By Jason Brown
Matt Redman penned these powerful opening words to the song, The Heart of Worship, in the late 1990s. These lyrics reflect what our attitude should be regarding worshiping together today:
When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless your heart
I’ll bring you more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what you have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart… 1
When I think of worship, I immediately envision a congregation standing together looking towards the stage. The group as one is led in singing to the Lord by the worship team with their instruments and voices. I hear songs like The Heart of Worship that I first encountered at church as a senior in high school. This vision of worship fills me with such joy and awe of our Creator God. It also leads me to further contemplate worship. We must look deeper than the vision of a congregation praising God to see the importance of worshiping together as the body of Christ.
THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNAL WORSHIP
In our search for the importance of communal worship, where better to start than the Bible? Writing to the church in Corinth, Paul exhorts, “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” (1 Corinthians 14:26) Through worshiping together, we are steadying one another up. We are preparing ourselves for His service and creating cohesion among the believers. We are collectively responding to God calling on us as His instruments to the world.
When talking about worship, the obvious part that stands out are the songs and style presented during services. Having grown up during the 1990’s I saw the conflict over worship styles. I experienced the main styles of worship that exist in churches throughout the United States today: traditional, contemporary, and charismatic.
When we think of traditional worship, we think of hymns from generations gone by like Be Thou My Vision, Great is Thy Faithfulness, and When I Survey the Wonderous Cross. With contemporary worship, we think of songs often from the nineties to the early two thousands like In Christ Alone, Revelation Song, and You Never Let Go. When we encounter charismatic worship, we sing songs like Shine, Jesus Shine, Awesome God, and My Life is in You Lord.
SEEING PAST STYLE PREFERENCES
Unfortunately, this conflict over worship style in the church has been an area of contention among worshipers. Rather than allowing music and praise to create unity, many believers focus on taste and forget the purpose of worship 2. Sure, we will always have a style of worship music that we prefer in our church services much as we have personal tastes in music outside of church. But can we not see past this and unite around a common goal of worshiping our Creator?
WORSHIP WITH A PURPOSE
Worship is more than gathering together to sing songs that offer praise to God. Worship can include other types of worship. It is using song to pray for one another in the presence of God as we cry out with one voice for God to draw us closer to Him. It includes fellowship with one another with songs like Smile Awhile. These strengthen our bond so that we may break bread together as family the way God intended from the beginning with Adam and Eve and solidified through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
Worship songs can also instruct and help us in learning so that we can better understand the character of God. This better understanding through worshiping together brings us to the hope that we can better respond to His calling on our lives individually. Worship includes encouragement as we lift up one another’s spirits. The joy of song can reach deep into another’s soul and provide joy to a fellow believer. We will have struggles that we cannot bear alone as we are only human but there is an other-worldly quality to music that allows us to reach beyond humanity.
WORSHIPING TOGETHER IN THE BODY OF CHRIST
We have all heard some version of a sermon about the body of Christ at one time or another. Maybe the pastor utilized Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus when he writes, “From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:16) It is clear that the purpose of being a part of the body of Christ it to build one another up. And what better place for this than in the pews on Sabbath morning worshiping God with your brothers and sisters in Christ?
The body is a good illustration of each part needing each other to be fully functional. If you were to cut off the hand from the body then the hand will surely die. A single voice can only sing one part, but a group of voices can raise the sound that only a choir can resonate.
THE HEART OF WORSHIP
Worship allows God’s spirit to flow in us and through us to those around us as it illuminates the presence of God all around us. Worship among a body of believers is more than a simple song sung by multiple voices but is a collective experience that is transcendent. Will you choose to hum alone at home or answer God’s call to worship corporately as we prepare for the day when all the believers will unite around God’s throne and sing with the angels, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelations 4:8)