Preparing for Sunday Mornings Part I
Going to church is hard.
The practice of dragging yourself out of bed, making yourself extra presentable, and speeding through breakfast on the weekend isn’t especially appealing. If you manage to make it into the building before the service begins, that means you have enough time to either sit awkwardly and wait or have a few conversations with people you don’t really know. When the service does start, let’s be honest, you’ve got a lot of other things on your mind. Hopefully, by the time you’ve gone through a few songs, you’re starting to get in the right headspace for church. You might have wandered a few times during the prayer, but you’re back in the saddle once the pastor begins his sermon with a clever story. You do a decent job of paying attention—let’s just hope no one asks about the details of the sermon later. After communion, the service is pretty much wrapped up and now’s a good time to catch up with your friends, though most serious conversations will have to wait till you’re not in public. Or maybe you don’t feel like talking, so as soon as the benediction comes, you’re inconspicuously bolting toward the exit. By the time you get back home, you’re tired and hungry and the furthest thing from your mind is the Gospel.
What’s gone wrong? Why are Christians always talking about going to church if this is what it’s like? Should we even bother going?
The answer to that last question is yes. The author of Hebrews reminds his fellow believers they should not be “neglecting to meet together” (Heb 10:25, English Standard Version). The problem isn’t that we’re meeting, it’s that we aren’t approaching meeting together as we should.
We approach church the way we approach everything else in life: as consumers. A very subtle question rules our minds: how can I use what’s in front of me to benefit myself? It’s what we think when we’re at the store, when we’re looking at new information, when we see a new tool at work, when we’re on our phones, when we’re browsing TV shows, and so on. We’ve trained ourselves to see everything as a product to be used. We’ve made ourselves into consumers. Take a minute and ask yourself, really ask yourself, “Am I a consumer when it comes to thinking about church?” Maybe you see church as the Christian version of the country club. Maybe it’s how you get your spiritual fix for the week. Or maybe it’s just a way to tell yourself that you’re doing well spiritually.
To understand how we’re supposed to approach church services, let’s take another look at what the author of Hebrews was saying:
Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 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 (Heb 10:24-25).
From this, we can draw out three helpful ways to approach our Sunday mornings:
- Meditate on God’s faithfulness. When Christians meet and stir one another up, we are doing so as a result of meditating on the hope guaranteed us by our faithful God. We cannot effectively build each other up by our own strength. If you want to improve your local church, begin by “holding fast to the confession of our hope.” And make it a daily habit.
- Think about building others up ahead of time. We should be actively considering “how to stir up one another to love and good works.” And “consider” is no light word. This isn’t something we can throw together once we pull in the parking lot—it requires us to spend a good deal of time thinking about our brothers and sisters in Christ before we go to church.
- Encourage others by looking to Christ. The “Day drawing near” refers to the Day when our Lord comes back. So, when we meet, Christians are supposed to encourage each other as we look forward to the return of Jesus. That means our encouragement must be tied to the Gospel. Don’t settle for saying pleasant things to your friends at church—your encouragement needs to be Christ-centric.
Going to church is hard. But by prayerfully thinking about and applying Hebrews 10:24-25, by continually asking that God would bring life to our Sunday mornings, we just might come home from church thinking about the Gospel rather than ourselves.
More in Christ First Blog
January 13, 2022Sunday Morning Preparation Part II: Unveiling Our Hearts
January 13, 2022Preparing for Sunday Mornings Part I
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