Recently I wrote a two part article on Why You Should not go to Church (Part 1, Part 2). If you look at the title without reading the article, you might think that I am suggesting you stay home on Sunday mornings. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Occasionally someone will ask me why it matters whether or not they attend Sunday worship. After all, they can experience Bible study, and fellowship, and perhaps even worship in their small group or campus fellowship. Isn’t that enough? If we are the church, why can’t we experience that without gathering on Sunday morning?
The New Testament Pattern
The first Christians met every day in the temple in Jerusalem or in homes (Acts 2:46). When they gathered, they listened to the teaching of the Apostles, shared a meal including the Lord’s Supper, and spent time in fellowship and in prayer (Acts 2:42).
Soon the church began to meet for worship primarily on Sundays.
On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. (Acts 20:7, ESV)
We sometimes think of Monday as the first day of the week, but it is actually Sunday. The Jewish Sabbath, our Saturday, is the seventh day of the week (Ex. 20:8-11). Paul apparently waited for the Sunday gathering of the church in Troas before he left town (Acts 20:11).
In 1 Corinthians Paul instructs the believers to prepare offerings that he could bring to the poor in Jerusalem. He tells them to set aside their offerings on the first day of the week:
On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. (1 Cor. 16:2, ESV)
It seems that Sunday was their normal day for meeting and giving their offerings.
Near the end of the first century the Apostle John was worshiping God in the presence of the Spirit on the Lord’s day when he received the Revelation:
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet (Rev. 1:10, ESV)
John uses the phrase “the Lord’s day” in a way that assumes it is familiar to his readers. The passage does not say what he did on other days, but apparently even alone in exile he maintained the practice of worshiping on Sundays. One of the earliest Christian documents outside the NT, the Didache, also mentions gathering for worship on the Lord’s day. In the 2nd century, Justin Martyr mentions Sunday worship as a widespread practice.
The Jews worshiped on the Sabbath (our Saturday). For them the Sabbath was a holy day on which they would cease normal activity to rest and focus on God. The first Christians were mostly from a Jewish background, but they switched their primary day of worship to the first day of the week (Sunday) because that is the day on which Christ rose from the dead (Mat. 28:1). For them the holy day for rest and worship was changed from Saturday to Sunday.
Why Sunday Worship Matters
- It is a fact of history that since the time of the Apostles Christians have had their most important meeting of the week on Sunday. What are some of the reasons that Sunday worship is important?
- Sunday morning is the largest and most important gathering of the church family. It is usually the only meeting of the entire church.
Sundays are the primary time, and often the only time, to sing praises to God together as a body.
- Sunday mornings are the primary time for preaching God’s word and usually the main time for teaching and training in Sunday School.
- Sundays are the best time for worship on key Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter, as well as observance of the seasons of Advent and Lent.
- Sunday is the best day for most people to meet. Due to the influence of the Christian faith, on Sundays most schools do not have class and most people do not need to go to work.
- Sundays are the best time to gather with people of all ages and life stages. We need to experience the richness of fellowship with the entire church family, not just our peers.
- To the watching world Sunday morning gatherings are the most easily recognized expression of our faith. They expect to see Christians gathered on Sunday mornings.
Do you see the value of gathering with your Christian brothers and sisters on Sundays? Do you make Sunday worship a priority? Apparently even in the first century, some did not think that it was important to meet together. The writer of Hebrews issues a challenge that is very relevant today:
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 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. (Heb. 10:24–25, ESV)
What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. You can also listen to my sermon on this topic.