Sundays are a Battle
As a pastor, the most common face I meet at the door on Sundays is one with a forced smile. Behind that smile is a tired parent, spouse, or student battling to make it on time for the service in one piece. Typically, Sunday mornings are hard; dragging yourself out of bed just to find that the coffee timer is broken, you forgot to clean up the kitchen after dinner the previous night and little "Johnny" is not wearing any underwear. It seems nearly impossible to get out of the house without an explosive argument or peace of mind. Unfortunately this has left us with one goal for the Sunday Worship Gatherings: a physical presence. The reality is that Sundays are a battle.
More Than Just Physical
Because we live in a consumeristic culture we can have the tendency to view the Worship Gathering as an occasion, much like a movie or sporting event. While there is nothing wrong with going to a movie or sporting event, where a physical presence alone is sufficient, categorizing Worship Gatherings with them misses the point entirely. The purpose of the Worship Gathering is to gather with God's people in an attempt to give appropriate value to God. The major difference between an event and the Worship Gathering is that events are typically self-focused, while the Worship Gathering should be God focused. It is not natural to be God focused, therefore we must be intentional to prepare for the Worship Gathering.
"Whatever we revere, admire or respect is typically what we give the most anticipation and preparation."
Preparation for the Worship Gathering revolves around one concept, a reverence for God. Whatever we revere, admire or respect is typically what we give the most anticipation and preparation. A good example of this would be your wedding day. How much time, energy and money did you, or will you, spend on the wedding before it takes place? What if you were going to have a meeting with somebody famous like Michael Jordan, Madonna, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, or Mark Driscoll? How much would you think about, anticipate and prepare for the meeting? Now relate that to how we view the Worship Gathering. Chances are, we don't get nearly as excited about going to church on Sunday as we were for our wedding or would be for a meeting with someone famous. What this communicates is that we do not have the same reverence for God as we do famous people. So how do we cultivate this reverence toward God in general and the Worship Gatherings specifically?
Preparing for Battle
The Psalms help us answer this question. "Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgements he uttered" (Psalm 105:4-5). We gain a reverence for God by learning and remembering His character, along with recognizing our weaknesses, short comings and sin. To put it another way, seeing God's holiness and our sinfulness reveals our need for Jesus. Gaining this perspective should be the goal in preparing for the Worship Gathering. My hope and prayer for Living Stones and anyone who reads this is we would recognize that we are coming before God on Sunday, and any other day for that matter. Instead of just getting through Sunday's we need to prepare emotionally and spiritually, not just physically. How do your Sunday's look? Are you anticipating and preparing for Sunday Worship Gatherings? If not, what do you need to repent of?
In closing, here are a few things I do or have done to help prepare for the Worship Gathering. First off, block out some time so you can spend time in prayer. Be honest with God about where your at. Honestly communicate with Him, even if you don't really feel like going to the gathering, ask Him to change your perspective. Also, I would spend time going through a section of scripture (if possible, the text that will be preached on during the gathering) and as you read pray through it. My wife likes to listen to podcasts of preachers who can clearly articulate God's grandness before she goes to church on Sunday.
Take or leave these suggestions, but please examine yourself before you come to worship on Sunday. My hope is that you would wake up next Sunday prepared for battle, and prepared to make the Worship Gathering more than an event, but a divine appointment with God and with His people.