The following is from Pastor Brown's February letter to the congregation.
It may not always seem like it, but going to church is by far the most important thing we do all week. The public worship service is the place where God has chosen to meet with his people. We assemble as citizens of the eternal kingdom, joining “innumerable angels in festal gathering,” and “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Heb 12.22-23). By the power of his Spirit, God stoops down to feed our souls, strengthen our faith, and build us up as the body of Christ. He speaks to us through his means of grace: Word and sacrament. We respond to him in prayer, confession, and song. In the process, the gospel is transforming us into a new community in which we forgive, love, and serve one another. Although it often seem ordinary and mundane, the worship service is the most important activity of the Christian life.
How can we prepare ourselves for such a great event? What are some practical things we can do to get the most out of worship? Here are ten.
1. REMEMBER THAT WORSHIP PLEASES THE LORD. Too often, we are preoccupied with how we feel about worship. If we enjoy worship, we’re more prone to go. If we think it’s dull and boring, we find it easier to stay home or do something else. The problem with that attitude is that it is self-centered. It begins with me and how I feel about worship, rather than with God and what pleases him. Start by remembering that God commands his people to “come into his presence with singing” and “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (Ps 100). We go to worship because it pleases the Lord.
2. EXPECT TO HEAR FROM GOD. Come ready to receive food for your soul. Word and Sacrament are God’s chosen means to persevere in the Christian life. God says “incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live” (Isa 55.1-3). It is through the preaching of Christ that our faith is strengthened (Rom 10.14-17), and it is through the Lord’s Supper that we commune with the body and blood of Jesus (1 Cor 10.16). We go to worship to be served by the living God.
3. LAY OUT YOUR THINGS THE NIGHT BEFORE. Seriously. We do it when need to be somewhere important the next morning (work, school, etc). Why not do the same for the most important event all week? This is especially wise for families with small children. Who needs the stress on Sunday morning of searching frantically for matching socks or clean clothes?
4. GET A GOOD NIGHT’S REST. A full eight hours (or something like it) will help us come to church feeling refreshed and ready to worship. Of course, some of us can’t remember the last time we had a full eight, right? Indeed, some things we can’t control. But others we can, like staying out too late or burning the midnight oil on Saturday night. It comes down to ordering our priorities rightly.
5. READ THE TEXT BEFOREHAND. If you have time on Sunday morning, try reading the passage that will be preached in the AM service. On Sunday afternoons, read the evening text. Doing so might help you be more engaged with the text while it is being read and explained during the service. You can find the whole liturgy for both services on our website (christurc.org) under the tab, “This Lord’s Day.” This is also a great way to help children prepare for worship.
6. PRAY FOR YOUR PASTOR. The apostle Paul asked the church at Colossae to pray for him so that he might make the Word clear to the people of God (Col 4.3-4). How much more does your pastor need your prayers to do the same? Pray that the Lord will grant him profitable hours of study during the week, free from distractions. Pray that he will have insight into the Scriptures, rightly applying the text to our lives, and faithfully pointing us to the person and work of Christ. Pray that he will have clarity of speech in the pulpit, and boldness to preach both the law and the gospel. Pray that he will seek to apply the message to himself.
7. PRAY FOR YOURSELF. Pray that God will grant you a humble heart to receive what God has to say to you in the preaching of his Word. Pray that the Holy Spirit will convict you of your sin, assure you of your salvation in Christ, and motivate you to live in joyful obedience to God. Pray that you will not harden your heart to the Word, or be a mere hearer and not a doer (James 1.22). Pray that the Word will transform you by the renewal of your mind (Rom 12.2).
8. TALK ABOUT THE SERMON AFTERWARDS. To get the conversation started, ask one another questions. Avoid broad and subjective questions like, “Did you like the sermon?” or “What did you get out of the sermon?” Those tend to be unhelpful in the long run. Instead, try asking the following: What was the sermon about? What particular problem of the human heart did the sermon expose? How did it convict us of our sin? How did it reveal Christ as the solution to this particular problem of the heart? How did it teach us the way in which we are to live? For children, try using the questions in the bulletin which your pastor provides each week.
9. ATTEND BOTH SERVICES. Attending both services allows us to hear more of the Word (Old Testament in one service, New Testament in the other) and enjoy more fellowship with God’s people. Attending both services also helps us sanctify the Lord’s Day more easily. The Lord’s Day is not merely the Lord’s “morning” or “evening,” but a whole day given to us for worship and rest. Your pastor has prepared two meals for your soul. Why not benefit from both of them?
10. JUST SHOW UP. So, you stayed up too late on Saturday night, forgot to lay out your things, didn’t read the text or pray for your pastor or for yourself. You haven’t given much thought about worship this past week, and you feel like a big loser. Just come to church anyway. God knows what we need, far better than we do. And God has something good for you, every time.
Affectionately in Christ,