Many of us were raised to attend church service on Sunday. On the other hand, many were not. Those of us who were understand how important it is because that mindset was instilled in us by our parents, guardians, or others who loved us and were concerned for our future – spiritual and otherwise.
I was raised in the church, but I can admit that growing up, I did not understand many things associated with church attendance. For me, it was just “church attendance.” Yes, I was part of Sunday School, prayer meetings, youth activities, etc. There were so many loving and caring people in the church who poured into me, whose shoulders I still stand on as I walk out my purpose. But there were still things that I just “did” but had no deeper understanding of it.
Psalm 35:18 talks about giving thanks among the congregation. Today I will share three aspects of congregational worship that we may not have thought about. For years, I “went to church”, but never thought about the deeper things I’m about to share with you here. They made me think, and I pray they will transform your thinking, as well as your approach to church attendance.
In Bob Sorge’s book, Exploring Worship, he gives three aspects of congregational worship that I had never thought about; the vertical aspect, the horizontal aspect, and the inward ramifications. I hope you grow with these as I did.
First, there is the vertical aspect. This is when we are ministering to the Lord. This should be our focus when we come into the worship service. If we have come with the attitude, “Lord, bless me,” then we have missed our real purpose of gathering together. We gather to bless the Lord! If we come with this goal in mind, then the blessings that we seek will follow (Matthew 6:33). The question should not be whether I got blessed, but whether God was glorified. Our goal in worship should not be what we can get from God, but rather, what can we give Him? If we bless God with the right motives, then He in turn will bless us! And speaking of motives, there is a passage of scripture in Proverbs that says, in essence, all of man’s ways are right I his own eyes, but god weights the motives (Proverbs 16:2). To take that a step further, we see in I Chronicles 28 where David was admonishing his son Solomon on following fully the commandments of God, David told his son in verse 9 that God knows every imagination of the thoughts. God knows what is in our hearts as we attempt to worship Him. God, in His omniscience knows what is in our thoughts as we come before Him. Coming into the worship service is not about the choir, the worship leader, or the Pastor – it’s not even about you! It’s all about God! His Word says we should “enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. (Psalm 100).
The second aspect of congregational worship is the horizontal aspect, meaning how we, as members of the congregation relate to one another during the worship service. We engage in the horizontal aspect to enhance the sense of unity within the Body. When we begin to let our guard down and really open up to the Lord, we realize how much a part of each other we really are. A strong bond cannot be developed among people who have erected walls of self-protection around themselves. Our fear of becoming vulnerable holds us back from being open before God; i.e., what will people say?; what will they think of me?, etc. If we will dare to grow in a loving worship relationship with God, then that love and that worship will grow within us to spread it to others. When we gather for congregational worship, we have an opportunity to share our love for God with others. Psalm 22:3 tells us that God inhabits the praises of His people. This means that God is at home when His people lift Him up in praise and in worship. It means that God is free to move and act as He will in an atmosphere of praise! The Word of God has much to say about worship in the congregation: (Psalm 22:22,25, Psalm 26:12, Psalm 68:26, Psalm 132:2). God is pleased with the unity that comes in the Spirit when His people come together to lift Him up.
Finally, there is an inward aspect of the corporate worship experience, meaning how we are affected. Here are some things we can expect from the corporate worship experience when we submit ourselves to it:
- We are released to praise God uninhibited—praise fully, worship fully with all that is within us (Psalm 103:1).
- Sometimes we need help expressing ourselves in the corporate worship and praise experience; singing gives us verbal expression. Clapping and lifting of hands give us non-verbal expression, but these still qualify because God is most concerned about what is coming out of our hearts, rather than the form of expression we use. If you are just beginning to learn about praise and worship you might begin by singing hymns such as “Holy, Holy, Holy,” or “How Great Thou Art,” or even “Come Thou, Almighty King.” Even one of your favorite praise choruses would work here.
- Our faith is made stronger in an atmosphere of corporate praise and worship. As we openly with our mouths confess God’s greatness, and His total ability to turn any situation around for our good, our trust in Him is strengthened because we see Him for Who He is.
- We grow in holiness, becoming like the One we worship.
- A greater commitment to worship; it is one thing to worship among the congregations—it is quite another to worship God daily when we’re NOT in church. Spirit-led, exciting, uninhibited congregation worship should motivate us to worship in private as well.
- It prepares us for the new things God is going to do (Isaiah 43:19); prepares our spirit to receive a move from God.
- We begin to understand the ways of God in the corporate worship experience.
My worship is for real. . . Walk blessed.
Donna R. Patrick