For a long time, I considered singing in church to be an individual exercise. Standing up in the service as the worship band played, I’d meditate on the words and lift up my voice whenever I felt the spirit move. Sure, I was singing along with the rest of the congregation, but the words passing my lips were meant to be between me and God. I’ve always been grateful for those moments, but sometimes growing in Christ means stepping out of your comfort zone. It wasn’t until later that I realized I was missing out on another side of the worship experience; corporate worship.
Now, if you’re like me, you’ve never been a fan of the term “corporate worship”. It’s always sounded so commercialized, as though the church were trying to sell a feeling of belonging. Yet, corporate worship actually serves a vital role in the body of believers. When we worship together, we not only strengthen our bonds as a church community, we also minister to one another. Matt Merker, in a guest post for Desiring God, describes it as, “nurturing love among the body of Christ”. He writes,
“The Christian enduring persecution from his biological family needs to hear the dozens or hundreds in his spiritual family sing, ‘Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee.’ The believer struggling hard against shame needs to watch you exult, ‘My sin, not in part, but the whole, has been nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more!’ The saint overburdened by work, striving, and performance needs to listen as you affirm, ‘We rest on Thee, our shield and our defender.’”
“Of course, we don’t only address one another as we sing. Ephesians 5:20 and the psalms of praise teach that God is the primary audience of our songs and melodies. But raising your voice to edify others is, in fact, precisely one of the ways we exalt God’s worth. By singing, we beckon our brothers and sisters to delight in his beauty.”
Merker isn’t the only Christian writer to hold this stance either. The popular theological blogger Tim Challies has also endorsed the benefits of congregational worship. Challies believes many churches lack the essential ingredients for worship. Most notably, the congregation has put the responsibility of praise on a worship team or band rather than engaging together as a body of believers. Challies writes,
“Congregational singing. I’ve often been in church services where it feels like nobody is singing along with the band or worship leaders. As many churches have transitioned to worship being led by a band or a group of singers, it’s easy for churchgoers to feel like worship is more of a concert than a congregational experience. ‘You know you are experiencing congregational worship when the voices of the people rise higher than the instruments and lead worshippers,’ Challies writes. ‘Wall-shaking, roof-lifting, band-driven worship is no substitute for the beauty of the human voice singing praise to God.’ Even if you don’t think you’re a good singer, joining in with other believers to lift your voice in praise is a powerful and God-glorifying experience. Psalm 98:4 reminds us to ‘make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.’”
Church music is more than a time to sing carols or meditate on words we’ve heard before. It is an offering, both to God and to each other. When we lift up our voices, we are reminded that we are not alone. We acknowledge that God is for us, and we are for each another. There are few spiritual gifts more precious than corporate worship.
So the next time your congregation is asked to rise and sing, take a quick glance around. These people are the body of Christ, and together, he will show the world his glory!
What about you? What are your thoughts on corporate worship? Be sure to leave a comment in the space below!
*Ryan Duncan is an editor for Crosswalk.com
(Image courtesy of Thinkstock.com)