As I have often confessed since reading and studying with Dr. Robert E. Webber, I believe order in worship is practiced in the historic form of four-fold worship, whether delineated as such, or simply practiced or realized that way.  I understand this form to be the way the church engages with God together.  As such it helps to form us as one body, even the Bride, at worship.  In the next four weeks I want to consider the application of our singing to each fold and to encourage prayerful thinking by worship planners as to the spiritual, liturgical, and human dynamics at work in this fold of worship, and invite renewed consideration of how singing plays a part in worship acts during each part of a service.  WORD and TABLE (response or sacrament depending on doctrinal position), are sometimes referenced as the twin towers of worship, and bear the primary content load of worship that “does God’s story.”[1]  Gathering and sending, nevertheless, are necessary aspects of coming into His presence and moving out into the world to enact His deeds empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve, even as Christ served in the world He made.


Gathering, by common sense as well as by Divine action in the case of worship, is an obvious necessity for engagement or communion.  In a social context we come together for fellowship, shared meals, conversation, often remembering and re-telling previous encounters.  Today, in fact, I have scheduled gatherings of this nature, in some cases with old friends, and in other cases with new acquaintances.  Simply stated, I will go to meet them, we will greet one another, recognizing our presence, and begin our shared encounter, over lunch and/or coffee.  The social dynamics will be different based on familiarity in each case, and where we are in relationship.  While I do not plan on singing with my guest at the coffee shop, we may share some songs.


GATHERING in Christian worship certainly has similar social dynamics whereby people come together.  In Christian worship, however, there is the incredible (to us) dynamic of the very Presence of God in our midst, and all that that reality suggests:

  • the gathering brings us into a stream of ongoing encounter and praise that has eternal roots and eternal significance
  • we are in position to receive divine blessing, hear instruction, become convicted or comforted
  • in this gathering we are endeared to others, even  to an extent that we become as one body


Our singing in the gathering phase of worship can assist and underscore the GATHERING itself.  No matter the style of our worship context, formal or informal, this gathering seeks to recognize the Lord’s invitation and Presence, as well as His provision.  This is much more than a sort of warmup to worship, or wakeup song.  The dynamics of group singing assist us in becoming one symbolically, practically, and spiritually.  It is fully appropriate to sing songs of praise, recognizing Who God is, and who we are in position or relation to Him.  It is equally appropriate to sing songs that recognize a unified spirit as family of God, children of light, or as fellow sinners in need of common confession, open to the Spirit’s work of conviction.   In the best cases there is a sense of journey in our GATHERING phase of worship.  We are moving toward a time of hearing the WORD.  It seems important, however, that we seek full engagement in the GATHERING phase of worship, lest we overlook its importance, or unintentionally foster a spirit of “hurry up and get to the instruction.” If we are not careful we can overlook the togetherness that stems from admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, from following biblical models of ascension, or straightforward biblical instruction to “sing to the Lord.”


I say the handshaking, fellowship time in evangelical’s worship is the Baptist kiss of peace, although I do not hear many passing the peace during that portion of a typical service.  I hope that worship planners – worship music leaders and senior pastors – will spend time prayerfully considering this GATHERING portion of worship and its dynamics so as to not clutter the GATHERING either with distracting actions or words that can unintentionally call attention away from the Lord’s Presence, from one another, and from the direction our worship is headed.  Likewise, I would encourage thoughtful planning of music that allows the sound of gathered voices to be heard, perhaps unaccompanied at moments, as well as the gathered instruments of praise.  If we let it, our singing can assist in announcing the Lord’s presence, in confessing our sinfulness and need, in offering our praise and positioning ourselves as humble worshipers in relation to our Creator Redeemer.


Some personal default GATHERING HYMNS AND SONGS – What are some of yours?


Come, People of the Risen King – Keith & Kristyn Getty & Stuart Townend

Come, Thou Almighty King – ITALIAN HYMN words: anonymous

Worthy of Worship – JUDSON – Terry York & Mark Blankenship

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name – CORONATION – Edward Perronet, John

Rippon & Oliver Holden

How Great Is Our God – Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves & Ed Cash

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty – LOBE DEN HERREN – Joachim Neander,

Stralsund Gesangbuch

            Glorify Thy Name – Donna Adkins




[1] Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Worship (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008)

Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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