I had the privilege to lead worship on a weekly basis for nearly twenty years. A consistent point of “wrestling” was the “Who are we doing this for?” question. On the surface, the answer seems obvious, it’s all for Jesus, right? We say it, sing it and pray it. But what about the gatherings we read about in the New Testament?
THE ACTS 2 CHURCH
While there is no record in the New Testament of actual church assemblies or services as we may think of them, there are several windows into the tone and culture of the early church. One of the clearest windows into the New Testament Church’s practices is found in Acts 2. Here’s what it reveals.
A FOCUS ON GOD
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…to the breaking of bread and to prayer… praising God.
A FOCUS ON ONE ANOTHER
…and to the fellowship… All the believers where together and had everything in common... Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together.
A FOCUS ON OUTSIDERS
…they gave to anyone as he had need… and enjoying the favor of all the people… and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
In our righteous pursuit of pleasing God and making our corporate gatherings Jesus-focused, is it possible to go too far? Again, this may sound crazy but consider whether is pleases God or not if we ignore each other. Does it please God if I walk into an assembly and never acknowledge or engage with those around me? Does it please God if we speak in a language that the unchurched doesn’t understand? Does it please God if we water down his Word in order not to offend someone else? This is where the wrestling begins.
ADDITIONAL PASSAGES THAT OFFER GUIDANCE INCLUDE…
1 Corinthians 14
In his book Created to Worship, Ken Read sums these passages and this issue up well…
Certainly when the New Testament church gathered for worship, God was at then center of their thoughts; they met in his name and for the sake of worshipping him. However, these references indicate that they also came together to honor Him by meeting the needs of one another and sharing the Good News with the “unchurched.” (Read, 2002)
SO WHO ARE WE DOING THIS FOR?
While there is one answer to this question in a transcending context - Jesus - it seems there are three practical and right answers as well. A practice I try to apply whether I’m leading or in the congregation is this…
If we all do this, I believe we have the greatest chance of pleasing Him and accomplishing His mission.