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Is Sunday worship attendance necessary?

Is Sunday worship attendance necessary?

Is Sunday worship attendance necessary?

16 July 2019

Freedom Chapel Palm Beach Elanora Corps chapel service led by Major Darren Elsley. Photo Kian Worthing.

By David Woodbury

Social media and this magazine have been giving us glimpses into many of the innovative and exciting new Salvation Army ventures being developed to connect with our communities.

A cursory glance at the reporting would indicate that there is an increasing number of peripheral groups and activities being established that take mission to the community; a move in the right direction.

However, at a time when Sunday meeting attendances have dramatically declined, we may need to examine the necessity for attending religious services each Sunday.

Can the operation of these new ventures be a replacement to the traditional Sunday gathering of believers? 

It may well be that some see such a traditional gathering as redundant, obsolete and out of touch with today’s community.

Does the traditional gathering of believers each Sunday have a scriptural basis and can we justify it from a biblical basis and church history?

The first pattern we must examine is the example of Jesus during his earthly ministry, and it is true that he spent much of his time away from the established religious institution and among small groups. 

However, any perfunctory reading of his ministry clearly demonstrated that he was committed to regular attendance at the synagogue or temple.

There are more than 100 references in the four gospels to Jesus being in the religious institution of his day. Clearly, attendance in, and commitment to, a regular gathering of believers was paramount in his lifestyle and the example he has left for us.

If we move forward to the example of the early Church we find a similar, even more committed pattern of attendance: “They worshipped together at the temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity” (Acts 2:46).

Once again this is a strong, recurring activity in the history of the early Church as recorded in Acts. Apart from the strong scriptural example of regular attendance, there are many positive and fundamental reasons for our active participation with a body of believers, the least of these the crucial need to belong in community.

The reality of today’s world with the influence of technology and the internet etc., which has a tendency to isolate, is that we need community more than ever. A regular gathering of believers is a primary building block in creating a meaningful and effective community.

Regular attendance at gatherings of believers allows us to utilise to the fullest the gifts God has given us and in so doing we build up the body of Christ, the Church.

 “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” (Romans 12:4-5 NLT).

There is also a sense in which the voice of God may well be amplified and reinforced when we meet together as a community of faith, where we are surrounded by like-minded believers and where corporate prayer and testimony provide us with a stimulus in our spiritual journey that is unparalleled. 

What this regular community of faith gathering may look like will be defined by each generation, and we diminish the power of the Church when we try to inflict tradition and bygone culture.

The early Salvation Army had two significant gatherings for its people: the Holiness Meeting and the Salvation Meeting. Both served specific needs for the community of faith.

The Holiness Meeting to teach, build and encourage the spiritual community and the Salvation Meeting to reach out with the message of salvation.

While the terminology may not be applicable today, the crux of their reality remains. We still need to teach, build and encourage the spiritual community and reach out with the message of salvation.

The Church, which is the physical replacement for the Body of Christ, needs a constant and identifiable presence in the world and that presence is best manifested in the regular meeting together of the broad, inclusive community of faith.

Major David Woodbury is a former editor of Salvation Army publications. He blogs at woody1940.blogspot.com

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