"What a great service today!" Exclaimed the excited husband to his wife on his way to the car following the morning worship service. "It was almost as if the pastor was speaking directly to me; and the music, the music was just Spirit-filled and exciting, I cannot wait to go back this evening!" As they jumped into their car, his wife replied "God is really doing an amazing work at our church, I am so glad that we get to be a part of this church." The husband and wife excitedly rushed towards the restaurant where they were going to meet some friends for lunch. The entire way they discussed what they had learned from the sermon that day, laughed about funny expressions and comments from friends during the coffee fellowship, and enjoyed the fifteen minute ride to the restaurant together.
"Get in the car kids! We have to meet some people that your mother insisted on scheduling for lunch on a Sunday of all days!" The husband angrily plopped into the family's new SUV, slammed the door, and started the car begrudgingly to meet their new friends from church at the "worst restaurant in town." As the family rode in silence towards the restaurant fifteen minutes away, the husband began his diatribe of the morning worship service: "Why do they insist on always greeting visitors in the church service, I mean, we all know each other already." His wife sat in silence as he continued, "I heard that over at Grace Church last week, they used our favorite music group to open their services. Why can't we just get some great musicians in here and stop having this insistent music director always trying to get us to sing? Doesn't he know that if we could sing we would join his choir that always sings the same songs over and over again?" "Don't even get me started on the preaching! Too long, too loud, too much information, and way too preachy! I like our pastor alright, but that guy has got to get a clue!"
Arrive At The Restaurant....
Couple A greets Couple B with a hug and smile as they sit down together to share a meal. "What an incredible service today!" says the husband in couple A. "God really used His Word to show me some things that I needed, I love our church!" The husband from Couple B mumbles and nods along as the other husband continued, "Tonight, our pastor is going to preach a message in this new series he started last week, I really think it is going to be a phenomenal night at church, we cannot wait!" Finally, after what seemed like hours, the husband from Couple B replies: "I have been going to this church a long time, I remember when we were excited about our church, the music, the preaching, and all the things going on, but lately, it seems like things are kinda stale and boring." As their wives continued in conversation, the kids played, and the conversation turned towards sports, work, and other things, both men realized something about themselves and one another. They had both experienced the same fellowship, the same music, the same worship, the same preaching, the same everything that morning at church, but both walked away completely different. What was the difference?
The Heart. Their hearts were both completely different before they entered into church, thus their hearts were different after they left church! It is all about how you come to church!
Psalm 100 states: "Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. ENTER INTO HIS GATES with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations."
Let me share several practical things about getting the most out of a church service:
1. Prepare Your Heart Before Church By Singing (Psalm 100:1-2)
Our music director often says at the beginning of our services "I trust that you brought your song with you today." Simply put, if the only time you sing praises to God is during the worship service, you are wrong, dead wrong. We should lift up our hearts in singing and our voices in praise long before we enter into the sanctuary! Try this Sunday coming into church with a spiritual song on your lips and mind and see if does not put a different attitude in your heart. Every Sunday, I always try to sing a song on the way to church, in fact, I do this everyday at the onset of my morning. This is not because I have a phenomenal singing voice, it is simply that I want my heart and spirit to be glad and God has given us a prescription for gladness, SINGING!
2. Prepare Your Heart Before Church By Yielding (Psalm 100:3)
Remember, the church service was not tailored with you in mind, neither should you expect that it should be. The singing, sermon, prayer time, offering, and other traditions were not created to worship you. The church service is for God's glory alone! He made us, we are His people, He is the shepherd, we are here to get our eyes off of ourselves and our needs and to focus on the greatness of God, His majesty, His truth, His attributes, and His Word. Our needs are to be put aside when we enter into His presence. Our preferences are to be put aside when we enter into His courts. Our hangups are to be put aside when we worship corporately. We are to focus on God in worship and cease from our narcissistic view of God, the Bible, and church. He alone is to be lifted high, we are to enter into His presence with a spirit of submission and yielding to His greatness! I often pray before I preach "Lord, my answer to you today is YES. Whatever you speak to me about today, my answer is already yes!"
3. Prepare Your Heart Before Church By Recalling (Psalm 100:4-5)
One sure way to leave a church service excited about the things of God is to enter the church service with a spirit of gratitude and thankfulness. When we think, we will thank! Come into church this Sunday thinking about God's mercy and truth. Enter into corporate worship thinking about God's greatness above mankind, but personalize His goodness towards you! What a difference this type of spirit will make in your life when you worship with other believers! We should never enter into God's presence with His people with our hearts unprepared to worship Him and receive His truth from His Word. If we do not prepare our hearts properly, we will not experience His presence personally. Come with a prepared heart the next time you come to church!