The Importance of the Weekly Gathering
This post is one in a series reflecting on my time with our last church that ultimately closed. You can read more context here.
The tired joke is that pastors work one hour a week. The real criticism that reflects the joke is that pastors spend all their time preparing for one hour a week.
Two things about that criticism.
- It’s patently false.
- Even if it were true I’ve become okay with it.
I grew up thinking of the weekly gathering on Sunday as an obligation. In my early life as a pastor I railed against it as a selfish activity that kept us from the mission of God. At my last church I came to see it as an essential aspect of living a life with Jesus as a part of His Church. In fact, as I dropped my cynicism and entered the weekly gathering with openness, it became like air to me.
Some of my conversion to passionately believing in the importance of the weekly gathering came through the hours our Worship Pastor and I devoted to shaping the gathering to have a meaningful, consistent liturgy and fostering the movement of people toward the unpredictable Spirit. (Yes, we devoted many hours to this and it was worth every second.)
My conversion to believing in the weekly gathering also came from what I experienced with people on Sundays. There are so many things I could share here, but I’ll tell one that will be with me forever. A couple years before our church ended we began praying the Lord’s prayer together every week. We did this to identify with the historical church, which has incorporated this prayer into weekly worship since the beginning. We also did it because we wanted an every week training in aligning our prayers and desires with Jesus’. The family that sat directly behind us had a wonderful, spunky daughter who was three years old. After a few weeks of praying the prayer she began to join in. A few weeks later she was praying it loudly and confidently. It became one of the things I looked forward to most. It made me smile and want to cry (or sometimes actually cry) at the same time. It was discipleship. It was community. It was beautiful.
One of the primary criticisms of the weekly worship gathering is that it is just performance. Maybe at times it is, but our church showed me that it absolutely doesn’t have to be. It is possible to craft a liturgy that honors the voice of the whole church. If we drop our cynicism the Spirit meets us in the words, music, and practices. If we look around and open our ears we hear the voices of our brothers and sisters in faith and it is a profound reminder that we are not alone.
I will never forget worshipping with that church. It is a “stone of remembrance” for me. The presence and power of God was so thick among us at times that it serves as something to hold onto in times of doubt and struggle.
So I take the experience of gathering weekly with our church with me. It grieves me that I won’t have it again. I’m profoundly thankful to have been a part of it for a season. It has converted me to an unwavering belief that getting out the door on a Sunday morning is always worth it.
Other Posts in This Series
- The Love of the Church
- We’re All the Church–Kids Included
- The Privilege and Challenge of Being a Pastor and Friend