Worship In Community

A few weeks ago I mentioned three categories of worship – private worship, community worship, and living worship. You may remember my article on personal worship. Now I want to reflect a little more on community worship. While this discussion will feature some of the issues of community worship I want to remind readers that all three categories or worship are important and we seriously missing something if we leave out any one component.

Many respondents have made the point that worship is about God and have left it to the imagination of the reader as to how that should be interpreted. But community worship is more than just about God isn’t it? It is about God, us, and one another. I grew up in a church where, if you sang three hymns, put something in the offering plate, kneeled reverently in prayer, listened to the sermon without falling asleep, and didn’t bolt before the benediction, you would be considered a model worshiper. It occurred to me that worship centered on this model has the potential to be boring. And church has not changed all that much even now. We probably sing a bit more, preach a bit less, it all takes longer and there is a tendency of the young “married with children” folk to bolt out the door before the benediction so that they don’t get embarrassed by kids reminding them loudly that it is lunch time!

We have treated church as though there is some liturgy that if repeated often enough will make us better Christians and ultimately save us.

Here is a little illustration: I have been married to the same woman for over 40 years. It is true that we do the same activities in the same way many times. But Carmel is anything but boring. She likes to surprise me. I had been away teaching in Thailand for over three weeks and arrived back home to settle down to family life, but that very first weekend home she whisked me off to a posh get-away place down on the coast. I protested a bit about the cost but she said, “Look I have not seen you for three weeks and I just want you to myself for a couple of days, so shut up and enjoy it!” So I did. A complete surprise – doing something she had never done before – and now it is one of those times that I treasure. The surprises do not have to be big. I don’t eat ice cream very often even though I like it. Every now and then Carmel will buy ice cream for me. She enjoys surprising me because we both share the pleasure of making one another happy.

I think God would like to be surprised sometimes too.

God must look at us sometimes sitting in church in straight lines with sober faces and think that we are a mob of boring old so-and-so’s. If all we have to offer God in our community worship is silence, then I think we have the wrong definition of reverence. There are so many ways that we can be creative in our community worship and still maintain joyful reverence. Here are just a few that I have seen that work effectively

  •  Break a sermon into two parts with a hymn, song, or special item in the middle.
  •  Have a responsive reading in the middle.
  •  Have more than one preacher each giving a different perspective.
  •  Conduct an interview/ testimony in the middle.
  • Finish 20 minutes early (One of the best sermons I ever heard did that. Still remember it – made a difference)
  • Get so involved in a Sabbath School discussion that you need to cancel the service. Now wouldn’t that be a great idea.
  • Have a gospel reading day – you can read a whole gospel in less than an hour.
  • Conduct a wedding service at the end of the church service. One of my friends did that – they still talk about how beautiful and meaningful it was – and the congregation was both surprised and delighted.

No you do not have to have a surprise every week but involving the congregation actively in the church worship program, encourages them to come back for more.

There are three things that I think are important in community worship.

  1. We need to let God know that we love him. What surprise have we got for him this week?
  2. We need to share God’s love with some one else at church. Can you do that when you are all staring at the front of the church with your mouths shut?
  3. We need to go away from church feeling empowered to interact with our wider community. Church is about God, but it is also about and for us as well. God is not selfish.

It would be interesting to hear readers’ experiences of “surprises” that have made worship meaningful and or have helped build the community of believers.




Posted in Church - Fundamental Belief 12, Feature, Sabbath - Fundamental Belief 20 Tagged , permalink

About Maurice Ashton

Maurice Ashton is a retired lecturer who lives in Australia. He taught Science and Mathematics at high school level before taking a research interest in Computer Science. He lectured at Avondale College for nearly 30 years before retiring in 2012. He is married to Carmel and they have two adult children and two grand children. Currently Maurice is pursuing a keen interest in bird photography and spends much of his time sitting in swamps observing and photographing birds. He has been involved with Sabbath School Net since about 1997.


Worship In Community — 7 Comments

  1. Maurice I think you have some great ideas which, if properly done, could be a real blessing to the church. While involvement is good I believe we need to keep some things in mind.

    Many years ago I tried to get the church I was in involved by asking a few people to read some scripture. One of the people couldn’t read very well and it ended up in some embarrassment for that person. Afterward I thought that was perhaps not a good idea after all.

    I can also think of one other situation that can come up in church. Now and then there can be people that will sit at the back of the church basically in the shadows that simply don’t want active involvement. They may be dealing with issues in their life or possibly checking things out as an outsider. If you press those people they will recoil and may never return. Such things can happen even if it is a matter of overzealous greeters or people being too sociable.

