Many Christians believe they attend church services for worship of Jesus Christ and God the Father. While they can be right in this assumption, based on Jesus’ words they also can be severely wrong with eternity of consequences.
The first misconception? That since Christians gather together in church services in Jesus’ name, Jesus has promised to be there. It is true Jesus declared in Matthew 18:20 (all Scripture quotations from New International Version of the Bible),
For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.
But the same Jesus Christ stated unequivocally in Matthew 15:8–9 (words in brackets mine in spirit of an amplified rendition),
These people honor me with their lips (mouth my name among themselves, when they gather together supposedly in my name), but their hearts are far from me (but there is nothing important to me about which they care). They worship me in vain (their gathering together in a church service is pointless, meaningless, holds no reward from me); their teaching are but rules taught by men (all they gather together to practice is their oration and capacity for swaying of other peoples’ minds).
A comparison of Matthew 18:20 and Matthew 15:8–9 makes clear that when Jesus talks about ‘people gathering together ‘in His name’, he means ‘they gather together having respect for everything His name represents — kindness, justice or truth, righteousness — qualities of the heart evident in actions, decisions, choices, not insincere representations of the mouth, lips, or tongue’.
The take away?
Worship resides in the heart not in attendance at any ceremony. Attendance at church services is an act of worship only if it proceeds out of the heart of a person who already worships Jesus Christ in his or her heart. It is impossible to worship Jesus Christ in context of a church service if there is no respect for His principles — kindness, justice or truth, and righteous living.
How then is Jesus Christ worshiped? Apostle John provides a somewhat succinct answer in 1John 3:23, when he states:
And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us.
If we believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, we operate in kindness, justice, and righteousness (Jeremiah 9:23–24). Since God is Love (1John 4:8), kindness, justice, and righteousness all are expressions of His love.
Second, we love one another. How exactly do we love another? By operating in kindness, patience, gentleness, justice, righteousness etc. We see then that to believe in the name of Jesus Christ is to love one another. The first part of 1John 3:23 is the abstract concept — belief in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ. The second part, the practical application of the abstract concept — love one another. When we believe in the name of Jesus Christ, faith is evident in demonstration of love towards others.
Many Christians have yet to realize that essence of beauty of truth in teachings of Jesus Christ is that there is not any demagoguery in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is not sitting in heaven demanding our attention so He can feel good about Himself.
You know how some people demand attention if we ever want them to be our friends? When people demand attention, they desire all of the terms of a relationship lie at their behest. When people seek friendship, they seek out a give and take relationship with which they are comfortable — give and take which produces something of value in their lives, and lives of their friends.
Well, Jesus is nothing like the person who demands attention. Jesus declares that when we love one another here on earth, we are worshiping Him, making Him feel good, bringing joy to His heart.
Jesus Christ seeks our friendship, declares He enjoys our friendship whenever we treat some other person other than Himself rightly, kindly, justly, truthfully. Desires we make as many friends as possible this way, does not seek to tie us to His apron strings.
When it comes to worship, we worship Jesus Christ in our everyday choices, actions, decisions. Worship is not dissociated from life. Worship is part of life. When a Christian husband comes home from work finds the trash to be full, refuses to wait for his wife who normally handles the chore, takes the trash out, he is worshiping Jesus Christ. When a Christian wife who is desirous of sex finds her husband drained from work on arrival at home, decides to put her desires aside, and gives all of her attention to her husband she is worshiping Jesus Christ. When a husband cares that his wife gets all of the satisfaction possible, this to the best of his ability in context of sex, he is worshiping Jesus Christ.
Listen to Romans 12:1,
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.
What does this mean to offer bodies as living sacrifices?
Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13).
What then is the spiritual act of worship for a believer in Jesus Christ? The conscious choice to do what is right, what is good, what is noble, what is excellently righteous.
When truth matters, yet is spoken in love, is spoken in kindness of wisdom, we worship Jesus Christ. When a husband does not tell his wife she has put on weight, rather nudges her towards spending time exercising in conjunction with himself, he speaks the truth in love, loves his wife, creates an activity he and his wife can do together, worships Jesus Christ because he acts and speaks in kindness and love. What then happens? The wife loses weight, tells her husband, “do you notice I have lost some weight?”, to which the husband replies, “Darling, you look so much better than you did a while ago.”
If how we live is exactly how we worship God, or choose not to worship Him, we cannot by showing up at a church service change God’s perception of who we are. When we simply show up at a church service, we are mouthing His name, yet our hearts are far away from Him. This buys us nothing, does nothing for how Jesus Christ sees us.
Why then are Christians supposed to hold church services? Church services are supposed to be opportunities for Christians to love on one another, encourage one another, help one another, assist one another, bless one another. The current model of church services — services characterized by say 300 or more people seated or standing, listening to perhaps five or fewer people, not interacting with one another — is a perversion.
In 1Peter 1:22, Apostle Peter admonishes,
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
Church services are supposed to be opportunities for believers in the name of Jesus Christ to love on each other deeply from the heart. Hallelujah.
Ask yourself, just how much opportunity does your local church provide for believers to love on each other in context of church services? If you are in position to influence your church, perhaps it is time to prod your church back towards purity of Jesus’ original intention, with church services platforms for exchange of love between congregating believers, as opposed to platforms for sitting and listening, then leaving.
How many weak Christians have lost a battle with the enemy because all they could do in a church service was sit, listen, leave? How many spiritual battles lost might have been won if people struggling with sin found an empathetic loving ear, loving advice and encouragement, and loving support when faced with tough decisions that have to do with resistance to evil and doing of what is right?
Church services are supposed to be opportunities for loving of other Christians. Only in context of loving of other Christians is participation in church service worship of Jesus Christ. Mere attendance at a church service does not imply worship of Jesus Christ or His Father. Exactly how we worship outside of church services — demonstration of kindness, justice or truth, and righteousness — is exactly how we worship in context of a church service.
What then if organizers of a church service merely mouth the name of Jesus Christ, but do not honor Jesus in their hearts. Is Jesus Christ there? Should we expect Jesus Christ to be there?
Consider the following words spoken by Jesus Himself in Matthew 7:21–23 (words in brackets mine in spirit of amplified Bible readings),
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Jesus declares again, not mouthing of my name matters, but actions of kindness, justice or truth, righteousness; actions of love). Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Where exactly do people mostly prophesy, drive out demons, and perform miracles nowadays? I dare say I heard you think or say, ‘church services.’
If Jesus declares He never knew such people, how could He ever have been present at such services? We have then that just because a gathering of people is termed a church service does not necessarily imply Jesus is there. Only if the declaration of a church service is supported by hearts and actions that are consistent with who Jesus is, is it guaranteed Jesus is there.
How then your church services? Do Jesus Christ and His Father show up at your church services? How exactly do you know?