Volume 17, No. 7 (July 2022)
The May 2022 issue of Worship Notes, entitled “Two-Sided Worship,” concluded with these words:
So BOTH the corporate gathering for worship and the daily walk of worship (including the focused private times of devotion and worship) are very, very important.
Which brings us to an interesting ongoing debate: Does our corporate worship gathering for worship, our “weekend worship,” prepare us for our “weekday worship,” our week-long walk of worship? Or does our weekday walk of worship prepare us for our corporate weekend worship gathering?
This month we address that question.
Does our corporate worship gathering for worship, our “weekend worship,” prepare us for our “weekday worship,” our week-long walk of worship? Or does our weekday walk of worship prepare us for our corporate weekend worship gathering?
The answer is a resounding YES! ☺
They are in fact mutually enriching. They are in what we could call a symbiotic relationship. In nature, symbiotic relationships are where two organisms will have a mutually beneficial interaction, such as we see in these pictures:
Bees feed on pollen and also carry it to other blossoms and pollinate them. And the bird helps to keep the antelope insect-free by feasting on the bugs that show up. These are symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationships.
Weekend worship and weekday worship are also in a symbiotic relationship.
WEEKEND WORSHIP enriches WEEKDAY WORSHIP
Our joining together in corporate worship can strengthen us, motivate us, and prepare us to walk a lifestyle of worship during the week. We come to church out of a week where we are bombarded by forces that deny the reality and primacy of God; and we need the encouragement from coming together and reminding ourselves of who we are: in the words of Peter again, to be reminded that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.” (1 Peter 2:9)
The writer of Hebrews in chapter 10 encourages us to harvest all the benefits of our corporate gatherings:
- Verse 22: Let US draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (We are invited to come into the Lord’s presence together, through Christ.)
- Verse 23: Let US hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. (We are invited to grow in hope by reaffirming the truths we hold in common.)
- Verses 24-25 And let US consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (We draw strength for the battle by building up one another as we come together.)
All this and more is ours as we gather as a congregation to offer our hearts and voices to God in harmonious praise, to bask in His grace and goodness, and to hear and respond to God speaking to us through His Word. Thus we are fortified to go out into the world and represent Him.
King David was fortified in this way, as we see in Psalm 63. There it tells us that David is in the wilderness of Judah, during the time that he had to flee for his life when his son Absalom had rebelled against him. At this desperate time in his life David cries out:
O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek You;
my soul thirsts for You;
my flesh faints for You,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (v. 1)
David yearns for God “in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” David was in the most desperate situation he ever faced, when his very life was in great danger. However, it has been pointed out that, amazingly, this Psalm is one of pure praise; there is not one petition or complaint in the entire psalm.
David is far from Jerusalem and the tabernacle, and so he can’t fulfill any of the external rituals or requirements of the old covenant system. And yet he instinctively knows that he can come to God in worship, in this dry and weary land, because he recognizes that “O God, You are MY God.”
And look at the resource David is drawing upon at this desperate time in his life: Verse 2, “so I have looked upon You in the sanctuary, beholding Your power and Your glory.” He remembers what it was like to gather with God’s people in the worship of the sanctuary. His roots have gone deep through corporate worship, and that helps to sustain him in this time of crisis and this time of worshiping alone.
And so, even though his very life is in danger, David can declare in verse 3 that:
“because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise You.”
David’s previous “weekend worship” empowered and deepened his “weekday worship”—even in the desert. And that’s what it can do for the deserts we go through as well.
But in this symbiotic relationship, a life and lifestyle of worship during the week will also have a tremendous impact on what happens when we gather as a church on Sunday. It’s a two-way street.
Our WEEKDAY WORSHIP will also profoundly influence
our WEEKEND WORSHIP in church
Now there are times in all of our lives when we will come empty to church, and God will meet us and fill us again. However, the healthy pattern for a growing Christian is to come to the service out of a week of walking with and worshiping God, with a heart already full of gratitude to and love for God. And then we join our hearts and voices together in something that’s so much more than the sum of the parts.
Our weekday worship thus helps to strengthen and deepen what we experience in this corporate gathering. Our walk of worship, our lifestyle of worship, our times of private worship, all will feed into what happens here. As we “eat or drink or whatever we do” to the glory of God in our daily lives, it helps to enrich what happens here on Sunday morning.
But this preparation comes not just from carrying a worship mindset throughout our busy daily activities, but also through our private times of focused devotion, study and prayer. The Scottish preacher Eric Alexander speaks powerfully to the importance of our private worship as a foundational preparation for corporate worship:
Equally vital is a faithful attendance on the private means of grace. Public worship, you see, is impossible except against a background of private worship. And in so many ways, the quality of our worship when we are together will be a reflection of the quality of our worship when we are alone.(Eric Alexander, “Preparation for Worship,” sermon #5 in the series on John 4 entitled Acceptable Worship,
And so often the secret of failure in public worship is failure in secret, in our faithful attendance on the private means of grace, because the public ministry of the Word, vital as it is, is never a substitute for the private reading of it. Public waiting upon God to gather us as people, which is the place, as we were discovering, where God is pleased to manifest Himself, is never a substitute for private waiting upon God in the secret of our own soul.
And if you do not regularly bow before God in private worship and adoration, you will find it a strange thing to do so with other people on the Lord’s day. It is as simple as that. This is why, in the general sense and the broad term, faithful attendance on the private means of grace is of the very essence of preparing ourselves for worship.
So not only does our gathering here for public worship fortify us for our daily walk, but that walk of worship and our practice of private worship empowers and enriches our corporate worship. As a final illustration of that last point, let us consider the classic children’s book entitled Stone Soup. This is the basic story:
Three soldiers are coming home from the war; they’re tired and hungry. They see a village in the distance and they say to one another, “Let’s go into the village and ask for some food.” But the villagers see them coming, and seeing how they don’t have a whole lot of food for themselves, they conspire together to hide the food that they do have. So when the soldiers come asking for food, the villagers say, “Sorry, we don’t have any.” But the soldiers are not fooled, and in their shrewdness they say, “That’s all right—if you’ll just give us a big pot full of water and some smooth round stones, we’ll make stone soup.”
Well, the villagers wonder about this, but they comply with the soldiers’ request and provide them with the pot and the stones. The soldiers set the pot to cooking. After a while they taste it, and one of them says, “This is really good, but if we just had a few potatoes it would be so much better.” One of the villagers sheepishly says, “I think I might have a couple of potatoes,” and runs and fetches them. The soldiers cut up the potatoes and add them to the soup. After a while they taste the soup again, and one says, “This is really good—but we just had a little bit of cabbage it would be so much better.” And another villager says, “I think I might have a cabbage or two.” The cabbages are brought and added to the soup. After some more cooking, the same thing happens with cabbage and celery and carrots and all kinds of other things. Finally this marvelous soup is ready, and the soldiers invite the whole village to join in with them, and they have a marvelous feast together. And the villagers are so impressed with these soldiers that could make such a wonderful soup out of just stones!
The parable for us is that the basic elements of our services here are in one sense like those stones—they’re just the beginning. What makes worship at church really special is when people come to worship out of a week of walking with and worshiping God, with their hearts overflowing with love and gratitude to Him, and then join their hearts together as they each toss into this “pot” of worship some of that abundance.
That’s when corporate worship becomes a nourishing feast for the people of God, and a fragrant aroma to our God.