In my last post, I mentioned that the Lord longs for our participation, not merely our observation, during our praise and worship times (Song of Solomon 2:14: ‘My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding place of the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.’) However, I realize that participation is going to mean different things to each of us. For our purposes—corporate worship—I would like to define it as this: hearts and minds fully engaged with the message of the music resulting in living the words out in our daily lives.
Let’s look at the definition of participation. According to The New Oxford American Dictionary participation is defined as ‘the action of taking part in something’. The derivative of participation is the Latin word ‘participat’ which means to share in. If we find the verbs in these words, we discover ‘share’ and ‘action’. Essentially, to participate means to share in the action. Not only are we taking part in the action in congregational worship, but we are sharing in the action. We are in agreement with one another, at that moment, to lift our voices in praise to God.
When we participate in our worship times—sharing in the action—we bring ourselves to a point of engagement of our minds and hearts where we can then encounter God on a spiritual and intellectual level. We then grow as an individual, but we also grow as a body because we are proclaiming the Lord with one voice. Participating in worship sounds like an easy thing to do, however, there are many things that prevent us from participating in such a way that we truly encounter the power of God.
At times our individual circumstances can be a distraction. Each one of us has our individual set of trials that can take our focus off of the Lord. It becomes our rewarding challenge to look past what we see with our physical eyes to see with our heart and look upon the Lord in all his greatness and goodness. I say a rewarding challenge because there is no greater joy than reaching a place with Christ that our circumstances fade away and all we see is our magnificent Lord.
Our own inhibitions can be a distraction as well. We wonder whether others will notice us if we lift our hands in adoration. We wonder if others will see and think that we have no right to praise him with abandon when we make such a mess of our lives on a daily basis. If that is the case then maybe, just maybe, our god is people’s opinions rather than our god being God. At some point in our lives, we must come to the decision that God’s opinion matters most. It should be his opinion that sways our choices and actions.
Full participation in worship brings us to a place of vulnerability before God, but doesn’t leave us there. I believe the ultimate goal of participation in worship is to share in the action in such way that we are compelled to go out and live out what we are declaring through song and music. This is the end result of active participation. What is your level of participation? Do you show up and endure the music? Do you avoid singing? Do you think that corporate worship is an unnecessary part of your walk with Christ?
Could I ask that you take a series of steps toward a new level of participation, not for anyone’s else’s sake, but yours? I guarantee that if we humbly, hungrily chase after God through active participation in our worship times that he will meet us in our surrender and we will be compelled to live out what we experience.
© Jessica Van Roekel, Graceful Truth Worship, participation