One of the privileges we have each week is to gather on Sunday morning for corporate worship. Ideally, this is a time for us to turn away from ourselves and give our attention to God. While this is the ideal, it can be difficult at times. Sometimes we show up with a consumer focus that says, “The church better give me what I want, or I will have a bad attitude.” Sometimes we show up and the burdens of the week seem so heavy that is hard to give our attention to something else. Sometimes we show up and we feel scattered and overwhelmed by the busyness of life. Sometimes we show up feeling spiritually empty after a week of compromising or giving little attention to our relationship with Jesus. Therefore, some guidance about how to turn our focus to God in corporate worship can be helpful.
For you to experience a God-focused, God-exalting, God-enjoying time of corporate worship, you need to begin preparing before Sunday morning. Here are some ways to prepare:
- One pastor I follow on Twitter likes to tweet, “Sunday morning worship is a Saturday night decision!” Make a commitment to be here on Sunday morning before Sunday morning arrives.
- Along the same of line of making a commitment before Sunday arrives, make a broader commitment to make corporate worship - along with other ways God grows us (small group community, time in the Word, prayer) – an important rhythm of your life/your family’s life. For example, what would it look like to commit as a family to miss no more than _________ Sundays a year? This way when something else comes up, you can say, “We already have something scheduled.”
- Spend time growing in your walk with Jesus each week. When you spend time all week growing in your relationship with Jesus, you will come to corporate worship from a place of spiritual abundance instead of depletion.
- Allow God to stretch and discipline you in areas of compromise. The areas of compromise may be lust, anger, pride, etc. Closing ourselves off to God’s disciplining and cleansing work will dull our relationship with Jesus, and we will arrive unprepared for coporate worship.
- Pray for the service on Saturday or Sunday morning. Pray for lost people to come into a relationship with Jesus. Pray for God to work powerfully in the lives of people. Pray for the leadership of the church. Pray!
As important as preparation is, what happens once you are in corporate worship is just as, if not more, important. Here are some ways to participate:
- Move away from an “audience mentality.” When you are in an audience, you are usually watching what is happening on the stage. If what is happening on stage is not interesting or to your liking, it is easy to become passive, disengaged, and/or critical. Therefore, move away from passively or critically watching what is happening on the stage to being fully engaged in each aspect of the worship service.
- Sing! As obvious as encouraging people to sing may be, it can be the biggest challenge. I have heard and used every excuse why not to sing. Therefore, let me encourage or challenge in three ways about singing. First, singing often flows from the overflow of heart growing daily in a relationship with Jesus. If you are not singing, it can be an indicator that your relationship with God is not what it needs to be. Second, be intentional about singing the songs you know and like. It is easy to go on “auto pilot,” sing the song, and never really engage with the song; therefore, be intentional. Third, be intentional about singing songs you do not know or like. The temptation is to protest the song and show your displeasure by not singing. The only person this hurts is you. Instead of protesting, see this an opportunity to learn a new song or engage with the meaning. In fact, sometimes a new song slows us down so that we can better engage. Whatever is the case, let me encourage or challenge you to sing…no matter what.
- Bring your Bible, open it, and engage with the text. There is something special in hearing people opening their Bible and preparing for how God is going to speak in and through the text. I know some people today prefer a Bible app on their phone or tablet. I do not have a problem with this, but I encourage you to turn off notifications and/or log off of social media during this time because they are so easily distracting. If a phone or tablet provides too many distractions, just go “old school” and bring an actual Bible.
- Fully engage in prayer when we have times of prayer during the service. I know there may be distractions. Nevertheless, fully engage your heart and mind with the person praying.
I could spend more time going over preparation for and participation in corporate worship. It is so important! It is one of the ways God will grow us. If we miss corporate worship or we miss the point of corporate worship when we are here, then our relationship with God will not be all that it can and should be. Therefore, when it comes to corporate worship, let us prepare and participate! Thank you for the opportunity to be your pastor!