If worshiping is rendering homage and adoration, then believers have a glorious privilege of worshiping God, together.
God does indeed save individuals. In order to experience forgiveness and eternal life, we need to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. This must happen personally. No one can believe for you. You must believe as an individual. While this is absolutely true, God did not merely save individuals, he saved a people. God redeemed the people of Israel in the Old Testament and called out a people for himself in the New Testament (1 Peter 2:9).
And as a people who have been redeemed, we have the privilege to gather for the purpose worship. As followers of Christ, we need both private worship (quiet times) and corporate worship (congregation). Here are some passages of Scripture that undergird the necessity of corporate worship.
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
Psalm 149: 1, 5
Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise in the assembly of the godly!
Let the godly exult in glory;
let them sing for joy on their beds.
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.Ephesians 5:17-21
These verses indicate the need of the congregation to participate in worship. The gathered church is not an audience to be wowed or individuals to be entertained. The gathered church is the “assembly” of God’s people declaring praise to God and singing truths to one another.
In their book, Sing, Keith and Kristyn Getty remind us that the congregation is “the ultimate choir. The true beauty of such a congregational choir is that our voices and our hearts are knit together in praise.” (pp. 3-4).
They continue their emphasis on congregational praise:
It may sound like a rather obvious statement to make, but in the assembly each of us will not be in the majority. That means you are going to be singing songs you may not have chosen because they are not your favorite, to arrangements or with accompaniment that you may not have chosen because they are not your favorites. You are going to need to be willing to lay down your own tastes for the good of the wider assembly. For as long as we have the health and the ability, we are each called to sing with the people of God, and to love our people enough to serve each other in the way we sing.Keith and Kristyn Getty, Sing, 15.
For our worship to be congregational, it needs to be participatory. Here are some ways we are trying to invite participation in our gathered worship.
- We emphasize congregational singing. While not all of our musical worship has to be congregational, the vast majority is. Remember, we are not an audience, we are a choir. We attempt to sing songs that are “singable” emphasizing the role of the congregation rather than highlighting special musicians or singers.
- We invite congregational participation. Through giving, quoting our monthly memory verse, praying together, and celebrating the ordinances, it is our desire that all attenders become participants in the worship service.
- We encourage note-taking. Worship must be Scriptural and following our Reformation tradition, expositional preaching plays a central role in our services. While we realize that hearing the Word preached can be passive, we encourage note-taking and internalizing Scripture. Several of our Sunday School classes now use sermon-based discussion questions for their curriculum which invites a deeper study and application of the weekly sermon text.
Congregational participation in worship is life-giving and God-exalting. If we are a people redeemed by grace, then our gathered experiences should show it. When we participate meaningfully, we bless one another. You and I need gathered congregational worship for our own souls. Our neighbors need gathered congregational worship to experience the validity of the gospel in lives of believers.
Reader, consider this your invitation to congregational worship. Would you return to gathered worship if you’ve been away for a while? We would love to see you this week.
Grace and Peace