Human nature remains fairly constant through the ages. Though outward trappings may differ from one era to the next, the souls inside the skin bear remarkable resemblance to one another. This is one reason the Bible is universally applicable.
Ours is not the first age that values “alone time.” We must be around others in many settings of our lives. When it comes time to worship, why not do it alone? After all, isn’t religion all about God and me?
Moses addressed that issue when outlining acceptable worship for Israel. Consider these instructions: “And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide …” (Deuteronomy 14:23, NKJV). This command constituted a hardship for those who lived a great distance away. Were distant worshipers exempted from this regulation?
“But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe … then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses” (Deuteronomy 14:24,25). The money thus gained from the sale would be used to purchase suitable offerings once the traveler reached God’s designated place of worship.
It seems clear from such instructions that God values community worship. Though people are tempted to nurture a relationship with God in isolation from others, that has never been God’s desire. Even when worship was conducted in only one earthly location, the Lord still commanded his people to come together.
Has anything changed since the days of Moses? Some things have. We live under a different covenant, one that makes no mention of animal sacrifices or annual pilgrimages to selected locations. But when worship is discussed in the new covenant, God still expects worshipers to assemble.
“Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread,” Luke wrote in Acts 20:7. He recorded for our instruction the practice of the earliest Christians. “Therefore when you come together in one place” Paul wrote as he gave instructions regarding the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20). There is an underlying assumption in the epistles that Christians will come together to offer their worship to God.
Some, however, demurred from the standard. They chose not to gather when other Christians did. The following words address their attitude: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
It would be much simpler if we could eliminate troubling relationships with others and focus only on God in our worship. But that’s not God’s way. There is value in coming together as a family. Those who seek to practice solo religion miss those benefits. They also violate the will of the one they claim to worship.