Lord-willing we will be gathering for corporate worship in our local churches this Sunday. This is always an incredibly important gathering. In fact I believe it is the most critical event we are a part of in any given week. There the church comes together sharing one faith, singing with one voice, to one Savior, and together we hear and respond to his word. But, it's easy to go and get little out of it for a myriad of reasons. Often those reasons have more to do with us than what's happening beyond our control. Here are four quick tips for getting more out of corporate worship.
"Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:2-3 ESV)
Worship is about God, not us. Everything in the service should be directing our thoughts upward to our reigning Savior. If there is distraction or deficiency in your church's gathering, exercise some self-control and guide your own thoughts toward the excellency of Jesus. If the preacher is not pointing you to Jesus in the text from which he preaches, search him out yourself! Commit yourself to seeking the Lord when you gather on the Lord's Day. This is your responsibility, and no one can prevent you from it.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV)
While worship is fundamentally about God, we cannot help but come to a better understanding of ourselves as we come to know him. As you sing of his holiness, justice, goodness, and truth, and meditate on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus---be sure to examine yourself. Are your sins being addressed? What must you do? What must you grab hold of by faith? Be receptive to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the word. As we draw near to God we should know what we must now do. Repent. Believe. Delight.
"be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart" (Ephesians 5:18-19 ESV)
The direction of corporate worship is primarily vertical (directed toward God), yet there is a horizontal component as well. The people around you are part of the family of God, and they are your brothers and sisters. Do you know them? Do you serve them? How can you encourage them in their faith and life? Do you understand that this is a part of your calling? Do you know that God expects you to minister to them in ways that extend beyond the timeframe of Sunday worship? As you worship Christ together, you should grow in your affection for his people, your people. They are all around you.
"I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds." (Psalm 77:12 ESV)
When the service is over and you head out to lunch, or back home to rest, be sure to look back to what you sang, prayed, and heard. Talk about it with others, and take those truths even farther into your own heart. Now is the time to continue preaching that message to yourself, pressing on to see what God will do in and through you. I believe half of the reason we get little out of corporate worship is because we leave it all in the assembly, when God wants us to take it with us wherever we go.
Head into corporate worship with great expectations. God will speak. Will you listen? God is present. Will you seek him?