As a ten-year-old, I had a deep dark secret. I knew Sunday was a special day; a day God has given us to rest and spend time with him. So, I reasoned that I should like Sunday the best of all the days in the week.
The dilemma I faced was that I knew I didn’t like it best. I much preferred Fridays, when I got to go to Girls’ Brigade, or Wednesdays, when I had gymnastics.
Back then, I was slightly worried that I was committing idolatry. Thankfully, I eventually sorted out that particular theological issue. However, it does raise an important point.
Do you actually enjoy going to church? Or is it just something that is expected of you, something we as Christians just do. How can you change church from a stale experience to the highlight of your week?
Cultivating an excitement for church starts with preparation. Flying into a pew a minute before the service begins (or perhaps 5 minutes after!) without having given God or your church family a second thought during the week is a recipe for being unengaged during the service.
We are far more likely to be engaged in a service that we have been actively looking forward to all week. This could look like spending some time in prayer for the speaker, reading the Bible passages beforehand, maybe even making some notes of questions that you had about the passage. Listening to worship music is another good way of preparing your heart and mind to worship God.
So now, you enter the building anticipating the teaching, ready to sing praise to God, and with an idea of what the passages are about. Maybe you even have a burning question you want answered. But if we stopped there, our time together on Sundays would be sadly lacking. That’s because being in a church service isn’t all about us. It’s also about serving God’s family.
The author of Hebrews knew how important it was for the early church to meet together. He urges his readers, “And let us 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—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews chapter 10, verses 24-25).
These verses not only tell us that we should meet, but also the reasons why. We are at church to worship God and encourage others. The worshipping God part seems to come pretty naturally to a church service, but how can we spur others on to love and good deeds?
Whoever is leading the service stands up the front and sees rows of faces, or gaping empty spaces. At a very basic level, simply being there is an encouragement. However, we want to move past the pew-warming stage and into the world of active participation.
Encourage the music team by singing loudly and joyfully. Thank them afterward: they probably arrived at least an hour before the service, and perhaps had a midweek practice.
Encourage the preacher by listening attentively. I’ve never preached, but I can’t imagine it is fun if you are talking to a dozing congregation. Perhaps you could also take notes to help you focus.
Encourage everyone else by praying in an open prayer time, or sharing something in open worship. Your participation might spur others on to pray, share, or praise God. And even if you never see it, you can never be sure what God is doing quietly in people’s hearts.
The final piece of the puzzle is service. God has provided a multitude of gifts for use in his family. His provisions are realised when members of his church put their hand up to serve, whether that be through welcoming, worship leading, or serving morning tea.
There are seasons of life where these activities might not be possible. For example, being the mother of my two week old daughter prevents me from serving on our church music team. Yet, there are so many different opportunities to serve that most of us could find something that suits our giftings. Just ask whoever puts the rosters together, I’m sure they could find something!
Finally, after the service is over, make the effort to interact with others. Discuss the sermon, pray together, be real. God provided his family for us to live the Christian life in community. This can only happen if we are actively engaging with the people in our church. Are you willing to serve, encourage, and bring joy and excitement to your church service?
Lucinda has just welcomed her daughter Hazel to the world. She spends her time nursing a newborn, running a Girls’ Brigade Company, and playing word games.
Lucinda Glover’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/lucinda-glover.html
Lucinda is a mum to two little girls. She loves baking, reading, and sewing.