Part V – Individual vs. Corporate Worship

In my last post in this series, I talked about how churches are responsible for the misunderstanding of what “worship” is because of the label the “worship team” and referring to the time of song-singing as “worship”.

My concern is that contemporary worship leaders and people in charge of worship music teams think of their duty as “worship”, not “worship music”.

It becomes a problem because the music team’s main goal is to provide music for worship. It is certainly necessary for a music team to understand what worship is – but they must remember that their goal is to provide worship music.

Some people disagree with me – “what’s wrong with calling it worship? Isn’t that what it is?”. Over the next few posts I’m going to propose why I think it’s a problem.

Individual vs. Corporate Worship

We see the time of singspiration as needing to fulfill all aspects of “worship” with a particular need to have a deeply personal experience with God every single time we worship sing songs in Church.

I began to ask the question – what is Corporate Worship? I believe that when we gather together as a church on a Sunday, our duty is as a corporate body. A member of the congregation attending the service should think corporately instead of individually.

We try to make “worship” fit into our understanding of what our personal worship is like, not what corporate worship, or worship music in a church service) should be.

Consuming the Church

Of course Worship can be an intensely personal thing. However, I don’ think that’s the point of corporate worship in our church services. if we over-emphasise the need to provide the individual connection with God at a weekly service then we will breed the problem of consumerism – where people attend Sunday service for what they themselves can get out of the songs e.g. a personal “re-charging” session etc.

I think its a big problem when people rely on church for that = Consuming the church.

The Church “Worship” Service

Yes there IS a place for an individual connection in song singing, e.g. at a ministry event, altar call, etc. But unless we have decided as a church that that’s what our services are meant for every week (as several churches do), our focus should be corporate worship.

Even then, ministry is usually reserved for after the sermon. So then, I acknowledge that the music then should have an emphasis on personal connection. But the 1/2 hour of song singing at the start of a large weekly church service? I’m not so sure.

Do you think corporate worship should be the focus of the church service? Or am I wrong and Worship (personal and corporate) the way to go for our church services?
What do you think?

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~ by jonhyz on January 31, 2009.

18 Responses to “Part V – Individual vs. Corporate Worship”

  1. i don’t deny that there are personal benefits from corporate worship – but i do feel that they are derived from praising God as part of a body, and derived from actually being in a body.

  2. so how would corporate worship look different from ‘personal connection/worship’ in a corporate worship setting? in your view?

    the words in yellow: i’d tend to lean towards the latter, bearing in mind that not all in the church live out a life of ‘personal worship’.. but then again, i’m not too sure…

  3. good question mag!

    hmm we might stop singing “i” songs or substitute it with “we”. for example, last week at p&p i did “so *we’ll* let *our* words be few, Jesus *we* are so in love with You”.

    it might not necessarily have radically different =) but more purposeful, and more focused on engaging the congregation as a body.

    but i’m still open to ideas… anyone? =)

  4. i usually change the song “i will give you all my worship” as well.. in the last line, i think it makes more sense to sing “you alone are worthy of ALL praise” rather than “MY praise”.

    guess the concept is to take the focus off of ourselves, and more as a congregation and with God.

  5. I feel that the worship (in the form of music before a sermon) should be a time where the person meets God if they did not have a chance to do so in the week. For those who have, its like a bonus. Whether is it ‘i’ songs or ‘we’, if the person is connected with God through loud or soft music, he is satisfied in God and gives God glory.
    Sounds very personel. So john, what is corporate worship to you? You have to agree, people that come to church are all not on fire for God. There are different ppl at different stages in their spiritual life. Having a woship(music) that connects them with God bonds the church together through that connection(hence corporate worship?)

  6. at the moment i’m still quite open as to what “worship” can be.

    i can understand if people want to come to church to “top-up”, recharge or just slow down. life is tough.

    i suppose the danger with that being our priority is that people will come to rely on church for their own personal spiritual life.

  7. I’ve heard arguments for both extremes of the spectrum. Being Singaporean Methodist, I’m inclined to think that there is a happy medium. I think there is a place for both corporate adoration of God and for personal connection with God in the (to use a really old and daggy term) “singspiration” portion of a service.

    I’m not too sure what your definition of corporate worship is. Pick apart mine; I think a congregation worships corporately on Sundays when each member fulfills his/her role, and I don’t just mean ministry roles.

    For example, in a particular service, during the, ahem, singspiration, Mrs. Tan may notice that Mrs. Wong is crying, and she feels the Spirit urging her to pray with Mrs. Wong after the service. That act of praying with Mrs. Wong is part of Mrs. Tan’s role in the service. At the same service, Mr. Lee is playing keyboards, and at the end of the sermon, he plays a quiet soothing melody to facilitate meditation on the released word. That is Mr. Lee’s role in the service.

    When the individual Mrs. Tans and Mr. Lees in the congregation each fulfill their respective roles on Sunday, God is corporately worshiped.

    So yes, I think corporate worship is by definition the duty of a congregation on Sundays, but I also think the style of music sung as well as the pronouns used in the lyrics do not necessarily have that great an impact on whether corporate worship (by my definition) was or wasn’t achieved.

    Your point about consumerism in the church is a good one. I think you’ve identified quite a rampant problem. I’m immediately reminded of the person who likes Wesley’s PnP services because he can come and blend into the crowd, and thus not be distracted by interpersonal interaction during his worship. I wonder if there’s anything we, as members of the congregation aware of the problem, can do to help alleviate it.

  8. I can resonate with your thoughts here, as a member in a worship team, we have often discussed the direction of worship, towards ourselves inwards, or upwards towards God. We do change the “I’s” and “me’s” to “Us” or “Our” sometimes, to create a more unified worship experience. And often in picking songs, focusing more on God-centred messages vs. me-centred messages. I feel there is certainly nothing wrong with words from a personal perspective, but as a body, we gather TOGETHER to worship TOGETHER.

