GATHER (Week 2): We Gather to Worship!

We Gather to Worship!

Thoughts from members of FBC’s Worship Planning Team on the purpose and importance of corporate worship.

Emily Hurst

You are joining us on the second week of a seven week series called “Why We Gather”. Today, we want to share about how we gather to SING and the importance of the music we include as part of our weekly worship service! If you regularly attend our service, you’ll notice that our service structure is “flipped” today, with several testimonies at the beginning, and our main worship set later in the service, as it’s designed to be an opportunity to respond to the message being shared today.

Those of us sharing today represent most of the members of the Worship Planning Team, which is a new ministry team that started meeting in the spring and officially took over the primary responsibility of planning our Sunday morning worship services on July 1. (We were introduced on that day…but don’t feel bad if you weren’t here. I’m on it and I wasn’t here!) If you have any questions about our purpose or what we are doing, please feel free to talk to any of us! But, our sharing today doesn’t have much to do with what the WPT is, but rather the hearts each of us have for the role that music plays in our services, and what God has to say about making music to His glory. Now, music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and some of my earliest memories of music are from church as a child. Music got me through some of the darkest times of my growing up years, and I hold two degrees in music, one in voice performance, and one in music therapy. The importance of music in our lives has never been in question for me, but I have spent a lot of time thinking about how music may strengthen my relationship with God.
The conclusion I have come to is that: music is a love gift from God. In one of my classes for my music therapy degree called Psychology of Music, we studied a chapter on the adaptive purposes of music. One of the most interesting things I learned was that there is no real biological purpose for the existence of music. Certainly, we have found ways for it to be adaptive ( I would be out of a job if we hadn’t). Music, when used in the proper settings, has medical, spiritual, and emotional ways of changing us on an individual level. But, the bottom line is: if music had never existed, our survival as a species would not have been effected. The beauty of music is something God created for us in the same way that visual arts, colors, landscape, and climate are additions God made to his creation that we may experience beauty and variety. These are the largely unexplained invisible qualities we hear about in Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Even in our fallenness, we find beauty. We constantly try to make connections between what we see and experience and the meaning behind it. Music has, time and again in my experience, been a way that God has reminded me “I am here. I never move. Just look for me.”
At the same time, God’s creation is intended to glorify Him! Psalm 100 says:

1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the Lord is God.

  It is he who made us, and we are his[a];

 we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

 and his courts with praise;

 give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

 his faithfulness continues through all generations.

We sing because we have the opportunity to give God’s gift of music back to him as a way to worship and glorify him! This is why the songs we choose matter. The words in the songs we sing should line up with the Scriptures God has written on our hearts. And (now this one may sting) whether or not we “like” the music should have nothing to do with whether or not we choose to glorify God with it! 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
God has given us the gift of music to demonstrate his love for us. God did not create a utilitarian world for us to live in, but rather one that showed us how desperately he loves us so that we may love him in return! We are commanded by God to worship. I leave you today with this, echoing the apostle Paul in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

Brandon Atwood

Hey guys, my name is Brandon Atwood. I’m one of the worship leaders here at First Baptist Church, and today I am I’m not able to be here I’m out of town hiking on the Appalachian Trail so I just wanted to share a little bit this way. There are several reasons why we gather together and some of the other people in the church are going to be sharing some of those different reasons. My focus today is a special connection with God that we can really only get when we gather together and we sing and worship him together. We can and should sing by ourselves, and that’s a really good thing. Some of my best times with the Lord are just me and him, I’m at home and just worshipping Him, and those are really good times and we should all do that.

But, there’s just something that we can only get when we’re together. Psalm 89 talks about this, in verse 1: “I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord forever.” So verse one right there shows that singing together is a way that we can proclaim God’s love, we can proclaim His faithfulness, and we can worship Him together. The songs we sing are about God’s love, about His character, about His holiness, about how worthy He is, and about the things that He’s done in our lives. So songs are a way that we can focus on who God is together. When we gather together, it’s a special time that we can connect with God, and we can be drawn in by other people connecting with God. We can be drawn in and we can remember who he is and what he’s done in our lives, and as that’s happening with other people in the room, it’s helping us connect to God even more.

