Saturday, May 02, 2015
How to Get the Most Out of Church
So without any further ado, here are some things to keep in mind the next time you step into church that will help you to optimize your experience.
*note; In all of these remarks, I am talking about a well balanced church with a pastor who loves God's Word and is faithful to the doctrines of the Bible.
1. Remember your pastor doesn't deserve your faithfulness.
Gasp. I know that sounds terrible, but stay with me. The Bible says (Heb. 10:25) Christians should not forsake the assembly. It also says that some have the custom of doing just that, but Christians should, instead, assemble more and more as the day comes that Christ will return for us. The Bible also says (Matt. 18:20) that Christ is present in a very special way anytime the church comes together. (More on that later.) If you go to church because you think your pastor deserves that kind of faithfulness, there will come a day when you notice that he is, in fact, not Christ Himself. He is human. He does, occasionally, sin. And you will not want to come to church. When you do, you will sit there and think, "Why am I here listening to this sinner bloviate for an hour?" It isn't worth it!
We don't attend church for the sake of our pastor. I have had six wonderful pastors in my life, and will say that each one was a holy man of God. Regardless, sometimes I was misjudged or misunderstood. (Not that often, really, but we can obsess over one bad day and destroy all the joy God has for us in His church.) If we go to church because we love Christ, leadership being human will not discourage us.
2. Church is for broken people, and you are one of them.
When God's Word is preached, and the Holy Spirit moves without hindrance, something wonderful happens. We see ourselves without the self-righteous veil that we often place over our motives and actions. While needful, this can be super uncomfortable. One of the most common responses we make, is to misdirect the conviction of the Word of God by saying the pastor has it out for you. I remember once when I was about 10 that a church member brought his brother to church, and after church his brother was furious, convinced that the pastor (my father) had been told everything about his life, and had prepared everything just for him. My dad didn't even know the church member had a brother. I have noticed that this is a go-to response for many people, so it must be part of human nature to deflect feelings of guilt by making accusations against the messenger. (Yes, it is, I catch myself doing it from time to time.)
Go to church expecting God to work on purifying you, your heart, your motives. If you don't, you will wind up sitting there thinking, "Why am I here listening to this guy who hates me bloviate for an hour?" That's a lie, friend. Chances are, if you have pastors like I have had, you have a pastor you weeps over your name in prayer in the watches of the night, and it hurts him and his family deeply when people assume they hate them.
3. Ask not what your church can do for you...
Instead of saying, "This church is not friendly.", BE friendly and fill the need you notice. I've heard people complain about their church like it's some organization they have nothing to do with. It's not the local grocery store, my friend, it's the Body of Christ, of which you are a member. If it's your church, and you feel left out or lonely, don't blame everyone else. Do something about it! You might be the one God has planned to make a difference, but if you react in a selfish way, you will wind up sitting there thinking, "Why do I even go to this church? No one cares about me!" Get involved, and instead of criticizing failings, make the difference yourself. (Note: I am not talking about doctrinal problems or problems with open sin that is not dealt with. I assume you are not going to one of those churches, and if you are, find another church.)
4. Go to church expecting to have an experience with Christ.
Jesus said He would be present in a special way when His church met in His name. In Revelation 1, we have a wonderful description of Him, and He is walking in the middle of the candlesticks representing churches, watching them. In Eph. 5 we are given a vision of Christ as loving husband to the church. His church is special to Him, and you being there is important to Him. I can't stress this enough. When you scorn the church, or just go because you have to, you are disrespecting something that is of great price to our Savior.
5. Prepare yourself and your family for success.
Your stuff: You don't need to be scrabbling under the kid's bed on Sunday morning in your church clothes, desperately searching for matching socks or someone's shoe. Bless the heart of those people whose stuff is always where it's supposed to be, but if you are like me, and your kids struggle to make sure their shoes go where they belong, and they struggle to get their socks into the laundry hamper to be washed, please hear me. Satan will use that little bit of disorganization to full advantage on Sunday morning to create havoc before you arrive to church, frazzled to your last nerve. Make a checklist if you have to and do the under the bed scrabbling on Saturday night when you are in your pjs and ponytail, not nylons and hairspray. (Both perform poorly when worn under the bed.)(Don't ask me how I know this.) Get it all out and ironed from the shoes to the hair ribbons. You will sleep better. Promise.
Your heart: Prepare your heart with an invitation before you go out to the car. You know what the invitation is for right? You ask God what He wants to change, and submit yourself to His will. If you know He wants a commitment, you make it, not waiting till you are "ready". Do this before you go! I am willing to bet that you will have fewer conflicts and discontent with your church.
Your family: They need to be rested, and so do you. Get them and yourself into bed at a decent time, and be ware of life-draining conflicts on Sunday morning. Remember Satan wants you to miss church, but if he can't get you to do that, he will try to get conflicts going. Try to encourage your kids to be more patient with each other, and keep the tone light and joyful. Music can help!
Finally, be thankful for your church. We often focus on the negative, and we are critical by nature. This can destroy our spiritual life by cutting off the fount of blessing between the church and church member. We should never sit in the pew wondering why we bothered to come. There is a good reason; obedience and love of our Lord. There is a reason for Him to show up as well! He loves this assembly full of broken, needy people who have been washed and are in the process of being formed into His likeness. See you in church!