I love to be in huge crowds.
Whether it’s at a mall, a concert, or a sporting event, I love to consider the people surrounding me. Oftentimes I stop and wonder things like, “Who are they? What is their story? What are they going through right now?” The sheer number of diverse circumstances and stories is incredible to ponder. Every soul is unique, and taken together, we seem to make a sort of collective tapestry of human experience.
A Thousand Different Needs
Corporate worship is similar. On any given Sunday, there are doctors and farmers, young parents and seasoned grandparents, single students and married executives. The gathered body of Christ represents an incredible array of experiences. Different hopes and dreams, different fears and insecurities, different struggles and temptations. No two people in those pews are exactly the same.
And no two people are in the exact same place spiritually. There are those who are soaring through the highest mountain peaks and those trudging through the deepest valleys of life. Some are in need of comfort from the God who makes us lie down in green pastures and restores our souls (Psalm 23:2). Others need to be convicted of their sin by a loving Father who disciplines those whom he loves (Hebrews 12:5–6). Some feel deeply the love of Jesus. Others are struggling in the moment to believe that God is love at all.
One Body, One Spirit
Consider, therefore, the marvel of corporate worship. We come together each week — this multifaceted mosaic called the body of Christ — and somehow, God meets us where we are. We sing the same songs, recite the same creeds, pray the same prayers, and sit under the same Scriptures — with so many different needs, corporate worship might seem like the most unlikely place where God could extend us particular help. Don’t we need something more specific to the state of our own souls? And yet, God uses these common truths to minister to our varied hearts in exactly the way each of us requires. How is this possible?
Every week, a miracle happens. The Spirit of God that dwells within applies the truth of God’s word to the hearts of his children. By God’s word of truth, we are sanctified (John 17:17), conformed more and more into the image of his Son (Romans 8:29). He takes the same truth proclaimed among us and applies it to our hearts in ways that only he can.
He is our Helper who brings to our remembrance the truth of Christ at the precise moment that we need it most (John 14:26). After all, he knows what our hearts need better than we do (Jeremiah 17:9–10), and the Spirit himself helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26). God’s grace is at work in his church, helping them serve in his strength for the glory of Christ (1 Peter 4:10–11).
Filled with the Spirit
God works by his Spirit in a special way in corporate worship, which is why gathering to sing and worship together is so important. The apostle Paul described the corporate singing of God’s people as one of the primary ways the Spirit of God works in our hearts: “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). We are not to be under the influence of alcohol, Paul says, but rather under the influence of the Spirit and his work in our hearts.
Well, what does that mean? How are we filled with the Spirit? Paul says, “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Ephesians 5:19).
It makes sense, then, that time after time God comes and meets us in corporate worship. We sing songs and hymns filled with the truth of God’s word to one another and are therefore filled with the influence of his Spirit in our hearts.
Necessary, Impossible Work
As a worship pastor, I feel acutely our need for the Holy Spirit’s work. After all, I am just one man and a sinner at that. I think to myself, “There is no way on earth that I could hope to minister to each individual need represented by all those people out there. I wouldn’t even know where to begin.” But God does. His Spirit is dwelling in each believer gathered every Sunday. So, we sing — to God and to each other — in order to be filled with his influence and changed by his truth. Thank God that this miraculous work is not left in the hands of mere men!
So, as we prepare for corporate worship, marvel again at the Spirit who lives inside of you (2 Timothy 1:14). Rejoice that God knows what we need and loves giving good gifts to his children (Luke 11:13). And no matter what is going on in life, come ready to sing with God’s people that we might be filled with the Spirit’s work in our hearts (Ephesians 5:18–19).
He is faithful to meet us, together with his people, right where we are at.