When I was in college I would decide to go on a jog & it would take me about 2 minutes to be off and running. Stretching was like flossing – a nuisance to the naive. Now, at 33 years old, I spend as much time getting ready to run as I do actually running. For example, I can’t run unless I walk for 10 minutes first. My knees would hurt, my feet would hurt, and my head wouldn’t be in the run for a good 10 minutes. I have to work up to it.
If Sunday morning is a big race, Saturday night is the pre-race warm up.
How to Go to Church: The Night Before
Every week I get on stage to do announcements. I see you. You’re distracted, tired…unprepared. We have forgotten the significance of the moment. This, in turn, has been a deathblow to our enjoyment of the Sunday morning experience.
We must not forget that it is not a thing that lends significance to a moment; it is the moment that lends significance to a thing – Abraham Joshua Heschel
The time we have together as a community of faith, collectively worshipping our Creator, is a sacred moment. It deserves more than we give it.
We, like most families, have a Christmas Eve routine. Every year we make cookies, read the Christmas story and the Night Before Christmas, and (my favorite) build a fort in our bedroom for all of us to sleep in. Then, when Christmas morning comes we continue the traditions – breakfast muffins, presents, singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, etc. Christmas is the day, but Christmas Eve is when it all begins.
Preparation for the holy day is as important as the day itself – Heschel
Most people fail to experience the life change they want from church because they are unprepared for it to happen. There is a lot going on within our hearts that gets in the way. No one else is going to break through for you. It took 7 days and 13 trips around Jericho for the walls to come tumbling down. Whatever there is in your life that is keeping God out isn’t going anywhere in the 55 minute church service. Sunday morning isn’t meant to break down the walls around your heart. Sunday morning is meant to celebrate the one who is continually doing so. It’s up to us to be vulnerable to the work of God in our lives throughout the week so when Sunday comes we are ready to worship in community.
Saturday night is a big part of that preparation. This affects that.
I’m not talking about the obvious stuff. Sure, going out and living in a way that is displeasing to God will certainly harm your ability to worship without feeling like a hypocrite. That’s a given. What I’m referencing is the absence of good Saturday night habits that would benefit our Sunday morning experience.
1. Pray – Take a time to pray with your family.
- Pray that God would make you aware of His greatness and grace in your life
- Pray for your pastors as those whom God has ordained to preach the word and spiritually lead you
- Pray for the message that it would be a vehicle of the Holy Spirit to change lives
- Pray for the lost who will be in attendance
- Pray for your small group
- Pray for believers everywhere. Yours is a church not the Church.
2. Scripture Reading – Take some time to read and meditate on the work of God.
3. Calm – Name your stress (work/finances/etc) and replace it with the grace of Christ. Seek Scripture (Phillippians 4:6,7) to assist you.
4. Forgive and be Forgiven – Search your heart and ask God to reveal any relational breakdown. This is a serious wound to our spiritual health and I believe many people haven’t truly experienced Church for years because of it. (Matthew 5:23-24)
5. Offering – Too often the offering is done half-heartedly (if done at all). Giving financially is more than just ‘helping the church’. It is worship. It’s about you**. By setting it apart the night before you are giving yourself time to prepare to give. Pray over it. Ask God to use it for His kingdom. Take joy in your gift. When you arrive on Sunday you will be ANXIOUS for the offering to happen! A great deal of the “worship” that is meant to be found in giving is lost simply b/c it is done so suddenly.
** Some say that it’s robbing God when you don’t give. I think it’s robbing yourself. Giving is a joy and a spiritual discipline of mature followers of Christ. Whether it’s 2%, 10%, or 90% (or if it changes every month) the important thing is not the amount, but that your life is defined by being generous and sacrificial…after all, that’s what defined Jesus and we are His followers.
6. Bedtime – This one is the most difficult for me. Waking up rested is extremely important to enjoy your Sunday morning worship experience. I’m speaking to myself here when I say that stumbling into church on only a couple of hours of sleep is irresponsible and immature.
Christians who prepare their spirits, minds, and bodies for church are going to enjoy the experience more than those who stumble in unprepared for the amazing.