Verse 5 is another verse from Psalm 89 that I would like to share: “Let the heavens praise Your wonders, O Lord! Your faithfulness in the Assembly of the Holy Ones.” So there’s this special power that comes when we worship as the Assembly of the Holy ones. As the church, that’s us; we are the gathered together Holy people of God. This is something that we can’t get alone because it’s a group of people; we’re a body. We are a family. so when we gather together we’re creating that space to connect with God on this special level that we can really only get when we’re all here together.

The last verse that I would like to read from Psalm 89 is verse 15: “Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face.” There’s a word in this verse that’s not too familiar, and that’s the word festal. The word festal is describing celebration feast, and the word for people in this verse is not talking about individuals; the original word for people here is talking about a gathering of people. So, this verse is saying, “it’s the joint people of God who know the feast shout.” So what is what is a feast shout? It makes me think of, in the book of Exodus, the Passover; or in the gospels where it teaches about communion, where it’s a feast where we’re gathering together and there’s a joy that comes from this joint feast that we have sitting around the table.

Another way you can think about this is a wedding feast. You’re there with all of your friends and family and it’s all of your people. You gather together to celebrate the special occasion with so much joy, and that’s what a festal shout is. That’s what it’s talking about. And it’s really only something that you can get when you’re focused on who God is and what he’s done for you. It brings this joy, and it’s this song, this shout, that goes up to the Lord. And so, we gather together on Sundays to express our combined joy of experiencing God’s goodness. Together, we can connect with in a way that we can’t by ourselves.
You may watch Brandon share in video format by clicking on the video below:

Christy Ragle

I’m Christy Ragle, and you might be wondering why I’m up here because I’m not a music person, and if you sit by me you know that it’s like a joyful noise—I take that very very seriously. So I am on the worship planning team, but I’m not a musical person per se, so I’m here to talk to you about not singing. It’s pretty obvious that not all of us sing, and there are sometimes when I don’t sing. I just want to talk us through what that means, and what are some of the battles that I faced in my own life not singing.

So sometimes, when we aren’t singing, it’s because we’re new to this church, and the songs are different. Maybe we don’t know God the way that the people around us know God. That makes sense; you’re still learning. But, there are those of us that were raised in church, that know the songs, and still don’t sing. Why is that? These are the statements that I used myself and I’ve heard other people use. So we’re going to go through those:

  • I don’t like this song
  • I don’t know this song
  • I don’t feel like it
  • I’m not a good singer

So, what do all these statements have in common? They all start with the word “I”. So I’ve got some great news for you: it’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s not about the “I”. It’s about the Lord. David, in the Book of Psalms, in chapter 69, he shares about the sorry state of his life. He does that a lot: enemies are chasing him, people are mocking him, etc. He’s asking God for help and, in verse 30 of chapter 69, he says “Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and I will honor him with Thanksgiving for this will please the Lord more than sacrificing.” Did you heat that? —with singing. “That pleases the Lord more than sacrifice.” For some of us, singing praises is a sacrifice. You’re singing even though you don’t like the melody of the music. You’re singing even though you don’t know the song, even though you’re tired, even though you don’t feel like it, even though you’re not a good singer. My dad-okay I will say I can think sing better than my dad-he is a terrible singer! He cannot carry a tune in a bucket with a handle; but, that doesn’t stop him from singing praises to God. You know, without knowing it, my dad is an inadvertent worship leader because the people around him are like, “You know, if he’s singing I think I can sing!” Because, really, it’s not about him. It’s not about you.


So maybe you don’t know the songs; most of them kind of have a repeating chorus; just hum along. Read the words, concentrate on those words, and really try to make him part of your life. Something that helps me is listening to Christian music through the week. There are so many great resources for that; I’d be glad to share them with you. Honestly, it helps me through my week, because, you know, if I’m having a bad week, the best thing to do is to praise. You know you don’t feel like it. There have been times where they’re singing “I Surrender All” and I can’t say that because I’m carrying bitterness in my heart. So what do I do? I don’t want to just sing just to make the people around me think that everything’s okay. What if I prayed, “Lord help me surrender all”? You know, maybe you can’t mean the words that minute but that doesn’t mean that you can’t pray that God will bring that meaning to you.

