Luke Stamps has blessed us with a fabulous post on the Gospel Coalition site. He observes the historical reasons why evangelicalism has placed a lot of emphasis on personal piety, perhaps to the neglect of corporate worship as a primary means through which God shapes and forms us into the image and likeness of Christ. He contrasts this with (perhaps a caricature, I would admit, of) Roman Catholic spirituality, with its lack of emphasis on personal piety, so he’s not making light of the importance of our need for an individual, ongoing, and personal relationship with God. But, in making his point about worship, He frequently interacts with the Westminster Shorter Catechism, including with this question and answer:
Question 89: How is the word made effectual to salvation?
Answer 89: The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.
It is interesting that the catechism places special emphasis on the formal preaching of the Word, which can only take place when the church is gathered together. It is often said that the corporate worship of the church is diminished when the individuals that make up the church have not been worshiping God in their daily lives throughout the week. Anyone who has ever had the responsibility of leading a local church in public worship can testify to the truth of this claim. But it seems to me that the opposite is true as well: If the church is not engaged in biblically ordered worship through Word, sacrament, and prayer, then it will be very difficult for its members to be equipped for their daily tasks of loving God and loving neighbor.
Stamps goes on to point out that worship is “not incidental, but vital,” meaning that while attending and participating in worship certainly is optional for every one of us, it is not optional if you are desirous to grow in your faith. God chooses to do too many special things that are unique to the worship context for it to be replaced with any other practice.
Please read this important article!
I believe in this subject. Here are some previous posts that have addressed it: