How to Prepare for the Lord’s Day

15 02 2013

Puritan-Prayer_church

Because of the glorious resurrection of Jesus on the “first day of the week”, early Christians began gathering corporately on Sundays (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2).  In the New Testament Sunday is referred to as the “Lord’s Day” and I’d like to take a few moments and explore how we can better prepare ourselves for the weekly corporate gathering of the local church.This post assumes a few things.  It assumes that you agree with the New Testament example and mandate to gather regularly with the local church to worship God.  It assumes that you understand the Christian “Lord’s Day” is not the exact same thing as the Old Testament Sabbath. Finally, it assumes that you understand that the Lord’s Day is something that is a priority for the Christian.

How can we better prepare our hearts for gathering together with God’s people to worship? I’d like to explain that by going over specifically how the folks at First Baptist Oppelo can prepare to worship together this Sunday, February 17th, 2013.  Hopefully you’ll find these suggestions practical for your own life.

First, it will helpful to look at this Sunday’s Bulletin: February 17th, 2013 Bulletin

Know the Songs:

You’ll notice we have listed the songs we are singing Sunday.  Have you considred looking up those songs, reading over them, reflecting on their meaning and purpose?  Perhaps you could even sing them together as a family sometime before Sunday.  The lyrics to each of these songs can be found here:

Knowing the songs before Sunday will help you to sing well and worship well understanding what the song is about and knowing what the words are conveying.  Perhaps you can’t access your church’s bulletin online.  You could try talking to your church’s worship leader and see if you could get a copy of the songs for Sunday early.  Make this easy on him! Maybe you could meet him somewhere every Thursday afternoon, etc.

Pray for your music and worship leader:

Maybe you can’t get access to the songs that will be sang Sunday. Maybe the worship leader doesn’t even know what the songs are going to be until Sunday morning!  Well, you can still pray for your church’s singing.  Spend some time meditating over Colossians 3:16 to see the important role singing plays in your church.  Take some time during the week to pray for the congregational singing. Pray that the people would sing to worship the One True God and not worship a particular style of music.  Pray also for your worship leader. Pray that he would lead the people to worship together in spirit and truth.  Pray that he would pick out songs that are God and Gospel-Centered (see here for more).

Meditate on the sermon text:

This may be harder for some depending on your pastor’s preaching habits. Our pastor does not necessarily publish what his next text will be but going through the book of Colossians our people know he finished with Col. 1:29 last Sunday and that he will pick up with Colossians 2:1-? this week.  If you attend Oppelo, then you know that you can begin digging into Colossians 2.  You can begin meditating on God’s truth revealed in this chapter.  This will prepare your heart to get the most out of Sunday’s message. If you don’t know what your Pastor’s text will be for the coming Sunday, you could ask him.  Pray through the text and pray that the people’s hearts will be saturated with the Word of God. Pray that the Holy Spirit would do His work in His people’s lives, breaking them, encouraging them, sustaining them, pointing them to Christ, etc.  Pray for the lost that may be attending your church and that through this week’s passage God will reveal to them their great need for Christ and lead them to repent and believe the Gospel.

Pray for your pastor:

Your pastor needs your prayers! Not long ago Kevin Deyoung wrote a great post about this here. Pray that your pastor would have ample time to spend in prayer and preparation for the sermon.  Pray that your pastor would medidate on the passage he is prepearing to preach and that God would reveal the truth of the passage and your pastor’s need for it first before he thinks about preaching it to the people.  Pray that your pastor would be clear on the Gospel and point to Christ, no matter what section of Scripture he is preaching from.  Pray that your pastor would feel his great inadequacy for the task at hand but also that he would feel encouragment from the Holy Spirit that he is empowered by God Himslef to fulfill this task.

Your pastor may need encouragment from you to keep preaching the Gospel faithfully no matter the response from the people.  There may also be some tangible things you could do to help ensure your pastor has enough time to pray and prepare for Sunday’s sermon. Maybe you could print the bulletins this week? Make a visit for him? Take up some of the other duties that distract from preparation for Sunday?

Guard Saturday Night:

Don’t stay out late on Saturday night.  Inevitably this may happen from time to time but don’t make it a habit.  Being well rested to gather with God’s people is important.  How many times have you woke up late on a Sunday morning only to fight with your spouse, or kids, rushed hurridly off to church, only to feel tired and irritable the whole morning.  God is not honored in that.  We should desire gathering with God’s people (more here)! So, plan late outings for Friday, or a different night of the week.

Wake up early Sunday:

I’m not saying you have to wake up at 5am or anything.  I’m just saying wake up early enough that you have time to pray, read the Word, and prepare yourself for Sunday morning. This may just mean setting the alarm an extra 30 minutes early.  If we wake up on Sunday at the last possible second and then rush around to get ready, are we really ready once we enter the place of worship to meet with God?

