worship; it tells us we are to worship God by gathering together in worship; this gathering is what God’s true church is, an organization of believers. My pastor’s point was that only the church can really effectively serve to motivate a person to get out of themselves and spend just one hour a week focusing strictly on worshiping the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Of course church attendance alone does not indicate a person possesses a true, saving faith. Another pastor of mine told me that while we can’t assume everyone who attends church on a consistent basis necessarily has a true, saving faith, we can assume that a person who possesses a true, saving faith would be motivated to attend church on a consistent basis. The same God who has enabled us to have a faith that guarantees our salvation also tells us in his Word to worship him in truth and in spirit. Through our worship, our great God is glorified, and his glorification is our main purpose in the life he gave to us.
So then, I go to church each Sunday, come rain or shine, because I desire to personally connect with our triune God, learn more of his Word, receive his means of grace through observing the sacrament of holy communion, sing songs of praise to him, pray to him to bless me, my family, my friends in need, and my nation and fellowship with my fellow believers. During and after that one hour a week, I feel refreshed in the spirit knowing I have done what is expected of me as a true believer in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That’s what true church worship is all about.