The Truth About – Worship and Attendance

Don Blackwell, my good friend and fellow worker for the Lord, has given me permission to post the following video from his “Truth About” series. The text below may differ slightly from the video, but the main points and text are there. I encourage you to watch this video, and adapt the transcript for teaching in your Bible classes, and sermons. Lord willing, I will be posting each of the lessons here over time.

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The Truth About: WORSHIP AND ATTENDANCE (By Don Blackwell)

There are few things as uplifting to the child of God as a properly executed worship service.  The worship of God edifies us.  It brings us joy.  It strengthens and encourages us.  Often times I have heard Christians say after a worship service that before they arrived, they were tired and thought about not coming, but that they were so glad they did….that it refreshed them in a way they really needed.  It is good for us to be with others who also want to worship God.  Worship services are kind of like a haven or a clinic. You spend your week around those of the world, and that can be very discouraging.  But the worship service is a time to be with those of like precious faith.  But not only is worship important to us, it’s important to God, and it’s a subject that HE has given a lot of emphasis in the Bible.  The word “worship” in one of its forms occurs 191 times in the Bible.  113 – OT.  78 – NT.  If God mentioned it once, it would be important, but with its nearly 200 occurrences we should be very interested to study this topic.  What we want to do in this particular lesson is first to talk about worship, and some specific things related to worship….and then we want to spend the rest of our time discussing the reasons why we need to attend worship.

First, “What is Worship?”  Webster’s Dictionary defines “worship” this way, “to adore or pay divine honors to a deity.”  The Greek word for worship is the word, “proskuneo.”  Literally this word means “to kiss toward.”  It means to do obeisance, To Prostrate oneself; to pay homage; to show deep respect.”  Now the Bible describes 4 different types of worship.

First is IGNORANT worship (Acts 17:23).
In that chapter, Paul was in Athens on Mars Hill….and apparently it was a spot where people gathered to discuss interesting ideas.  Verse 21 says, “For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.”  Verses 22, “Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:  TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.  Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing [the KJV says “whom ye ignorantly worship], Him I proclaim to you….”  Verse 30 says, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.”  But the point is that the Bible describes a type of worship that it identifies as “ignorant worship.”  Now, could we be guilty of ignorant worship today?  Sure we could.  Anytime that people engage in an act that THEY call worship (that they believe is worship), but that God has not defined as worship, its ignorant worship.

A second type of worship identified in the Bible is “VAIN WORSHIP.”
In Matthew 15:9, Jesus said of the scribes and Pharisees, “in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.  The word vain indicates, “empty;  worthless;  meaningless.”  They had corrupted true worship by adding their own commandments.  These people, Jesus said, were also worshiping with their lips and NOT their hearts.  Verse 9, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, Andhonor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.  And according to verse 7, they were hypocrites.  Is it possible for us to engage in vain worship today?  Yes.  When I worship God with my lips but not my heart, it’s vain.  It doesn’t go any higher than the ceiling.  Do you think our worship is vain when we sing, “All to Jesus, I surrender, and then don’t give as we have prospered?”  How about when we sing, “Oh to be like thee blessed Redeemer, this is my constant longing and prayer” and then don’t come back on Sunday night?  Is it vain worship?

A third type of worship identified in the Bible is WILL WORSHIP (Col. 2:23).
Will worship is “self-devised or self-chosen worship.”  We might say that Cain was an example of this type of worship.  He offered to God what suited HIM, not what God requested.  And this might be the most popular today because society is big into the entertainment factor these days.

