Worship Is More Than Singing and Sermons

Don Miller wrote a post yesterday about his experience in corporate worship that has left me thinking. In the post (read it here) he writes that “I don’t worship God by singing.” He also says that he is nearly alone in this confession. I know that he is not alone because I’ve encountered many people that really just aren’t into singing (I usually don’t sing much outside of my own faith community). Miller also goes onto to say that corporate worship is geared towards auditory(listening) learners (sermons are often central) and not visual(seeing) or kinesthetic(doing) learners. Miller identifies with being a kinesthetic learning- and finds intimacy with God with his “hand to the plow.”

I had several thoughts about the post and would love to hear your feedback about his post or my thoughts. I’m not trying to be disagreeable but using his article as a launching point to talk about corporate worship.

1. Worship is not primarily about learning. Does learning take place? Sure it does. But our primary focus in worship is to give God our praise. To give God the praise and adoration God deserves for being, well, God.

2. Worship should not be reduced to singing and listening. Let’s be honest that in many American churches- these are the two main ingredients on Sunday morning. The worship of God is more than just singing and listening to a sermon (which is more than a lecture as Miller suggest), a service of worship is filled with liturgy. Worship, whether a church is traditional, contemporary, post-modern, or (insert favorite worship label here) is filled with liturgy. The definition I have always been taught of liturgy is that it is the “work of the people.” That is a kinesthetic definition. It is not sitting and listening- worship is doing something. Worship is when the body of Christ comes together to pray, to give God praise (sung and non-musical), to give, to encourage, to admonish, to teach, to confess, to build-up, and to be sent-out.

3. Corporate worship is not as much about “me” as it is about “we.” I have a congregant who doesn’t particularly care for our style of worship- but says that they love the church because of the community that they are part of. The church should be a community of people who live a life of worship and mission together. Each person has an important role to play, and when they don’t the community suffers. Community also provides us with a safe place to engage and develop our theology of God. Community encourages us to go deeper in our understanding of God and God’s love- and it also can bring us back when we’ve gone far in our thinking and are outside of the guide of scripture.

4. Corporate worship is a great place to celebrate what God is doing through the “hand on the plow” work. We are to put our faith in action- and gathering for worship is a time when we should celebrate the work that God is doing in and through us. In fact, this heighten’s our worship of God because it is a regular reminder that God is working in our midst. This creates a holistic approach to worship- we worship God in our personal disciplines, in the world by the way we live our lives, and as the gathered body of Christ.

Miller writes that Sunday worship is geared towards auditory learners. How does your church engage the senses in worship? How does your service allow worship to be the “work of the people” and not just the worship band and preacher?

About Steve LaMotte

Husband of Andrea and father of four amazing children. Pastor at Avenue United Methodist Church in Milford, Delaware.
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3 Responses to Worship Is More Than Singing and Sermons

  1. paulbowman says:

    Great reflection Steve. It seems that a lot of “contemporary” worship (I don’t mean music style, but churches today) has been minimized to singing and teaching. We need to return to a much more holistic and God-centered view of our gathered time. I think you are pointing in the right direction here!

  2. RuthAnn says:

    Some of us do experience & memorize learning with sensory combinations.
    I took a course with Seagel & Horne from Human Dynamimcs, International and with their Daughter Eve Seagel, a child psychologist, who talked like this about the senses and how we process information (take in or give out) is paralel to how we process energy (regain or deplete it). I might not be explaining it well, but it was spot on for me. And I wondered when the Church will honor how differently we process . . . participating shyly because we are stretched beyond our comforts zones to worship the way that is socially acceptable in this day and age and place. I believe this is exactly why so many have said that wilderness is their cathedral; oneness with nature, their communion.

    I would like worship to smell good 😉 . . . or at least unique . . . I am not necesarily advocating for faux burning lamb flesh or Frankinsence & Myrrh . . . but something special or at least memorable? Like pine trees & bay berries & gingersnaps at Christmas; or hot cross buns at Easter. Maybe we need to update our multi-senory worship; maybe the cultural care committees might add more then music & visuals. I loved VBS as a young person because we made the culminating event like an interactive drama and the parents had to eat frosted flakes for manna as we threw down plaster of paris tablets by the golden calf (stuffed animal dressed in yellow sweat suit) looming above us!

    • Thanks Ruthann for your comments. I think pastors (pointing the finger at myself) and staff need to work on engage more senses during worship. God gave us five senses- we might as well use them!

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