What Churches Do

Have you ever wondered what churches are for and why people go to church? What does it really mean to "get baptized" to "take communion" and to "dedicate babies"? Or perhaps you have heard someone ask, "Do I need to go to church? Why can't I just worship God in nature or in my home"? What would you answer? Whether you attend church services regularly or not, this course will interest you. Series were written by Robert and Evelyn Bolton.

Churches Worship God

Churches Worship God

Everything the church does is aimed in at least one of three directions: upward toward God in worship; inward toward itself in growing; or outward toward the world in sharing the good news.

A church building is sometimes called a “house of worship.” This is appropriate because its main function is to provide a place for people to worship the Lord together.

People were made for worship. If they don’t worship God, they will worship something else: money, fame, pleasure, nature, idols, or themselves! But they will never be satisfied until they learn to worship God.

Jesus taught us that our Heavenly Father desires our worship. Though all the hosts of heaven are praising Him continually, yet He wants our worship because it brings us into fellowship with Him.

Worship Together

It is Sunday morning. Mary, a new convert, has come with her fiancé, Timothy, for the first time to a worship service in his church. Timothy is a new convert too, but he has the advantage of a Christian background. Mary’s questions arouse his interest.

“But where is God?” asks Mary looking around. “How can I worship when there is no image to kneel to?”

“You don’t need an image to worship God, Mary,” he answers. “You used to bow before images, but with no real love. God is a Spirit. We can’t see Him with our natural eyes. But when we are born again and have His Spirit in us we can worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24). That is what He wants. Love Him and praise Him in your heart while we sing, and in everything else that we do.”

The people are now singing joyful songs about God’s greatness and His love. Sometimes they clap their hands while they sing. Mary is not used to that, but soon she finds herself smiling and clapping too! Then the song leader tells the people to greet each other. Several shake hands and welcome Mary. She no longer feels like a stranger. She feels closer to the Lord and closer to the other people.

“It’s like one big happy family!” she whispers to Timothy.

A believer can indeed and should worship God at any time and in any place. It is needful, however, for people to worship together.

People are not made to stand alone. They need each other. One coal of fire separated from the others will soon die out, but coals keep burning when they are together. Believers meeting together, sharing and helping one another, grow strong together! They help to keep each other “on fire for God.”

Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more since you see the Day of the Lord is coming nearer (Hebrews 10:25).

The Lord has commanded that we meet together and He has also promised to bless those who obey Him in this. “For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them” (Matthew 18:20).

Believers are likened to the “body of Christ,” with Jesus as its head. The Lord wants His body to be in unity, with all the parts working harmoniously together. The way to accomplish this is by meeting at a set time and place for worship so His Holy Spirit can unite us as one.

Worship with Music

Congregational singing is good for the body of Christ because it relieves tension. It can also bring healing. It builds up faith. And more than that, it helps bring about the togetherness or unity needed for true worship in the body of Christ.

Another way to worship is for one or more persons, or a choir, to sing special songs. The listeners should remember to glorify God rather than the singers. God not only gives us voices to sing with, but He also gives us something to sing about!

In Old Testament times the people of Israel sang the Psalms. The book of Psalms was their hymnbook. They considered singing to be a very important means of worship.

Early Christian believers also sang Scripture. Then gradually hymns and other songs were added. The apostle Paul instructed the church to “speak to one another with words of psalms, hymns, and sacred songs; sing hymns and psalms to the Lord with praise in your hearts” (Ephesians 5:19).

Our songs can be expressions of thankful praise to God, our testimonies put to music. The words should glorify God. So should the people who sing them. God’s Word says, “Giving thanks is the sacrifice that honors me” (Psalm 50:23).

Before Jesus came, people sacrificed animals; but since Christ died for us such sacrifices are not necessary. Instead, we offer the Lord the sacrifices of prayer and praise. Look up Hebrews 13:15.

The congregational singing in the church that Mary and Timothy attend is accompanied by a piano and an organ. Members of an orchestra play several different instruments. The music thrills Mary who exclaims, “I never knew an orchestra could be in a church!”

“They are playing and worshiping the Lord with their talents,” Timothy replies. “People of the Old Testament praised the Lord with all kinds of instruments. Read these words taken from the hymnbook of the Bible:

Praise him with trumpets.
Praise him with harps and lyres.
Praise him with drums and dancing.
Praise him with harps and flutes.
Praise him with cymbals.
Praise the Lord (Psalm 150:3-6).

Music brings people together in worship. It’s no wonder music has been called the universal language.

Worship by Prayer

Soon the people begin praying together. “Why do they close their eyes?” whispers Mary.

