Have you ever found it difficult to get to church consistently, let alone actively engage with God when you’re there? While seasons of spiritual dryness can be a normal part of the Christian experience, worshipping with other believers is a vital and enriching part of our ongoing discipleship and faith development.
The importance of worshipping together
The practice of ‘worship’ is more than just a weekly routine or Sunday ritual. It is any time we gather with other believers with the intention to meet with God Himself. (Ps 42:2) Historically speaking, regularly gathering with other believers to worship God has been a key rhythm of Christian life and faith for more than two thousand years. And while the expressions of gathered Christian worship throughout history – and still today – are culturally, theologically, experientially and philosophically diverse, worshipping God together remains an important part of Christian discipleship and of healthy Christian communities around the world.
The historical precedent for gathering with other believers to worship God is more than just “tradition”, it is affirmed by Scripture. Gathered worship is an assumed part of the life of the Christian communities when the Apostle Paul provides instructions for harmonious and ordered worship in 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14.
Worshipping God together is one way that believers are strengthened and encouraged to persevere in the faith, which is why the writer to the Hebrews instructed that the believers should “not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” (Hebrews 10:25a).
Because we have been made in God’s image, the nature of the Trinity reveals the essentially relational nature of our lives. Worshipping God together in community and relationship honours and reflects the relational nature of God in us. It also affirms the truth Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12, that all of the parts of the Body of Christ need to work together in order for the Body to be healthy and strong. Contextually, looking through the book of 1 Corinthians, working together as the Body includes worshipping together.
Overcoming worship inertia
So if gathering to worship God with other believers is so important, worthwhile and consistent with Biblical instruction and example, why do we often find it so difficult to do? Even if we do continue to worship with other believers regularly, how do we consistently maintain a high level of participation and a sense of expectancy that God will be present and active in the midst of our worshipping community? How do we allow the Holy Spirit to work through our worship gatherings to help shape and form us in the likeness of Christ?
While there are multiple factors that can influence our attitudes and habits when it comes to participating in church life, the biggest factor governing our participation and engagement in worship is our choices. No one can make us worship God. To be authentic, worship, like love, must be offered freely. Our own heart attitudes and the decisions we make about worship will directly correlate with the fruitfulness of our experience when we gather to worship with other believers.
So how can we overcome worship inertia and seek to maintain a vital and fruitful experience of worshipping God with other believers each week? We overcome the inertia by preparing ourselves for worship. So many factors around communal worship are out of our control, so instead of trying to change how other people do things, we can only be truly responsible for the state of our own heart before God. Our worship is dependent on two things: God (who is eternally and consistently worthy of our worship) and our personal choice to glorify Him with our words, our prayers, our songs, and with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.
Seven ways to prepare for worship:
Here are some suggestions for ways that we can help ourselves be consistently engaged in corporate worship in order for it to be a fruitful spiritual discipline over a lifetime of Christian faith:
Know your why for worship. Have a heart conviction about the importance of worshipping with other believers.
Simply go. Make the decision to worship and consistently follow through on your commitment to meeting with God in the context of a community of faith.
Arrive early to church in order to allow yourself the opportunity to fully engage in the narrative of worship. Lateness is a distraction to you and to others and detracts from the communal nature of the worship experience.
Take time before each worship service to slow your heart and mind from the busyness of the week. Allow yourself to be fully present in heart and mind to what God wants to say to you and do through you.
Offering a “sacrifice of praise” (Heb 13:15) might mean being willing to forego your personal preferences to engage with God and worship Him anyway.
Make a decision to grow by applying what you hear, see, feel, learn and experience throughout the worship gathering into your everyday life. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern how to do this.
Your worship is obviously not limited to the songs, prayers and practices of the worship gathering. You overflow worship when your gratitude and praise toward God becomes a blessing to others through loving service, humble generosity and active concern for the welfare of other people.
As we genuinely engage with God and others in worship, and see this as a fruitful spiritual discipline that is helping us grow in faith and Christlikeness, we will continue to seek and see God’s presence. Because our natural inclinations and cultural conditioning can lead us toward consuming church rather than being the church, a little bit of preparation can go a long way toward helping our experience of gathered worship continue to be a vital part of our discipleship.