Years ago, some friends and I were on a ski trip and were feeling particularly excited about Jesus and what He was doing in our lives. We decided that we were going to talk to as many people about Him that day as we could. In all transparency, this is not something I do regularly.
Two of us were on a shuttle when we struck up a conversation with another passenger. At some point in the conversation, we asked him if he had a personal relationship with God. Disgusted by our intrusiveness he responded, “I do have a personal relationship with God but it’s just that, it’s personal. I don’t talk about it with people I just met on a shuttle.”
Whether we were being insensitive or not, his response has stayed with me all these years.
Our relationship with God is indeed a personal one. It’s defined by our own personal choices, not someone else’s. We can access His presence any time and anywhere we like without the need of a mediator other than Jesus. We will stand alone before His throne one day. For all of this, I am thankful.
However, as personal as our relationship with God is, it is not to be kept private. The same goes for worship, which is an integral part of our relationship with Him.
God has designed things in such a way that I can only go so far in Him on my own. We are each called to cultivate a life of prayer and worship that is “in secret” (Matthew 6:6) and in community, “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).
The apostle Paul defines the “why” behind coming together in 1 Corinthians 14. This chapter is the “crown” of a four-chapter section of his letter to the Corinthians dealing with their gatherings. Seven times in this chapter he uses the words, or a variation of it, “build up.”
He reveals his measuring stick for the gathering of believers: Are others being built up? Are they being encouraged? Are they being reminded of who they are? Are they being healed? Are they being filled and empowered? Are they being set free? This is the “why” behind our gatherings. Therefore, it’s also the “why” behind worshiping together.
Like David, we need to know how to build ourselves up in the Lord (1 Samuel 30:6). There is a height, however, that will only be reached in community. The One who dwells in eternal community has designed it this way.
Worship is personal. But it’s not to be kept private. We can only go so far on our own. Let us not neglect worshiping together, as is the habit of some, but let us build each other up and all the more as we see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:25).