This is part two of a three-part blog series on approaching Sunday mornings. You can read part one here.
So, you’ve prepared to gather together with the Body of Christ on Sunday morning. You’ve spent time in the passage that will be preached on. You’ve spent time in prayer. You’ve prioritized the Sunday gathering in your schedule. And now it’s Sunday morning.
Now what? Now that you’re gathered together with other believers, how should you approach that time together?
Who is that time for? You? Fellow believers? God? Yes.
We gather together on Sunday mornings primarily to do two things: to worship God and to build up the Body of Christ toward unity in the faith and maturity in Him (Ephesians 4:11-16) through the proclamation of His Word to one another (Colossians 3:16). In other words, our focus should first be on God and others as we gather together. And because we are members of the Body of Christ, you and I also ought to come expecting to be sharpened, encouraged, equipped, and spurred on toward unity, maturity, and worship.
But if we’re not careful, Sunday morning service can quickly turn into a time where we come to be served rather than to serve, so here are some do’s and don’t’s that can help us all benefit from our time together to the glory of God.
Don’t be critical, Do be committed
One of the beauties of being a part of a local Body of Christ is that not everyone is the same as you, and yet there is still unity in diversity (Ephesians 4:1-6). When we’re gathered together, the room is filled with people of all ages, people who come from different church backgrounds, people with different personalities, people with different music preferences, people with different learning abilities, people with different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, and the list goes on.
People. That is what the room is filled with. People who need to grow in their understanding of who Christ is and what He has done in His great love for them and how they should live as a result. That includes you.
So it’s critical that you don’t spend that time together being critical. Instead, be committed to set aside your preferences for the benefit of the people who are a part of the same Body with you.
If you’re critical, you might think and do things like these:
You’ll avoid that person who you think talks too much or always seems to be whining about his problems.
You’ll sit on the other side of the room in order to avoid that person who is clearly in sin but not acknowledging it, or that family who has the rambunctious kids. (If your only reason for staying home and watching the service online is because it’s a family service and you don’t want to be distracted by all the kids in the room, you may need to consider whether or not that’s coming from a critical heart.)
You won’t sing the song because it’s not in the right key, or it’s not the way your old church did it, or it’s too fast, or it’s too slow, or it’s not deep enough theologically, or it’s too deep theologically, or it’s not like a concert, or it’s too showy. Or you’ll think that you can’t worship because the tone deaf person three rows behind you is blasting your eardrums with nothing but distraction.
You’ll focus on the mistakes the pastor makes, or the things he says wrong. Or you’ll grumble in your mind about an illustration he used, or how he didn’t give you enough application, or gave too much application, or didn’t explain something enough, or spent too much time explaining something.
If you’re committed, then those situations above will look more like these:
You’ll ask God to use you to encourage others and help them fix their eyes on Christ, and you’ll seek out the talker and the whiner and anyone else God puts in front of you that morning with the intent of listening to them, encouraging them, and praying for or with them.
You won’t ignore or avoid the people who are sitting around you, but instead, you’ll smile at them, tell them how thankful you are to see them and extend them the same grace that you so desperately need and that God has joyfully given to you in His Son.
You’ll stand and join in singing with the rest of the Body, even if the songs are not exactly what you prefer because you know that it is an encouraging thing to see and hear other believers proclaiming God’s truth together in song, and you can be an encouragement to others in that way. And if that tone deaf person is so bad that it really is too distracting for you to find the right key. You can smile and thank God for the joyful noise that person is making, and you can still contemplate the words of the song and the truths being proclaimed and worship God with gratitude in your heart.
You’ll be in prayer for the pastor and give him grace as he preaches the Word because you know that he’s in the middle of his own Spiritual growth, just like you, and is bound to make mistakes (James 3:1-2). You’ll receive the message with eagerness and love for the one who is preaching it, but you’ll also examine the Scriptures for yourself and give God’s Word the final authority (Acts 17:11).
Don’t be passive, Do participate
You are an important part of the Body of Christ, and God has gifted you by His Spirit to serve the Body in specific ways (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12; 1 Peter 4:9-11). If you come on a Sunday morning only with the intent of being served or trying not to get noticed, the Body suffers. We need you to engage.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to join the worship team or serve coffee or be a greeter at the door or volunteer in SonChasers. Although, if you have the giftings and passions for those things, you should definitely consider those as options.
Every Sunday morning you have multiple opportunities to engage the people of God with the Word of God for the worship of God. You can instruct, encourage, love, care, pray, sing, serve, equip, counsel, and many other things simply by coming and getting involved in the lives of others. Be a steward of God’s grace for God’s glory and the good of the Body (1 Peter 4:10-11).
If you don’t know what gifts God has given you by His Spirit for the benefit of the Body, we would love to help you figure that out. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the staff and elders for guidance.
Perhaps the area we are most prone to be passive is during the message. Most often during that time, the pastor is preaching while the people are listening, but that doesn’t mean the people can’t or shouldn’t engage. We can listen actively.
We can bring our Bibles and open them and follow along. We can take notes in them and underline words and verses that challenge or encourage us. We can write questions down that we want to investigate further as we study the passage again on our own or in our community groups later in the week. We can be in prayer for the pastor, that God would give him compassion and authority to faithfully preach the Word to the people of God. We can look and listen for ways to apply what is being revealed to us through the preaching and hearing of God’s Word.
As one of the pastors at Crosspoint, I can tell you that Dave, Jon, and I find great encouragement when someone comes up to us afterward and is able to share a particular part of the passage that challenged or encouraged them or exposed sin in their lives and how they plan to deal with that, because that helps us see that they have interacted not just with us while we were preaching, but with God Himself through His Word, and the Spirit of God has used it to impress upon their hearts a desire to apply it to their lives. That leads to growth and maturity in Christ.
In order for the Body of Christ to grow and mature in Christ, each member must do his or her part in love to contribute to that growth (Romans 12:5; 1Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:16; 1 Peter 4:10).
That doesn’t mean you’ll always come in on a Sunday morning with a smile on your face and a hop in your step. There will be times where you’ve been beaten down all week leading up to Sunday, or you’ll suffer loss or pain. You’ll endure physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual hardship at different times. Sometimes you won’t feel like engaging in the Body of Christ because of those things, but that’s exactly why you must engage.
The people in the Body of Christ are called to minister to one another. The regular practice is to put the needs of others before your own, but there will be times where others will put your needs before themselves. That is the beauty of how the Body functions. So engage in the needs of others, but also engage when you have a need. Reach out to others for prayer, encouragement, confession, wisdom, etc. Minister and be ministered to (Romans 1:11-12). When these things happen as we gather together on Sunday morning, God is glorified in us and we mature in Him.
If you walk out of a Sunday service and think, “I didn’t get fed”, you may need to ask yourself, “how did I contribute to that?” But if each one of us comes committed to participating in the maturing of the Body, we will be nourished together by God through His Word and Spirit, and we will grow up in every way into Him who is the head – Christ. From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part. – Ephesians 4:16