1) Learn the Meaning of Corporate Worship
Corporate is the opposite of private. A believer is to be in an attitude of private worship every day, but when believers gather, worship is corporate. Corporate worship goes beyond simply praising God; it provides edifying interaction and praise done by a closely-knit body.
Worship leaders with a deficient concept of corporate worship choose praise songs that over-emphasize “I,” “me,” and “mine.” Corporate praise songs ought to emphasize “we,” “us” and “ours.” Weak worship leaders and ego-driven musicians draw more attention to their performance than to God, making worshippers become spectators or mere listeners, weakening their corporate dynamic.
2) Include essential Elements of Corporate Worship
iii) confess sins
iv) break bread (Communion)
v) apply God’s Word
vi) enjoy fellowship
Where new churches meet in homes, you might add:
viii) have a definite beginning and end
If a worship time is too informal, then things become so relaxed and familiar that folk can hardly discern when they enter into God’s holy presence or when serious worship as a body end. Sometimes, when they leave the place, they wonder if they really worshipped at all.
Ask: What are some of the different ways in which believers can praise God?
Possible answers (Give answers only if the discussion group cannot):
Song, silent meditation, testimonies, Psalms of praise, prayers of praise and thanksgiving, hands raised, lying prone, kneeling, reading from a liturgical manual, dance and drama.
Ask: Since God is not concerned with external forms of praise, what does He want praise to be?
Good answer: From the heart.
Ask: How would you praise God in someone’s apartment with thin walls where authorities are hostile?
Good answer: Where there is a need of security from oppressive authorities, sing or chant in a soft voice, or use quieter forms of praise.
Ask: Why is it important for corporate worship to keep families together?
Good answers: If worship attracts only youth, or only older folk, then their church body becomes unbalanced, failing to develop healthy relationships between age groups. Also, children should sense spiritual unity by worshipping alongside their parents.
Discuss plans for worship, music, and other forms. Choose forms that fit local culture.
3) Experience the Mystery, Depth and Drama of the Lord’s Supper
- Let folk experience Communion’s mystery; avoid making it simply another teaching time.
- Before serving the elements, let believers confess sins to God; allow time to confess private sins in silence, 1 Corinthians 11: 27-31; I John 1:7-10. As an example of confession, read David’s plea (Psa. 51:1-10).
- Some congregations use only one cup and dip the bread in the wine. Others prefer individual cups. Some serve grape juice or other beverages instead of wine. Had Jesus been born in Berlin instead of Bethlehem, we would probably be using beer.
- Serving the Lord’s Supper as a part of a meal can dilute its being “a participation” in Jesus’ body and blood (1 Cor. 10:16). Paul corrected such an error at Corinth (1 Cor. 11:20-34).
- Avoid overemphasizing the symbolic aspect. Avoid saying such things as “It’s just a symbol.” The word “just” implies a limitation; so be careful not to limit the reality of the presence of Christ. A symbol used in good faith strengthens the reality of the truth that it symbolizes. Jesus and the apostles never said of the bread, “This represents (or symbolizes) the body of Christ”; they said, “This is.” Even though the bread remains bread, it still becomes, for believers, a koinonia (participation, sharing) in Jesus’ body (1 Cor. 10:16).
Ask: Why did God require animal sacrifices before Christ came?
Good answer: Animals were a prophetic symbol of Christ who would become the ultimate sacrifice for sin to assure God’s forgiveness. Thus, John called Jesus, “the Lamb of God”.
Explain the historical trend toward neglect of the divine mystery of the Lord’s Supper.
- Until modern times, all churches, Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox kept Communion at the center of worship. Their pulpit was put off to one side; and the altar was made the center of focus with the symbols of Christ’s presence, exalting Him. As the educational level rose, and there was a need to refute false doctrine with more Bible teaching, many churches put their pulpit in the place of prominence, putting the altar in a lower position and flowers on it most of the time.
- Now, many contemporary churches have no pulpit; the center of focus is the worship team and its beautiful music, sometimes so beautiful that people just listen, failing to sing and join actively in praise. This is a serious flaw. Let worshippers think about God more than about how beautiful the music is or how well singers perform.
Ask: What historical events laid foundations for Communion in the Old Testament and in the four Gospels?
Good answers: The Passover lamb in Exodus, sacrifices in Leviticus, institution of the Lord’s Supper in the Upper Room, Jesus’ discourse on eating His flesh and drinking His blood to have eternal life (John 6).
Before reading John 6:53-58 and 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, ask the group to listen to find God’s purpose for Communion. Next, discuss its purpose.
4) Let Everyone, Including Children, Participate in an Active, Serious Way
- Bring folk into active worship by means of songs and other activities that focus on God, ways in which all ages can take part.
- Let children of all ages participate, even though briefly. Arrange for older children to help the younger ones, by teaching, discipling and praying with them.
- Paul-Timothy children’s studies provide Bible stories that children can dramatize very briefly for adults. Children’s studies also include poems, mainly from the Psalms, that children can recite, and other activities that help children worship together with adults. Download freely from <www.Paul-Timothy.net>.
- Avoid these errors:
Adults do all of the teaching and leading, causing older children to become bored, do mischief or drop out.
Assume you need expensive musical instruments, and importing worship forms from larger churches or other cultures.
A constant sameness that limits believers’ freedom to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
The main leaders always take up most of the worship time.
Music as the only form of praise.
Excess informality, failing to sense the awesome presence of the Most Holy One.
Monopolize discussion. Rather, you must correct those who talk or complain too much. Tell them such things as “Let’s hear from someone who hasn’t spoken yet.”
Beg for money. This embarrasses those who cannot give, and it gives the impression that a church exists to make money, as though it were a business.
- Help worshippers obey the New Testament one-another commands, by talking and praying together in little groups of two, three or four. Give each group simple discussion questions. Such interaction lets the Holy Spirit harmonize different spiritual gifts as believers edify, strengthen and console one another.
- Provide opportunities for everyone to speak, ask questions, plan activities, advise others and pray together in small groups. Provide ample time, without scheduled activities, for folk simply to enjoy fellowship with each other, and get to know each other.
- Let believers report what they are doing for Christ, and let them plan together things to do next week.
- Help folk who feel badly or have problems, but avoid giving the same person the main attention every week. Pray for the ill, the lost and one another.
- Discuss work to do during the week, and make your teaching fit what folks plan to do. Mention neighbours and friends who need help, and ways to serve them. Make specific plans about who will help, where and when.
- Arrange the seating so that all face each other. This will enhance their interaction.
- Deal decisively with anyone that talks too much or interrupts. Ask “others” to speak. Help everyone feel free to opine. When someone is overly dogmatic on a debatable issue, let the group know that you recognize that person’s “strong convictions” and exhort the person not to discourage others from opining. You might say such things as, “Let’s invite the more timid folk to say what they think without being stomped on.” If folks start to leave a group because someone else always tries to have the last word, then ask such a person to start another group and let those who want to join it do so. In some cases, you may must exclude a boor from a group rather than lose the entire group.
- Pray for other churches in the area, even if they do things in traditional ways that you do not agree with. Gently correct those who have left another church in anger and want to criticize it. Provide comfort and healing, but restrain whining.