The Church’s worship of God is what we are called to do. We’re to love Him and sing His praises. And it’s not wrong to enjoy doing it! We’re also to be a family of faith – to love one another and draw closer in fellowship. And it’s not wrong to desire community in Church.
But… we knock the legs out from under those desires when a congregation forgets that it is to be about the mission of God. That is, the call for us to make new disciples through proclaiming the Gospel and living it out in the world. A congregation is not to exist for itself, it is to exist for the sake of God’s mission.
Here’s the thing, which I have suspected for a long while – when we forget that it is to bring others into the fold of God’s People, through evangelism and looking out, we’ll actually begin to miss out on the richness of our worship and fellowship. I’ve seen it many times – an emphasis on depth, whether in worship or community, to the sacrifice of outwardness. By outwardness I mean seeking, longing, yearning to let others hear the Gospel, believe, and join the Church. Maybe this is due to an overreaction to the misguided Seeker-Sensitive philosophies of ministry. Or maybe it’s because looking inward and caring about the self first can be a corporate as well as a individual failing. At any rate, when we seek to look out – forget our mission – we begin to die. We may not notice it at first, but a congregation that does not seek to gather even begins to lose the enjoyment it seeks from its own worship and fellowship.
We forget those who aren’t among us, we begin to lose the purpose of our worship and fellowship. For a more convincing articulation of this, read this passage from Edmund Clowney’s formidable but wonderful book on Church:
Jesus came to gather, and to call gatherers, disciples who would gather with him, seeking the poor and helpless from city streets and country roads. Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters (Mt 12:30, Lk 11:23) Mission is not an optional activity for Christ’s disciples. If they are not gatherers, they are scatterers. Some suppose that a church may feature worship and nurture, leaving gathering as a minor role. More often, Christians shrink from affirming such a position, but implement it in practice… Such a church is actively involved in scattering, for the congregation that ignores mission will atrophy and soon find itself shattered by internal dissension. It will inevitably begin to lose its own young people, disillusioned by hearing the gospel trumpet sounded every Sunday for those who never march.” Edmund Clowney, The Church, page 159-160. [emphasis mine for purposes of shock and warning!]