Before You Walk Into Church

Last month I shared some thoughts from a little booklet I came across by Tony Payne called How To Walk Into Church. I suggested that worship isn’t about me, as an individual, it’s about God (praising him, worshiping him) and us, together, as a spiritual family in his presence. And so we should come with the expectation of meeting God, being encouraged in the gospel once again, and with the purpose of being an encouragement to those we meet there. Worship, in other words, is a major way we love God and love our neighbor.

I want to pick up from there today and suggest that our effectiveness at doing those things begins before we actually walk through the doors. Here are some practical suggestions for your preparation gleaned from Payne’s book.

  1. Commit to go. When we approach worship like a consumer, our chief concern is if we’re in the mood that morning. A family event later that afternoon, a children’s sport, a tiring week, bad weather, a late Saturday night, work deadlines, or just laziness can all derail our decision on a given Sunday. But if we understand we’re made to worship God and called to be an encourager of God’s people, one of the most important acts of love and encouragement we can all engage in is just being there with a positive attitude. It expresses that “God is important to me, and so are you.” Inconsistent attendance communicates the opposite. If you’re not there, you can’t love people, pray for them, talk to them, or encourage them. Simply plan to show up every week unless some emergency intervenes.
  2. Pray. Cry out to God to bring people who are wavering about coming-Christian and non-Christian. Pray that God uses the time to speak to us through the singing, praying, preaching, and all the other Bible-shaped words we speak to each other. Ask him to work powerfully in the hearts of every single person there by his Spirit through the beauty of the gospel. Pray for particular people that you’re concerned about or who need encouragement, that God would give you the words to say to help them along in their walk with God.
  3. Think. Hebrews 10:24-25 exhorts us to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…” We “consider” this-it takes thought, and it’s very helpful to give it that thought in advance. When Pastor Peter resumes the Ephesians series, read the passage ahead of time. Share what you took away from the service during the fellowship time. Be ready to share what God is doing in your life and what you’re learning if it seems appropriate and God gives you an opportunity.

If your heart doesn’t long to do these things, or if this just feels like a legalistic checklist, talk to God about it. Like everything else in the Christian life, our motivation to love God and others is a response to his grace by which he first loved us. Confess any apathy or reluctance you may feel, remind yourself of his grace, and ask him to stir your heart as you take steps to be intentional with your worship.

If we understand what church is all about and our role in the gathering, we’ll seek to come well-prepared as we walk through the door on Sunday, prayerfully expectant that God will be glorified and we will be encouraged as the Spirit works powerfully in our gathering.

Steve Sage is our Pastor of Discipleship.