July 21, 2022

What Is the Purpose and Benefit of Gathering for Corporate Worship?

Nathan W. Bingham & Harry Reeder
What Is the Purpose and Benefit of Gathering for Corporate Worship?

Why is it so important for the church to gather together for corporate worship? Today, Harry Reeder explains Scripture’s teaching about gathered worship as not only an obligation but also a delightful privilege.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: We’re recording live from Ligonier’s 2022 National Conference, and I’m joined by the senior minister of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. Harry Reeder. Dr. Reeder, what is the purpose and/or benefit of gathering for corporate worship?

DR. HARRY REEDER: Well, clearly there are three words for church in the Bible. There’s the word that I think it’s only used three times, [kyriakon], which the Scots get the word, kirk, we transliterated into English as church. But that focuses on the facility. The other words, ekklesia, they’re the ones called out, and sunagoge, those are the ones called together. And so, there is the called-out ones are called together. And we have a command in Scripture, “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together” (Heb. 10:25).

Now, I can start listing biblically, psychologically, emotionally, practically, all the benefits that the church meets together. But I really don’t need to. If God commanded it, there must be a reason. He doesn’t do things arbitrary. He does them on purpose in terms of how He created us, how He saves us, and how He sustains us. So, there must be something very clearly in place about meeting together.

The Lord’s Supper, for instance—during the pandemic, we did not administer the Lord’s Supper by virtual streaming because five times in the text it says in 1 Corinthians 11, “When you come together,” “When you meet together” (1 Cor. 11:17–34). It’s a gathered assembly. You can send worship out for people to look at and participate in from a distance, but you still haven’t worshiped in the fullness until you’ve gathered together. The means of grace are not only vertical, they’re horizontal. We’re not only making melody in our hearts to God, we’re speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. And so, you need those means of grace that are vertically focused but horizontally experienced with one another made in the image of God, so that we are members one of another, all those “one of another” texts.

Well, I would just mention one other thing to support it. Up until a couple of hundred years ago, in my tradition where I serve the Lord from conviction, the Presbyterian church, if you had gone to one of their buildings, it would not have been called the church. It would’ve been called the meeting place. A guy called me one time and said, “Can you tell me where your church is?” I have this kind of weird sense of humor. I call it sanctified irony. My wife calls it sinful sarcasm. But I couldn’t help myself. I said, “No, I don’t have the slightest idea.” He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, some of my church is on an airplane. Some of it’s at the mall. Some of it’s at school. Some of it’s in a home.” He said, “No, no, I’m talking about your church.” I said, “Well, I’m talking about the church.” I said, “Oh, I know what you’re asking me. You’re asking me for the place where my church meets. That’s what you’re asking me.”

That’s why it was called the meeting place. And so, the church, it’s not, “Here’s the church. Here’s the steeple. Open the door. There’s the people.” The people gathered are the church and the called-out called-together ones. It’s fine for us to have a place to meet that has architecture conducive to our theology, and conducive to our worship, and conducive to discipleship. But that’s not the church. That’s the meeting place. And so, I think clearly the weight in the Scripture is the meeting together. That’s why facilities are used. They facilitate worship. Worship is done by the gathered assembly.

Remember the woman at the well? She says, “Where do we worship?” She was asking location. He said, “No, no, it’s the ‘we’ that are worshiping. Worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:19–24). It’s how you worship together. She wasn’t talking about lifestyle worship individually, whether you eat or drink or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). She was talking about gathered worship, and that’s what Jesus was telling us.

Let me put it this way. The Bible says that John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10). Now, what does that mean? Well, the Spirit is always in him every day, but there’s something about being in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I think that is the special presence of the Spirit in the gathered assembly of God’s people when they meet to give Him worship on the Lord’s Day.