“To forget their surroundings while they talk to God” answers Timothy. “They are worshiping in prayer.”

Mary hears people saying, “Praise the Lord!” “Thank you, Jesus!” Some people have their hands raised in worship and the sound of voices becomes louder. It seems a bit strange to Mary.

“You will get used to it,” Timothy reassures her. “In a church like this people will often pray all together. Each person is praying individually to the Lord. In prayer, we worship Him by thanking Him and praising Him.”

After a while, the pastor calls on a man to lead in prayer. Mary is surprised that he does not read the prayer yet he prays beautifully. When he finishes, many people say “Amen!”

“What does that mean?” asks Mary.

“Amen is a Hebrew word meaning ‘may it be so.’ We say amen when we agree with what has been said,” explained Timothy.

Worshiping the Lord in prayer was quite common in the early church. We read that “day after day they met as a group praising God” (Acts 2:46-47). The Bible also says that believers “joined together in prayer to God” (Acts 4:24).

Our love for the Lord finds fulfillment in worship and fellowship with Him. We should allow worship in prayer to be meaningful, living, and dynamic even as it was in the early church. Otherwise, it becomes meaningless, lifeless, and empty. The church must continue to be “a house of prayer” (Mark 11:17).

Worship in Giving

Mary is puzzled when the pastor announces, “We shall worship the Lord by our gifts: His tithes and our offerings.”

“How can we worship the Lord with money?” she asks.

“When we give because we love God and are thankful, that is a way of worship,” answers Timothy. “I’ll explain more later.”

While the ushers pass the offering bags, the orchestra plays a hymn in worship to the Lord. People praise the Lord softly. Mary sees that giving to the Lord can be a joyful experience and a means of worship.

Later she learned that in some churches people walk up to the front of the church to give their gifts. But no matter what method is used, a tenth of all that we earn belongs to God (Leviticus 27: 30, 32). This is called our tithe. Whatever we give above that is our offering. It, too, should be an act of worship. Read Proverbs 3:9-10 and 1 Corinthians 16:2.

Worship through the Holy Spirit

The congregation is singing softly and worshipfully, many with their hands raised. Mary notices some with tears rolling down their faces. Timothy explains that they are not unhappy, but moved with love for the Lord. Then Mary hears singing in words she doesn’t understand. The voices seem to blend in a different, yet beautiful, harmony.

“This is what Paul meant when he said, ‘I will sing with my spirit,’” whispered Timothy (1 Corinthians 14:15). It brought a strange feeling of peace and rest into Mary’s heart. It felt as if God was right there!

As the sounds fade away the pastor rises to speak. Worship and praise by the congregation prepare them for receiving God’s Word.

A great church leader of the fifth century named Augustine once said, “You have made us, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.” One effect of worship through the Holy Spirit is that people feel God’s presence and find spiritual rest and satisfaction in Him. It’s a rest and satisfaction they can take with them as they go back into the everyday world of work, play, sorrow, and gladness.

Another effect of worship in the Holy Spirit is true freedom or release. As we yield to the Holy Spirit He brings deliverance from fear, worry, resentment, selfishness, hate, and all kinds of emotional hurts. Jesus becomes more precious and real as people worship Him in the Spirit. It also helps them have a greater feeling of unity; for “where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

A third wonderful effect of worship in the Spirit is healing for our bodies. This may be a gradual strengthening, or it could be quite dramatic. Evangelist Hattie Hammond tells of an unusual interruption in one of her meetings. A woman gasping for breath was brought in on a stretcher. A chemical container had exploded in her face, burning and blinding her, and friends had rushed her to the church for prayer. Miss Hammond was about to pray for her, but then she stopped.

Turning to the congregation, she said, “The Lord is telling me to call on everyone to worship Him! Come on, everyone! Worship Him! Worship Jesus!”

What was she doing, telling people to worship instead of praying for the dying woman? But as people responded in praise to the Lord, a wave of worship swept over them. It was the moving of the Holy Spirit! Then suddenly, rising above the sounds of praise, came the sound of another
voice soaring in beautiful song in the Spirit. To her astonishment, Miss Hammond discovered it was coming from the woman on the stretcher! God had healed her completely while people worshiped in the Spirit!

You may never have seen anything quite as dramatic as this, but there is healing quality in true worship in the Spirit. The apostle Paul summarized worship through the Holy Spirit when he said that we “worship God using his Spirit and rejoice in our life in union with Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:3).

As they follow this teaching, churches truly become houses of worship. The church building itself is not the most important. Whether your church is like a beautiful cathedral or just a humble hall, the main purpose of its existence should be for the worship of God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit.

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