A month ago, I had the privilege of partnering with colleagues Mark Brown & Steve Springsted to give a sermon titled, Building the Body in Love. My part was on the value of corporate worship in the growth of our faith. Here are three practical pointers on corporate worship practices that will help us as the body of Christ, move toward the goal “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:13 ESV)
Show up to worship with a corporate mentality, not an individual mindset.
This is so hard to do with our individualistic American mindset! Everything in our society is shaped to my tastes, my needs, my desires! We tend to think of our worship experience like we choose a restaurant. When we bring this mindset to corporate worship, it will never be satisfying. The style of music, the style of preaching, the look and feel, the temperature of the room, it will never all be just the way I like it. These issues matter, but are not of primary importance. The passage is clearly talking about the body of Christ corporately, and so we would benefit by thinking in community terms instead of individual terms when we show up to worship.
- The framework of our passage comes from Paul earlier in his letter highlighting how God took these two very different people groups, Jews and Gentiles, and made one man, one body with Christ as the head. Then earlier in chapter 4 we have this wonderful summary of why we are called to make every effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. He begins this list with these four words, “There is one body…”
- You might read the stated goal in our passage and say, I want to attain the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. I want to become a mature man attaining to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Yet, the picture here is not of you, or just of me, but of the whole body corporately attaining maturity together. As goes the body so go the parts. As the entire body grows, each part will grow. But we need to change our mantra from how can I grow, how can I grow, how can I grow, to how can we grow? When we think that way, we begin to look for ways to serve because that’s how the body grows. And guess what happens within that context? We individually grow.
Show up to worship with a give mentality, not a receive mentality.
This rubs against every selfish fiber of our beings. It seems to run counter to the fact that we do come extremely needy. We should indeed come hungry and thirsty to know, experience and hear from God! However, we must again note that corporate worship is by very definition, corporate. This isn’t a time just for me! So while I come with needs, I must come first ready to give.
- To give to the Lord “Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name.” (Psalm 103:1) Worship is an active posture before the Lord. Come to bless the Lord! Engage body, soul, mind, body, intellect, emotions. Dance, sing, clap, pray, listen, question, examine, give your offering, give yourself action points.
- To give to one another. Obvious way to give: serve! Today in TLC, our children’s ministry it took about 140 servants to serve our kids. Middle School & High School took about 20 servants. Add ushers, greeters, techs, band, communion preparers, servers, worship folder stuffers, and we have an additional 100 people serving to make this corporate gathering possible today. And there are plenty of needs, holes on these teams that are waiting to be filled.
Encourage each other. The most direct Scripture passage telling Christians to meet together says this. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24–25 ESV) One primary reason that we should meet together is to encourage one another. Do you know that one reason I hear from people that they quit coming to church to worship is this aspect of encouragement? They don’t feel connected to or personally encouraged by the others who come that day. One way we can give to one another is to look for people you can encourage with a conversation, a hug, or a short prayer. The horizontal purposes of corporate worship are apparently very important to God. (In contrast to the vertical aspects outlined above, giving to God.)
Show up to worship and come alive!
Last Sunday at Trinity Church, being led by our Light & Power worship team, I experienced a freedom in worship that was refreshing. Perhaps you did too. Jeff McNair brought us an excellent message, Disability Celebration Sunday, about the body of Christ reminding us that every part is necessary. Paul says that Christ is the head of the church and we are his body. That means that we are his hands and feet, his eyes and ears and mouth, the vital organs necessary to experience life. How absurd it would be to be a part of the body of Christ and not ever or rarely come together as the body of Christ. What we experience here on Sunday mornings, and when we gather in smaller groups for fellowship and Bible study, or when we join together with others to serve is what the body was made for – to be together, to be unified, to experience the unequalled joy that comes from being alive. Earlier in Ephesians chapter 2 it says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—” (Ephesians 2:4–5 ESV) Brothers and sisters we have been made alive and we were meant to experience alive! So let’s show up to worship and come alive! And you know what alive looks like? It means we’re growing. When we gather corporately to worship, the parts of the body come together for a brief moment to display the beauty of the body of Christ, alive in Him! Is that your experience on a Sunday morning? Growing in the unity of the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God together, we should feel a joy unparalleled by any other joy on the face of the earth.