As a younger Christian I would often attend weekend worship services with an expectation of how I would be able to engage with God in a private way, expressing my heart to Him individually in song, receiving the preaching of the Word with an application specific to my life, and responding to the Holy Spirit with a personal conviction. I would hope the lights were dimmed and the music was loud so I could tune out the room and really experience a powerful, personal time with the Lord. I totally missed sight of one of the main reasons why we gather – to worship the Lord together as a community. That communal perspective is a strength of the Church and a total rarity within our culture. It offers so many unique opportunities that individualized experiences can’t fulfill. Here are just a few:
Sorry if that sounds like Captain Obvious, but just take a moment to ponder what being together could mean in our worship services. What can we accomplish with each other that we can’t do alone? Often times we’ll sing songs in personal pronouns and strive to create an atmosphere that helps us shut out the room while seeking an intimate time with God. These moments can happen in many other places, but our weekend worship services are the one time in the week we’re all together. How can we take full advantage?
We share stories
Each member of the congregation has a unique area of influence in the city, whether that’s a stay at home mom, a construction worker, or a CEO of a major corporation. God has given us each a unique purpose and a unique mission and we all have important roles to play. Each week there are great stories that develop as we partner with Jesus in His work. Those stories can encourage, inspire, and unite us. They give is pieces of the big picture – God’s kingdom work. How can we create a culture in our services that allow some of those day-to-day stories to be shared?
We think outside of ourselves
All throughout the week our culture pushes hard for us to look inward. We live in an egocentric society. That’s what makes Christianity so distinctive and refreshing – we’re free from having to carry the burden of being self-centered. What other environments in our community allow people the opportunity to take their eyes off of themselves and set their focus on Jesus and on others? We get to experience this on a weekly basis. Can we shape our worship by choosing songs that
We collaborate for the kingdom
Every time we gather we represent a variety of pieces of the puzzle of God’s work in the community. Everyone plays a part and all of the individual parts somehow fit together. Perhaps the relationships we develop and the connections we make during a weekend service have a purpose in contributing toward the larger work of community transformation?
We model prayer
Many pastors I talk with express that one of the greatest areas of necessity in their congregation is the need to model prayer. In most of our churches we have lots of opportunities to demonstrate how to study the Word. There tends to be a lack of comfort praying out loud with a number of people and prayer training can spend much of its focus on personal times of prayer – those times when no one else is around. A lot of the prayer experienced in Biblical times was corporate. In Luke 11 the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray as a response to watching Him pray. And when Jesus taught them how to pray He used a corporate prayer as His example. Our weekly worship services give us a great opportunity to model prayer to the broader body and practice powerful prayer together. And music is one of the awesome tools we have available to help teach people to pray. A large number of songs in our worship repertoire are prayers put to music. Simple direction from the stage can go a long way reminding people that when we sing the songs we’re engaging in prayer. Also, minor adjustments, like changing personal pronouns in the music to corporate lyrics, can really help your congregation to experience the community aspect of the prayers being sung.