A long while ago, I wrote a post musing about how I’m usually not ready to be in church.
It is high time that I share the follow-up post (aka: this post).
Disclaimer: Part of what’s taken so long to share this post is that I’m still not ready to be in church most of the time, even though I know “what it takes.” It’s hard to get ready, hard to work past the times when I’m just not feeling it or when my brain is scattered like seeds on the wind. So please know that I don’t often take my own advice.
For me, preparing for corporate worship has broken down neatly into three primary sections: during the week, Saturday night, and lastly Sunday morning itself.
Let’s get started.
Part One: During the Week
- Have daily devotions during the week.
You know how in the spring, you go down to the lake (or the river or the pool or the ocean) for your first swim and the water is chilly at first? When you jump in, it takes you a few minutes to adjust—a few minutes of movement before you’re really enjoying yourself.
It’s not about getting out of the water to warm up before you jump in again. It’s about staying in the water until it’s natural and you get used to it and can even enjoy it. And the jumping in is easier the next time.
Devotions during the week are like staying in the water; they make the next Sunday—the next time you jump in—come more readily and naturally.
- When you pray for your pastor and his sermon prep during the week, pray also that you and your church would have ready hearts.
(This could be a no-brainer, but I tend to forget it. So I’m including it.)
We can do all the things we’re “supposed” to be ready for Sunday, but we actually have very little power to do anything. If the Holy Spirit isn’t there cutting and moving and blessing and exhorting no amount of ready or not will make any difference.
He’s the one who does all the heavy-lifting when it comes to being ready, and we have to humbly recognize that. We do the best we can to be ready, and we invite Him to do what we cannot.
Part Two: Saturday Night
- Unplug an hour or so before bed.
Unplug from social media. Unplug from the news. Unplug from the movies and TV. Unplug from novels and self-help books. Unplug from YouTube. Unplug from your current project—be it home improvements, a wood-working project, a piece of art, whatever.
We are an increasingly distracted people, yet we are to come undistracted before our holy God.
In his book 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, Tony Reinke says this: “God feels distant because we are distracted. Yet he seeks us; he seeks our undivided attention.”
Unplugging from all these diversions helps sweep away the mental clutter. Sleep should come more easily, and your mind will be clearer come morning.
Replace the distractors with things that help focus your mind and heart on God and cultivate an appetite for him.
- Read the text.
Read last week’s sermon text and maybe even review your notes so that you’re oriented to what’s happening, especially if your pastor is in the middle of a series.
If possible, read this week’s sermon text. I’m sure your pastor would be delighted to share it with you if you ask him for it. Just shoot a quick text or email over to him and get a jump-start on the message. This, too, will help shift your mind and heart and get your oriented.
- Go to bed a little earlier.
Little kids aren’t the only ones who are crabby when they’re tired. And I’m guessing everyone has fought the awful fight to stay awake in a church service.
Get a bit more sleep by not staying up as late; the more rested you are, the more stable and engaged you will be. You’ll have more patience with your family and roommates, and you’ll also have more mental focus.
Part Three: Sunday Morning.
- Wake up 15 minutes earlier than you need to.
Yes, I just told you to get more sleep, and now I’m telling you to get up earlier. But bear with me because it’s just a few minutes, and if used well, they are well worth it.
Use this extra time to have a prayer time and read a Psalm or something. Let the first thing you do set the mood for the rest of the day. And then go shower, eat breakfast, and all that jazz.
- Stay unplugged.
Resist the urge to check your email or the news or your social medias. Keep the TV off.
In fact, turn your phone on silent.
Set apart your Sunday mornings and don’t get caught up on everything until after lunch.
Let’s drop a bookend on this post.
Sunday mornings are a battleground. Church is about worshiping the living God with other believers. It’s about getting refreshed and prepped for the week to go out and spread the gospel. We cannot waste our Sunday mornings. We cannot autopilot through church. We cannot passively drift.
Hopefully, this helps you as you try to go into Sunday morning ready for what God will do.
P.S. – Penprints posting days are officially moved from Mondays to Tuesdays, just so you know. Mondays have worked well for the past five years, but now I’m trying something different. Maybe I’ll tell you all about all the whys in a few months. :D
P.P.S. – my third publication—Unexpected—is out and about in the world!