    And in it all, as was said previously, our goal is to ultimately bring God glory, to come before him as individuals and corporately in the body and praise him up who is worthy.

  9. @drpeters10, thanks for your comment.

    i received some feedback regarding changing lyrics – that it’s best to explain the change before singing the song in order not to confuse people! otherwise that may also have a negative effect.

    re: God-centered vs. Me-centered… i can see a place for both i suppose the key is balance. But is the balance applied across 1 sunday, 1 month, 1 year?

  10. [...] III – Definitions by Experts on Worship Part IV – Why it’s our fault Worship is all messed up Part V – Differences between Individual and Corporate Worship Part VI – Defining Worship & the Worship Service (Meeting with [...]

  11. i thank u guys for this because am now using this info to do a debate at my school on the same topic and its helping me a lot thank you guys very much.

  12. All I know is Worship is all about God…God centered and focused…it’s not just a slow song but a lifestyle..whether you do that corporately or individually he will show up and is pleased to get the glory, when it is true worship. Not praising Him or thanking Him for what He does, that is still about us, but rather worshiping Him for who He is…that’s all about Him

  13. I’m in process of studying this myself. My focus is on what is “worship” not necessarily how to do so. Is corporate worship being confused with corporate church service. Is there a difference? Have we confused the two if they are different?

    • that’s a very good question – the modern church “service” itself is a very one-way affair. early church worship “gatherings” would involve much richer and not-as-structured interactions between believers sharing their spiritual gifts with one another, as well as sharing meals even.

      would “worship” be complete with our modern day corporate services?

  14. I don’t think you can so easily separate corporate and individual worship. We are designed and commanded to worship in community, yet God’s relationship with us is individual. We must each make the choice to worship God. Even when we come together, God is not worshiped just because we are together unless individuals within the group are actually individually worshiping God. When we come together as worshipers we edify each other and bring glory to God as we express our praise, celebrate His character and mighty deeds together and hear from Him through His Word. This is a very poor example, but think of a group of people, each bringing a candle into a dark room. When all the candles are lit and held together it creates enough light to see and each individual candle is indistinguishable from the rest. But without the individual candles being lit, there is no bright light. The one needs the other.

    This may not answer your question, but I think that the problem many worship leaders run into in trying to plan a worship service is that we are answering the wrong question. Instead of asking what we want for the individuals who make up our corporate gathering, we should be asking God what He wants from His people as they come before Him. Every week as I plan our worship service (which includes much more than just a time of singing) I ask God what He wants His people to say and sing to Him and to show me what I need to plan in order to give people the most opportunity to hear from Him. The beauty of this is that as God is glorfied in the corporate body, individuals will have a personal response to Him. So I guess I would say both should be our goal. We cannot wonderfully worship God together and yet not have any individual feelings or responses to God (not that every person will necessarily respond). Likewise, you can’t have a group of worshipers come together to worship and not have a beautiful expression of corporate praise!

  15. In our personal relationship with Jesus Christ we should have our own private time of worship away from the local assembly. As we come together in a coorporate setting normaly you would think that everyone is there to worship the Lord Jesus. As someone pointed out, there are different levels of growth represented in any worship service. We worship God for who He is, not for what He has done. For alot of people, when they worship they desire to connect spiritually with the Lord, to feel His anointing, His Love, His peace, His joy, His rest. As the majority worship Him in spirit & Truth, then will we be blessed to experience His presence. Sometimes it may take pressing into His presence, thus blocking out all distractions. The music as well as the songs sung should only be aids that assists us in our worship experience….it should be our hearts & spirit that is in tuned with the Holy Ghost that guides us into the presence of the Living God. When this is done, then corporately everyone will be joined together as one body no matter what level they are on. When everyone is on one accord then we will experience GOD!

  16. As a young worship leader in the early 90’s, I struggled with an emerging style know as “prophetic worship.” Different camps had their own interpretation of what that meant. For some it was warfare; for others it was a certain style of music. Others felt every song had to be a “new song.”

    One night while praying about this, I believe I heard the Lord speak to me as clearly as I’ve ever heard before. He said it had nothing to do with the style of music, but rather proclaiming what was on His heart at that moment was what made it prophetic. An old hymn, for instance, could be just as prophetic as a brand new song given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

    This was a very “freeing” revelation. I already knew that we have been called to be priests, and that we are seated in heavenly places with the Lord, and that the Lord inhabits the praises of His people. I also knew about the example from the Tabernacle of Moses of the progression of the believer from a “first day” experience at the outer court all the way to a “third day” experience in the Most Holy Place.

    Our calling as priests is to enter the Most Holy Place, be seated with Christ on the Mercy Seat and intercede on behalf of his people. If we understand that God has a purpose for us gathering together in corporate worship that goes beyond getting our needs met, and even giving glory and honor to Him, we will understand that He uses our High Praises to bind the enemy with chains, allowing the heavens to be opened to people in need. We no longer have our eyes on ourselves, or even just on Him.

    When we are seated with Christ, our eyes are looking in the same direction as His, and we see what He sees…a lost and dying world. Then we can begin to intercede, and there is a powerful dynamic in the corporate unity of believers. (One can put a thousand to flight, two can put ten thousand …).

    The best thing worship leaders can do is throw away their song lists and begin to use “worship practice” time to just worship together as a team. Sing songs that are easy enough for the congregation to remember without having to read words on a screen. Sing songs that are theologically sound and do not focus on the individuals’ needs. Seek the Lord for His agenda each time the body gathers together, and give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to lead you into the Most Holy Place.

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