Schedule your week around the Lord’s Day not the Lord’s Day around your week:

Don’t leave stuff undone for Sunday.  Clean, mow, wash the car, etc. on other days of the week instead of putting them off until Sunday.  Your mind won’t be so anxious to rush out the door Sunday morning if you’ve prepared well throughout the week, setting aside Sunday for the priority of corporate worship.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Hebrews 10:24-25





What makes a church a church?

14 07 2012

I’ve been reading RetroChristianity lately by Michael J. Svigel, and wanted to share some helpful things he said about what makes a local church an actual church.  There has been some heavy emphasis lately in the evangelical world on the fact that the church is “not a building.”  While this is certainly true, it only identifies what the church is not, and doesn’t help us define biblically what the church is.  Just because you sound the mantra “We aren’t a building, we’re a people!” doesn’t necessarily mean the group of people you gather with constitutes a true church.

Svigel says “An authentic local church is supported by two pillars: the essential marks and the essential works.”

The marks of the church are as follows:

  • Orthodoxy– “Orthodox believers are those who hold to the essential truths of the Christian faith – those fundamentals of the faith that have been believed everywhere, always, and by all.”
  • Order– The local church has to have leadership.  “Order emphasizes the necessity of properly trained, trusted, and tested pastors, teachers and leaders of the church, to whom the orthodox faith has been entrusted to pass on to the next generation.”
  • Ordinances– These ordinances are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Svigel rightly states that the ordinances “are closely associated with the growth, discipline, and purity of the church’s members.”

The 2nd pillar of the church is its “works.”  Of course it doesn’t mean the church “works” to be saved, but rather a true church will bear fruit, and this is what that looks like:

  • Exaltation– “The purpose, goal, and focus of the church- to glorify God the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Another good term would be “worship” but that was taken by Rick Warren 🙂 and it doesn’t fit with Svigel’s alliteration.
  • Edification– The church is to be “building up believers in love and good works.”  Edification is not focused on the outside, i.e. the world. Rather, it is focused on Believers, discipling them, growing them, teaching them… “in edification, the disciple-maker’s role is to teach and model.  The disciples role is to learn and follow.”
  • Evangelism– This “focuses on the unsaved world, balancing both local and global missions.”  The church is to go and tell!  We must communicate the Gospel in our local context and to the ends of the earth.

A church, is more than just you and your buddies hanging out on the golf course.  It’s more than just “fellowshipping” with some friends at the lake.  The church is a people but these people are organized with a common purpose and common goals, having the glory of Christ as their highest aim.  I still like this definition from Vintage Church:

“The local church is a community of regenerated believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. In obedience to Scripture they organize under qualified leadership, gather regularly for preaching and worship, observe the biblical sacraments of baptism and communion, are unified by the Spirit, are disciplined for holiness, and scatter to fulfill the great commandment and the great commission as missionaries to the world for God’s glory and their joy.”

So, is your church a church?





How long should a church service be? Question 2

30 06 2011

The last several weeks we’ve been looking at the question “How long should a church service be?”  To get caught up to speed CLICK HERE.  Again, we are looking at the regular meeting of the local church that should be happening at least once every Lord’s Day (Sunday). 

Today we are looking at the question “What are church services for?”  We really won’t be getting into the “elements” of the service but rather just discuss the purpose of a regular gathering of Believers.  1st, let’s look at what Sundays are NOT for:

1. Entertainment: You are not the spectator.  The service will not be tailored to your specifications.  Hopefully though, many things will be “your preference”  although some things you may in humility need to count others as more significant. (see Phil. 2:1-11)

2. Country Club:  This is not an “out of college” fraternity or sorority.  It’s not the place we come to in order to socialize and make new friends or political alliances.  Yes, there will be some elements of “socializing” going on, but much more of that should be going on the rest of the week.

3. The God clinic:  It’s not the place you come to get your “shot” of God that should last you the rest of the week!

Previously, I’ve already discussed the question “Do I have to go to church to be a Christian?” Suffice it to say that attending regularly is something Christians should do, should want to do, and need to do.

I believe the Bible is clear that the two major purposes of the weekly gathering of believers are: 1. The Corporate Worship of God and 2. The Edification of Believers

1. The Corporate Worship of God: I say “corporate” worship of God because of course Sunday is not the only day we Worship the Lord!  It is however, usually the only day of the week the whole local Body comes together to worship God.  Jesus says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (see Mark 12:28-30).  I often hear Brothers and Sisters in Christ say “God is my #1 priority”.  Yet, some of these same people miss the regular gathering of the church for trivial matters.  How are we saying that God is our 1st priority if we miss gathering with the local body for something more important?  This is inconsistent.  Hebrews 10:25 is a command from Scripture.  Scripture is the command of God.  Disobeying Scripture is disobeying God.  “If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15).

