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Corporate Worship - Participating in Corporate Worship Print E-mail
Corporate Worship

I.  Introduction:

 Last week I made some suggestions for how to prepare for corporate worship.  They were things that we could do before we come in and sit down in our pew.  Building upon that, tonight we want to talk about what we can do once we do get here.  Keeping in mind the implications that we identified from the Bible, how can we faithfully participate in corporate worship?  I simply want to make some suggestions tonight and I would love to hear your thoughts as well.

II.  Suggestions for Participating in Corporate Worship:

 A.  Think hard on the truth that we are celebrating and responding to: We noted from John 4 the importance of spirit and truth in our worship.  We also looked at last week the importance of preparing our hearts and minds by meditating on the truth before we come.  So then, once we get here, how do we worship in truth (John 4:23-24)?  We must be intentional and disciplined with our thoughts.  It is easy to be thinking about a conflict at work, a sporting event, lunch, what you and others are wearing, etc.  All of these and more crowd in on our mind as we gather to worship.  To try and stop thinking about these things is like trying to get air out of an empty glass: the best approach is to fill the glass with something else.  Thus, let your mind be filled with the truth that is being proclaimed.  

 What does this look like practically?  First, when we are singing songs, pay attention to what is being said.  If you have to stop singing at times to try and understand the words, then that is alright (of course, at some point, you should join back in!).  If you need to take a hymnal home to look at some of the songs that we regularly sing to be more familiar with them, then please feel free to do that.  Likewise, you can always take the chorus sheets home.  I guess we could add this to how to better prepare.  Pay attention to the truth of the words as you are singing.  Let your mind be filled with their contemplation.  Second, focus on the truth of God’s Word as it is read for our ‘call to worship.’  Again, we do this intentionally.  From the beginning, we want our minds to be turned to what God has said to us in His Word.  Third, take note of the connections between the songs we are singing, the call to worship, and the passage that will be preached.  Of course, this means that you will need to have already looked at the passage we are going to preach.  But think through how these are related and what they teach together.  Fourth, pray along with those who are leading us in prayer.  Listen to what they are saying and engage with them.  Fifth, take notes if that helps you concentrate during the sermon.  I know that it is easy for our minds to wander when someone is speaking, thus, taking notes can really help.  Finally, when we take communion, let whatever the passage teaches us about Christ and His work at the cross be central in your thinking.  As Jesus instructs us in 1 Corinthians 11: Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me (v. 25).  Let your minds be focused on remembering the Lord as you come to the table.

 I know this may seem like a lot, but by being intentional and disciplined in our thinking, we can worship the Lord in truth.  Likewise, we can hopefully avoid the distracting thoughts that so easily steal our minds away.  So then, think hard on the truth as we worship.

 B.  Sing like you mean it: I am not sure exactly how to say this, but we need to be passionate in our singing before the Lord.  I see this as part of the command to worship the Lord in spirit (John 4:23-24).  We need to be lifting our voices together and singing the praise of our God.  As you all know, I am a firm believer in singing loudly.  Granted, I do not think that loud singing is absolutely necessary or that you are in sin if you do not reach a certain decibel level, but I do encourage you to sing out.  Why?  First, the passages we looked at (particularly those from the Psalms) encourage this.  Second, it can be encouraging to others, which is one of the primary purposes of worship.  Now of course, some of you are thinking, ‘If I sing out, then people will actually be discouraged.’  But I disagree with you.  Sure, we don’t all have great voices, or even good voices, but there is something about all those voices (good and not so good) coming together that is uplifting.  Thus, I encourage you to sing with all your heart.

 C.  Respond vocally and physically: We pointed this out in several of the texts that we looked at but it bears repeating: corporate worship involves a physical response.  This could include several things: saying ‘amen’ at times, lifting hands, shouting ‘hallelujah’, bowing down, dancing, clapping, etc.  These are appropriate and should be a part of our regular participation.  Yes, they must be done decently and with order, but they should be done.  Again, we do these things to express our worship to God and to encourage others.  They can demonstrate that we are participating.  Of course, this can be abused (people lifting hands or saying ‘amen’ to draw attention to themselves) but these abuses do not mean that they are inappropriate ways to corporately worship our God.  Physical and vocal expression is part of corporate worship.

 D.  Use your gifts for the edification of the Body: Paul makes this point in 1 Corinthians 12-14.  The Corinthians were misusing the gift of tongues and Paul writes to correct them.  He does not tell them to stop using their gifts.  Rather, he encourages them to use their gifts in a way that will edify the Body of Christ.  They are to be used with understanding and not confusion.  They are to be used in order and not in chaos.  Nevertheless, they are to be used for the edification of the Church.  Thus, I encourage you to use your gifts here.

 Perhaps that still makes you uncomfortable.  I understand this because I struggle with it as well.  But you know what has helped me so much in my thinking about this?  1 Corinthians 13.  I love you guys and I know that you love me.  I want you to grow in your maturity and I believe that you want me to grow as well.  I want you to be encouraged and edified each week as we gather to worship and I believe that you want the same for me and the same for each other.  Therefore, I am not so afraid.  I know that we will make mistakes.  I know that things will happen that will need to be corrected.  I know that things will be said that will need to be corrected.  But that is just part of learning and growing and worshipping together.  I wish I could tell you that we will have it all figured out in a couple of years, but that would be a lie.  I believe we will continue to struggle in these aspects of worship until Jesus comes, just as we struggle with the other aspects of worship and Church.  But if we love the Lord and love His Word and love each other, then I believe that He will grant us grace and guidance.  So use your gifts for the edification of the Body. 

 E.  Eat the bread and drink the cup: This perhaps goes without saying, but I want to mention it.  I encourage you to participate in the ordinance of communion each week as we gather to worship.  This brings up a whole host of questions, but the one I have in mind is should a believer ever refuse to eat and drink.  My understanding of 1 Corinthians 11 leads me to answer that question ‘no’ (you can go back and look at my teaching on that).  If you have sin, then confess and trust that God is faithful and just to forgive you.  Sin should not keep us from the Table but drive us to it.  So then, examine yourselves and confess your sins and consider others and eat the bread and drink the cup.

III.  Conclusion:

 Let me close with a question that reflects what I am driving at: do you view Church as a ‘come and listen’ event or a ‘go and participate’ one.  I fear that numerous factors have led a good majority of people to choose the former.  Yet, from our study of the text, it sure seems that the latter is the biblical call.  We are to participate each week in the worship of God.  Attendance is not enough.  We need to engage.  We need to hear what God is speaking to us and we need to respond appropriately.  Our hope and prayer is to worship God as He desires, namely in spirit and in truth.  May He grant us the grace to do just that.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 01 December 2009 )

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