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Why Come Back?

A Reflection by Rev Dr Chua Chung Kai 

Why come back to church? That’s one question I’ve been pondering over the last two years. After all, many of us seemed to be doing quite well with online church during the Circuit Breaker, Heightened Alert, etc. Is there still a need for in-person church? Can’t we just carry on with online church?

Here are my simple reflections two years along as to why I believe we need in-person church.

WORSHIP
Honestly, I found it hard to worship with online church. Yes, my family was with me. Yes, I do sing aloud at times. But somehow it didn’t feel the same. And I discovered I was not alone in this experience. Many whom I spoke with also found it hard to worship online. It’s not that the worship leaders, musicians or worship set was bad. Indeed, they were often excellent. But yet something was missing. What was it?

Then when we were allowed to be back for in-person service, albeit without singing, I found the experience different. Even though we could not sing aloud, just being present with others in the sanctuary, with live worship happening on the stage, I found my spirits lifted. I was not alone. Others came who also needed the presence of another. We needed each other to remind ourselves that we were not alone. There were others who would join me to be present in one place to worship our God. We were created to be part of something larger than ourselves, beyond our families even. What was missing was other people! God had redeemed for Himself a people who would gather to worship Him — we were created to worship Him as a people!

So this week we had our all-staff worship. And for the longest time (two years!), we were allowed to sing. We sang with all our hearts (with masks on) and boy, was it awesome! Our spirits stirred towards our King and His Kingdom. He is coming soon! We, His people, were preparing ourselves — singing aloud in worship as one voice!

So why go to church in-person? I need it! We need it! We are created to worship our Creator as one people together! Indeed, that is our eschatological vision (Rev 7:9–12)!

WITNESS
There is something powerful when people gather. In our pre-pandemic days, crowds gathered for soccer, concerts, National Day, etc. It never really dawned on me that the gathering itself was a testimony to the draw of the event. Most of you would say, ‘Duh?’ Well, I’m a slow learner!

The crowds were a demonstration of the significance of the occasion. So, during the pandemic where crowded events were thinned out and few, I began to notice crowds at certain places on certain days, how cars, motorcycles and bicycles would be parked along roads, with people streaming towards certain places of worship. I thought, wow, what a powerful testimony! What a witness to the significance of their worship!

When we gather regularly (beyond our small groups) as a people at our places of worship, we are bearing witness of the importance of the One who is worshipped. To a watching world, it becomes a powerful witness of our God. Yes, they need not necessarily believe what we believe, but it would stir their hearts to see people who do believe in this God and would make the effort to gather as His people to worship.

So why gather together at church? Our regular gathering is a powerful communal witness to a watching world of the reality of our God!

WELL PLEASING
It pleases our Heavenly Father that His children gather as a spiritual family to worship Him together. In the Old Testament, three times a year, the Lord called His people to come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles (Exo 23:14–17). It’s interesting that Passover has been transformed into the Lord’s Supper and Pentecost has been transformed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as first fruits. We await the transformation of the Feast of Booths when our Lord returns to tabernacle with us! (Zech 14:16)

This gathering of His people to celebrate and enjoy His goodness brings joy to our Father’s heart. This is not to say we can’t please God in other ways (e.g. obedience and yieldedness to Him etc.), but He longs for His children to be one before Him (Jn 17:20 – 23). Worshipping before Him is certainly one way we can demonstrate that.

So why gather together at church? It pleases our Heavenly Father that His children worship as one before Him!

So then, as the Covid situation improves in our land (thank you Lord!) and there is much relaxation of the safe management measures, let us return and gather together as one body at church. We need it! It’s a powerful communal witness and it pleases our Father!

See you in church!
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