The last type of worship is TRUE WORSHIP.
John 4:23 says that God seeks true worshipers to worship him.  Now there are 3 aspects to TRUE worship (Object, Focus, Acts).  First, the OBJECT of our worship must be correct, and the object of acceptable worship is GOD.  John 4:23 says God is seeking true worshipers to worship HIM.  Secondly, the FOCUS of our worship must be correct.  John 4:24 says that our worship must be “in spirit.”  That means that your heart, your mind, your spirit is focused on worshipping God.  You are focusing on worship!  Sometimes, we sing the words; sometimes we “Amen” the prayers, but our mind has been everywhere except in worship.  Mentally we may have been off on some African Safari somewhere.  We have not focused on our worship…and our heart has not been in it.  Thirdly, true worship requires the proper ACTS.  John says that we must worship God in spirit and truth.  “In truth” means what he has specified in the Bible (NT).  If it’s not there, I can’t engage in it and call it worship.  God has specified 5 ACTS (Avenues) of worship.  They are prayer, preaching, Lord’s supper, offering, and singing.  And anything other than these 5 acts IS NOT worship.  Sometimes people talk about the “worship service” and they think that everything that takes place from 10-11 is worship.  Not so.  Only those 5 acts constitute worship.  Announcements are not worship.  In fact a LOT of other things might take place during that time period, but they are NOT worship.  We are NOT free to pick and choose what is worship.  I don’t get to decide what to offer God as worship.  God has prescribed 5 things (that’s all).

Now, there’s a new idea that’s popular these days that suggests that everything we do in life is worship.  And some Christians have bought into this.  And the reason (I think) that some people like this idea is because if EVERYTHING we do is worship, then we can do ANYTHING and call it worship.  Years ago, I attended a congregation where during the Sunday morning worship assembly, some ladies would be in the kitchen preparing the afternoon fellowship meal.  And when questioned whether this activity was right, was told “there are lots of other ways to worship God than to sit in the assembly.”  But that’s NOT true.  Now, there are other ways to SERVE God, but not all service is worship.  All worship is service, but not all service is worship.  And the idea that everything in life is worship is simply not true.  When you wash dishes, that is not worship…Even if you’re washing the dishes for the church.  When you take a shower, or watch television, it is not worship.  There are 5 acts that constitute worship in the eyes of God.  And anything else, we might CALL worship, but at best it’s vain, empty or will worship.

Alright, let’s shift gears a little bit now and talk about WHY WE NEED TO ATTEND WORSHIP.  We want to notice 6 reasons.

Reason #1 – I need to attend worship because, as a Christian, I’M SEEKING FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD….or at least I should be.  Matthew 6:33 says, “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  You see, now that I’m a child of God I have a new set of priorities.  I have a new set of values.  Christ and His church are the most important things in the world to me.  Maybe before I became a Christian, golf was a high priority for me…and maybe I spent my Sundays on the golf course, because I really loved the game of golf.  Or maybe it was football….maybe I loved watching football.  Whatever it was, it’s different now because I want to go to heaven more than anything else.  And so I’m going to be at worship!  Why?  Because I’m seeking first the kingdom of God.

Reason #2 – I need to be at worship BECAUSE I NEED TO BE WITH PEOPLE OF LIKE-PRECIOUS FAITH.  There’s an interesting passage 1 Peter 4.  In verse 3 Peter talks to Christians about some of the things they engaged in prior to becoming Christians….and he mentions, lewdness, lusts, drunkenness and drinking parties, and then in verse 4 he says this,  “In regard to these, they [your old friends] think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, [now, listen] speaking evil of you.”  He says that after you become a Christian, and you don’t engage in the same old activities, your old friends they won’t understand that….they will think it’s strange….and they will speak evil of it.  Now that’s not going to be good for your Christianity.  In fact, a constant diet of that will tear you down.  I Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”  As a Christian I NEED to be with other Christians.  God made Christianity as a group religion.  And being with other Christians refreshes us and strengthens us and enables us to go back out and face the world.  Christians who are in the military and have been forced to miss worship services for long periods of time talk about how much they miss it….how much they NEED it.  We need to be with people of like-precious faith.

Reason #3 – I need to be at worship BECAUSE GOD COMMANDED IT.  I hate to say it that way, because we ought to WANT to be there.  We ought to be like David in Psalm 122:1, where he said, “I was GLAD when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the LORD.”  When you study the pattern of the NT you see that the early Christians assembled together regularly.  Acts 20:7 tells us that on the first day of the week, Christians came together to partake of the Lord’s Supper.  I Corinthians 16:1-2 tells us that they were expected to give of their earnings when they came together on the first day of every week.  And so, it was a regular weekly gathering of Christians.  And if that’s not direct enough for you, then listen to Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some…”  The English Standard Version says, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some…”  The Hebrew writer said that some in the first century had the habit of not being their when the saints met…and God says, “Don’t do that!”  Don’t forsake the meeting (the assembling) of the saints.  There’s an old country song by Don Williams, and he says, “I don’t believe that heaven waits for only those who congregate,” but you know he’s wrong about that…because God’s people do congregate, and God commands it to be that way.

