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How to worship as a body

How to worship as a body November 12, 2021

Image: Crossway

In yet another contribution to the excellent 9Marks series on building healthy churches (possibly now complete?), Matt Merker’s little book on Corporate Worship is well worth your time and attention. In right around 150 pages, Merker discusses, well, ‘corporate worship.’ Specifically, he outline what the church does when it gathers together as a body. Even more specifically, he engages the following topics across seven chapters:

  1. Who Gathers?
  2. Must We Gather? [spoiler: yes, we must]
  3. Why Does God Gather Us?
  4. What Should We Do When We Gather?
  5. How Should We Order the Gathering?
  6. How Does the Whole Church Participate in the Gathering?
  7. How Does the Whole Church Participate in Congregational Singing?

In each of these, there’s much to reflect on and I’ll encourage you to pick up the book and read it on your own to get the full weight of what the author has to say. But just to give you a small sample of how well he blends theological reflection and practical suggestion, in the final chapter (“How Does the Whole Church Participate in Congregational Singing”), the author considers what music ought to look like in a church service

First, prioritize the sound of the human voice. It is instructive that the New Testament doesn’t command us to use any particular instruments. We’re free to play instruments; the priests played them at the Old Testament temple. But the New Testament instructs us simply to sing.” (141-142)

Second, prioritize unity when considering musical style. Since one of the main purposes of corporate singing is to build others up, music gives us a wonderful opportunity to ‘count others more significant than [ourselves]’ (Phil. 2:3).” (144)

Note that he doesn’t take a side in the “worship wars” of three decades ago (not even the right side, for that matter 🙂 ). Instead, he reminds us of the Biblical point and style of corporate musical worship and encourages us to adjust our practice to those claims, rather than to our own cultural or personal tastes.

Corporate Worship isn’t limited to the music of the service (though there is quite a bit on that, which makes sense given that the author is a Nashville musician). As the list of chapters above shows, topics are touched on ranging from the nature of the church to prayer to the ordinances. All of these are a part of our gathered worship, and all need to be done according to God’s Word. And this little book is an excellent place to begin thinking about just how to do so.

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast an Amazon Associate (which is sometimes linked in this blog), and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

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