This is what I confessed to our congregation this month during one of our worship services. We were trying out a
new very old method of singing in which I led through a Psalm line by line with the congregation repeating after me. On a typical Sunday there is a cushy barrier of keyboard and music stand between me and the rest of the room. On this occasion I was standing in front of the pulpit with nothing to shield or distract me from the gaze of my sisters and brothers. Immediately shame reared its serpent head and directed my gaze to the floor.
The moment I became conscious of this and confessed it aloud, change came naturally. As I began to maintain eye contact, singing became less a recitation and more a proclamation. I really believed the words we were singing, and I wanted others to hear about it.
This is a good example of what is sometimes called the horizontal dimension of worship. In the first place worship is oriented vertically to God. But as closely as Jesus identifies love of God with love of neighbor, so close is the horizontal to the vertical in our worship. God is glorified not only as we are knit to Him but also as we are knit to one another by worshipping Him. A regular refrain in the Psalms goes something like this:
This is more than an add-on to our worship. It is the ordinary outflowing of a heart full of thanks. Remember the last time you were genuinely excited about something, so much so that you physically ached to tell someone about it. That is the kind of Spirit we receive as we behold our great salvation in Jesus Christ. If we are honest, this is not how we ordinarily experience worship. But amazing grace does not wait for perfect gratitude. It is poured out to the last drop before we have even begun to say thank you.
Practicing vertical and horizontal worship trains us to experience what we have already received by faith in Christ. I would commend to you, if your experience of sung worship feels like it is just you and God in the room, try looking around a few times while you sing. Notice the people standing next to you. Sing with them on purpose rather than by accident. If your service offers a chance to mingle and greet, treat that as an opportunity to be discipled by Jesus. Escape the orbit of your chair and seek out a stranger. It will be surprisingly painful at first. That is the feeling of the new man killing off the old man. By embracing awkward encounters we become salt and light to a culture of comfortable isolation.
At the end of every little death is a little resurrection for those who trust in Christ. The way of the cross is the way of glory. Allow worship to be uncomfortable and see what the Spirit might do.