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Gather in Worship

By Andrew Goins

Watauga CountyAndrew Goins


“Gather to me my faithful ones,

    who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”

~Psalm 50:5-6

I attended a panel discussion at a church where people asked my professors questions about theology, biblical studies, and the future of the church. The pastor of the church named the event “stump the professor”. The attendants marched into the room armed with clever questions, wearing sly smirks that betrayed a sincere hope that they would ask THE question that would render my professors speechless. Their questions were fascinating: “Why does God allow suffering?” “What is the nature of heaven and hell?” and “How would you summarize predestination in one sentence?” My professors reframed the questions, prefaced their answers, extrapolated their answers, and elaborated on their extrapolated answer until the inquirer was bored or the inquiry exhausted. The tedious responses lulled some folks into another hazy world, but I giddily sat on the edge of my seat like I was watching “Saving Private Ryan” for the first time.

Near the end of the panel discussion, someone asked “Do I have to go to church?” “Yes!” One of my professors practically interjected. The crowd reacted with chuckles and nervous snickers. His answer bypassed an exhausting preface and leaped to a dogged response because that is what this question demanded.

The question is shaped by the American individualism curriculum taught by Professor Thoreau. Willful dependence and dutiful service in the life of the church are poor substitutes for self-reliance and self-service in the solitudinous life on Walden Pond. Deliberate submission and the discipline of obedience in the life of the church are beggarly replacements for self-sovereignty and self-made autonomy in life on Walden Pond. Americans are smitten with the gospel of individualism, and the dreamy life on Walden Pond, though the metaphor of Walden Pond is a bit dusty.

Our contemporary walden ponds are the golf courses, workplaces, and gyms. The golf course teaches us to escape from the hellish world. Our workplace disciples us in the art of people-pleasing. Our gym coaches us in the system of reward and punishment. It is at our Walden ponds that we learn how to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps so that we can return to the weak world with character and calluses, grit, and bloated egos.

Our walden ponds teach us to think in the first person singular. There is one person responsible for my golf score. There is one person responsible for my promotion. There is one person responsible for my picturesque physique—me.

Yet, life in the church requires us to think in the first person plural—we. The church helps me gather the gumption to throw down my golf clubs and pick up my hymnal, where I learn my particular voice within the harmony of God’s people.

You are made to sing. You are made with a voice that is distinct and different. The church is God’s orchestra, where Christ conducts the melody of salvation; the Oboe plays what the violin can’t; the violin plays what the cello can’t; the flute plays what the clarinet can’t. As a violin or a viola, a bassoon, or a bass drum, you have a voice that is particular and peculiar. You were made to sound forth the melody of salvation within the orchestra of God’s people in a way that only you can do.

We were not created to be the metaphorical Paul McCartney’s and John Lennon’s; we were made to be the Beatles. Your particular and peculiar voice was created to harmonize, converse with, and play off of the voices of God’s people. We gather to play with Bach’s boomingness as we defiantly proclaim “Christ is risen!” We gather to play with the somberness and sobriety of Brahms as we confess our sins to the almighty God. We gather to play with the vitality of Vivaldi, for we are forgiven, cleansed, and pardoned in Jesus’ name.

My professor responded doggedly because gathering to worship the risen Lord is what humans are made for and saved for. We gather to worship Jesus, where we scrub off American individualism. We gather to worship Jesus, where we learn to participate in the kingdom economy of receiving gratefully and giving richly. We gather to worship Jesus, where we learn our particular voice within the collective voice of God’s people.

June 16th, at MacRae Meadows, from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, there is an event called “Singing on Grandfather”. It is a one-century-old event that is native to Grandfather Mountain. It is an event where you can find your particular voice during the old-time music, delicious food, and chatty fellowship. I invite you to come.


Andrew Goins is on staff for a campus ministry at Appalachian State University called Ratio Christi. He also works as a youth leader and worship leader at Arbor Dale Presbyterian Church in Banner Elk.

Andrew is committed to simply and thoroughly loving his wife Bethany, growing in his bible nerdiness, delighting in good books (theology, poetry, and select fiction), music, photography, creation, and in gathering people together for bible studies, a shared meal, or making music.

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