Worship leaders know all too well the feeling of starting a worship service with the room only half full, sometimes not having the entire congregation in the room until 15-20 minutes into the service. Though we never want to create a culture of guilt, making people feel bad about arriving late, we do, in our fast paced down-to-the-minute schedules, want to encourage our church to fully engage with the entire hour of worship (yes, our services are just 60 minutes long!), and to do so I shared these (hopefully) encouraging words. Let’s remind our people of the importance of corporate worship, from call to worship to benediction!
“Dinner’s ready!” my mom would shout throughout the house. Though we had busy schedules, with two working parents and full-throttle Silicon Valley high school schedules, my family always made time to eat together. TV off, cell phones off (ok, I was in high school before cell phones were a thing). Sometimes it was a home cooked meal, sometimes it was leftovers, but my parents always made time to sit together and eat. Of course, I didn’t appreciate this until I was much older. This regular rhythm of stopping our lives to share a meal and the conversation around the table helped bond our family together. It was a means of grace. That is to say, a little sacrament – an outward sign of an invisible reality. Though I didn’t know it at the time, it showed me with tangible evidence that I had a family, they loved me, provided for me, and supported me, and it was here I could call home.
Worship with the family of God is no different. When we gather on Sunday mornings, we begin a sacred act together. We are reminding ourselves that we are part of God’s family. We are reminding each other that we are beloved children of God. Though each may feel and experience this love in varying degrees, some might be wondering if God is even there, our gathering in solidarity and love for each other is tangible evidence to even the unbeliever among us that God is alive.
There’s something powerful about God’s people worshiping together.
That is why one of the most encouraging times of my week is the first few minutes of our worship services. I love seeing the faces of people singing their hearts out to God. I know that many in the pews are wrestling with the struggles of life, yet show up on Sundays to join their voice with others to boldly (or desperately) proclaim “the Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:7).
There’s something formative about God’s people worshiping together.
There’s a reason we don’t crank the volume to 11 at my church on on Sundays – the voice of the congregation, not the band or the choir, is the most important! As we sing rich lyrics, read from God’s word aloud together, or even pray in collective silence, God is using all of this to shape our hearts to love Him more. As we learn and re-learn songs together, I hope the words echo in your mind throughout the week, etching God’s promises on your heart as you remember a lyric or verse. Even more than a specific lyric, I hope you remember the feeling of being surrounded by fellow Christ-followers that sing over you God’s Good News – that Jesus is Lord and we are beloved children of God. Without the body it’s easy to forget who we are, and where we’re going. The church, the body of Christ, supports us all.
There’s something essential about God’s people worshiping together.
In an age of live-stream sermons and online churches, it might be easy to think that church is about what we get out of it. We want to feel encouraged and inspired, and rightly so. But maybe there’s someone really struggling and seeing you there worshipping God alongside them would encourage them. Maybe you are the encourager and inspirer for another person. For me, there is nothing more encouraging that reminds me that God is real than hearing a full congregation singing their hearts out to God. Whatever kind of week I had is washed away as I remember that God, through His church, is at work. We are in this together.
To fully grasp the powerful, formative, and essential nature of communal worship, let’s commit as a church to enjoying the full hour of worship together. Let’s be a church that makes this a priority, and see how the Spirit uses our commitment to strengthen the body. Plan to arrive before the service begins. You might find that by coming a bit early you are able to settle down and prepare to hear from God. Then we will be fully present to join our voices with others as we experience together a foretaste of Heaven.
It’s hard to begin a meal with half of the family missing. It’s hard to start our services with the sanctuary half-full. We want you to be there, not for our own sake, but for the whole church to be encouraged and energized as we begin our Sunday feast. Worshiping together is powerful, formative, and essential. Don’t miss it!
from The Valley of Vision
A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions
O My Lord,
May I arrive where means of grace cease
and I need no more to fast, pray, weep, watch,
be tempted, attend preaching and sacrament;
where nothing defiles,
where there is no grief, sorrow, sin, death,
separation, tears, pale face, languid body,
aching joints, feeble infancy, decrepit age,
peccant humours, pining sickness,
griping fears, consuming cares;
where is personal completeness;
where the more perfect the sight
the more beautiful the object,
the more perfect the appetite
the sweeter the food,
the more musical the ear
the more pleasant the melody,
the more complete the soul
the more happy its joys,
where is full knowledge of thee.
Here I am an ant, and as I view a nest of ants
so dost thou view me and my fellow-creatures;
But as an ant knows not me, my nature,
so here I cannot know thee clearly.
But there I shall be near thee,
dwell with my family,
stand in thy presence chamber,
be an heir of thy kingdom,
as the spouse of Christ,
as a member of his body,
one with him who is with thee,
and exercise all my powers of body and soul
in the enjoyment of thee.
As praise in the mouth of thy saints is comely,
so teach me to exercise this divine gift,
when I pray, read, hear, see, do,
in the presence of people and of my enemies,
as I hope to praise thee eternally hereafter.