Look Around While You Worship

Colossians 3:16

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

The Plural “You”

“You” is an important word in the New Testament, but the English language does us a bit of a disservice. Because we are culturally individualistic, we almost always assume the “you” is a singular “you.” In Colossians 3:16, as is the case throughout Paul’s letters, the Greek syntax clearly identifies the “you” as a plural “you.” Sometimes I wish our English translations would embrace a country twang here and use the word “y’all” to help us get this. Note the difference, “Let the word of Christ dwell in y’all richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in y’all’s hearts to God.” Perhaps the twang is a little distracting, but the second-person plural sense of the word is important. Paul prays that the word of Christ would dwell in the Colossae church corporately.  He prays that the teaching, admonishing, singing, and thankfulness would be mutually experienced by the community that gathers corporately. Christianity is not an individualistic religion. It is more fully and truly experienced communally.

Look Around in Worship

I am currently on sabbatical, and one of the joys of sabbatical has been the opportunity to worship from within the congregation on Sunday mornings. Rather than focusing on my sermon, the order of service, or welcoming guests as they arrive late, I have been worshipping from different seats in the room. As I sat amid a flood of voices this morning, I was struck by how much those sitting around me served to enhance my worship. `

As I sang, “Hallelujah, what a Savior,” I wasn’t just edified by the lyrics, but I was stirred by the evidence of those lyrics around me. The reality of those lyrics took shape in the lives of those who were singing beside me and in front of me. I looked around and I found reasons to worship. Brand new believers were singing new songs for the first time. Seasoned saints were resting in the faithfulness of God. I heard the voices of men and women whom I have known for years, whom I have seen grow into Christlikeness through battles with sin and suffering. I saw teenagers praising the Lord and remembered picking them up on the church bus when they were just elementary kids. I looked around and was provoked to pray for dear friends married to unbelieving spouses. I was burdened by the sins and temptations that I knew were plaguing some, and I prayed for the salvation of others who would sit under the preaching of the gospel once again having not yet responded to its invitation. The plural “you” fueled my worship today.

Do you look around in corporate worship? Let me encourage you to do so. Be encouraged by the faith of those around you and give thanks to God for the specific ways He has saved them and has worked in their lives. Be burdened for the faith of others and intercede on their behalf according to your knowledge of their struggles and sorrows.

Can You?

Can you look around and be stirred to deeper worship? If you can’t, then ask yourself why not? Have you made efforts to be known by others in the church you attend? Have you made efforts to know others? If your church conducts worship with all the lights off so that you cannot see anyone else around you, consider the implications of that decision. Could the practice of turning out the lights during worship be reflective of a particular philosophy of ministry? With the lights turned down, you do not have to see anyone around you, and you do not have to be seen. It makes individual and personal worship of God more comfortable and creates the illusion of hiddenness. Individual and personal worship of God in the secret spaces of the prayer closet is a wonderful thing, but is that what the corporate gathering of the church is for? There is a unique glory in the corporate voice of a faith community that is stirred to worship by one another. Pursue that unique joy for the glory of the Lord in and through your church.

Conclusion

May the church gathering be more than a service you attend, more than music you listen to, and more than a spiritual talk that you consume once a week. In the words of Paul, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 15:5-6).

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