Public and/or Private

29 Aug

Jesus answered, “The most important [commandment] is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:29-31


During a staff meeting we discussed an email from someone in the congregation who felt inhibited while we worshiped God on Sunday morning.  We moved from this particular situation to our personal philosophies.

The conversation was brief– with more observations and questions than answers.

I could identify with the email-er.  Using my entire body to worship God forces me to keep my attention on him.  That’s why I love to worship through sign language.  The individual signs are so meaningful and expressive!

However, I feel that when I am signing, I am a distraction to others.  I never want people to be focused on me or what I am doing instead of worshiping God!

So I do one of three things:

  1. I don’t sign in a corporate setting
  2. I make really small signs in front of my body to minimize the distraction
  3. I go to the back of the room and sign with my heart and hands

Another person in the meeting couldn’t identify at all, however.  She shared that she thinks only of her Lord as she worships him, not the people around her.  She has a very authentic, but also undistracting way of worshiping God.

So this week as I prepare my heart for Sunday, I have more questions than usual:

  • Is corporate worship different than private worship?
  • Worship IS all about God, but can we honor him without considering our brothers and sisters?
  • If I only have Him in mind, even if I am distracting others, will that encourage others to worship more authentically?
  • If I am thinking of others while I worship God, am I truly and wholeheartedly worshiping Him?
  • Do the two greatest commandments relate to these questions in any way?

I continue to think about these questions, especially on how this affects a worship leader.

Help me out… please comment!

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6 Responses to “Public and/or Private”

  1. Susannah Francis August 29, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    Wow…I can’t tell you how many times that Zach and I have discussed this. We attend a very traditional church and often feel that the way we feel most comfortable in worship is much more animated than they would appreciate. I’ve prayed quite a bit about it and this is what I have felt the Lord saying to me. Corporate worship is about unifying our hearts before the Lord. There is obviously a personal element to it…that’s how amazing our God is, that He speaks to us personally as we speak to Him corporately. There are so many times I’ve seen confirmation of this being true. Think of a time when you’ve walked into a church you are visiting for the first time. You might start out saying obligatory “hello” and greetings, but all the while nervous about a hair out of place or something between your teeth. Then, worship begins, I mean the true worship, where people began pouring out their hearts…and you do the same, sometimes even as a means to seek solace from your surroundings. And as you empty yourself, God unites you with everyone else. You see that you have something in common with these “strangers” and start thinking of them as your brothers and sisters in Christ.

    For me, that is corporate worship and if the atmosphere is to focus on pouring out our hearts, there is unity on how that can be done. I have found refreshment in other styles of worship unlike what I am most comfortable in…and through that worship, I also find unity. Some atmospheres a certain “unfamiliar” worship style can hinder that spirit of unity. I ask God when I question it. Sometimes, I feel He says I can be “myself” in worship and other times I feel as if He moves my eyes to those around me that are humbling themselves before the Lord in a different way than I normally would. He stirs a love for that type of worship and I unify His people there in that style of worship.

    Well…I guess all in all I would sum up my thought on this by saying that I believe the Holy Spirit will guide us on the correct style of worship for the atmosphere I am in and it is my responsibility to listen to Him and obey. My love for my brothers and sisters compels me want to keep their worship unhindered, for I know I can always blast the radio in the car or spend extra time in private worship with Him during my devotions the next morning.

    • cathyhowie August 29, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

      What a freeing response, Suzanne! Thanks for adding clarity. Rely on the Spirit for direction… Definitely!

  2. Judy August 29, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    Our Bible study this week is asking the question “how does your personal worship affect your coorporate worship” , which is another discussion entirely. But it also has us looking at our corporate worship and thinking about what we can do to maximize our time/concentration. I think I am distracted by others, even when they are not being particularly distracting themselves. That is to say, it is my lack of concentration on the reason for/object of our worship. So one thing I have to do is, when it is possible and I know the songs or text, close my eyes so I’m not seeing others. I do consider what would make my husband or family nervous and distracted, but I’m not sure how I would know if I am being a distraction to most other people. I have heard people say, “it was wonderful to see so-and-so blessed by the worship service today.” I think sometimes our actions in worship may be a joy to others, So in once sense, yes, I think we need to put both the commandments together, but we may not know what that looks like in most situations. One person’s distraction may be another’s blessing.

    • cathyhowie August 29, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

      More great thoughts! Thanks, Judy. “One person’s distraction may be another’s blessing.” Hadn’t thought about that before. More reason to follow Suzanne’s exhortation to follow the Spirit’s leading.

      Please share what your Bible Study learns!

  3. Suzanne Purewal August 29, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    Different people worship in different ways. And that’s perfectly okay. But it also depends on your congregation and fellow worshipers. As a Catholic, from a very early age, I was instructed when to sit, stand, kneel, repeat… Outward displays were not tolerated. The nuns kept everyone in line.

    Some people were outraged when guitars were brought into the church when a Folk Group was formed. And the uproar of allowing interpretative dance during the Liturgy was unbelievable.

    I applaud other denominations for allowing and encouraging members of the congregation to participate in whatever form they find comfortable. Obviously, a person should not violate another individual’s personal space. But as long as the worship is done reverently, I don’t see the problem in worshipping in the manner you choose.

    • cathyhowie August 29, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

      I can really relate, Suzanne – I was also raised in the Catholic Church. Reverence is definitely the key!

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