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





Pointing People to Jesus in Congregational Singing

9 02 2013

Here’s an extended quote from Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger.  It’s found on pg. 43 and emphasizes the importance of being intentional in picking out congregational songs that point us to Christ and His work.

“As you consider selecting songs for your worship services, consider them in light of the truth of the gospel.  Imagine the songs as teachers-because they are! If your people could understand your doctrine only through the music you sing, what would they know about God and His pursuit of us? If your people could understand your church’s beliefs only through the music, what would they know? These are good questions to ask yourself in order to stay Jesus-centered.

Too often the songs we sing in many churches are bold declarations of what we can do for God, of what we have that we can offer Him.  And while the character of God and His work on our behalf does demand an active response from us, we must be careful not to teach people unintentionally that the Christian faith is about our personal resolve and commitments.  Choose songs instead that remind people about the greatness of God.  Choose songs that boldly remind people of the gospel – how He found is in the hopelessness of our sin and redeemed us for His own pleasure and glory – because only the gospel can stir the Creature to worship authentically and live.  Without consistent reminders of the gospel, our worship services quickly become empty religious feasts that (according to Scripture) disgust the Lord.”

Creature of the Word trailer

Creature of the Word on Amazon





Thinking in Worship

20 07 2012

Truth without emotion produces dead orthodoxy and a church full (or half full) of artificial admirers (like people who write generic anniversary cards for a living). On the other hand, emotion without truth produces empty frenzy and cultivates shallow people who refuse the discipline of rigorous thought. But true worship comes from people who are deeply emotional and who love deep and sound doctrine. Strong affections for God rooted in truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship.” – John Piper in Desiring God pg. 82

Think about the songs you sing on Sunday mornings.  Why do you sing them?  Is it just because they are the songs you’ve always sang and they “move” you emotionally? What are the words that you are singing?  Unfortunately, in many churches today, the songs sang are theologically shallow.  This isn’t a “Traditional” vs. “Contemporary” thing either.  There are shallow hymns as well as contemporary songs.

As quoted above, “emotion without truth produces empty frenzy and cultivates shallow people who refuse the discipline of rigorous thought.”  This is where we are in much of evangelicalism today.  We don’t want to think about what we are singing- we just want to sing, we just want to “feel.” It’s not that emotion is wrong; it’s just that we crave emotion apart from truth because it’s “easy” and we don’t have to think about it, which is kind of like going to the movies isn’t it? We can just “feel” and be entertained but we don’t really have to excercise or discipline our minds for “rigorous thought.” And this kind of mentality in worship is wrong.

I’m in no way trying to reduce worship to just Sunday morning singing.  Worship encompasses much more than that.  However, I am asking God’s people to think when they sing.  When you sing this Sunday think about the words of the song.  Think about how they point you to the greatness of Christ and your need of Him.  Think about how they point you to the Cross and the holiness, love, justice, grace, and mercy of God.  And if the songs you sing don’t point you to those things, it may be time to discuss with your Pastor your church’s understanding of Worship.





Random thoughts on Church Service length

19 07 2012

This post is the conclusion from a series of blogs I wrote last year working on answering the question: How long should a church service be? You can see the whole blog series in .pdf format by clicking HERE. Probably would be helpful to read some of the other blogs in the above .pdf to understand the full context.

1.  How many churches are more concerned about the “time” issue than they are about answering the 3 foundational questions (Who and What are the services for? What elements should be included?)

Sadly, many churches (including leaders and members) are more concerned about their schedule than they are about what goes into a weekly gathering of Believers.  Immediately I think “big” churches come to mind here.  These churches may be televised or have multiple services and/or sites.  These churches are on a strict schedule and plan each segment of their service so that everything flows as smoothly as possible and they can finish on time.  Now, planning is not an evil thing!  I am certainly not advocating laziness in planning.  However, for these type of services how much freedom do we give the Holy Spirit?  It seems we’ve basically “planned” Him out of the way.

I said that “immediately” I think of big churches, but small churches are just as guilty.  The small church mentality  seems to be less planning and more “this is the way we’ve always done our services, why fix it?”  So, the small church has opening song, announcements, more songs, offering, special music, and then preaching. The schedule is not thought about or tweaked because it’s always been done that way.  For some small churches time may seem a non-issue, but mainly because for decades (or longer) it’s always been the same.  There’s no self-examination within the Body to see whether or not the services contain a healthy amount of prayer, scripture reading, singing, preaching, etc.

2. The “seeker sensitive” movement has gotten the church off track in regards to this issue

This too affects all sorts of churches.  We’ve been so concerned about creating an inviting, inoffensive atmosphere that we’ve lost track of who and what the service is for.  I want to put this proposition forward:  If the Word is being faithfully preached, and the people are faithfully receiving the Word, don’t you think the bathrooms are going to look respectable!?  In other words, the answer is not to make sure everything in the church is clean and inviting so that visitors will come back.  The answer is to faithfully PREACH THE WORD!  Heart change will affect our outward actions.  There is so much more I could write about this “seeker sensitive” topic.  Churches have forsaken corrective discipline, membership standards, etc. all for the sake of “reaching more people for Jesus.”  Where’s that got us?

3. The “attention span” argument doesn’t work

The human mind can only endure 15-20 minute sermons.  Or so all the “new research” suggests.  I have several problems with this argument.  1st- we live in a fallen world.  How many true Christians where surveyed in this research?  See, the Holy Spirit is “recreating” us!  We are being restored to the full image of Christ (this is called sanctification).  So, even if fallen man can only endure that much, I would have to think Christians can endure (and desire) more.  2nd-  How many college/university professors do you know cutting down their lectures based on this research?  There may be a few, but I’m saying the majority are not.  3rd-  Practically, this research doesn’t affect our entertainment world.  We’ll endure concerts, movies, sporting events, etc. for hours on end.

