On Saturday night, March 28, 2020, shelter in place orders went into effect for DeKalb and Gwinnett counties in Georgia. The resolutions call for people to stay home unless performing, or seeking, essential service. “Essential services” are broadly defined per the orders. They include going to the store, the mechanic, taking pets to the veterinarian, walking, and buying take-out food from a favorite restaurant. What is not on the list, however, is worship. It seems that even in America’s Bible belt, worship is not an essential activity.
What are your thoughts? Is worship an essential activity? Is it more, or less, essential than carrying your pet to the veterinarian? What consequence do Christians experience when they fail to worship? Why do we worship anyway?
As members of Stone Mountain Seventh-day Adventist Church, worship is a big part of our corporate identity. With some of the best Christian talent anywhere, we enjoy the experience of coming together and praising God in song, prayer and testimony. Reflection on the word of God is also part of what we do. Many of us come for our weekly Sabbath high and leave feeling blessed. We appreciate worship and look forward to doing it again by midweek.
Is worship an essential activity, though? Food is essential. Utilities are seen as essentials. Pet lovers consider pet care essential. But, what about worship?
For individuals engaged in a biblical experience with God, worship is everything that goes into expressing worth for God. It is the praise and the service. It is the meditation and the petitioning. It is the prayers and the testimonies. Worship centers on the greatness of God and the subordination of oneself to His will. Worship is what true believers in God do as a means to maintain a meaningful relationship with Him. It is the means of connecting with God, just as speech is the means by which we connect to each other. Therefore, for the person in relationship with God, worship is essential.
Worship is both personal and public. While public worship may heighten the sensation of the grandeur of God, private worship is where so many juxtaposition their finiteness in light of the infinite greatness of God. A healthy spiritual experience incorporates both public and personal worship. So what should Christians do when governments preclude them from worship (or worshiping)?
Worship is the responsibility of the person who is appreciative of God. It is an expression of friendship and gratitude. Community and worship are personal responsibilities which we must engage regardless of government regulation. If government obstruction had been accepted as the basis for not worshiping, Christianity would have been extinct within its first century. Even today Christianity thrives on worship. This is especially true where public worship is outlawed. Whether public worship is legal or illegal, it is what children of God do.
Public health concerns presently prohibit us from our regular public worship service. They do not however, keep us from worshiping. True worship is initiated by the worshiper and ought not to be delegated only to a few entrusted with creating the experience of worship. No law can, or will, stop a Christian from worshiping. It may stop our public gatherings; but never our worship.
I believe that worship is an essential activity. The privilege of living in these days is that we don’t have to leave where we are to engage in public worship. Our worship is now more public than it has ever been. Now that the doors have been shut to the building, the walls have come down to our communities. Let us worship now more than ever. Let’s give God His due even as we anticipate His return more than we ever have before.