When we gather on the Lord’s Day our purpose is to go hard after God, to meet with God, to worship God with heart-felt, truth-filled singing and to receive His Word with prepared and eager hearts and minds. This does not just happen. It is the fruit of preparation, reflection, and consideration.
I want to give us a few important reminders of how best to go hard after God in our worship.
Preparing Saturday Night. The Puritan George Swinnock said, “If you leave your heart with God on Saturday night, you will find it with Him on the Lord’s Day morning.” Go to bed early enough so that you do not need to use toothpicks to prop your eyelids open! Spend time reading the sermon text and praying. Pray that God would meet with us, pray that God would use His Word. Pray that God would help the poor preacher and that His Spirit would give you and others ears to hear.
Preparing on the Lord’s Day morning. Wake up early enough so that you are not rushed. Being rushed can become a huge heart distraction. Wake up early enough to spend time preparing your heart. I have a routine – no social media, no emails, just coffee, Bible, prayer, worship, review. Leave for church early enough to get there a few minutes early. Do not fight with your spouse. Do not squabble with your kids. Getting out clothes and breakfast stuff Saturday might lessen stress on Sunday morning. Listen to worship music on the way into church, not the news where your heart gets unsettled with the latest political scandals.
During the service, the prelude. Use the prelude to settle and prepare your hearts. Fellowship is wonderful, conversation is a blessing, but when the announcement is made and the prelude begins, we need to find our seats and prepare our hearts. Again, in the quietness of your heart, seek God. Get ready to be a part of Christ’s great choir to sing His praise.
One of the habits we have fallen into is remaining in the foyer while the prelude or even opening song is being sung. Please just politely say, “We can finish this conversation later, worship is starting.”
During the service, consideration: Seek to love your neighbor by not being a distraction. It is a challenge to go hard after God in worship or in hearing the Word if there are a multitude of distractions going on. Some are better equipped to handle distractions than others. But if we desire to do to others as we would have them do to us, then we can serve one another by minimizing distractions.
Check your cell phones. With apple watches and all kinds of devices, it is a incumbent on us to make sure that a ding or a buzz let alone a ring is not going to go off right at the wrong moment! I have often thought how it must delight the devil’s black heart to have a cell phone go off just a strong appeal is being made to the lost.
Watch your little ones. We intentionally have our children in service. It is a conviction. Yes, we have nursery in the morning worship for those under two years old, but we also have a training chapel, a cry room, and back rows reserved for parents with small children. When a baby is constantly crying, or little ones are having full blown conversations, or playing with noisy toys, it can be a serious distraction to those around them. Please have the courtesy to take a crying baby out of the service or curb the extracurricular activity. If the crying is louder than normal, please remember, the foyer is echo chamber. You can utilize the office area. Have those little ones use the bathroom before service to cut down on in and out traffic.
I try to provide sermon notes for youngsters. This can be a help for their concentration. Try to be mindful that their busyness and activity may not phase you, but it may be a distraction to others. We should be training our children. Use the designated back rows if you are in the process of getting your used to sitting in service. This way, if need be, you can make a quick and inconspicuous exit.
Give yourself to the preaching of the Word. Listen carefully. “So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him” (Luke 8:18). I am not a fan of notetaking during a sermon because the sermon is not a lecture, it is preaching and preaching is a spiritual dynamic between the preacher, the congregation, and the Holy Spirit. I would rather see your eyeballs than see you looking down writing notes. But be that as it may, do whatever helps you most to listen carefully.
Use the postlude to pray about what you heard. Use the time after, with fellow church members or family members to talk about the sermon, what you learned, what you believe God was doing through that message. Talk about the Word! “Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name” (Mal 3:16).
What strengthens our faith? Hearing the Word. Obeying the Word. What fills us with joy? Worshiping our triune God with the saints. What we do each Lord’s Day is vital for our souls, vital for our church life, vital for our nation. So let’s go hard after God each week. Let’s put preparation, reflection, and consideration into it. Let’s help each other go hard after God. May God be glorified in our congregation Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day! May He draw near to us as we seek to draw near to Him.