Winnie Logan

When I took over the leadership role for the first Sunday worship team, I started thinking a lot about the songs that we sing, and the songs that we select. You know, God made us all different, and that’s wonderful. What I like to sing may not be what you like to sing, and vice-versa; so I really thought a lot about that, and I started thinking about what congregational worship should look like. What does it look like when God’s people gather together and sing?


The Lord took me to Revelation, and I really love this passage. We get a glimpse into heaven, and we get to see what’s happening in heaven right now and in the future. So I want to share that with you. Chapter 5 of Revelation, starting in verse 1, it says:

1Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits[a] of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll

    and to open its seals,

because you were slain,

    and with your blood you purchased for God

    persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign[b] on the earth.”

11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength

    and honor and glory and praise!”

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

    be praise and honor and glory and power,

for ever and ever!”

14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.


That is what worship looks like in heaven, and we should have a little piece of that here. So we see this vast congregation singing to the Lord because of what Jesus did! And what he did is is told to us in verse 9: He died and He rose again and with His blood He purchased men for God. He bought us. Isn’t that enough to make us want to sing?


Another picture of what worship looks like in heaven is in Isaiah 12. Isaiah 11, before this, is talking about when Jesus will come to reign. Chapter 12 of Isaiah says:


1 In that day you will say:

“I will praise you, Lord.

    Although you were angry with me,

your anger has turned away

    and you have comforted me.

Surely God is my salvation;

    I will trust and not be afraid.

The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense[a];

    he has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water

    from the wells of salvation.

In that day you will say:

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;

    make known among the nations what he has done,

    and proclaim that his name is exalted.

Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;

    let this be known to all the world.

Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,

    for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”


 So when we come together, we’re here to sing for all the Glorious things that he has done. When we think about all the Lord has done for us, we can’t even imagine and describe everything that he’s done for us. And so, sing, people of the Lord when we come together.


Kevin Stonerock (Coordinator)

I believe we can all agree that our worship should focus on God. But are there any other reasons…”side benefits”, as it were, why we should participate wholeheartedly in corporate worship?


Let’s look at some scripture. Because I believe it sinks in a little better if you read it for yourselves, I’m going to ask you to turn in your Bibles to Hebrews 3:13 “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “today”, lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin”.


Next, let’s go to Ephesians 5:18-19 “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord”.


And finally, Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God”.


Bearing in mind that Jesus is the object of our worship, what’s in it for us?…for you and me as individuals… when we worship together? I can think of several things. Perhaps you can think of others.
  1. It strengthens our faith. How does it do that, you might ask? I would answer, by way of reminder. 2 Peter 1:12-13 says Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body,[a] to stir you up by way of reminder…” By our worship, by singing songs together that are based in scripture, we are reminded that it’s not about our works, it’s not about our performance, it’s not about US. It’s about God and his grace and mercy.
  2. It helps us to see God for who He is and to see ourselves for who WE are in His eyes. And may I add here that if you are a believer, God is not mad at you. If you have put your trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus as your only hope of salvation, you are His eternally and nothing can separate you from his love. If you don’t believe me, read Romans 8. This is big, and yes, it does effect our worship. Because of Jesus, you are FREE to worship God. You are no longer a slave to the devil’s lies, or your own flesh. You are a new creation and as unworthy as you feel (and we are, in our own flesh), God DESIRES your worship, and true worship produces a thankful heart.
  3. We’ve looked at a few ways that corporate worship helps us as individuals, but what about that person sitting next to you, or behind you or in front of you? Can your worship, or lack thereof, effect them? If so, how? I have a couple more scriptures for you. You can turn there if you want, or just listen.

