Have you ever said, or heard someone else say, “I don’t need to go to church because I worship God in my own heart (or in nature, etc.)?”
It’s certainly true that worship may be external or internal and formalized rituals are optional. However, most people need the external forms to keep their minds focused on the task at hand – worshipping God. Otherwise, the statement, “I don’t need to go to church….,” becomes nothing more than an excuse for laziness.
We need to be honest with ourselves. We believe we don’t need to go to church. Okay. But are we really taking the time each day or each week to worship God at home, in nature, in our hearts, wherever?
Internal worship is sometimes said to be a higher level of spiritual practice than external worship. This can be true, but again, it depends on our intention and our honesty with ourselves. We must be cautious about moving prematurely into higher levels of practice. If external forms are necessary to keep us dedicated to our practice and honest with ourselves, then we should go with the external forms. As much as we might like to, we cannot skip steps along our journey. If we do, we will eventually find ourselves forced to go back and make up what we bypassed.
Skipping steps on our spiritual journey is like building a house with one or more missing walls.
Everybody needs to nurture the spiritual side of life. We cannot ignore it. We need some kind of relationship with God – otherwise, we have a big, empty space in our life than nothing can ever fill.
Maybe we really need to be in church. Maybe we need to engage in regular forms of religious ritual. Such practices can be important for our spiritual growth at our current place in the journey.
When we are truly ready for more internal forms of worship, we will naturally find ourselves moving in that direction. It doesn’t have to be forced. Higher forms of worship will gradually become available to us. We will build the roof of our house once the foundation and walls are solid.