Okay, the pastor is just on one of his soapboxes, again. Sure, this is a soapbox…but if you are a Christian, it should be your soapbox as well. So, hear me out.
You see, many people are simply satisfied that you are going to church in the first place — you remember that kind old lady from Sunday School that used to say, “I don’t care where he goes as long as he goes to church somewhere…” She had all of the best intentions, but boy, she couldn’t be more wrong. What good does it do a person to attend worship at a place that plays at church, but does not teach in a way that is faithful to the Bible.
But I’m not talking about that dear old lady with all of her good intentions. And I am not talking about the silly statement that people that don’t want to come to church make…you know the one… “I can worship anywhere and don’t need to go to church to do it.” We could talk about the nature of the body of Christ and how it is to be unified for worship in conformity to God’s command, but my interest is not to go there either. And I’m also not talking about those who tell me, “I prefer to attend that other choice because they have Saturday-Night services…,” as if worship is about our convenience…no, my point is not to go there either.
What I want to address is the mindset that many have who think that their presence in the sanctuary at the prescribed hour is the most important thing. Now, I grant you, it is a better thing to be in church than to not be in church — at the very least you will be exposed to the preaching of the Gospel. But being physically present in church is the easiest part of your worship…and arguably the least important part. God demands that his people be wholly committed to him, not just our bodies, but our minds as well. But to engage mentally in the worship of God’s people, you need to prepare yourselves. So, here are some thoughts in the form of practical advice that you can put into play today to help prepare you for tomorrow’s service of corporate worship.
1) Have you prayed for the Pastor and those leading the service of worship? Are you committed to seeking God’s face that these men may speak the Word of Truth to you in a way that is wholly consistent with the testimony of the Scriptures?
2) Have you prayed for yourself? Are you committed to seeking God’s face that you may be prepared to listen attentively to what the Pastor brings that you may take it to heart and learn from him? Pray that the Holy Spirit would convict you where you need to be convicted and that he will apply the Word of God to your sinful heart.
3) Have you read the text on which the Pastor will preach? Most pastors are more than willing and able to share their sermon texts at least a week in advance. If they are unable to do this one might be tempted to ask about their preparedness or organization.
4) Having read the text, have you made a list of questions you have from the text itself? Take these with you as part of your notes (yes, plan to take notes on the pastor’s sermon…it will allow you to learn and it will keep him accountable — and if he knows you are taking notes, not only will it encourage him in his preparations but it will also encourage him not to take any shortcuts in preparation). Plan to take these notes with you and see how many of your questions the pastor answers. And if he does not answer one of your questions, drop him a note asking him said question, it will encourage him that you were listening and that the text is important enough to understand that you want to know said answers.
5) Do you know the hymns which will be sung or the additional readings that might be present? It may require a phone call to the church secretary to discover this, but if you can learn these things, reading the words ahead will allow you to prepare better to sing them.
6) Have you read through your notes from last week’s sermons? If your pastor preaches in the form of a series or through given texts of the Bible, reading these sermon notes will jog your memory and assist you in engaging with the text.
7) Plan to get a good night’s sleep. A rested mind is a more engaged mind. Be ready to engage fully in the worship of God.
We could likely add other things to this list, but try these things and see how your engagement with worship and the text will change. I also think that if you engage with these things, your personal devotions will improve, but that is a different conversation. Or, let me just say, in the words of the old television commercial, “try it, you’ll like it!”