4.  Let’s remember Sunday is the Lord’s Day

Or it used to be.  Then it got knocked down to the Lord’s “Morning and Evening”.  Then it was moved back to the Lord’s “Morning”.  Now it’s just the Lord’s “1-hour or less”.  Yes, you should have time with your family on Sunday.  Yes, you should have time to rest on Sunday.  But the corporate gathering of believers is priority number one.  It is the ONE day that we set aside to gather with our church family.

Conclusion:

I know this post has been somewhat random in it’s ordering, so let me conclude with this.  The question “How long should a church service be?” should be irrelevant to mature believers.  There are certain priorities, and elements, the Bible commands us to pay attention to in our weekly gatherings- that is what should concern us, NOT the time.  How can the Body of Christ, with a straight face, spend hours every week in front of the television, sporting events, and other recreational activities, but complain about the extra 15 minutes at church?  Can we really faithfully fit all the elements we’ve discussed with the right priorities into a pre-packaged 1-hour service?

Let me conclude with 3 thoughts for church leaders:

1.  Do everything you can to NOT waste time during a service.  If your service is going long just because people aren’t prepared, and things are messing up with sound, media, etc. this is not good.  Cut out the time wasters.

2.  Don’t forget the Holy Spirit.  Yes, it’s good to plan, plan, plan.  Be disciplined in your preparation for Sunday mornings.  But don’t be so rigid that there is no room to adjust during the service.

3. Repent.  Let us repent and lead our people to repent of our concern for our own time.  May we be a people who will truly worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth.





What should we do on Sunday mornings?

5 07 2012


This post is from a series of blogs I wrote last year working on answering the question: How long should a church service be? In this post we’ll look at what should be included during our weekly gatherings. You can see the whole blog series in .pdf format by clicking HERE.

The elements to be included in the weekly gathering of the Local Church must be Word driven.  In other words, what we should be doing as the Body on Sunday mornings is Word ministry.  John 8:31 says

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples ……

We cannot worship God, and we cannot edify the brethren if we are not abiding in the Word on Sunday mornings.  What’s amazing is that God is not silent or intentionally ambiguous about what should be included in our services!  He plainly reveals these truths to us in Scripture.  So, let’s now discuss what His Word reveals that we should be doing in our regular gatherings:

  • 1. Preaching the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-2)  This is first for a reason.  The preaching of God’s Word is essential.  It should be central and priority to all other things happening on Sunday morning.  Perhaps you do all the rest on this list on Sundays, but if you leave out this one out you’ve missed the “main ingredient” to God’s intent for our gatherings.
  • 2. Singing the Word (Colossians 3:16)  This doesn’t mean you have to find a chapter in the Bible and sing it exactly word for word (although that can work at times!).  But it does mean that you should actually be singing portions of Scripture in your songs, and songs that are not portions of Scripture should be able to be easily “proved” to be implied by portions of Scripture.
  • 3.  Reading and Praying the Word (Acts 2:42, 1 Timothy 2:1, 4:13)  Yes, this element is included in the Sermon, but it should not just be during the sermon that the church is reading and praying the Word.  There should be other times during the service that the Word of God is read publicly and that the prayers of the Saints are prayed according to the Word.
  • 4. Living the Word–  This is the local body living out the Word during corporate gatherings (not just “go act like a Christian when the services are over”).  What I mean is that there are other elements that God says to include in our services that I am classifying here as “living the Word.”  So, these elements include:

a. Financial Giving (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)  Giving to the church is not just a “good idea” but it’s the duty of Believers!  This doesn’t mean you have to “pass the plates” during a service, but it does mean there should be at least a designated area (offering box, etc.) Where the Body can give financially in worship and obedience to Christ.

b. The Lord’s Supper and Baptism (Matthew 28:19, 1 Cor. 11:17-34)  These may not actually happen every Sunday but for a healthy church they should be happening on a regular basis.

c. Fellowship (Hebrews 3:12-14, and many others!) This does not mean eating (although, I’m down for lunch any time) True fellowship is sharing the truths of Christ with one another.  We must constantly be willing to ask how one’s walk with Christ is going and to share what Christ is doing currently in your life.





How long should a church service be?

23 05 2011

Read another article this morning about the need for “1-hour” church services. This is something we’ve been wrestling with at FBC as we seek to bring honor and glory to Christ through our weekly gatherings.  So, how long should a church service be?

Right from the beginning we ask the wrong question.   Paul says “all things should be done decently and in order.”  In context he is talking about our regular gatherings so I do believe that it is important for leaders to spend time planning and preparing for Sunday morning services.  I am not advocating a “we don’t plan anything because we just get up there and let the Holy Spirit lead us” mentality.  Of course the Holy Spirit must lead us but that doesn’t give us the right to be lazy in planning our services.

But back to our question: How long should a church service be?  Why is this the wrong question? It is so far removed from the heart of the issue that it clouds the real issue.  It’s kind of like me asking this question: “How long should my doctor’s visit be?”  Well, there’s really no context for that question for someone to make an intellegent answer.  So, here are the questions that leaders must ask instead of the infamous “how long should our church services be?”:

1.  Who are the services for?- The lost? Believers? Some mixture in between?

2.  What are the services for?- Entertainment? Encouragement? Chastisement? Something else?

3.  After these two questions are answered then we must ask: What elements must be included in such a service so that it is geared towards the people it was intended for and meets the intent of what the services are for in the first place?

I think that the Bible is clear on these answers and in the next few weeks we will seek to answer them