I was a church worship leader for ten years. During that time, I led the music at several different churches and organizations. I loved the job. When we’re worshipping, we’re simply telling God how great He is and thanking Him for all he’s done. It was a privilege to help Christ’s people do that well.

I often noticed, though, that people didn’t show up on Sunday morning prepared for worship. It’s hard to blame them. Sometimes I wasn’t prepared either. Sunday morning is often a blur, a frantic rush to get out of bed, get dressed, dress the kids, argue with your spouse, speed to church, look for a parking spot, and hurriedly plop down in the pew. Add to that our modern over-emphasis on public speaking and you have a perfect recipe for the neglect (and perhaps even abuse) of corporate singing.

So how can you make the most of the corporate singing time at your church? How can you turn your mind and heart toward the worship of God during those few critical moments?

Here are a few things your worship leader would say if your pastor would ever let him preach a sermon:

1.   Prepare. On Saturday night or Sunday morning, spend a few minutes before God preparing your heart and mind to worship. It will be busy and crazy while you’re getting ready to go on Sunday. So prepare ahead time. Pray that God will give you an attitude of internal peace and worship in the midst of external pandemonium.

2.  Arrive on time. This might sound a bit harsh, but if you can get to church ten minutes late, you can get there on time. Plan for the unexpected — the parking might be full, the room might be crowded, you might hit traffic. My guess is that you plan like that on school days or work days. You can do it for church days as well. That will leave you time to sit down and quiet your mind and your heart before the songs begin.

4.  Don’t consider it the “warm-up” for the sermon. Singing does prepare you to hear from God’s Word. But it’s much more than a prelude. It’s a chance for you and your fellow Christians to sincerely focus on God. To actively participate in the service. To say to God what you hopefully feel about Him all week. So take it seriously. Don’t chat at the back of the room, spend the first three songs filling up your coffee, or look at your watch in eager anticipation of the sermon.

3. Sing. Seriously. Open your mouth and sing the songs. You don’t have to sing louder than everybody in the room. And there are appropriate times to be quiet and reflect on the lyrics. But if you never sing, you’re probably not getting the point of corporate worship. It’s not a concert designed for the worship leader to show you his skills. The idea is that we’re all worshipping God together…by singing (Psalm 47:6-7).

4. Reflect. Think about what you’re singing. In some cases the lyrics are excellent descriptions of God’s character and work in history. In some cases not so much. Either way, you’ll learn a great deal by paying attention to what you’re singing. And just like prayer, worship requires that we know what we’re saying to God.

5. Remember it’s not about your preferences.  A wise older man who faithfully attended our young-ish church would tell me occasionally that our music wasn’t really his speed. “But it’s not about what I like,” he would say. “It’s about connecting these students to Jesus. I can tolerate the noise if it helps them to understand the Gospel.” Amen. One of the beautiful things about corporate worship: it can remove us from thinking about ourselves and help us to focus on God and others. If we allow for it.

6. Finally, remember that it’s corporate worship. That means you aren’t supposed to completely tune out everybody else in the room. It’s really not just about you and God. You and God are there, but there are other people there as well. Be conscious of those who are singing around you. What can you do to help them worship more effectively? How can you take joy in hearing them sing to the Lord? How do the lyrics point to a common and shared faith rather than merely an individual faith? If worship were simply private, we’d just stay at home and crank up Spotify. It’s intended to draw us closer to Jesus as a group and as individuals.

What ideas or concerns do you have about corporate worship? Do you agree/disagree with my suggestions here? 

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