Weekends can be such a challenge. We try to cram so much into such a little time. Morning to night. And if we go to church, we might get there a little late as we were up late the night before, and then we are watching the clock so that we can get to lunch (or whatever else was planned for the day).
And there is a call to remove all restrictions from work on Sundays. Our society has no place for rest. There is no place to listen. And the time that has been set aside for the worship of God has been all but crowded out.
For those of us who go to church on Sundays, I have a couple of questions to ask…
First, why do we go to church? I know some go to church out of tradition, some out of a feeling that it is the right thing to do, others may go out of curiosity, and some go expecting more.
The second question kind of builds off of the first. What do you do to prepare to worship God? Think back over the last couple of weeks. What did you do to make sure that Sunday worship would be all that it could be — to be all God intends it to be? Were you preparing the night before, and going to bed early, or were you focused on other things? What did you do in the morning before service to prepare for the service? How about just before the service?
My hope, for believers of Jesus Christ, is that you went to church expecting something. Hopefully Sunday morning worship is a highlight in the week, a chance to go and worship with other believers as we desire to be in God’s presence. We go to sing God’s praises, and hopefully we wait expectantly to hear what He will say to us.
As we look at the spiritual discipline of Worship, we recognize that worship can be a personal experience, but it should also be a corporate, or group, experience.
Richard Foster speaks about it this way in his book, Celebration of Disciplines…
“A striking feature of worship in the Bible is that people gathered in what we could only call a ‘holy expectancy.’ They believed that they would actually hear the Kol Yahweh, the voice of God.”Richard Celebration of Disciplines, The Path to Spiritual Growth, p. 161
In the past, and I’m sure in some places still, people come to church with passion and excitement at the opportunity to sing His praises, and to hear from God Himself. “Lord, what would You say to me this morning? What can You teach me so that I can be more like You?”
A little further on, Richard Foster shares this about corporate worship…
“When more than one or two come into public worship with a holy expectancy, it can change the atmosphere of a room. People who enter harried and distracted are drawn quickly into a sense of silent Presence. Hearts and minds are lifted upward. The air becomes charged with expectancy.”Foster, Celebration of Disciplines, p. 163
Throughout church history we have seen churches ebb and flow like waves on the seashore, from times of great desire to hear from God as we worship with His people, to times when we hope that church would be over as quickly as possible so that we can get on with the rest of our day. For many, the goal wasn’t content, or hearing from God, but being entertained or fulfilling an obligation.
So often we like to break worship down to music styles, or liturgy (a fancy church word that simply means the structure of the service). But worship is all about giving God the honor He is due. And how can we do this if we are just trying to cram Sunday service into an already overbooked weekend?
Just because society is making Saturday and Sunday additional hectic workdays, doesn’t mean that we should.
We should have a holy expectation that as we go to worship God, as we go to church on Sunday (or Saturday), that we will hear from God. Corporate worship is something that can’t be done in some areas of the world. Satan may do his best to make church service just a block of time to get through, but for us as Christians, coming together to hear from God should be a significant focus!
And how do we do this?
We do this by making God a priority. We do this by putting God back in His proper place in our lives. We do this by setting aside time to be with God, both personally and corporately.
What are your plans this weekend? Are you looking forward with holy expectancy to being in church with your church family? To worshiping God with your whole heart? Are you looking forward to hearing from God?
Let’s make an honest effort this week to take some time on Saturday night to prepare for Sunday morning (or Friday night if you worship on Saturday). Let’s plan to get up early on Sunday morning (or Saturday morning) with our hearts set on God.
Start your day by reading a chapter of the Bible before church. If you are coming to the Elm Street Community Church this weekend, try reading Acts 17 before you come to church to be better prepared for the message.
In your prayer time before the service, ask God to make His presence known to you while you are with His people. Ask Him to speak to you through the service. Ask Him to teach you something you need to know. Ask Him to reveal more of Himself to You.
God desires for us to know Him better. Are we willing to do what it takes to hear Him better?