Why do we attend church? Some folks come to worship. Others arrive with a desire to learn more about God’s Word. Still others attend as though it were an obligation to cross off the weekly list. Perhaps Grandma or Mom will be there and she expects to see her children in the family pew. Others show up for the service distracted with an overload of care and life stress. And then there is that guy who uses the time for a nap. It may surprise us to learn that God has another purpose for our visits with Him. His prophet Ezekiel spells it out:
Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 NASB
In Ezekiel 46:9-10 the prophet described the protocol people were to follow at the temple. Folks coming to worship were commanded to exit the sanctuary by the door opposite the one they entered. No U-turns were permitted. Was Ezekiel prescribing traffic directions to keep the crowd flowing, or could there be a deeper meaning to his words?
My goal in church participation should be to experience God’s life-changing power, and I should return home a different person than I was when I arrived. Is that the usual outcome of my weekly experience? Let’s zoom in to watch a typical Sunday morning.
After the alarm sounds I check all systems to see if I have a sniffle or any kind of ache that might be a significant enough excuse for staying home. And why is it that the best sleep of the week happens on Sunday morning? After a mighty struggle, both mentally and physically, I get my feet on the floor.
I pick an outfit from the Sunday collection, install a neck tie, and buff my shoes if they need it. Breakfast is one of the three most important meals and given that adult churching may not involve snacks I need to tank up. Of course, spills and specific shortages of food items seem to be more likely on Sunday morning.
On the trip to church I fume over red lights and sluggish drivers. Should not a believer on his way to worship be rewarded with all green lights and clear roads? Mentally I juggle the planned events of the next few hours. Sunday is a busy day, and accomplishing the lengthy list of items depends on Reverend Windbag finding a reasonable stopping point. Have you ever wished for a timer-operated trapdoor behind the pulpit or a fast forward button?
And then I arrive in the parking lot to discover that some uppity brother or sister is parked in my reserved space, the one I have used each Sunday morning for umpteen years. Another inconsiderate person has taken my pew, the one fitted by years of painstaking squirming to conform to my shape. The fog of a deep spiritual funk washes across me as I sigh and prepare to endure the morning.
Do you care to predict the impact the praise songs, Scripture reading, and preaching will have on me if the previous words describe how I’ve prepared for church?
My return on the time invested at church depends on proper preparation. Let me share a dozen suggestions which proved helpful during our child-rearing years, and which still help my wife and I prepare for Sunday morning.
- Schedule Saturday evening engagements so that I am in bed at a reasonable hour. Dragging to church on Sunday morning after two hours of sleep means I will not be receptive.
- Pick out clothes on Saturday to remove a possible stress-generator from Sunday morning’s activities. Saturday offers time to locate the lost belt, polish the shoes, and press out any wrinkles.
- Set my clock earlier than needed and get up. Use the quiet time to pray for the coming day. Do I want God to change me? Have I asked Him to do that? This is a good time to send up a prayer for the pastor, too. His household is facing the Sunday rush. too.
- Avoid distractions before church. Turn off the TV. Stay away from the Internet. The emails will wait.
- Team up to handle the morning rush and share the load of preparing breakfast, cleaning up, and so on.
- Leave for church at the same time each week. Allow enough drive time to arrive relaxed rather than upset over traffic.
- Pay attention to the words of the songs and not just the tunes.
- Carry a Bible and follow along with the speaker.
- Capture something in writing. Taking notes keeps my busy mind focused in the moment.
- Pray and ask God to touch my heart. Does a brother or sister come to mind? Pray for them also. Pray for the pastor as he is speaking.
- Speak a kind word to someone and share a smile, a handshake, or a hug.
- Offer a listening ear. Every face has a story behind it.
These ideas have worked mightily in my life. Let us know what has worked in yours. Plan ahead and be prepared. Sunday morning’s encounter with God should be a special event.
 Any resemblance to any person living or deceased is unintentional. Name used for illustrative purposes only.