Now just as a word of clarification, a person isn’t forsaking the assembly when he is too sick to come.  A person isn’t forsaking the assembly when he’s in the military and he gets deployed and can’t possibly make it to worship services.  A person isn’t forsaking when he is a shut-in and can’t be present.  Forsaking is something that a person chooses to do.  Now sometimes people will let one sniffle cause them to stay home, and they claim to be sick…and they may do that frequently.  That is forsaking the assembly.  Really it gets down to a matter of the heart.  Do I want to be there, and I can’t, OR have I simply chosen to not attend.

Reason #4 – A fourth reason I need to be at worship is of WHAT I MISS WHEN I’M NOT THERE.  For one, I miss the opportunity to worship God.  Christian friend, that is one of the greatest opportunities afforded me.  I have the opportunity to worship the Creator of the universe!  And when I CHOOSE not to come, I miss out of that opportunity….and really I show contempt for the Lord.  Somebody says, “What do you mean by that?”  Let me illustrate.  Let’s suppose that you and I make a lunch date together, and we say that   11:00 a.m. on Tuesday we’re going to meet at a particular restaurant.  And let’s say that Tuesday comes, and I don’t show up.  Well then you see me later, and you say, “Why weren’t you there?  Why weren’t you at the restaurant?”  What would you think if I said, “Well, I didn’t have any particular reason, I just chose to do something else.”  Or what if you asked me to be the best man at your wedding, and again I didn’t show up.”  And later I told you, “Well, Saturday is my only day to sleep in and relax.”  OR – What if we had 3 appointments to meet together every week, and I didn’t show up for 2 out of 3 of them.  What would you think my opinion was of you?  You know sometimes people will say, “Do I really have to come to all the assemblies of the church?”  I mean Sunday night…..Wednesday night.  Well, let’s ask it this way……Let’s suppose a man asked this question, “Do I really have to go home to my family EVERY night?  Where is the law that says that I have to do that?”  The answer is there is no law that says that, but a man who chooses not to see his children and his wife, just because he chooses not to, shows contempt for his family and his role as a daddy.  And a person who chooses not to attend faithfully the services of the church is saying, “I really don’t love the Lord very much.”  I had a preacher say to me one time, “I just don’t think that Sunday night and Wednesday night attendance is that important.”  I could hardly believe what I was hearing.  Friends, the fact of the matter is when a person chooses not to attend when he could, he is simply showing the signs of a deeper problem.  You see that person doesn’t love the Lord with ALL of his heart, mind, strength, and soul. (The greatest commandment in the law).  And he’s really not seeking first the kingdom of God.

Next, in addition to missing the opportunity to worship, when one forsakes the assembly he also misses the opportunity to commune with the Lord.  When we partake of the Lord’s Supper we are in a very real and direct way communing with the Lord.  In Matthew 26:29, Jesus said, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”  And I Corinthians 10 refers to partaking of the elements of the Lord’s Supper as a communion with the body and blood of Christ.

Thirdly, when a person chooses not to come to worship he misses much needed teaching and growth.  Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”  2 Peter 3:18 commands us “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”  I heard someone put it this way.  Suppose that every time the church assembles for preaching or Bible class you learn only one fact.  A person who attends Sunday Bible School, AM worship, PM worship and Wednesday services would learn 4 facts per week.  A person who attends AM worship only would learn only one fact.  Over 10 years the man who attends all of the services has learned 2080 facts.  The man who attends Sunday morning only has learned 520 facts.  Now which one of those two people do you think will be the more spiritually mature?  Which one of those two people would you rather be on the Day of Judgment?

