A Participating Congregation
Every Sunday morning, Christ-followers gather all over this world to worship the resurrected Savior. Worship is the true mission of the Church when she gathers together in these corporate settings. Notice the word corporate. When the Church gathers together to worship, there are people from all places united under the headship of Jesus Christ, seeking one purpose: To worship the one triune God.
There is an opportunity for people to worship God alone, and this is absolutely important in the lives of Christ-followers; however, when the Church gathers together to worship, it is corporate. And just as individual worship of God is important, it is absolutely necessary that the people of God gather together to worship God corporately. The question is, however: Do our worship services model corporate worship? Let me ask another way: When Christ-followers enter into corporate worship services that we have planned, do they enter each Sunday expecting to participate?
The consumeristic world that we live within has conditioned people, especially Americans, to sit back and be entertained. This has caused much strife within our churches through the years, because many people want to be entertained within the church, and then they want to give critiques of the performance.
Christ-followers seem to have forgotten that everyone sitting in the pew is a part of the “performance!”
The goal of corporate worship is not to entertain people. The goal of corporate worship is to bring God’s people together under the headship of Christ in order to honor the triune God of the universe through different methods of worship that are driven by His Word and led by the Holy Spirit. Corporate worship is for God. When we, as pastors and worship leaders, plan worship in such a way that people, at most, sing a few songs, we are not fully engaging our people to participate corporately in worship to the fullest potential. We are missing the opportunity to allow God’s people to worship Him in so many other ways.
So how can we lead God’s people to participate corporately in worship?
- Corporate Scripture Readings
Too often we think about the Word of God being proclaimed during the sermon; however, do we think about how the Word of God can be proclaimed throughout all of our corporate worship? First off, let me encourage to think about how the Word of God is directing your worship services. If people are speaking and giving opinions more than the Word of God is being read or spoken, I would highly encourage you to evaluate how you might be able to allow the Word of God to be read or spoken more. The Word of God must lead our worship services. In Nehemiah 8, we see the importance of God’s Word being read among His people. Be encouraged to allow the Word of God to be what drives your worship of God.
Instead of having just one person read the Word of God, have the congregation stand and read the Word of God together. In order to do this, there must be Bibles in the same translation or a printing of the verse(s) on paper or a screen in the same translation, but the work is worth it. It is powerful for the people of God to stand and proclaim the truth of God together. To hear the unified voice of the Church proclaiming the truths of God together gives a heavenly picture and promise that all congregations need to experience.
- Allow Them to Sing More
This is a two-fold recommendation. The first part is a bit straight-forward. As worship pastors and leaders, we need to allow the Church to sing more. Too often, we do too much singing for the Church. How many choral anthems are within your corporate gatherings? How many solos are sung within your corporate gatherings? How many guitar solos are there? These are questions that need to be asked. It’s not wrong to have choral anthems and solos; however, I would encourage you to make these moments intentional and purposeful. Are you singing an anthem this week solely because your people like to listen to an anthem and expect it? I would encourage you to replace the anthem with something everyone can sing.
Secondly, when you sing something corporately, be sure that it is something that everyone can sing. I understand there are times that you desire to teach your people a new song because they need to sing that song; however, this cannot dominate corporate worship. If you ask them to sing, allow them to sing by choosing songs that are biblically sound, musically good, and well known by the people. The congregation staring at the people on stage while they sing is not corporate singing. Be sure you give them everything they need in order to be able to sing with you.
- Allow Them to Pray
I pray that prayer is found within our worship services. If it is not, we must truly evaluate our worship. However, how often is that prayer offered up by one voice? I would encourage you to ask your people to pray silently where they are. We live in a world that is made uncomfortable by silence. Nowhere is silent. (I need a noise to go to sleep!) But when we call people to be still and quiet and talk to God, we are showing how powerful He truly is. He hears all of us! He listens to each of us! He does His will in each of our lives!
Another approach you may take is to ask everyone in the congregation to pray audibly in order to hear all of God’s people crying out to Him. Again, this gives us a picture of how mighty He truly is. Give direction to those prayers by calling out different subjects and having the people pray. Allow them to seek God corporately. I believe by doing so, they will seek Him more individually. Yet, they will also understand that they are a part of something far greater than themselves.
These are just a few ways in which we can lead God’s people to be more active within corporate worship of Him. I believe that some of you reading this post have great ideas, too! Post those ideas in the comments section below, and let’s encourage and help each other to lead God’s people to be active in worshiping Him!
Landon Reynolds is a Christ-follower, husband, father, and pastor. Currently, Landon is an associate pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Florence, SC, where he oversees music and worship. He holds degrees from Anderson University, SC, and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Currently, Landon is pursuing a Doctor of Ministry from Anderson University, SC.