Corporate worship is God’s gathering of Christians from all around the globe, through the glorious grace that was bestowed on them, so that they may all be united in declaring His magnificence. Through the atoning death and resurrection of Christ, God welcomes us to commune with Him and to find everlasting intimacy and joy in Him. We meet together on Sundays as a church professing His redemptive work with our tongues and hands in the public praise of His wonderful name in song and worship.
Corporate worship has also been a staple of spiritual nourishment for Christians through all times and all cultures. We are spiritually fed by the reception of God’s Word and by our participation in the sacraments. Through fellowship with His sons and daughters, we are sanctified as they spur us in love and good works to continually point us to the Day of Christ’s coming (Heb 10:24-25). Human flourishing is heavily dependent upon this communion, as we rely on each other for the gifts, talents and resources given by God for the purpose of the church’s edification.
In short, corporate worship is mandated in Scripture because God gathers us for Himself and for the sake of each other’s faith. Yet in many senses we often sleep on this truth. We often get hard naps during the sermon to catch up on sleep lost during yesterday night’s LAN party. We switch into autopilot mode in song as soon as we hear the beat of the drum. The benediction song gives us the all-systems-go to get ready to retreat away from church and carry on with the rest of our week.
Here are 5 concise and practical tips that we can take onboard to wake ourselves up from spiritual slumber and prepare ourselves to come into corporate worship with the right hearts, engaged minds and ready hands.
1. Resting Well for Church
Now all things considered, there are various reasons for why you might struggle to muster up the energy to stay awake at church. Maybe the air con is broken, creating an incubating effect which sets the ideal conditions for anybody to hibernate during the service. Perhaps you had to do a late-night shift at work that has left you sleep deprived for the day ahead. But if falling sleeping at church is a perpetual occurrence, then more than likely none of those reasons apply to you.
If this is you, then I’ll let you in on a little secret to remedy the problem. Go to bed earlier! If you know that church starts early in the morning for you, then setting curfews to get yourself tucked into bed will dissipate your fatigue and enable you to be more attentive at church. It’s quite simple, isn’t it? It shouldn’t be a surprise to us that resting well will revive our ability to engage with the truth of God’s Word and with God’s people on Sunday.
Don’t we all apply this principle of common sense when it comes to other important activities, such as preparing for a mid-semester exam, a sports grand final, or a job interview? Solidify this routine into your schedule if you also consider church to be indispensable to your daily living as a Christian. If you want to get the most out of your spiritual meal on Sunday, then get to bed earlier!
2. Dressing Well for Church
It seems second nature for many to know the unspoken rule of appropriate dress code when attending various important events. Whether we are at someone’s wedding, going out on a romantic date, or preparing for a job interview, we always put our best clothes on. Why is that? Because we express our reverence to others by how we dress. We want to honour the bridegroom. We want to be presentable to our partners. We want to impress our interviewers. No words need to be said for it is all spoken by our clothes.
So why does church seem to be the exception to this unspoken rule for some of us? If we consider these individuals worthy of putting the extra effort of dressing well for, shouldn’t this be more so for the Creator of the universe who is worthy to be revered by all?
Now I’m not suggesting we should all buckle up in our three piece suits every Sunday. Scripture doesn’t specify which particular clothes honour Him most. But I am saying that how we dress implicitly shows what we most dearly treasure. So it might be worthwhile contemplating what constitutes as ‘dressing well’ within our cultural landscape, and be more intentional with the clothes we pick out of our closets in order to express the significance of Sunday worship to ourselves and to others. If we truly revere God in our hearts as the Creator of all things and as our loving Father, then let’s be mindful that our attire does say something about our heart and attitude to Him.
3. Attending Well to Church
Similar to how we dress for church, our attendance at church says something about how important we deem God and His people to be. Being habitually late or attending infrequently communicates to the world that our God is not worthy of our time and neither are His children. We often underestimate the significance of our immediate presence in our community, but by just being there we can already act as an encouragement to our brothers and sisters! So, if we don’t want to be a disservice to them, as they work hard to ensure the worship service runs well, then let’s love them by attending on time, and by attending regularly each week to corporate worship. Better yet, you can make an extra effort to come in 15-30 minutes earlier, and commune with your fellow church members before the service starts!
This is God’s call to God’s people to never neglect meeting together regularly, so that we would ever be reminded of the day of glory that is to come (Heb 10:24-25). Those who discipline themselves to being punctual to attending regular worship will find boundless joy and pleasure in communing with the saints (Ps 133:1).
4. Engaging Well at Church
Most of us don’t seem to be aware that our pastors can see everything on stage and know who is actually listening to them. What sort of persona are you displaying to them and those around us, when they are preaching on the pulpit? Are you showing your active engagement with the sermon? Or do you look like you shift in and out of consciousness as soon as they open their mouth?
What we often fail to recognise is that the faces we put on can either encourage or discourage our pastors. Knowing the strenuous work they pour into preparing their sermons to feed you with the Word of God, let us show our appreciation of their ministry to us, by putting our game faces on and chew on the meal they have prepared for us diligently. We can keep our Bibles open and take notes during the sermon, laugh at their lame jokes or it could even be as simple as making eye contact. You can take it up a notch by making specific encouragements to your pastor about what you liked about his sermon! This will reflect not only a respect for your pastor but a respect for the Word of God that is being preached.
5. Finishing Well after Church
We all have our occasional times when we are keen to leave church quickly to get on with things we scheduled in for the rest of the week (and are more excited about) after Sunday service. The final song is the signal to dash out the church doors and cross the finish line at the front gates. We mark off our church attendance on our mental roll call and carry on with the rest of our day.
But what missed opportunities there are to continue in service to God and His people even after corporate worship is formally over! Get to know your congregation better over morning tea and ask them what they think of the sermon and whether there is anything they’d like you to pray for them. Make the newcomers feel welcome by starting conversations with them and inviting them for lunch. Bonding time with God’s family does not formally end at corporate worship, but instead begins after the service.
Now some of us here are more naturally inclined towards introversion and shyness, and the very thought of engaging with others sparks horror in our hearts. Quite a few of us will find it difficult to break out of our comfort zones to reach out to others and have informal conversations with them. But we need to realise our call as Christians to serve others in self-sacrificial love, and our engagement with others after the service is one form of that ministry! People feel cared and loved when others make efforts to invest time into their lives. But to invest time in others will mean you must sacrifice your own time and comfort, and this is never really easy. But this is our call as members of the body; to love each other deeply to foster the oneness of the church, and that the church’s manifestation of this true sacrificial love will make Christ more desirable to the world (John 17:22-23). Finish well not only for yourself but for others.
The world belittles God when they see that even His own children make a spectacle out of His consecrated day of worship. If Jesus is truly deserving of our praise for what He has done for us, we must reciprocate our love for Him and for His brothers and sisters by stepping into corporate worship; with joyful hearts prepared to find delight in Him, with agile minds primed to receive the word in hunger, and with serving hands ready to make the needs of those within our church community.
Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.