Understanding and Participating in Worship

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A couple of weeks ago, a discussion took place regarding another worship style. Citing various differences between theirs and ours, come to find out, it wasn’t about the style, or the content of the worship service. It was about being an active participant in worship. What does it mean to be an active participant? Do we as worship leaders understand what the congregation’s role is in worship?

Our “doing” worship involves many things, but essentially, allowing the congregation to participate fully in worship by singing, praying, giving of gifts, etc. But do we as worship leaders know the meaning of the various elements of worship? Does our congregation know the various elements of worship and why do we include them?

Another moment in our church emphasized this; our guest minister led the entire service, and without any hesitation, introduced everything as though we were hearing it for the first time. He explained the congregation’s role in the worship service by explaining our actions and words during worship. As he guided the congregation, we became active participants because it was clear what was expected of the congregation. This, I believe, allowed everyone to participate in some degree. The words he used were well thought out, but not elaborate. Our actions were not much different than any other service, but the guidance of the entire service allowed our singing our prayers, our scripture reading more meaningful by everyone.

Do we as worshippers understand what the elements in worship that we prepare for the congregation every week? Does the congregation understand the elements or is it a “laundry list” of items that occur in the appointed time in the calendar? Are they engaged, or just going through the motions?

What have you done in your congregations to allow the participants become the entire assembly and not just the people up front with the microphone?

Back to the first story. We came to the conclusion that you could attend worship at this other church, but could get by as a spectator and not a participant.

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Kevin,

I'm leading a joint series this month in our Adult and Friendship Classes Sunday mornings before our worship services. We are focussing on Psalms and what they teach us about worship. As I was preparing this series it dawned on me that before studying the different aspects of worship, it would be good to know exactly what worship is. Is it simply "doing" things like singing songs, praying, giving our offereings, listening to the message? Or is it more?

In our first lesson we looked at the first seven verses of Psalm 95. In the first two verses we are called to sing joyfully, to shout out loud to the Rock of our salvation, and to come before God with thanksgiving. We agreed that there is a sense of excitement and emotion expected of us when we worship. But then in verses six and seven the tone changes. We are invited to bow down in worship and to kneel before our Maker. This is a different kind of emotion. Instead of singing and shouting praises, we are now kneeling and bowing in reverence.

I guess my question as a participant in worship is, am I being given the full oportunity to worship God as modeled in Psalm 95 within the context of corporate worship? As I prepare my lessons, I am being reminded that proper worship requires a proper attitude before I even enter the sanctuary. In many ways we have become rather hohum about where we are going on Sundays. Have we forgotten whose house we are entering? When we enter the sanctuary, do we enter with fear and trembling? Do we enter with excitement and anticipation as we prepare to "do" worship? Or do we enter thinking about other things like work, getting together with friends and family? When we enter His house and meet our fellow worshippers, what kinds of conversations do we have? This all may sound a little heavy, but maybe part of the job of the pastor as well as worship leaders is to remind those of us in the congregation what it really means when we come to worship.  

Steve