(another old post. From 2013 when I was an associate pastor in charge of discipleship and worship at FBC Oppelo)
Because of the glorious resurrection of Jesus on the “first day of the week”, early Christians began gathering corporately on Sundays (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2). In the New Testament Sunday is referred to as the “Lord’s Day” and I’d like to take a few moments and explore how we can better prepare ourselves for the weekly corporate gathering of the local church.This post assumes a few things. It assumes that you agree with the New Testament example and mandate to gather regularly with the local church to worship God. It assumes that you understand the Christian “Lord’s Day” is not the exact same thing as the Old Testament Sabbath. Finally, it assumes that you understand that the Lord’s Day is something that is a priority for the Christian.
How can we better prepare our hearts for gathering together with God’s people to worship? I’d like to explain that by going over specifically how the folks at First Baptist Oppelo can prepare to worship together this Sunday, February 17th, 2013. Hopefully you’ll find these suggestions practical for your own life.
You’ll notice we have listed the songs we are singing Sunday. Have you considred looking up those songs, reading over them, reflecting on their meaning and purpose? Perhaps you could even sing them together as a family sometime before Sunday. The lyrics to each of these songs can be found here:
Knowing the songs before Sunday will help you to sing well and worship well understanding what the song is about and knowing what the words are conveying. Perhaps you can’t access your church’s bulletin online. You could try talking to your church’s worship leader and see if you could get a copy of the songs for Sunday early. Make this easy on him! Maybe you could meet him somewhere every Thursday afternoon, etc.
Pray for your music and worship leader:
Maybe you can’t get access to the songs that will be sang Sunday. Maybe the worship leader doesn’t even know what the songs are going to be until Sunday morning! Well, you can still pray for your church’s singing. Spend some time meditating over Colossians 3:16 to see the important role singing plays in your church. Take some time during the week to pray for the congregational singing. Pray that the people would sing to worship the One True God and not worship a particular style of music. Pray also for your worship leader. Pray that he would lead the people to worship together in spirit and truth. Pray that he would pick out songs that are God and Gospel-Centered (see here for more).
Meditate on the sermon text:
This may be harder for some depending on your pastor’s preaching habits. Our pastor does not necessarily publish what his next text will be but going through the book of Colossians our people know he finished with Col. 1:29 last Sunday and that he will pick up with Colossians 2:1-? this week. If you attend Oppelo, then you know that you can begin digging into Colossians 2. You can begin meditating on God’s truth revealed in this chapter. This will prepare your heart to get the most out of Sunday’s message. If you don’t know what your Pastor’s text will be for the coming Sunday, you could ask him. Pray through the text and pray that the people’s hearts will be saturated with the Word of God. Pray that the Holy Spirit would do His work in His people’s lives, breaking them, encouraging them, sustaining them, pointing them to Christ, etc. Pray for the lost that may be attending your church and that through this week’s passage God will reveal to them their great need for Christ and lead them to repent and believe the Gospel.
Pray for your pastor:
Your pastor needs your prayers! Not long ago Kevin Deyoung wrote a great post about this here. Pray that your pastor would have ample time to spend in prayer and preparation for the sermon. Pray that your pastor would medidate on the passage he is prepearing to preach and that God would reveal the truth of the passage and your pastor’s need for it first before he thinks about preaching it to the people. Pray that your pastor would be clear on the Gospel and point to Christ, no matter what section of Scripture he is preaching from. Pray that your pastor would feel his great inadequacy for the task at hand but also that he would feel encouragment from the Holy Spirit that he is empowered by God Himslef to fulfill this task.
Your pastor may need encouragment from you to keep preaching the Gospel faithfully no matter the response from the people. There may also be some tangible things you could do to help ensure your pastor has enough time to pray and prepare for Sunday’s sermon. Maybe you could print the bulletins this week? Make a visit for him? Take up some of the other duties that distract from preparation for Sunday?
Pray for yourself and your church family:
Make it a regular habit to be praying for your brothers and sisters. Pray they would be attentive to the word. Pray for your own heart that you would have ears to hear. Repent of any known sin. Perhaps there are things you need to reconcile with someone else so you're not attending service with that awkward tension of trying to avoid someone. Pray that you would be an encourager to others at your Sunday gathering. Pray for the presence of God's Spirit among you.
Guard Saturday Night:
Don’t stay out late on Saturday night. Inevitably this may happen from time to time but don’t make it a habit. Being well rested to gather with God’s people is important. How many times have you woke up late on a Sunday morning only to fight with your spouse, or kids, rushed hurridly off to church, only to feel tired and irritable the whole morning. God is not honored in that. We should desire gathering with God’s people (more here)! So, plan late outings for Friday, or a different night of the week.
Wake up early Sunday:
I’m not saying you have to wake up at 5am or anything. I’m just saying wake up early enough that you have time to pray, read the Word, and prepare yourself for Sunday morning. This may just mean setting the alarm an extra 30 minutes early. If we wake up on Sunday at the last possible second and then rush around to get ready, are we really ready once we enter the place of worship to meet with God?
Schedule your week around the Lord’s Day not the Lord’s Day around your week:
Don’t leave stuff undone for Sunday. Clean, mow, wash the car, etc. on other days of the week instead of putting them off until Sunday. Your mind won’t be so anxious to rush out the door Sunday morning if you’ve prepared well throughout the week, setting aside Sunday for the priority of corporate worship.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25