Pastoral Perspectives

Worship Space or Marketplace?

We gather each Sunday to worship God and to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, recognising that it is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that a way has been paved for us to enter into the holy of holies to worship our Almighty Creator and Redeemer. ‘We have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh’ (Hebrews 10.19-20).

Sunday worship should therefore be the highlight of our week regardless the stage of life we are in and however busy we may be. Some are so caught up with work that they hope to sleep in on Sunday just to get some additional rest. Parents with young children find it a hassle to get the family ready for church and they are so tempted to just stay at home. Exams are round the corner and surely it’s alright to skip church so that more time can be spent on revision. Yes, our salvation is not dependent on church attendance; for it is by grace we have been saved through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2.8). However, our church attendance can serve as an indication of the extent of our love for God, an indication of the depth of our gratitude for what Christ has done for us. If we can begin to grasp the sacrifice Christ has made to secure our salvation, there is really nothing we can do to repay his love; we can only respond with gratitude, and one way to do that is to render to God the worship service that he so deserves and desires.

Coming for worship service is really an act of service that we offer to God out of our love for him. We can serve God by participating actively as a worshipper rather than watching passively as a spectator. We sing enthusiastically, paying attention to the lyrics and the meaning of what we sing; we follow closely the prayers that are being prayed; we listened intently to the reading of Scripture and to the sermon and to the Holy Spirit’s still small voice; we give cheerfully. If we are sitting side by side our children (e.g. during a combined service), we must help them to participate in the service. We may therefore not be able to fully concentrate on what is going on because we have to attend to our children time and time again to help them understand what is going on. Teaching our children to worship is in itself an act of worship that we render to the Lord.

Corporate worship is not just between the individual and God. The worship space on a Sunday is shared by fellow brothers and sisters. We gather together to worship God; we also gather together to build each other up, and the building up of each other can also be seen as an act of worship that we render to God. ‘Since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus…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’ (Hebrews 10.19, 24, 25). If Sunday worship is just about the individual and God, there is no reason why we need to come to church. We might as well just hibernate at home and choose our favourite songs to sing and our pet speaker to listen to.

If we are called to gather together for worship, there must be something that God wants us to do with each other – edify, encourage, comfort. Let our conversations therefore bring joy to sorrowing hearts, comfort to downcast spirits, clarity to those seeking guidance. Let us speak truths into each other’s lives. Let us share with one another the lessons we have learnt from the sermon, how God has showed up in our lives during the past week and how we have come to faith in Jesus. This is a characteristic of a healthy church where everyone is a builder and the responsibility of edification doesn’t just rest on the shoulders of the leaders but on everyone sitting in the pew.

Church should be a sacred worship space rather than a marketplace. We don’t want church to become a place where people are coming here to make contacts so that they can promote their services or products. I believe these brothers and sisters don’t have any ill intent. They sincerely believe what they are selling are of good quality and they think that there is a win-win situation where the church community gets to benefit from the consumption of these goods and they themselves get to reap some monetary rewards from their sales. But put yourselves in the shoes of a worshipper who is coming to church to worship God. How will he feel if different people start to approach him, persuading him to buy this and that product from time to time? Wouldn’t this person feel stressed, especially if he does not have the courage to say ‘no’ and land up buying the product out of obligation so as not to sour relationships? Is this kind of response sustainable?

I have been encouraging all of you to walk across the room and speak with people after the worship service so that you can engage in conversations that will build each other up. If our intention of walking across the room to befriend someone is so that we can build up our contact base for the purpose of facilitating business transactions, it can pose problems. How genuine would those relationships be? If the person is not interested in buying our products, will we lose interest in the friendship? Will we quickly move on to befriend another potential buyer? Some may defend themselves and say that that will not happen and they can still talk about spiritual matters and only when the opportunity arises will they introduce their products or services, but our human ‘heart is deceitful above all things’ (Jeremiah 17.9) so it is only wise for us to guard it carefully because it can easily be led astray.

I had lunch with a sister from church recently and in the midst of the conversation, I asked her what she was doing for work. She told me that she is an insurance agent. I was anticipating that she would ask me whether I had any insurance needs but to my pleasant surprise, she didn’t and I was relieved that she didn’t. We can go ahead and let people know what we do for work and they are free to approach us if they think they want to buy a service or product that we can offer but we really should not be actively promoting or worse still, pressurising people to buy from us because church is a place of worship and not a place where we solicit business.

Let’s continue to make True Way a welcoming space for everyone, young and old, to gather together to worship God and to build each other up so that we can shine as light of the world in this corner of Queenstown that God has placed us.

Rev Lee Kien Seng

May 6, 2018