The Missing Piece in Gathered Worship

Tuesday Re-mix – 

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  1 Corinthians 12:27

If the goal of worship is to connect with God, then there are only two “grades” you can give a gathered worship experience: “A” or “F”.  It is pretty much a pass/fail thing.  That is because there is no such thing as connecting with God and it being anything other than amazing and wonderful…and if you are in a worship experience and you are NOT connecting with God, then, well…fail.  I had to get all that said before I take up today’s topic, just so you know that I know…because today I am giving our culture’s gathered worship experiences a grade somewhere between pass and fail.

Last year, I attended a corporate worship experience at a church in the town where my daughter goes to school.  It was well produced, but lacking in one way.  Other than my family, I did not know a single person around me.  Sadly, that was still true even as we were leaving.  That just seems wrong to me.

The truth is, it was an amazing worship atmosphere.  Very contemporary in style (I am blessed to be comfortable worshiping in almost any “style”), with a casual feel and lots of technology to help the worshiper stay focused on the message and on the theme for the day…great, introspective music, wonderful sermon, innovative communion.  To their credit, I thought the worship leaders did a fairly good job of keeping the focus OFF of them on ON the Lord.  That’s not easy to do in this consumer-oriented culture.  But there was one element missing for me…and frankly, it is missing in the vast majority of corporate worship experiences I’ve ever seen or heard about.  So much so, in fact, that I often wonder if I am the only one who misses it.

But before I identify it, allow me one digression.

In my own church, our worship service is televised…live, every Sunday.  It is a great deal for those of us who worship there.  If you cannot be there for some reason on any given Sunday, you can catch the service on television.  God has done some amazing things over the years through that television ministry, and I am truly grateful for it.  But I do wonder if watching our services on television is any different than worshiping there in person.  Because our services, like just about everyone else’s, call your attention to the front of the auditorium the entire service.  What you are watching in person is no different than what you would be watching on television.  When we worship, we all come in and sit down and turn our attention to the front of the sanctuary for the entire hour.  It is very much like going into a movie theater and watching a movie.

And now I will digress even further.

My wife and I stopped going to movies on our “date nights” a long time ago, because, as entertaining as they might be, they do not provide any opportunity for us to “connect” with each other.  We go and sit and watch and leave without ever connecting with one another.  Not exactly good “date night” quality time.

End of digression.  Bringing it all back around now.

The same is true in most of our gathered worship experiences.  We come, we sit, we stand, we listen, we pray, we sing…all without any “connection” to our co-worshipers except for the token 90 seconds when we “turn and greet one another”.  And for me, this is the missing piece: truly connecting with my co-worshiper. I know, I know…our worship is all about Him, not about us…we are supposed to be focused on Him.  I get that.  But I can do that at home, all by myself.  I can turn on my radio or my computer monitor and watch or listen to outstanding leaders “prompt” me to turn my heart toward the Lord.  I do not need a live gathered worship experience for that.  Shouldn’t the live experience lead me to do something which only it can do, i.e., experience the body of Christ?  Shouldn’t corporate worship afford me the opportunity to do something I CANNOT DO AT HOME?  Shouldn’t it offer me the opportunity to connect with the Spirit of Christ living in my brother/sister?

I long for that in worship.  I have no idea how to accomplish it, how to structure it.  But I do long for it.

What about you?  If you have been a part of a worship experience which really gave co-worshipers the opportunity to connect with one another, i.e., to find Christ in one another, I would love to hear from you.  What did it look like?  How did it work?  I’m looking for ideas!  I’m looking for the missing piece.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website:

10 responses to “The Missing Piece in Gathered Worship”

  1. Our pastor has been shaking the church and doing many different things to push interaction with others. One Sunday we arrived and instead of having all the chairs facing the stage he had the stage in the middle of a circle and the chairs in a circle around it so you could see ‘different’ people as you worshipped. (church in the round) Lately he has been having us break into groups of 5-6 and pray together, asking what we can do for each other (during the service) He said ‘IMAGINE praying in church and talking to one another’.
    At first I resisted. I didn’t like to change and be told ‘to talk to strangers’ but it actually turned out to be a blessing.
    Our Church is The Gathering in Wilsonville Oregon and Mike Tatlock our Pastor has written a book that tells of the journey from a church inside to a church outside. You may want to read some of his ideas.
    He says the church begins at a park, in a coffee shop then into a living room.
    Let me send you a copy of his book if I can figure out your address.

    1. Sharon-

      Would LOVE to read it! Send it to P.O. Box 701685, San Antonio, Texas 78270.


  2. Oops the name of our church is GRACE CHAPEL. I think I am not awake this morning, the gathering was the last church we went to. (sorry about that I think I need some coffee)

  3. I liked this post before, and I like it still….

  4. Your article above is absolutely correct. I belong to a world-wide home church – in every city, we break up into small groups that meet in homes – 20 or 30 per home. We sit in a circle, and ALL share in singing, prayer and testimony. I truly love this structure, because you definitely connect and bond with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, and you are edified and encouraged by what the Lord has laid on the hearts of EACH ONE. We do occasionally get together for larger assemblies and annual conventions, but again everyone is encouraged to share – we’re not just focused on one speaker. Because of this structure, we all know hundreds and hundreds of people in our church, throughout the nation and around the world. I can’t imagine not knowing the people you meet with – but of course, the way most churches are structured, it would be impossible to get acquainted with each other. 🙁

  5. Many churches follow the celebratory model and share many similarities with theater. The perfect and practiced singers (joyful noise?)
    You sit in a pew as you would in a theater and hardly get to know the person you are sitting next to. You can feel like audience instead of the body of Christ as the pros guide you to connect with your God.
    That celebratory model, which God I am sure has reached many with, came about in 300 AD under emperor Constantine when Christianity was formalized into a state religion. It is always good to know how things came to be what they are.

    1. Also, remember the bulletins / programs

  6. Blake, I connect with what you say in today’s blog. I have been on that page before, metaphorically speaking. I think the essence inside of this begins to take on some focus when you read Nehemiah 8. Think of the crowds. Think of the atmosphere. Perhaps it was very hot. Think of the time involved in what took place. They all stood throughout. I picture everyone shoulder to shoulder just to be able to hear, if not Ezra himself, then one of the Levites. If you would have asked them why they were subjecting themselves to these conditions, wouldn’t they have answered, “Because this is important!”

    Now, does that do something to one’s idea of what corporate worship is?

  7. The thoughts on worship togeather were so though provoking.
    doesn’t the Scripture say when they all come togeather, each has a song a prophecy ect. and that they may confess their faults one to another. Today meetings are just like you say, could be on tv or in a building, all the same style.
    Where is the real fellowship of worship?


    When the setting is like a theater the message is sit down and be quiet we (pastors, leaders) will run the show.

    When you sit down like an audience, you are being told to behave like an audience. Jesus wants his body to be a living breathing community.

    Jesus wants the Spirit to move and guide the community.

    1 Corinthians 14:26 NIV
    [Orderly Worship] What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.

    Everyone has a hymn? In what church? The choirs and worship ministers, maybe. Most folks have been taught that worship is a spectator sport.

    A word of instruction? In what church? only the “pastor”, designated teachers, maybe.

    A revelation? In what church? Is there room for inspiration and revelation at your church for the Holy Spirit to work? Or does the program get in the way? The rigid ecclesiology that we cling to.

    The Show must go on!

%d bloggers like this: