The Bible commands God’s people to gather for worship on the Lord’s Day. What about other gatherings, such as Sunday school or midweek Bible studies? Today, Burk Parsons encourages us to maintain right priorities for times of Christian fellowship.
NATHAN W. BINGHAM: Joining me this week on the Ligonier campus is the senior pastor of Saint Andrew's Chapel and the editor of Tabletalk magazine, Dr. Burk Parsons. Dr. Parsons, is it necessary for Christians to attend midweek Bible studies and Sunday schools?
DR. BURK PARSONS: That's a great question, Nathan. As we understand from Scripture, the command and example of Scripture is to gather together as God's people for worship. And that is what we see in the New Testament, exemplified by the Christians in Acts and throughout the Epistles of coming together to worship God. Now we also, of course, see the early Christians in the New Testament gathering together for the breaking of bread, the prayers, discussing and learning the Apostles' teaching and doctrine. We see beautiful pictures in Acts 2 and elsewhere throughout Acts of the church coming together, even gathering together in the colonnades, the outer courts of the temple, to worship and pray and to discuss and even evangelize, likely. But the primary call that we have as Christians is to worship. Midweek Bible studies, Sunday school, and other activities that we can be engaged in as Christians are good things and can be very helpful, especially for new Christians.
I would commend to new believers that they need to very seriously consider being as involved as they are able to be in Sunday school classes and midweek Bible studies and opportunities for discipleship, either one-on-one or small-group discipleship. But one of the things that we need to make sure that we emphasize is Lord's Day worship. That fundamentally is what God calls us to do in a gathered, corporate fashion"coming together, singing together, praying together, confessing together, affirming together, sitting under the ministry of the Word together, and proclaiming His praises together.
As a pastor, I work very, very hard to encourage our people to understand God's command and the example of Scripture to gather together for worship. But anything other than that, as good as it might be, as helpful as it might be to individuals and their families"whether it's Sunday school, whether it's a discipleship opportunity, whether it's a fellowship event in the church, or even Sunday evening worship, all good things, all helpful things"what I have to do is to be very careful not to make anyone feel like they must by God's command, be at those other things in the life of the church, even Sunday evening worship. Now if someone's not been in the morning worship service, then of course we want to see them there in the evening worship service.
But what I must not do, I must not and I cannot create laws where God has not. God has given us His clear direction, and anything beyond that, I need to be very careful. We as pastors and as Christians"as fathers, as we both are, Nathan"we need to be very careful not to put guilt trips on our children, on our wives, on our friends, and on the congregation to be involved in things, to be attending things, as if it's a requirement from God when God has not given such a requirement.
And so, it becomes particularly difficult for some people in hearing this, when we're talking about Sunday evening Lord's Day worship. I've received all sorts of arguments over the years saying, "Well, it's a good thing." Well, of course it's a good thing. And haven't the elders of the church called for this? Well, sure, they've called for it, but they've not called for it as a necessity, as a requirement. We've put Sunday evening worship in place, as we did many years ago. We have Sunday school"which by the way, wasn't invented until the early nineteenth century in England, promoted largely by Robert Rakes to help educate working children so that they could learn to read and eventually learn to read the Bible. But Sunday school, as good as it is, as helpful as it is, as Bible focused as it should be, is not a requirement. And what we need to be careful not to do is to make people feel as if they are.
Too many times in too many churches, we tend to create opportunities, as good as they might be"ministry opportunities, discipleship opportunities, Bible study opportunities, fellowship opportunities, all good things"and then we tend to make people feel guilty if they're not attending all of them. And what sometimes churches can do is busy their people so much, to such a degree, they program them every day, every week, so that people are there constantly and they barely have time to really live and to take care of their families and to be at home with their families and to spend time in family devotion and Bible study and prayer, let alone taking care of widows and orphans and neighbors and family members.
And so, we want to be very careful not to busy our people with things that are good things but are not the primary things. And too often in the church, we can let good things take the place of primary things, so that everything seems like it must be first priority, when in fact, in the church, our first priority is worshiping God. And then, going out from our worship into our communities, into our homes, into our neighborhoods, and living as a light to the world and proclaiming the gospel to our neighbors and our friends and discipling our children at home.
What Is Christ-Centered Preaching?September 21, 2023
How Can I Talk to My Unbelieving Parents about the Gospel?September 14, 2023
What Should We Do If We Sense That We’re Becoming Calloused to a Particular Sin?September 07, 2023
Should Young People Study Theology?August 31, 2023
Is There Something Wrong with Me If I Don’t Feel God’s Presence in My Suffering?August 24, 2023