It’s a pleasure to be a part of a church whose corporate worship is centered around the preaching of God’s inerrant Word, and it’s a joy to help plan those services under the authority of Pastor Chip. I hope you find it easy to be an active participant in worship and not simply a passive observer. We strive to plan services that are participatory and employ a variety of corporate elements. However, it is fairly easy to show up for one hour a week, join in some readings, and sing some songs; we can’t guarantee true participation through careful service planning. Participation is much more than taking part in scripted congregational elements. More than the things we speak or sing, meaningful and alert participation principally includes the way we think during worship. In the end whether we participate or not depends on what God does in our hearts.
God can especially use our congregational singing as means of his grace to engage our hearts in true worship of him. I love what John Frame says about music in worship; he says, “music enhances God’s word by making it more vivid and memorable, by driving it into our very hearts.” And Jonathan Edwards, about 300 years earlier, states: “The duty of singing praises to God seems to be given wholly to excite and express religious affections. There is no other reason why we should express ourselves to God…with music, except that it has a tendency to move our affections.” Bob Kauflin also captures it well: “Vibrant singing enables us to combine truth about God seamlessly with passion for God. “
Another way of encouraging authentic congregational participation on Sunday morning is to make sure that our worship is not confined to a single hour on Sunday but is happening all throughout the week. We do not have to go to any special place to worship Jesus. In fact, the New Testament typically speaks of worship in a much more broad sense, that of a life in obedience to God’s word and submitted to the authority of Jesus. To quote from Frame again, “Without accompanying private worship, public worship will eventually drift toward shallowness and hypocrisy.”
So what can we all do towards the end of encouraging excellent, participatory corporate worship? Please pray for the private worship of your brothers and sisters during the week so that our gathered worship is vibrant and meaningful and our love for Jesus and for each other may be obvious on Sundays. Please pray for church leaders and the music ministry as services are planned. Pray that we will choose music and other content that will stir up and express God-glorifying emotion and that our services will promote engagement of the heart and mind. True worship is supernatural, so pray most of all that the Holy Spirit will help us to worship properly during the week and on Sunday.