    To me, your ideas are good as long as you don’t try to force involvement on people. I think the trick is to set up an environment where involvement can happen and when it does you only need to steer it a bit. It reminds me of what Jesus told His disciples. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant” (Mat 20:25-26 NKJV). To me that has a lot of application in this area.

    • Tyler, I think that the problem is that our church services are set up today in a manner that does not allow for involvement. So the idea of a congregation being more involved seems like a novel idea. Compare that with the glimpse we get into early church services in the time of Paul. While he was dealing with disorder in Corinth, it does give us an idea that church was the place for everybody to be involved. Paul did not counsel that the involvement should stop, but that everything should be done "decently and in order."

      I do know of one little church not too far away where Sabbath is the day to share all the exciting things God has done in members' lives. And most have something to share. And when we attended there, it was inspiring, because the members gave glory to God in their testimonies. I think that's what Christ envisioned for our churches. If we have nothing to share on Sabbath, perhaps we need to change what we do during the week.

      Have no idea what happened when you asked people to read in church. But the way to prevent embarrassment is to ask people a week ahead of time and allow them to practice reading. That's one thing that's at least done a lot in our church. Young people, old people, and middle-aged people get a chance to read the Bible from the pulpit. For an impromptu request to read, it is safer to allow people to volunteer. More will volunteer as it becomes more common.

      Your point about being sensitive to where people are in their lives is a good one. To some that comes naturally, others need to cultivate such sensitivity. 🙂

    • Hello michel? I'm sorry but I don't follow you. Could you maybe give more information? Or if there is anyone else who understands please help me out..

  2. Leviticus 23:3 Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, a holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein : it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.

    If we would picture the Lord sitting at the pulpit without saying a single word, how different would our services be?

    would we waltz out of church and stare at the clock when its 12 o'clock
    would we stand and pretend to be filled with the Spirit when we know the sermon was prepared that same morning?
    would we have business meetings during time for announcements?
    would we sing anyhow and dance anyhow and walk anyhow?
    would we let our children run about the church, or better start breastfeeding in church?

    the church building is not merely a hall for people to just do anything, or plan a social saturday full of fun and games. Its not about the buliding either, but, the very fact that we have invoked the NAME of the LORD, in HIS day demands piety, awe, and humility. It becomes a holy place.

    It is just as the mountain that Moses saw the burning bush. He may have walked on it several times but because the LORD'S presence was there, Moses was told to remove his shoes.

    Has God changed so much that we can just do anything we please as long as it is in HIS NAME?

    Let us then decide among ourselves to create social days where we meet and have games, and fishing and weddings and the like. But when it is SABBATH, the LORD is present, seeking to impart a special blessing of SANCTIFICATION to all who have believed in Him and through HIS son, JESUS CHRIST.

  3. Greetings Noel,

    I am not sure that the Sabbath in Church scenaio is the only page in the book. Jesus overturned conventionality when he walked through the countryside on the Sabbath day in sufficient proximity to the crops for his disciples to get into trouble by plucking some grains and eating them. Sometimes I see church services as so much form that they have lost their meaningfulness - all religion and very little spirituality.

    I spend a great deal of time in meetings, classes and lectures every week. Our church services are often more of the same; just the topic has changed. For my Sabbath to be meaningful I need to evoke my creativeness in a way that expresses my joy in my relationship with Jesus. I need the opportunity to share that joy with others. Going through the motions of religion is not my style. It is not about doing anything I like. It is about creatively extending my worship to God in a way that enriches the experience of fellow worshipers.

    God has given us creative minds - extend our expression of worship to the limits of our imagination.

  4. I agree with Muarice

    The Bible always gives advice for conducting all aspects of our life including worship and gathering of believers please read the following verses

    (Heb 10:25 [KJV])
    Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

    (Heb 3:12,13 [KJV])
    Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin
    Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

    We learn that we should have fellowship and encourage and exhort one another when we gather for worship

    Also we learn that we should visit the houses of believers for worshiping together just as the early church did [Acts 2:46,47[KJV] And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.]
    Some suggestions on how to conduct worship service is found in 1st Corinthians 14:26-33[KJV] -How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. 27 If any man speak in an [unknown] tongue, [let it be] by two, or at the most [by] three, and [that] by course; and let one interpret.6 28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. 29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. 30 If [any thing] be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. 31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33 For God is not [the author] of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

    anil robert
    Lowry Church Bangalore


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