The Christian faith focuses greatly on doctrine. We are pressed from an early age to memorize scripture and Bible stories, regurgitating them periodically.
Of course, hiding God’s Word in your heart is absolutely vital to the faith, but we have ignored a major aspect of Christianity. Practices—what we actually do with our bodies and our minds—shape who we become.
You are what you do. If you steal someone’s car, you are a thief. If you give away lots of money, you are a philanthropist. Many people believe it’s the other way around: “I must be a certain way before I do a certain thing.” I have found this viewpoint to be false.
Here’s a personal example. I constantly pray for God to relieve me of my anger, as if I expect him to magically wipe away all ill feelings. But that doesn’t happen. Rather, sitting down with people, physically engaging with them, smiling, saying kind things and putting into practice what I want to achieve helps me to be less angry. What I do shapes who I am.
Of course, there’s a downside to this principle. If I sit in front of media for hours and hours a day, the values of this world may begin to influence me. Like a sponge, we could easily soak up the sinful principles and become “of the world,” as John 15 says.
Rather, we should use our time to engage in everyday practices that God can use to mold us. As such, I think communal worship is powerfully transformative and—dare I say it—necessary to one’s faith.
A popular message in progressive Christianity has been the mantra of “I love Jesus, but hate church.” Many proclaim that the institutional church has become a perversion of God’s intention, so they abandon it altogether. Even the willing seem to think that going to church is something you do just when you have free time.
Corporate worship is a fundamental aspect of Christian faith for many reasons, but mainly because it is a practice that uses your time for God. Personal, private worship is incredibly transformative as well—time in the Word, time in prayer. But being a part of a group, living out these lessons in the context of a kinship, committing yourself to the accountability of others, is essential as well.
I implore you, brothers and sisters in Christ, to not put these practices on the back burner of your faith. Giving to others, sharing your faith, reading the Word, attending church… All of these are important to God and to you.
Next time you’re feeling spiritually drained, wanting to be a better Christian, remember that you are what you do.