The genius of corporate worship is the reciprocal communication between God and His people. God speaks to His people and they respond. When God speaks to us, it is by the reading and preaching of the bible at this point in history. We have no prophets to give us new revelations of the Spirit.
When the people of God respond corporately it is usually in the singing of a hymn or Psalm or in words we recite together. That's the idea of it being "corporate" which by definition means: "shared by all the members of a group".
There is the public prayer that should include each worshipper who joins his consent by saying, or thinking "amen". This is sometimes a written prayer or a memorized prayer (such as the Lord's Prayer) which everyone recites together, but in corporate worship this is usually done by one leader on behalf of the congregation.
Are you with me? Okay, today I want to focus attention on the matter of congregational singing. It is an important way in which worshippers participate in corporate worship.
We emphatically and vociferously deny the entertainment model for public worship. The pastor or others who may be on the platform are NOT the entertainers, and the congregation is NOT the audience. As soon as this model is adopted, corporate worship exists no longer. There might be delightful Christian entertainment. There might be a fine Christian lecture. But there is definitely NO corporate worship going on. This is why no one applauds the choir or other musicians in public worship.
I have an agent who has visited several reformed churches in our area, and he reports that in many of these churches the singing of the congregation is in serious decline. Special music groups do all the singing. Or the tunes are new and only the words are printed and no one has learned the tune.
Whatever the reason, more and more reformed worshippers are just standing there as the music is playing. They have not done anything together. They have not responded to God for His words to us. They are just standing there until the next item in the order of worship. This is a dangerous trend.
When a new hymn is introduced to a congregation, it ought to be taught. Sometimes this is done by adopting a "hymn of the month" which is sung every Sunday for a month. Sometimes there is another venue (like Sunday School) where it can be introduced and practiced until ready for corporate worship. Sometimes it can be reproduced--with music--and carefully taught during the worship period.
Every congregation member ought to be able to think about the words and join the praise thoughts incorporated in this new hymn, and that just can't be effectively done if he is groping for the note and reading unfamiliar words at the same time.
Whatever the solution, please let us not lose this important element of corporate worship.