One of the benefits of having to sit in the pew more often than I was used to before my illness is not only to hear more good preaching but also to be more “involved” in the worship of God.
Like many preachers I’ve often found it difficult to get fully engaged in corporate worship. Partly it’s because of the sense of responsibility for leading the service; partly it’s the burden of having to preach shortly; but it’s also partly the “distance” from the congregation.
On a platform or in a pulpit you hear the general volume of the gathered voices (if the instruments are quiet enough!), but you don’t get to hear the subtle and beautiful pathos in individual voices.
I was reminded of this recently when a deep male voice started singing near my pew. I recognized it immediately and, knowing the person as I do, I was able to understand why he was singing these words with such passion and feeling in his voice. It so enhanced my own singing of that Psalm as I joined my voice and experience to his. It felt like I was singing in stereo.
Another time it was a female voice and, again, from what I know of her life and providence, I could tell what was going through her mind as she sang words very appropriate to her situation. Again I was able to worship God more meaningfully as I listened to the joyful trembling in her voice.
Probably neither of these people have any idea how much they ministered to me and thereby heightened my own worship. Maybe, hopefully, I’ve done the same for others at times.
Though I still miss pulpit-Sundays, my pew-Sundays have given me a new understanding and appreciation of two-dimensional, or bi-directional, worship. There’s the “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,” but there’s also the horizontal “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19-20).
And more of the latter results in more of the former.