“On the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom” (Luke 4:16).
This detail from Luke’s report of Jesus’ busy schedule reveals our Lord’s desire to meet with the people of the community for worship. They offered their prayers together to the Father in heaven. They gathered to sing psalms, to give and to hear the scriptures read and explained. In short, Jesus made worship with other people a priority.
Certainly he did not need to be taught the scriptures. What infinite patience he must have had as he might have sat listening to bad preaching by unschooled country rabbis! Did he who had heard the music of heaven cringe when the singing by the townspeople of Nazareth was off-key? Yet here he was Sabbath day after Sabbath day giving himself to the community of faith and giving himself to God in worship.
News reports tell of the increase in the number of citizens in the U.S. who describe themselves as “nones” when asked in surveys about their religious affiliation. “NRI” (no religion indicated) appears more and more frequently these days in descriptions of the population in post-Christian America.
We have known for a long time about the research of sociologists such as Robert Putnam who chronicled the decline in American civic involvement. Along with the decline the number of people who sign petitions, join civic clubs, read newspapers, attend political meetings and write letters is a corresponding decline in the percentage of the population who attend church regularly. Even among attenders, church-hopping has become a trend, representing a decline in church loyalty. There is more of a market-driven mentality toward religious experience.
This was not Jesus’ attitude toward worship. When he was in Nazareth, he attended synagogue there. The people knew him. This was where he had been brought up. When he traveled, he attended synagogue wherever he happened to be. It was his habit, his custom, his regular practice as an observant Jew.
Anyone who wants to be identified as a follower of Jesus will desire what he desired and try to live as he lived. Jesus spent much time in private prayer, and so should we. But there is no substitute for meeting for worship with others who share the same Christian faith. This is increasingly important as our society drifts from its spiritual moorings and biblical foundations. Corporate worship within the fellowship of a healthy church is a source of strength, guidance, comfort and hope.
“Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
Pastor Randy Faulkner