By Pastor Don Strand
Last week I discussed the first two of five practices you can adopt to prepare yourself the Sunday worship service. Those two practices were to, first, remind yourself of the seriousness of the occasion. The Sunday worship service is a meeting with the Triune God, the creator, and sustainer of the Universe. It is hardly to be taken lightly. Second, your daily devotional time in God’s Word and in prayer sets the stage for your ability on Sunday to receive from the Word and to encourage fellow believers. Being closely connected with God throughout the week by reading and praying leads to open ears to hear the Word in a corporate setting and the heart to care for one another. Today I offer three more suggestions for your consideration.
Suggestion three is this: Sunday should start early. Granted, every outing, especially for families with children has the potential for all sorts of crisis. So it’s important to allot enough time to get everyone ready and avoid the last minute “where are my shoes”, or “have you seen the car keys?” drama. During my Junior High school days in Minnesota, we lived on the far east side of the school district, nearly 20 miles from the school. With rural roads, it was a forty minute bus ride in good weather, which in Minnesota occurs two to three times in a school year. With a working mother, missing the bus was not an option. Missing school was another non-option, so my dad taught us “the Navy way” of being organized to avoid being late. It was good practice for both school and church because missing church was mom’s non-option. So Saturday evening included a time of preparation for church, including shined shoes (Dad was old school). Of course, there were challenging Sunday mornings, but they were relatively few. So start your Sunday early—like Saturday night. But there is another, more important reason for starting early on Sunday.
By waking up early, you can read the passage in your Bible on which the minister will preach. Reading, meditating and praying have a way of instilling a joy, confidence, and humility in your heart. Joy, confidence in the promises of God and humility are essential tools to have as you gather with other redeemed yet still challenged Saints on Sunday. Joy wells up from God’s great promise in the gospel. Confidence comes from meditating on His faithfulness throughout history, and humility is the natural result of recognizing that there is nothing in you for which God should adopt you into His family. But He has.
Your Sunday should start well before you leave for church. When it does, you cast an infectious attitude around you especially if you allow your joy to spill out by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, making melody to the Lord (and those around you) in your heart (Ephesians 5:19).
Fourth, focus yourself to focus on God. That sounds strange, so let me explain. Focus begins with a quieting of your thoughts in the minutes before the worship service begins. When you meet friends as you enter the church, it’s only natural to want to catch up on the latest events in your life and theirs. But avoid that temptation until later so that as you enter the sanctuary come with a quiet heart and a focus on the primary reason you are there. At five minutes before the service, as the musicians are playing the prelude, shift your thoughts from the daily concerns of life to things that are transcendent and eternal.
The fifth practice comes after the service and has two parts. First, the best time to meet and greet your church family comes at the conclusion of the worship service. Just as we are called to spend time with God each day, it is also important to spend time with people to know how to “one another.” The “one another’s” are the commands to love one another (Romans 12:10), honor one another, agree with one another (1 Corinthians 1:10), bear with, speak truth, be kind, forgive, and submit to one another (Ephesians 4:2, 24, 32, and 5:21). Doing these things requires that we know our brothers and sisters in Christ. So make lunch plans. Plan to get together during the week. Greet someone you don’t know well. Ask someone how you can pray for them and be sure you do. The time after the service is the time for true Christian fellowship.
Second, after the service, it is important to spend some time reviewing the message, either in your thoughts or from you notes and ask God how He wants you to apply His Word. Thinking about what you have heard in the sermon is important because this is how the Spirit works to conform you to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29). Called “sanctification,” this conforming is God’s will for your life (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Reflecting on the morning’s message and praying for the Spirit to guide you takes only about thirty to sixty minutes on Sunday afternoon. But doing so has temporal and eternal rewards.
That is why we need to go to church. God requires it, we benefit from doing so, it gives the opportunity to impact another person’s life, and it strengthens and encourages us to take the message of the gospel to a world in dire need of this good news. I pray that you will adopt these suggestions. If you do, I believe you will find a growing richness in your worship experience and a strengthening of your Christian faith.