The freedom of religion is not primarily concerned with private devotion but rather that of public worship. It is a display of the freedom of conscience which, if removed to merely the privacy of silence, becomes a privation of faith which results in a practical, if not literal, atheism.
To be human is to be called. But called to what? Gathered for what? The congregation gathers in response to a call to worship, which is the fundamental vocation of being human. God is calling out and constituting a people who will look “peculiar” in this broken world because they have been called to be renewed image bearers of God (Gen. 1: 27–28)—to take up and reembrace our creational vocation, now empowered by the Spirit to do so. So this is not just a call to do something “religious,”something to be merely added to our “normal”life. It is a call to be( come) human, to take up the vocation of being fully and authentically human, and to be a community and people who image God to the world. This call to worship is an echo of God’s word that called humanity into being (Gen. 1: 26–27); the call of God that brought creation into existence is echoed in God’s call to worship that brings together a new creation (2 Cor. 5: 17). And our calling as “new creatures”in Christ is a restatement of Adam and Eve’s calling: to be God’s image bearers to and for the world. (pg 162)
The Call To Worship is itself an invocation, challenging us to keep our sacred bond to worship and honor the Lord. It also performs a raison d’être with tremendous illocutionary power, being an aural distinction between the sacred and the secular. It’s a concrete proclamation of the importance of the Lord’s Day and the Divine Service as a point of particular covenant participation contained within the Lord’s Day. It also provides clarity in maintaining the distinction between the Lord’s day by enunciating the primary activity of the Divine Service and the common days of labor.
And in contradistinction to the privacy of the prayer closet, Christian worship — whose content, when participated in, makes us Christian — is a public proclamation, a practice before others, a performance of the kingdom to come before a world in broken covenant with God. It is never less than that. To attempt to reduce it to simply a silent conscience is to misunderstand the gospel, a gospel that only operates as a public declaration of salvation to all who HEAR, BELIEVE and CONFESS.
Christianity is nothing less than the public worship of the triune God. To reduce it to merely a private affair that is not allowed to have a formative function upon our public/secular ethics and inform our moral logic is to make it of no account and render the principle of freedom of religion down to a paper tiger.
And because Christianity runs from the individual to the corporate, from the private to the public. It isn’t something that is done independently and privately but rather is an identity that only gains meaning and content in the public eye as a corporate practice, in the thick of the life of the community. In short, if our neighbor cannot see and cannot hear that we are Christians, then perhaps we are not.