John Wesley is purported to have said that “worship is the first and primary duty of the Christian.” This crucial act of biblical discipleship is clear. In his decisive interchange with the woman at the well, Jesus says, “But the time is coming - and is here! - when true worshippers will worship in spirit and truth. The Father looks for those who worship him this way. God is spirit, and it is necessary to worship God in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24). The great 100th Psalm is explicit: “Shout triumphantly to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with celebration! Come before him with shouts of joy!” (Psalm 100:1-2). The writer of Hebrews admonishes us, “Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). In a recent sermon, I shared a classic definition of worship from Archbishop William Temple. As bombs dropped over London and night after night the Nazi bombers released their load of destruction, William Temple, then Archbishop of Canterbury, preaching from the mighty St. Paul’s Cathedral, gave his famous definition of worship. “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God. All this is gathered up in that emotion which most cleanses us from selfishness because it is the most selfless of all emotions – adoration.” The context is of great significance. In the midst of a great world war, worship was seen as central to the life of faith. As we have moved through the Exodus Project (for 7 years now), we have asked ourselves “what is the one thing that would make the greatest difference in the life of faithful discipleship and in the life of our churches?” The answer is simple and basic; the one foundational activity that makes a huge difference across the board is an increase in average worship attendance. Consider the truth:
- An increase in average worship attendance means more people engaged in outreach mission of justice and mercy for the hungry, hurting and homeless.
- An increase in average worship attendance has a direct correlation to an increase in giving thus enabling both basic discipleship development and greater outreach for others.
- An increase in average worship attendance usually means a church is reaching more people, younger people, and more diverse people with the gospel.
- An increase in average worship attendance develops a greater commitment to the whole gospel.