First Thing First
Every successful individual and community has one thing in common: they do the first thing first. Then what is the first thing that a church should do first? That is Worship!
Worship is the time when we confess that God is worth for our life and commitment (worth-ship). We confess that God is the king and ruler of our daily lives and the whole life. We give ourselves and our time and our money and our talent. Worship is the best practice of self-surrender. Worship is the best time for lifting up God’s holy name.
How about mission and ministry? They are important also. How about fellowship and education? They are integral part of church life. We need them all for our wholistic church communal life. However, we have to do the first thing first, if we want to be an effective and thriving church.
If I am allowed to use an analogy, imagine a tree. A healthy and growing tree (a church) will bear fruits (mission and ministry). However, before it bears fruits, it should grow. Before it grows its branches, it should grow its root. When we sow seeds or plant a tree, the first thing that the new life would do is to put the root firmly in the ground (worship). That is the foundation. After it has strong foundation, it will have trunk (fellowship), branches (education), leaves (mission), and finally fruits (evangelism).
Some would argue that our church should care for the poor and needy first. Yes and No. Yes, we should care for the poor and needy. No, we should care for them after we worship God, first. Some would say that God is found in the poor and needy. Yes, but we have to worship God before we open our eyes and see that God is among the poor and needy.
There are many social agencies and government workers who can do much better job in helping those people than the church. They major in helping them. They study and make laws. They are experts. Sometimes, we have big heart but small brain and waste our resources. Instead of helping people, we ruin their lives with good intentions. Helping others needs professional knowledge and skills. That is the reason why colleges and government have special department and agencies to help them through experts’ hands.
Don’t get me wrong. Churches should help the poor and needy. But first we have to worship God. The better way how the church can help the poor and needy is to be a partner with those social agencies and government. They do not worship God. They separate politics and religion. That is right. We also do not involve in direct politics. We do not involve into direct policy making. We worship God and we raise the disciples of Jesus Christ to transform the world. The disciples that we raise would go into the politics, business world, academic world, and into all areas of our society to transform the world.
We worship God. We transform people in the worship because people are transformed in the worship. Those who want to commit suicide change their minds. Those who want to divorce decide to restore their loving relationship through forgiveness and reconciliation. Those who lost the meaning of their lives discover the meaning and direction of their lives. These things happen when people genuinely encounter God through worship, Bible Study, and fellowship with other Christians. We cannot measure the impact of these changes. They are priceless.
In this sense, every moment in our life is worship time. However, we need separate public worship. Why? Well, couples love their spouses all the time but they need special time for the couples only. Same principle can be said about worship. We worship God all the time but we need separate time to worship God. Also, we need the best worship building and church facilities. Some argues that we can worship God everywhere. That is true. However, let me ask you a question. Then why do you need a master bedroom for a couple? You can make love everywhere! Same principle is applied to our worship. We can worship God everywhere but we need a special place for our public worship and we should keep the place holy. That is why we need the best facilities for the best God! God deserves more than our best.
As I said already, do not get me wrong. We need mission and evangelism. That would be the ultimate fruit and goal for our worship. We have to help others in need. However, without root, we can have harvests only once or twice. If we want continuing harvests every year, we have to take care of our root. Then we have to preserve our trunk. We have to continuously take care of our church members so that they can branch out and bear fruits. If a hospital is good at helping the poor and needy and not good at curing people, we would say that the hospital is in serious trouble. If a university professor is good at taking care of the poor and needy around the university and does not publish any academic articles for years, people would say that the professor is in serious problem. Everybody has to do the first thing first.
Let us worship God with all our hearts and minds and strength! Let us have genuine fellowship among the fellow Christians. Let us raise our Christian leaders among our next generations. Then we will have enough people who will help the poor and needy in the best effective way possible in the world. May God be glorified through our worship!