Theology professor Philip Kenneson of Milligan College notes several ways in which gathering for worship is a formative experience.
Learning to glorify and enjoy God
Our gathering is never on our own initiative. As God’s people, we are responding to God’s call to share in God’s own life. We are brought together “to embody before the world God’s deepest desires for all creation.” This gathering is itself an act of worship.
Learning to pay attention
The age we live in is characterized by distraction. As a remedy, worship spaces direct attention to such features as the cross, altar, pulpit, and font. Believers are thus drawn “out of their private and narcissistic worlds” into “the cosmic arena of God’s reconciling purposes.” Prayer, especially at the start of worship, “invites us to attend to the desires of God and make those desires our desires.”
Learning to speak truthfully
Contemporary life is full of deception. In worship we speak truthfully about God and truthfully to God. By word and action we declare God to be “the axis around which all life revolves.” Repeating this declaration forms us personally and collectively. Thus we place ourselves at odds with the surrounding world. God’s universal drama becomes our context. We relinquish tired idolatries and embrace forgiveness and new opportunities.
Learning a good orientation
Worship supports a certain orientation that includes dependence. We are never autonomous or independent of God or each other, but depend on gifts God gives for the life of the world. We are not self-made; our lives have a transcendent purpose. For these reasons, our orientation includes humility. We wait upon God in trust and hope.
By gathering we honor the One who offers us a future and demonstrate willingness to be shaped for that future.