When we gather together as a church “family” is that really what it looks like? From an outsiders perspective what do our Sunday morning experiences exhibit or demonstrate? Do we look and act like a family? Do we operate in unity towards accomplishing the same purpose or goal? Or… are we a bunch of individuals gathered in the same place doing roughly the same thing?
What are our corporate gatherings supposed to look like? What about our corporate worship?
Dr. Ed Steele once said,
Congregational worship is more than just a group of individuals having quiet times in the same place. It is the Body of Christ gathered together in unity and diversity centering adoration on the King of kings and Lord of lords and responding in obedience to Him. The emphasis is not on “my personal experience,” but “our obedient response” to His revealed nature and character.
Ralph Martin further drives home that same thought when saying,
The thought that the Church at worship is an accidental convergence in one place of a number of isolated individuals who practice, in hermetically sealed compartments, their own private devotional exercises, is foreign to the New Testament picture.
In a culture that is completely wrapped up “self,” corporate worship is the black sheep. It isn’t meant to be done alone. Personally I believe that it’s important to remember that worship songs are intended to be sung with others!
When speaking of corporate worship Eric Benoy said,
We gather together for corporate worship, a group of people to do something in one accord. If that is the case, then why do some worship leaders today want to make corporate worship a personal experience? It is oxymoronic in a way. If we have gathered intentionally for corporate worship, then should we not then be striving for a corporate offering of praise, adoration, et al and hear from God as a body of believers? We have come together specifically to be the church gathered; to worship and become equipped to be the church scattered.
If our worship isn’t a time for ourselves… then what is it a time for? Obviously it is a time for praising and worshipping our God, but what purposes does it serve for the body of Christ? Let’s think together below.
- It’s time to teach.
As humans we are observant people. Often I can learn more from watching a situation or experience unfold than from being told about it after the fact. Think about it… would you rather read the directions or watch the task being done in order to learn how to take part in it or do it?
What would you say if I told you that your worship isn’t just for you and God?
I would dare to say that while your worship is for God, others also can gain from it. The people who worship alongside you can learn in the same way that you can from merely being around each other while you worship. It is a powerful and natural teaching method!
1 Corinthians 14:26 says,
What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
Colossians 3:16 says,
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
What I find encouraging in these passages is that nobody comes to the table with nothing to give!
1 Corinthians clearly says that each person has something to offer and those offerings will by used for teaching and admonishing each other as we are told in Colossians. Continue to seek God in your worship and you will naturally teach and instruct those around you while doing so… even if you don’t feel like you are adequate to instruct or lead.
- It’s time to learn.
Theodore Roosevelt once said,
You may worship God anywhere, at any time, but the chances are that you will not do so unless you have first learned to worship Him somewhere in some particular place, at some particular time.
As you were growing from childhood to adulthood how did you learn how to handle yourself or behave in public? You observed people all around you doing it… and you were instructed. The same thing can be said about our worship… just like we teach each other (talked about above), we also should be continually learning from each other.
For me it’s not necessarily learning the aesthetics of worship… but rather the heart of worship. By worshipping alongside people you know you learn from their experiences and you share in those things together.
I love the idea that as worshippers we are never not adequate enough to teach through our actions… but also never “advanced” enough to stop learning. Our corporate worship is a give-and-take amongst a community or “body” of believers. We are all learning and all teaching. We are strengthening, up-building, and guiding each other. You worship isn’t just for you, but rather, it serves many purposes.
- It’s time to encourage.
Have you ever just sat back and watched your local congregation worship?
What is amazing isn’t the “professionalism” of the sound… perfect 4 part harmonies with great pitch and tone. It is amazing that worship breaks down the barriers that this world and culture so easily build. People of all races, skin colors, economic classes, social statuses, and backgrounds all come together in the same way before God… unworthy but loved.
If that doesn’t encourage you in your faith then you might want to check your vital signs!
I am encouraged on a weekly basis by the people worshipping around me. I know their stories… their hardships and their victories, and when I see those people humbling themselves before God and crying out in praise to Him I am reminded of how fleeting this life is and how eternal our Savior is. God is bigger than any situation or barrier and congregational worship draws us together to be encouraged by each other in recognizing just how big and great our God truly is.
Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to be encouraged weekly!
- It’s time to fellowship.
Acts 2:42-47 says,
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
What this passage out of Acts shows me is that corporate worship can help us avoid the “me and mine” mentality and can help us see ourselves as Christ sees us. Being mindful that we are part of the Body can also help us avoid delusions of our own importance before God. Stephen Miller said,
We exchange the glory of the Creator for the created and eventually replace God with ourselves. And as we become the object of our own worship, these subtleties start to creep into our worship services. They creep into our songs and the way we interpret and preach Scripture. They creep in as a consumer mentality that says we must bend over backwards to please the consumer Christians who are attending.
By seeing ourselves as the Body of Christ we are not demeaning our personal experience, but rather we are guarding ourselves against an unintentional shift in focus to “our” personal experience rather than on who Christ is and what He as done. If we are not careful the desire to achieve a “personal” worship experience becomes a goal and we miss the object for which the worship should have been directed.
A consumer mentality in our worship can cause us to desire the “experience” more than the “Savior.”
Our worship teaches us our place in the Kingdom of God… as the body and the bride. We come together congregationally to live out those designations as the body and to fellowship in that mutual calling and purpose.
We can even see an example of this “fellowship” and unity in the body of Christ in Matthew 6:9-13 where we are given the “model prayer” or the “Lord’s Prayer.” Look below and take note of the congregational wording where I have added emphasis.
This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive usour debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Worship is personal… but it is also meant to be shared with others in the body.
Ephesians 5:18b-21 lays it out simply by saying,
Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Don’t neglect your church family or congregational worship… but rather delight in it and see it for all that it truly is!