It is time once again to prepare for worship. David Mathis writes about the privilege of worshiping Jesus:
“Worshiping Jesus together with his church is an awesome privilege.
God’s own voice sounds in the reading and preaching of his word. The community of the redeemed responds together in prayer and song. Pastors care for the souls of their flock through their preparation of the service and leadership from the front. Congregants offer, as act of worship, their humble, but sacrificial, financial partnership in the mission of the church.
Take a careful inventory, and you will find that most weeks this is the single most important hour of the week — and yet we are so prone to squander such a rich opportunity, sometimes even neglect it.”
So, how do we prepare for worship? Bob Kauflin answers: “We want to build a sense of expectancy, that we’re going to meet not only with each other, but with God. That’s an amazing thing.” He goes on to say that: “There are no normal Sundays.” Meaning, that we should not just go through the motions on Sundays with low expectations, but we should try and cultivate “a sense of faith” toward corporate worship. Which this sense of faith according to Kauflin: “develops over a period of time, just by reading God’s word and seeing how many times God called his people together to meet with them, to remind them of his promises, and strengthen them.”
Kauflin then proceeds to give us three practical pieces of advice to prepare ourselves for Sunday worship. The first thing he says is: “To get enough sleep.” This may seem like common sense, but how many of us have dragged ourselves to corporate worship with less than adequate sleep? If we come to worship tired, Kauflin says we will not: “really participate the way we could because we weren’t prepared.”
The second piece of advice Kauflin gives is to: “Plan ahead for others.” I think he is mainly aiming this at parents who have children. He wants those parents to give their children appropriate instruction about what worship is and not to just drag them along with them. If we don’t have children but are either married or dating or even driving with friends to the service, I think we can still heed Kauflin’s advice about planning ahead for others. Maybe if you are riding to church with a couple of friends, you could suggest that you guys all say a quick prayer for the service. For those of us who are married maybe we could talk to each other about the passage that Mark will be preaching on, or just ask how you could pray for each other. You could almost title this second piece of advice ‘helping others prepare for worship.’
The third piece of advice he gives is: “To arrive early.” “Aim to get to the meeting fifteen minutes before it starts. Think of weddings: no one wants to be late for a wedding. . . . [We should] think of the Sunday meeting that way, where I want to be there early because there’s so much happening beforehand. If all these spiritual gifts are in operation before the meeting even starts, why wouldn’t I want to be there, both to participate and be used by God to serve others, and then to be encouraged and strengthened by those around me?”
I thought these three pieces of advice from Kauflin were very practical and helpful. I have written a lot about how we prepare our hearts for worship, which I hope we will continue to do each week. In addition to that though, I hope we will all begin to ‘get enough sleep, plan ahead for others, and try to arrive early.’
What happens though if we don’t sleep well enough, and we haven’t prepared our hearts for worship, and haven’t planned ahead for others? Should we neglect the worship service if we haven’t done those things and don’t really feel like going to church that particular Sunday? To answer in the words of Ravi Zacharias: “No, no, no, a thousand times no!” If we miss church Bob Kauflin says ‘we are missing grace.’ ‘We are missing God himself at work to pour out his grace.”
Years ago when I was single I had many Sundays when I was tired and I wasn’t prepared for worship and I would wrestle with the temptation not to go to church. Every time that I ended up actually going to church on those Sundays I was always encouraged and strengthened, either by the singing of the songs, or the preaching of the Word, or the fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. The Sundays that I didn’t go to church and stayed home, I missed grace. So, let’s prepare our hearts for worship, let’s pray for Ian, Erin, Jerry, and Mark, and for the service at North Avenue. Even if we don’t do these things, and don’t feel like going, let’s not miss grace.
Mark will be preaching from Genesis 29. The ESV text is below:
Picture from here