Creating an Engaging Corporate Worship Environment

Love the Lord with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength.

The Schema

When Jesus speaks these words in the Gospels (Mt 22:37, Mk 12:30, LK 10:27) he is making a statement about worship. He is actually quoting the “Schema” a series of words written in Deuteronomy chapter 6:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

(In Hebrew the word “Schema” means “hear” as in “Hear, O Israel.” The first word is used to represent a larger statement in the same way some today might refer to the Lord’s prayer as the “Our Father.” )

The Jews of Jesus’ time took these words seriously. When they woke up in the morning they would repeat the Schema because it said to. When they went to bed at night they would repeat these words again because it said to. They would tie tefillin to their hands and foreheads and nail Mezuzot to their doorframes because it said to. This was part of the spiritual rhythm of each day. The Schema was also recited during services held in the synagogue and the temple. This passage of scripture was an important part of personal and corporate worship life in first century Palestine.

When Jesus quotes the Schema from Deuteronomy 6 the people who heard Jesus speak those words would have understood that he was making a statement about worship.

Worship is multifaceted. It involves heart, soul, mind and strength. Corporate worship that is engaging contains elements that emphasize each of these expressions.

Heart

To the Jews of Jesus’ time heart represented conviction. To worship with all your heart meant that you chose to worship with your volitional will. We see this concept in Psalm 119:30 when it says, ” I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.” To worship with our hearts means to choose to worship even when we don’t feel like.

Engaging corporate worship provides opportunities to worship willingly through choice and action. People who worship with their heart don’t put God in a box by waiting to worship until “the spirit moves” but rather enter with a worshipful heart expecting God’s presence and worshiping from the start.

Soul

To the Jews of Jesus’ time soul represented emotion. To worship with all your soul meant to give God your all of your emotions and to be emotionally open to the flow of worship. We see this concept in Psalm 31:7 “I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.” This includes both high and lows – worshiping God with your happiness and joy as well as your sadness and frustration.

Engaging corporate worship moves us to laughter and tears. It invokes anger toward injustice and inspires a feeling of triumph over what it right. People who worship with their soul offer their emotional response to God rather than stifling it.

Mind

To the Jews of Jesus’ time mind represented intellect. To worship with all your mind meant that you were intellectually engaged. We see this concept in Isiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” God doesn’t want you to leave your brain at the door, but rather he wants you to analytically think about the Christian faith.

Engaging corporate worship should challenge our false notions, teach us proper doctrine, and give us “something to chew on.” People who worship with their mind seek to deepen their understanding of God’s truth.

Strength

To the Jews of Jesus’ time strength represented the physical body. To worship with all your strength meant that you used your body to physically worship. We see this concept all over the Bible. In the New Testament a Greek word for worship is “proskuneo.” In the Old Testament a Hebrew word for worship is “barak.” Proskuneo and barak both literally mean “To bow down on the floor as before a king.” So even the word “worship” implies physical action.

Engaging corporate worship offers opportunities to respond physically to God’s grace and truth. People who worship God with their strength may use such physical actions as singing, raising hands, folding hands, clapping hands, shaking hands, kneeling, standing, sitting, dancing, shouting, playing instruments, or remaining still and quiet. Even the act of simply walking through the door can be an expression of worship that loves God with “strength.”

In Summary

The phrase “heart, soul, mind and strength” should be understood to mean, “everything that we are.” These four elements aren’t hard and fast rules, but rather they provide a framework to start a proper understanding of worship. Engaging corporate worship seeks to be multifaceted and employs a broad spectrum of response rather than a one-dimensional approach.

Notes

Experiential Worship by Bob Rognlien is an excellent book on the art of creating engaging corporate worship experiences. Many of the concepts here are paraphrases from this book. For some practical ways to implement this philosophy into your worship ministry visit Rognlien’s website: www.experientialworship.com

Creating an Engaging Corporate Worship Environment is part 1 of a 5 part Philosophy of Worship Ministry series entitled 5 Purposes That are Vital to a Thriving Worship Ministry

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5 Responses to “Creating an Engaging Corporate Worship Environment”


  1. 1 inWorship November 2, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    Great stuff Billy. I am really looking forward to this whole series.

    I’ve had that book on the shelf for a while. I really need to pull it out and soak it in.

    Thanks!

  2. 2 Margie Moore November 3, 2007 at 10:23 am

    You Go!!! this was great. Thank you for including the history of the statement from Jesus and also the scripture to go along with the different aspects of the human being involved in worship and what all this meant to the Jews of Jesus’ time. I wish more people understood this. Even though I believe we are to “get something” out of worship, it’s not about us. It’s about Him. Many want to focus on their needs instead of focusing on presenting ourselves to the One True Living God.

  3. 3 Billy Chia November 3, 2007 at 11:45 am

    Brent,
    Yeah – it’s one of my top 5 ministry books.

    Margie,
    Right on – Worship is reciprocal. God comes to us and we respond. We certainly get from worship – in fact I’ve found the more I “give” in worship the more I get.

  4. 4 Fred McKinnon November 13, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    Billy,
    Good stuff here – I’ve had to save it as “unread” in my GoogleReader because I wanted to find time to read it slowly and digest all this good stuff. Thanks for the teaching – it’s very good!

    FRED

  5. 5 Billy Chia November 13, 2007 at 7:08 pm

    Fred,
    haha – I feel ya man. I’ve have some “unread” posts from like 2 weeks ago still waiting. I tend to like to get to posts early and comment on them before my comment gets buried. But I also find getting to posts late sometimes means that a lot of great discussion has taken place that I might’ve missed if I would’ve shown up earlier.


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