It’s Sunday morning, 8:30 am. The alarm goes off. Exhausted from staying up till 1 am the night before, you snooze 3 more times, buying you 27 more minutes of sleep. By the time you roll out of bed, shower and get dressed, it’s 9:21 am. You have 9 minutes to drive 11 miles, find a parking spot and get to your seat. In other words, YOU ARE GOING TO BE LATE FOR CHURCH!
And because you’re late (again), parking is scarce, there are no good seats left and you’ve already missed part of the service. You can’t focus because you missed the beginning and you’re trying to play catch up the whole time. You are tired. You are frazzled. You are frustrated. Is this what Sunday morning is supposed to look like?
“Nothing great comes without investment" - I once blogged about how a trip to Disney World taught me a lot about worshiping God on Sunday mornings. If you want to get a lot out of something, you’re going to have put a lot in to that something – whether that’s your marriage, your career, your studies, or YOUR WORSHIP OF GOD!
The reason we get so little out of our Sunday morning church experience is because we usually invest so little into it. You can’t just show up on Sunday morning and expect a life changing experience just the same way you can’t just show up at an opera and expect to understand what’s going on. Unless you invest some time and energy and effort up front, you’ll never maximize the potential benefit to be gained from your Sunday morning church experience.
So with that said, how do I prepare for Sunday mornings? Three key elements:
1. UNDERSTAND. You must first understand what the Church is in THEORY before you can begin to experience it in practice. We celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist every Sunday morning. What is “Liturgy”? What is “Eucharist”? Where did this practice come from? What does Jesus have to say about it? What is it supposed to look like? What prayers are being said and why are they being said and why are they being said in that way? It all begins with understanding.
Start by taking a step back from the practice and seeking to learn more about the theory. FYI – a good resource might be a message series I once did called LIVING THE LITURGY (free download available).
2. PREPARE. This is where the hard work begins. You can’t show up without doing your homework. I have a three tiered strategy for Sunday morning preparation:
a) Readings – Don’t ever let anyone tell you that every Liturgy in the church is the same week after week. The prayers may be similar but the readings are different. Every week our church has a set of readings from Scripture and the entire service takes on the spirit/theme of these readings. YOU MUST READ THE READINGS BEFORE COMING TO CHURCH. It literally takes 5-10 minutes and will make the biggest difference. This is a simple step that can have a tremendous impact on your Sunday morning experience.
b) Rest – If you expect something important to happen on Sunday morning, then it might make more sense on Saturday night to catch the 8 pm showing instead of the 10:30 pm showing of that movie. God wants to touch your heart on Sunday morning; but sometimes He can’t get in there because your eyes are sealed shut. Come well rested to church. Come as if something important is going to happen this day.
c) Repentance - “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.” (1 Corinthians 11:28-31)
Repentance is the indicator of your desire for God and your thirst for Him. God loves to fill empty hearts and hungry hearts – but the question is how hungry are you? Repentance is the indicator.
3. PRACTICE. You can read about swimming. You can watch other people swim. You can practice the motions in your bathtub. That’s all great. But you’re never really going to learn how to swim until you jump in the pool.
Jump in on Sunday mornings. When it’s time to sing, sing energetically. When it’s time to stand, stand uncomplainingly. When it’s time to pray, close your eyes and pray like you mean it. Jump in with both feet and see if that makes a difference.
Understand. Prepare. Practice. Follow those steps and I guarantee you that in due time you will reap the fruit of your labor. You might not experience something new this particular Sunday, but if you keep on making that investment, it’s just a matter of time before you do.
Sunday mornings aren’t supposed to be dry and boring. They are supposed to be transformational and life giving. Is that what your Sunday morning looks like? If not, what are you going to do about it?
Discussion: How do you prepare for Sunday mornings? What enhances or diminishes your Sunday morning experience?