2. The Edification of Believers:  The synonym I’ll use for “Edification” is “building up”.  Again, just like Corporate Worship, we can’t undergo corporate edification without regularly gathering with the local body. Paul says “let all things be done for building up” (1 Cor. 14:26). Does this mean everything has to be “positive” and “encouraging”? Certainly not, but it does mean everything must be done in truth with love (cf. Eph. 4:15).  I don’t want to go too much into the “elements” necessary to fulfill these purposes (which we will cover next week) but here I must mention that the only thing that will truly build us up is the Holy Spirit using the Word.  This means we sing the Word, we pray the Word, we preach the Word, and we live the Word.  I think if i were to use another term besides “edification” I might use “discipline”.  Sundays are part of the “discipline” of the Believer.  Now, this normally carries a negative connotation, but here we are talking about the formative discipline of Believers whereby they are “discipled” through the ministry of the Word.

So, in summary up to this point we’ve established that the “church service” is for Believers, and that it’s purpose is for Believers to corporately worship God and to edify one another.  Next week we’ll look at what elements must be present in our services to fulfill these purposes.





Do I have to go to church to be a Christian?

8 12 2010

“Don’t be deceived: If u r able to go to church and don’t, u r either in sin or you’re not a Christian”

On November 30th 2010 I “retweeted” the above quote.  Since then I’ve had some questions and comments about this quote so I thought that I would write a little…

Where in the Bible does it say a Christian has to attend “church”? Aren’t we all the “Church?”
Yes the term church in the New Testament can mean the universal church.  It can also mean the church of a specific region. But also very specifically, it can (and does in many instances) mean the “local” church. Check out for example Philippians 1:1. Notice Paul addresses the Saints, Overseers, and Deacons of Philippi. He was writing to a local congregation that gathered regularly.

Secondly, think about church structure. There are Pastors, and deacons in churches. This is clearly taught in the New Testament. Hebrews 13:7 says “obey your leaders.”  Teachings and verses like this wouldn’t make sense if there was not a regularly gathered congregation.

In Acts 2 we see the church regularly gathering.  In Hebrews 10:25 we have a specific command to not forsake the times we meet together. Also,  in the New Testament world the idea of “being a Christian” and “not gathering together with the church” would not have made sense.  Now days we do have many “Christians” who claim to be adopted by God but don’t gather with His family. Now, I do agree that the church is NOT a building.  We should not say “I’m going to church today”.  We should say “I’m going to gather with the church today.”  But in our culture, “going to church” and “gathering with the church” have become synonymous, so I don’t think we’ll win that battle!

1 John 3:14 tells us that we know we have passed from death to life because we love the “brothers.”  This is not talking about cheap “I love you” with my words love either.  This means that we can’t truly love one another if we don’t ever see one another.

Now, is the church supposed to gather on a weekly basis? Several passages of Scripture not only indicate yes, but they also indicate what day!  Take for instance one of the first gathering of the disciples post-resurrection (cf. John 19-20).   Then we look in Acts and see the church gathering on the same day (Acts 20:7).  What day were they gathering? Sunday! The first day of the week- Sunday- the day Jesus rose from the grave.  See also 1 Cor. 16:2 where Paul instructs the church at Corinth to collect money on the 1st day of the week, and also notice in Revelation where John was shown many great wonders on the Lord’s Day (Sunday).

Paul instructs Timothy to “preach the word” and even tells him that one day people will still “gather” but with false teachers because they can’t take sound doctrine (cf. 2 Tim. 4:1-4). Another interesting verse is 1 Thess. 5:27 where Paul instructs the recipients of his letter to read that leader to all the brothers and sisters.  These things would be impossible without a time that the church regularly gathered.

Also, Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 14 talk about our spiritual gifts that we use when we are gathered.  What’s interesting about 1 Cor. 14 is that Paul goes on to detail for us some of the things that need to go on during worship together (1 Cor. 14:26-40).  The New Testament shows that God’s people gathered together in local congregations (that were led by Elders (Pastors)).  The Bible clearly commands God’s people to gather on a regular basis.

Finally, I’ll comment some more on Hebrews 10:24-25.  Just because you attend church does not mean you are actually fulfilling this commandment.  One may go to church and still be “forsaking” the assembly.  They may go to church begrudgingly or just for ulterior gains (power, political, etc.).  Also, one may be at home and not really be breaking the commandment given in these verses.  They may actually be unable to gather (sickness, unavoidable job situation, etc.).  The point is however, that the people of God desire to be with the people of God.  Those who are able, but don’t go to church are either living in sin, or not a Christian.