Hebrews 3:13 “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “today”, lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin”. The phrase I want to focus on is “encourage one another”. Personally, I am encouraged when I hear my brothers and sisters in Christ raising their voices in praise and worship. How about you? We are not all called to preach. I’m certainly not, but we can “preach the truth” or affirm the truths of scripture to those around us by our wholehearted, passionate lifting of our voices in praise and adoration. The singing we do here is not, or at least shouldn’t be, something we do ritualistically so we can get to the preaching. And It’s not about how well you sing or whether you can even carry a tune. Personally, some of the most encouraging times for me have been when standing within hearing range of a saint who is tone deaf but is lifting his voice in song from his heart. There’s something very touching about someone who is so focused on God that they are oblivious to what others around them might think about their singing ability. I believe God honors that. “For[b] the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1Samuel 16:7 If you really want to get a blessing, sit in front of the Durham family… especially when all the boys are home. Maybe there’s someone in your neighborhood who encourages you. Encourage THEM by telling them so. Or maybe you could be just the person to encourage someone else.


Ephesians 5:18-19 “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord”. Wouldn’t the logical time to sing to one another be during our corporate worship time? If you come up to me after the service and start singing in my face like we’re doing a scene from “The Music Man”, I’m probably going to be uncomfortable, and whatever you are trying to convey is going to get lost in my embarassment , so I think we can safely assume, in most cases, Paul was talking about corporate worship.


Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God”. Singing with what? Thankfulness.


You may say, “Well, I just don’t FEEL it today.” Hey, I’ve been there. But on those times when I have ignored my feelings and offered up a “sacrifice of praise”, as mentioned in the Hebrews 13, I usually leave this place with a whole new attitude because I have stopped focusing on my problems and have been reminded of the holiness, the worthiness and the grace of God. I believe that when we truly allow ourselves to enter God’s presence, we can’t help but be changed. Don’t wait until you FEEL it. Feelings come and go, but God never changes. The eternal truths about God; the promises of God; the faithfulness of God are not effected by our feelings. You may say “I don’t want to be a hypocrite.”. To that I say “Fake it till you make it”.


It’s kind of like swimming. You’ll never learn unless you just go ahead and jump right in. My dad taught me how to swim in Duck Creek. It took me a while to get past the fact that I might end up dead at the bottom of the creek with the leeches and crawdads, but eventually it dawned on me that my father wasn’t going to let that happen. I used to walk across the bottom on the shallow end of the swimming hole, flailing my arms, pretending to swim. My dad didn’t mock me or chide me (though I can’t say the same about the local teenagers). He encouraged me to go out a little deeper, until one day it happened. I nearly drowned. No….I started swimming. Not all that well, but I was doing it! You should have seen the look of pride and satisfaction in my father’s eyes.


How about our worship leaders? I’ll tell you a little secret. If you want your worship leaders to be better, give them some encouragement by smiling and singing with gusto. Can we get real? You should be up here sometime and see how you all look out there. It can be downright scary! 🙂 Also, if you sing really loud, you’ll help cover up our mistakes.


            Why DON’T we worship? What are some possible reasons? Well, I thought of a few. Again, you may be able to think of others.
  1. The cares and worries of the world weigh us down. We can all relate to that. Let’s admit, it can be hard to sing when your world is falling apart. But if we look at the Psalms, David didn’t necessarily feel bon vivant all the time. Some of his songs are downright depressing, but by the end, most times he had come back around to the fact that his hope was in the Lord.
  2. Perhaps there is disappointment with God. David was familiar with that, too. “How long will the wicked prosper?” He wasn’t afraid to pour his heart out to God and again, by the end of the Psalm, he ends up praising God.
  3. Or maybe it’s that we don’t feel worthy to worship. Anybody ever been there? I have. That’s why it’s so important to be grounded in biblical truth. The Bible says that God has MADE us worthy through the blood of His Son. The Bible also says that He has removed our sin as far as the East is from the West. We ARE justified, we are adopted. God desires our worship. God deserves our worship. And finally, let’s never forget that we are not here to witness to OUR goodness, but to HIS goodness.
Gather Week 2:  Listen to it here
The video series can be found by clicking HERE.