When does corporate (or communal) worship begin?
- When you pull into the parking lot?
- When you walk into the sanctuary (or big room as my friend likes to call it)?
- During the pre-service elements?
- When the welcome happens?
- During the call to worship?
- With the first song we sing together?
It’s easy to think that corporate worship begins when people arrive or with the beginning of the first song.
But the reality is much different than that.
Corporate worship really begins at home. It begins with each of us. It begins before you even show up.
I’m a big fan of the call to worship element to focus and unify us. I like having music playing as people come in and having a scripture graphic on the screen to spark thought and reflection.
But those things can’t make up for the lack of daily worship. They can’t overcome a week spent living in your own strength. It can’t wash away a week spent thinking of yourself instead of the things of God. 2 minutes can’t accomplish what should be happening throughout the week.
The people of God worshiping God with all of who they are each day.
I’ve come to believe that worship doesn’t have a beginning or an ending. Sure, sometimes we do it together, and those times have a start and end. But that’s just a part of the worship that should characterize the life of the Christian. Just because the service ends doesn’t mean we have to stop “worshiping.”
This isn’t just my idea. It’s a theme of Scripture. Consider Jesus’ conversation with the women at the well in John 4, the Great Commandment in Mark 12:30, and the words of Paul in Romans 12:1-2 for starters. Many references to worship in the Scriptures are not associated with a specific time or place. And one of our role models of worship, David the shepherd and king, definitely saw worship as being more than a singular gathering, although that was a part of it.
But too often, the Sunday morning service is seen as the “worship God” moment, and the rest of the week as life. When that happens, corporate times are just as empty as the rest of the week. And worship leaders wonder why it is so hard to get people to engage. Show me a person who isn’t engaged corporately (yes, I know that’s a loaded statement), and I’ll show you a person who probably isn’t engaging with God throughout the week.
And so, corporate worship must begin at home. It begins with living each day in honor of God. It involves knowing God and His Word. It means loving the Lord fully and living like it. It means being fully satisfied and content in our life and relationship with God through Christ.
Simple concept, but an extremely hard mindset to change.
Worship leaders, continue to paint the bigger picture of worship to the people you lead.
Worshipers, let me gently encourage you to take responsibility for your spiritual life and worship journey. You have as much a part in how things go down on a Sunday morning as those leading do. I can lead the body in unity to worship cohesively, but I cannot worship for you.
When did you realize that corporate worship begins at home?