If you’ve ever found yourself in a conversation with other Christians about what worship is, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll all agree on the fact that worship isn’t limited to music. Yet why is it that when the Covid-19 restrictions around singing were put in place, many of us found ourselves at a complete loss on how to lead our congregations in corporate worship?
A few months before the new academic year was due to begin at Nexus ICA, I found myself staring at a document titled ‘Pursuit of Worship Applied 2020/21’, which is a class in one of our worship studies modules. This was a document that I had revisited multiple times in the last few weeks and yet it’s blankness reflected the stark truth that I had zero ideas on how to lead our whole school worship sessions without corporate singing. This blank page exposed the sad reality that I had subconsciously boxed myself – and God – into a corner through thinking I could only encounter His presence through singing a song. It was the wake up call I didn’t know I needed.
To be clear, I am a huge advocate for singing and believe its use in corporate worship has numerous theological implications. The sound of a unified congregation singing together is incredible and it’s ok to grieve the temporary loss of that expression of corporate worship. However, let’s not get stuck in the trap of thinking that singing is the only way we can worship together! Let’s take this unforeseen opportunity to be creative with our worship. To dive into Scripture. To champion participation. To challenge the notion that says singing is the only way we can encounter God!
Read on to find out about the ways we have been corporately worshipping at Nexus ICA.
Get stuck into Scripture
Scripture shouldn’t be the side dish. It’s the necessary component that allows us to worship in truth!
Colossians 3:16-17 is often used to promote singing together as an act of worship. Which is correct! But so often we miss the fact that the primary call is to let the Word of Christ dwell within us, permeating every aspect of our being. Then out of that overflow, we teach, admonish, train and sing with thankfulness in our hearts to God. Scripture shouldn’t be the side dish. It’s the necessary component that allows us to worship in truth!
Some things we’ve been exploring here at Nexus ICA:
- Reading Scripture aloud in unison whilst underscored by musical instruments.
- Lectio Divina. An ancient practice of quiet prayer and meditating on Scripture.
- Memorising verses.
Ask yourself how you can intentionally include the congregation in worship rather than them being passive spectators.
As 1 Peter 2:9 outlines, we the Church, are a royal priesthood through Christ Jesus. We come to Church as individuals, but we also unite together as the body of Christ to declare His praises corporately. Craig Douglas Erickson writes that ‘a clergy-dominated performance of the liturgy before a passive congregation obscures the priestly character of the entire church’. Don’t take the somewhat comfortable route in singing four back-to-back songs by yourself. Ask yourself how you can intentionally include the congregation in worship rather than them being passive spectators.
Some things we’ve been enjoying:
- Asking students to corporately pray from a passage of Scripture we’ve been looking at.
- Having an open (but Covid secure) mic for anyone to share a testimony or a reflection from Scripture.
- Encouraging instrumentalists to play out a melody or the singers to lead different songs.
Embrace the “mess” and step outside your comfort zone.
Finally, why not explore expressions of worship that you haven’t tried before? Don’t be afraid of things ‘getting messy’ or potentially not being as polished and professional as you are used to. Embrace the mess and step outside your comfort zone. I’ve found in doing that, it teaches me time and time again not to rely on my own strength and ability to lead worship, but to be wholly dependent on the Holy Spirit. And in that space is most often where I have the most precious encounters with the Lord.
Why not try:
- Spoken liturgy and utilising creeds
- Dance, drama, painting, poetry and spoken word
- Sign language and actions (not just for kid’s songs!)
- Analyse a hymn or worship song together and see how it links to Scripture.
What I’ve learned in this process is that planning a time of corporate worship that only features playing songs back to back is actually an unbelievably limited expression of what corporate worship has the potential to be. Like only seeing one colour in the rainbow. Or only using salt and pepper to season your meal! May you be encouraged, challenged and reminded that God is with us always, whether we sing or not.