Just why is congregational singing so important? David Mathis answers.
Worshiping Jesus together may be the single most important thing we do. It plays an indispensable role in rekindling our spiritual fire, and keeping it burning. Corporate worship brings together God’s word, prayer, and fellowship, and so makes for the greatest means of God’s ongoing grace in the Christian life.
But thinking of worship as a means can be dangerous. True worship is fundamentally an experience of the heart, and not a means to anything else. So it’s important to distinguish between what benefits might motivate us to be regular in corporate worship, and what focus our minds and hearts should pursue in the moment.
According to Don Whitney, “There’s an element of worship and Christianity that cannot be experienced in private worship or by watching worship. There are some graces and blessings that God gives only in the ‘meeting together’ with other believers” (Spiritual Disciplines, 92). Surely, many more could be given, but here are five such “graces and benefits” that we experience uniquely in the context of corporate worship.
Often we come into corporate worship feeling a sense of spiritual fog. During the rough and tumble of the week, the hard knocks of real life in the fallen world can disorient us to ultimate reality and what’s truly important. We need to clear our head, recalibrate our spirit, and jumpstart our slow heart. Martin Luther found corporate worship powerful in awakening his spiritual fire: “at home, in my own house, there is no warmth or vigor in me, but in the church when the multitude is gathered together, a fire is kindled in my heart and it breaks its way through.”
Better than Luther, though, is the experience of the inspired psalmist. In Psalm 73, he begins by despairing over the prosperity of his wicked peers (verses 2–15). But the fog clears as he comes consciously into the presence of God: “When I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end” (Psalm 73:16–17).
He was embattled. The spiritual haze was thick. But the breakthrough came in the context of worship. Which then leads to this climactic expression of praise: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25–26).
How many times have we found this to be true for us as well? Instead of staying away from corporate worship when we sense ourselves to be spiritually lethargic, precisely what we need more than ever is the awakening of worship. When our hearts feel it least is when we need most to remind our souls, “For me it is good to be near God” (Psalm 73:28).