By Karen Morerod, Kansas City, Kansas
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.(Isaiah 55:10-11)
I stood at the back of the church at the soundboard. The offering was being received while a compelling song resounded. The words were projected on the screen at the front of the sanctuary to make sure no one missed the message. Lyrics rang out about God being in control, that nothing in our culture can overthrow God's plan and, as God's children, we can rest in this security.
Wow! What a powerful song. My feet moved back and forth, my hands lightly beat the rhythm on the soundboard, and ... wait a minute ... I looked around. Some people doodled in their bulletins. Some stared off into space. Some looked around at other people. And still others, I saw from the side, sat with folded arms, stone faces, unmoved by the words or music.
I restrained myself from jumping up and shouting, "Isn't this a great song! Let's all sing..."
Have you ever looked out while leading worship and thought the same thing? Have you ever wondered if anybody else is on the same page as those leading up front?
After mulling on my situation all that Sunday afternoon, I knew I needed some peace about the scenario before frustration consumed me. Here's what I concluded:
I make judgments on appearances. While there is a lot of talk about body language, and much of it may be true, we cannot make this an overarching truth. The first time my husband laid eyes on me was when he was singing in concert at my church. He observed me sitting in the pew, arms folded and he told me later he thought, "I wonder what her problem is." The truth of the matter is, I wasn't in any particular mood that evening, other than noticing the handsome soloist!
Not everything that speaks to me, speaks to everyone else. We all worship differently. What may move me to get all excited about God, may not motivate the next person. However, what sparks their attention and reverence to God may not touch my spirit. And that's OK. That's why it's important in our corporate worship to use many different styles and avenues to help bring everyone into the worship.
Some may be burdened and weighed down with life. A ChristianityToday.com article by Shane Hipps, entitled Praise That's Premature, opened my eyes to this truth. Some come to church troubled with any number of life issues. Perhaps at this moment they feel less than joyful. Ecclesiastes 3:4 says, "There is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance." We are wise if we acknowledge this in our fellow worshipers and thank God they came to His house to receive spiritual encouragement and direction.
We have a great responsibility when making decisions about our worship services, and then carrying out those plans. However, when things don't seem like they're going as we'd wished, we can't assume all is lost; or suppose that people weren't really worshiping simply because they don't appear to be worshiping in the manner we would prefer.
We pray, plan and participate. Ultimately, though, God has a wonderful way of working through us -- and sometimes in spite of us -- to accomplish His purposes. Trust His faithfulness as you help lead others in worship of Him.
1. Have you ever looked out at the congregation and wondered what was wrong with them? Is it possible that they may just respond differently or may be struggling?
2. As our author points out, we can't always tell what is going on in the hearts of our congregation. How can we balance what we see with encouragement to participate?
3. Are there practical things we can do to help our congregation engage in worship? (Discuss some options.)