Do Christians REALLY Need to Go to Church to Worship?

Do Christians REALLY Need to Go to Church to Worship?

Do I really need to go to church as a follower of Christ? When Jesus talked with the “Woman at the Well” about places of worship, his point wasn’t that place was unimportant. Worshiping in “Spirit and truth” can be done anywhere, so we know it is not about the exact address. We know our place of worship is where the Spirit is and where truth is. Widely, worship is looked at as a personal choice and activity. In fact, that is quite true! We all have to choose to worship Christ. We all have a personal free will. But, what is missed is that gathering for worship seems to not be valued. Our worship services are more than an additional stop in a lifestyle of worship. They are the base camps to living life, connecting us to a story that’s bigger than us.

Worship is sacred. Discipleship is daily.

Liturgy is a great word to use for what worship happens on Sundays when we gather together at a particular place and time. Liturgy means the people’s service or our public worship practice. So, when we talk about living a life as a worshiper, there are things we do together as believers that are special. Worship of God, as some say, can be any act. All things we do should be an act of worship. I wish we were all that perfect. And, think about this. If worship is everything, then is worship nothing? So, yes we have discipleship—or the issues of learning to follow after Christ more and more every moment—and we have worship or liturgy that anchors that. I prefer the term liturgy because it seems that the term “worship” is used for what we used to call discipleship.

We also have expressed acts of worship such as praise, prayer and service. All of these may not be done literally in a church, as service means I need to touch another. But, they can all mean worship! Praise—the definition of the biblical word Alleluia—is an expression of worship. Prayer is an expression of worship. Hearing and teaching the Bible is worship, too. Liturgy gives us a sacred place to discuss and value what we do together. So, when Jesus was conversing with this woman at the well he wasn’t telling her that public worship was unimportant.

What is perhaps a worthy statement is this: We are disciples or students of Jesus in all that we do daily. A worship service is a sacred event. There is nothing wrong in saying this and in valuing both places of worship. There is nothing wrong with making a distinction between worship that is lived out in the world and worship that is celebrated as a gathered people.

Gatherings are more than evangelist events.

It is clear that being “attractional” drives many ministries. What this may mean is programming to a demographic, the use of marketing to felt needs and evaluating success by growth. The worship service then is structured to attract, as are the other “programs” of the church. Music is chosen to reach, sermons are presented to communicate and ministry programs are performed to draw in numbers. All of these things are not ethically or theologically an issue to me, except when we call them “worship” instead of what they are. Attracting our community is a great idea and we should! But, are these “attractional” activities actual ministry or simply tools to help us in our ministry?

I would say the traditional four-fold service structure makes sense for all of us: Gathering, Word, Table and Sending. All four of these are biblical! I know what some are asking: What about reaching the unchurched, de-churched or seeker? Yes. We do that, too. But, we still are called to publicly offer worship. If we forgo the Bible for thin sermons that entertain or that are meant to modify behavior we miss the point.

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Rich Kirkpatrick
Rich Kirkpatrick is a family man, writer, speaker, and musician. A ministry veteran, he has served in worship and pastoral roles in small and large settings. In 2014 he authored the book, The Six Hats of the Worship Leader. You can find him at RKblog.com where he writes about creativity, faith, and leadership.

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