Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.
(John 4:23-24 NIV)
For the past several weeks, many Christians have expressed the need to worship God in church, even though many churches are streaming their services online. Nothing can replace the face-to-face worship that happens in church, just like nothing can replace learning in a classroom. But in the midst of this pandemic, I’ve been thinking about what this temporary solution can teach us as the body of Christ.
When a Samaritan woman argued that Mount Gerizim was the right place to worship God, Jesus corrected her: God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth (John 4:20-24). Similarly, when Kind David wanted to build the house of God, the Temple, God reminded him, “I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day” (2 Samuel 7:6). Jesus Himself attended the Temple and the synagogue for worship, so I’m sure He is not discrediting the idea of a physical place of worship. But at the heart of every worship, no matter where we are, should be a right attitude toward God and others.
So I wonder, is this “empty church” situation right now an opportunity to get back to what it really means to worship, to worship “in the Spirit and in truth”, “lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing,” to worship with “a pure heart” (John 4:24; 1 Timothy 2:8; Psalm 51:10)? Sadly, for a long time, our churches have been filled with empty worshippers, people who have only gathered to meet a religious obligation or seek help from the Divine and people who have continued to hold unforgiveness and bitterness, even though they’ve been called to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Let’s empty out the things in our lives that don’t fit who we are as true worshippers, so that our churches can be filled again with the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.