A foundational passage for our worship gatherings is Colossians 3:16, which says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Since this passage is foundational, it would be difficult to expand and explain all of the implications for us as a campus and worship ministry. So, let me make one observation and one application for us when we gather for worship.
The observation might be too simple to be obvious: Paul is writing to the church at Colossae. He is addressing the body of believers. We (I) tend to miss this when I read the Bible. Often, I read, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you…” and I immediately put myself in the crosshairs of this verse. I assume Paul is writing to me. But is he only writing to me? To individual Christians?
The (again, somewhat obvious) answer is “No.” Colossians 3:16 is, well, three chapters and 16 verses into the book of Colossians. This means that Colossians 1:1-2 tells us who the audience is: the church at Colossae. Zooming in further, we see that Paul is telling us what should happen when we gather. We should teach and admonish one another. Paul says we should teach and exhort one another and that we should use psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to accomplish that end. In other words, psalms and hymns and spiritual songs are a means of the “word of Christ” dwelling richly in us.
Zac Hicks, writes:
“Part of loving the church well is reminding her that she is a community. In our day and age, when worship has become such a subjective experience, the church is ever prone to hyper individualizing our faith and practice. We see this very tangibly in worship services in which we’re all explicitly or implicitly encouraged to have our own private encounters with God. Sometimes we can get the impression that the most meaningful worship service looks like one in which each worshiper is having their own private devotional experience with God…and they just all happen to be in the same room!”
“One of the things I like to do is balance the amount of time given to ‘eyes open’ and ‘eyes closed’ in my own leading of the sung portion of a worship service. I make it a point to peel open my privatized experience and look around at the saints as we sing together, as a visual demonstration to say, ‘Hey, church, we are all encountering God together.’” (The Worship Pastor, p. 26).
By way of application, let me encourage us to embrace the opportunity to encourage one another as we encounter God together. We must be aware of our own tendency towards individualized, privatized experience. Each weekend, look around as you enter the auditorium. You are surrounded by people. Each person beside, behind, and in front of you needs to be reminded of the goodness of God in the gospel, and here’s the thing: God has designed the body in such a way that you are part of the reminding. How? Your singing. Your posture. Your handshake. Your open eyes.
When we gather this weekend, let me encourage us to open our eyes, look around, and sing with all our might because this is one of the greatest ways we help one another believe the Word of God.