Things I’ve Learned about Corporate Worship

Almost 35 years ago, I began pastoring my first church. I remember planning worship services, typing the order of worship, and praying the worship would go well. Since then, I’ve realized how little I knew about corporate worship at the time. Here are 10 things I’ve learned about worship since then.

  1. Worship is more than singing. For some wrong reason, I talked about the preaching event back then as if it were separate from the “worship.” I fear I inadvertently taught my church members the same error.
  2. Worship can be legitimately expressive. I was in the Philippines the first time I ever raised my hands in worship (a LONG way from my Baptist church in the U.S.—for which I was glad at the time). I know expression can get out of control, but there’s nothing unbiblical with worshiping God with all our being.
  3. The end of the service is just the beginning. Worship on Sunday that does not lead to worship on Monday is not real worship; it’s religious activity.
  4. Sometimes the service simply gets us to a place of worship. Many of us need the singing and the Word just to get our life in a place where we can really start to worship. If we miss that reality, we’ll think we’ve worshiped when we really haven’t.
  5. The announcements almost always get in the way. I’ve yet to figure out a way to include announcements in a worship service without diverting attention away from worship.  We must at least try to minimize distraction, though.  
  6. Sin always gets in the way. No matter how hard we try to ignore it, our sin simply hinders genuine worship. Our worship should be circular: repentance prepares us to worship, and real worship moves us to even deeper repentance.
  7. Baptism matters. For the early church (and many places around the world), baptism signified/ies inclusion in a faith that could be costly.  The act should be glorious for both the candidate and the church. All believers should worship then.
  8. The Lord’s Supper must be more than an “add on.” Regardless of frequency taken (though I do think many churches take the supper too infrequently), we must allow the ordinance to take us back to the cross and forward to the return of Jesus. Flippantly taking the meal is sinful.
  9. We give too little attention to a response time. I am not one who is opposed to a public response time or invitation, but nor am I particularly arguing for this approach. What I’m concerned about is that we spend too little time considering deliberate choices and changes in response to encountering God.
  10. No response to God is still a response. I fear that too many people enter a time of corporate worship and then leave as exactly the same person. I don’t know how that can happen if you really encounter God. 

What have you learned about corporate worship?

7 Comments

  • M.A. Hayward says:

    This is great, Chuck. In ,many cases…perhaps most cases, the richness of worship falls on the church, not the leadership (worship team, pastor, etc.) There is a perception of worship that is oftentimes spectator oriented–people expect to see a show. Sometimes the show is good, and sometimes it’s not so much, but the emphasis (from the individual, not the leadership) is on judging the show, not worshipping God in spite of it. Individual members need to take responsibility for their own worship experience. I’ve shared amazing worship with poor musicians and ungifted preachers as I have with overly produced worship shows. Worship is what YOU make of it.

    In regard to #9, it can be hard for people to appropriately respond to a word from God without faking it when we give them 52 “decisions” to make a year. Every sermon I preach has been working in me for weeks, months, sometimes years and yet we expect a “response” after 30 minutes. My hope is that a sermon is just a catalyst to the membership’s own steps—an appetizer, if you will. I try to preach in themes over a couple weeks in order to give, essentially, the same call over some time to help these things sink in.

    Thanks for this….I just love sharing worship with God’s people…..

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Great thoughts, friend. Thanks!

  • Tom Hutchison says:

    I appreciate you thoughts and might suggest you consider #’s 5, 9, & 10 together. That is, rather than thinking of them as simply “announcements”, begin to see them as the expression and embodiment of your vision. That is, you are not just listing events. You are sharing how and where to engage community, opportunities to serve, etc. If you are wanting to encourage people to respond to God then make ‘announcements’ which show them how. Your weekly schedule of events and information about prayer needs and all other announcements demonstrate your values and show what you believe it looks like to live out your faith. This perspective could bring greater intentionality and impact to the information being shared.

  • jkpd says:

    Wonderful words of wisdom, Chuck, especially having lived through the pressure of “being responsible for God’s appearance and a God encounter” each Sunday through the music.

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