Reason #5 – A fifth reason why I need to be at worship is FOR THE SAKE OF MY BRETHREN.  We cited Hebrews 10:24-25 a minute ago as a command of God that MUST not forsake the assembly…but pay special attention to the way the passage begins.  It says, “And let us CONSIDER ONE ANOTHER in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…”  Worship is a time when we encourage one another.  When we sing, we teach and admonish and encourage.  And the funny thing about this is you really don’t even have to do anything. You encourage those around just by being there.  When new converts are faithful, it encourages older Christians and makes them feel as if they are being successful in the work the Lord commanded us.  When teens are faithful in attendance, it encourages older folks about the future of the church.  When middle age people are faithful it’s strengthening to see these people who put God before their careers, and continue to be faithful.  When aged Christians are faithful in attendance, it encourages everybody!  It makes them think, “If they can be here in spite of the physical challenges they face, then I can too.” “If they can be faithful for 50 years or 70 years, then I can too!”  And when you come to services and the parking lot is full, it is truly uplifting.  You leave feeling energized, spiritually speaking.

AttendanceBut you know there’s another side of this too.  Just as with our presence we encourage……by our absence we give discouragement.  When we choose not be here……(And I don’t mean it’s something beyond our control which we deeply regret)……I mean it’s a choice that we make…..we’re discouraging people.  I have been to services where hardly anyone was there…..and you know what effect it had me… really brought me down.  It sometimes makes you feel like Elijah (I Kings 19) when he said, “I, even I only am left.”  And he was greatly discouraged.  We ENcourage by our presence, and we DIScourage by our absence.

Reason #6 – We NEED to attend worship IF WE WANT OUR CHILDREN TO GO TO HEAVEN.  Parents, consider all of the things we’ve already discussed and apply them to our children.  Our children need to be taught to seek first the kingdom of God.  They need to be with those of like-precious (that is – they need to be with Christians).  They need to learn to worship God.  They need the teaching, and the growth, and the encouragement.  And I want to suggest this to you…Every time that you choose not to bring your children to worship…whether it be for a ballgame, or because family was in town, or because they had extra homework that night….whatever it may be.  Every time you make that choice, you are teaching your children that there is something more important than God.  You are teaching them that SOMETIMES it’s alright for God to take second place.  And they may go on and win that championship game, but they’ve lost something far more important.  And the day is going to come when they’re going to have to make those choices on their own, and the chances are that they’re going to choose what YOU taught them was important.  On the other hand, when you miss the championship ballgame for worship services, you’ve taught your children a life lesson…you taught them that NOTHING comes before serving my God…and then one day when they have to make that tough choice on their own, they’ll remember. Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he’s old he will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6).

Now I want to get really specific here for just a minute, and ask, “What about the Wednesday night issue?”  You know some people will argue that assembling any time other than Sunday morning is not commanded and without Biblical authority.  I heard a preacher on one occasion say that he could produce the scripture that teaches that we should be back for worship on Sunday night.  Of course, I was very anxious to hear it.  He said, “It’s this…Matthew 22:37, “Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  I like that.  Well, what about Wednesday night?  Well, the same scripture could apply, but let’s look at another.  Hebrews 13:17, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”  This passage tells us that we are to obey them that have the rule over us, (specifically here it’s talking about the elders).  We are to obey them and submit ourselves because they watch for our souls, and they have to give an account.  Even though Wednesday night assembly may not be specifically commanded in the New Testament, we still must submit to the elders, and if they see fit to have Wednesday night assembly for the good of the congregation, I am going to be there. In fact, I HAVE to be there…because if I buck the authority of the elders, then I’m bucking the authority of God.  Now, somebody says, “Well what if our elders determine that we’re only going to meet on Sundays.”  Then there’s nothing in the world wrong with that….that is the only day that the Lord has mandated.

In Luke 14, Jesus told a parable about a man who made a great feast for his friends.  But when the feast day came, the friends began to make excuse why they couldn’t come.  One said, “I tell you what, I bought a piece of land out here, and I believe I need to go see about that land.  Pray have me excused.”  Another one said, “I’ve bought 5 yoke of oxen, and I really want to go and test them, and see how well they can work.  Pray have me excused.”  The other one says (and he’s very abrupt about it…..he doesn’t say, Pray have me excused)….he just says, “Just got married….can’t come.”  The Bible says that that householder replaced those guests with others…..he sent his servants out to bring in other people from the highways and byways.  But those people who made excuse did not eat the supper.  Brethren, God is not collecting excuses in reference to his direct commands.  You want to live a Christian life?  Then be faithful in your attendance.