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Worship on the Porch or in the Pew?
[Written for the Pine Belt Gospel News]
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D.
Pastor of All Saints' Presbyterian Church, Lancaster, PA www.allsaintspresbyterian.com 


I recently spoke with a young man who said that his personal prayer and Bible study was really more worshipful than getting all dressed up and coming to church on Sunday. Is real worship more on the porch swing or in the pew? Let me be clear, our personal prayer and Bible study is the an absolute must! But this can never replace our congregational worship. Just for a moment let's pull back the veil of our visible world and look to the invisible. The writer of Hebrews says of the congregation,

When believers gather in a congregation, it is like the tip of an iceberg. The biggest part is still under the water. There is a massive unseen spiritual world below the water's surface. We only see Bob and Jane, Steve and Sue, the Smiths, the Jones: we only see the visible church. We look at the wall paper, the carpet, the pulpit, the preacher's mismatched tie and sometimes lose the grand vision of the "church of the first-born."

Earlier in Hebrews, the writer commands "not forsaking our own assembling together" (Heb 10:24). Read the verses which follow this command and you'll see that there is no more serious sin than forsaking the assembly. We should come to the simple acts of prayer, praise, preaching, communion, and so forth with the full knowledge that God is there -- and not only God but "myriads of angels," "the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven" and "the spirits of righteous men made perfect." If we really thought about that on Sunday morning, wouldn't that change the way we sing and pray and listen? Isaac Watts said it so well,

HOW SWEET AND AWFUL IS THE PLACE WITH CHRIST WITHIN THE DOORS,
WHILE EVERLASTING LOVE DISPLAYS THE CHOICEST OF HER STORES.

WHILE ALL OUR HEARTS AND ALL OUR SONGS JOIN TO ADMIRE THE FEAST,
EACH OF US CRY, WITH THANKFUL TONGUES, LORD, WHY WAS I A GUEST?

WE LONG TO SEE THY CHURCHES FULL, THAT ALL THE CHOSEN RACE
MAY, WITH ONE VOICE AND HEART AND SOUL, SING THY REDEEMING GRACE.