By Eric Simmons@http://newattitude.org
Ever seen somebody asleep during church?
You know, the older guy or college student doing the head bob. It’s fun to watch isn’t it?
I had a friend one time fall asleep in church and dream that he was jumping up for a rebound during a basketball game. He jumped about three feet off of his seat right during the message. It was an awesome sight.
Anything we do on a weekly basis can become so routine we take it for granted—like Sunday morning. The gathering of the church can easily become just something to get through in the morning so you can hang out with your friends afterward.
But God intended the gathering of the church on Sundays to be more than just a place to take a nap. God intended it to be so much more. So I want to give some thoughts about how not to waste Sunday morning. (In this brief article I can’t get into all the theological issues of the church local but if you’re interested, look at the other articles Thabiti and Justin Taylor have written.) Here we go.
1. Start Saturday Night. Loving the gathering of the church and benefiting from the time with your local church and your pastor starts Saturday night. When I was in college the times I missed church or fell asleep during the message were usually the same times I stayed up till 4am on Saturday night playing basketball with my friends.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with hanging out with friends late. But you have to ask yourself the question, “What’s more important to my walk with God?” We have to make priority decisions that are going to be painful to our schedule. Prepare for the gathering of the church by prioritizing sleep Saturday night.
2. Prepare Your Heart. The gathering of the church is not just a “meeting” it is a reunion of the local church family that you are living life with. This gathering is not a place to sit and be a spectator. This is your family and you are a participant.
One way to prepare for this and wake up a little earlier and seek the Lord as to how you can serve your church with your words. Who can you encourage? Who can you talk to who is new? What do you need help with? Who do you need to confess your sin to or reconcile with? Come with expectation.
3. Pray for the pastor and people. The gathering of the church is a spiritual event. Pray that God would use you, would use your pastor, and would use your family to help one another and encourage one another in the faith. Pray that God would open the eyes of those who do not know Jesus yet. Pray for the youth and the children of the church that they would respond to the gospel.
4. Serve. Find some practical way you can serve every Sunday. I find the more involved I am with anything the more excited I am to participate. So find a need and fill it.
5. Make sure your ears are on. Here are two things to keep your ears on during the gathering of the church. First, during the time of singing pay attention at times to the other voices. Our time of corporate singing is an amazing time for us to be reminded that we are not alone in this and that we have others around us singing the same song of salvation. Corporate singing is not just about you and God and being edified by the Spirit (though it is). It is also a weekly reminder that you exist in a relationship with other believers in a local church.
Second, another crucial thing your ears should be on is the preached word. This is one of the most important parts if not the most important part of the gathering. It is not time for a nap, it’s time to wake up and listen and receive from God through the preached word. In his wisdom God has called that man preaching on a given Sunday to preach His word to you. God has chosen this man. Even if he is a guest speaker, or a new speaker, or a speaker that is not your “preference” God has called this man to this task and you’re responsible to listen to God’s word. Let’s be honest, our tendency is to tune out if we don’t really like the way the guy is preaching or the topic he is preaching on. But regardless of our preference our Father has seen to it that this is what He wants us to hear that morning. Let us put aside our personal preferences and come to the preached word hungry and expectant and ready to apply it.
(For more on this crucial aspect of listening to and applying the preached word here’s a great message from C.J. Mahaney.)
6. Be hospitable afterwards. Look for that new person and bring them into your circle of friends. The church gathering is supposed to be the most hospitable place on earth. Let’s make sure it is.
Those are just a few ideas for how to get the most out of God’s gift of Sunday morning. Together, lets fight our tendency to take our weekly gatherings for granted. Lets not waste our Sundays. Our churches need active participants, not ambivalent spectators.