The topic of this blog was spawned by an article a friend passed me. Brother J.J. Turner penned an article entitled, Twelve Habits To Bring To The Assembly. Such is concise, well written and offers us some good insight. I’ve selected several of his bullet points to comment on.
Have you ever been at an event, in a relationship or perhaps an occupation and think to yourself, “I’m just not feeling it?” I suppose most of us have entertained such thoughts on one level or another in our lives. Hopefully, though, it’s not all-consuming and preferably it has nothing to do with your spiritual walk or your weekly meeting time with the church.
I know of a preacher who one Sunday years ago spoke at his home congregation. As folks made their way through the lobby a rather perturbed lady said to him, “I just didn’t get anything out of the lesson. I wish you would have messages that touched the heart.” As he graciously attempted to field her thoughts and process the information, another lady comes up right behind her saying, “That message so touched me. It was just what I needed to hear this morning.” Is it not interesting that the same message could have such a polar opposite effect?
Certainly, the speaker always is a factor; he/she bears the responsibility to engage the audience as much as possible. Also, some topics are more interesting, more meaningful and personal than others. Then, of course, some messages just flow better than others. That being said, the audience also has a major part to play in things. If you would have sat at the feet of the Lord in His personal ministry you would have heard Him say, “Take heed how you hear.” (Lk. 8:18) In other words, there’s an attitude, a posture of the heart, that you and I are to bring to the text and the occasion.
Turner likened such to a child dropping a piggy bank and being upset that it was empty. Frustrated and disappointed she went and complained to the grandpa. Seeing a teaching moment he said, “You have to put money into the piggy bank before you can get money out.” Friends, that’s where we are when it comes to the assembly. Here are several of the points mentioned in the article – if you struggle in this manner they may offer you some hope.
- Arrive early. Instead of rushing in last minute, why not choose to come early and enjoy fellowship with your brothers and sisters? Most of us only get to see one another once a week. Arrive early, get a cup of coffee or a snack, attend a class and enjoy some time sharing with those of “like precious faith.”
- Bring a rested body. Some nights sleep just doesn’t come our way easily. I know at Northview with some of you this is a very real and constant challenge. But sometimes our lack of sleep is due to decisions we make. If we had a big meeting at work or perhaps an important test at school, most of us would seek to be rested and at our best. Should our time of corporate worship be any different?
- Bring your Bible. On occasion I ask the congregation to hold up their Bibles or devices; really it’s intended to be an encouragement for all of us to be prepared to personally look into the text. When I am sitting at the feet of other speakers I always want my physical Bible. I like to write and highlight as my heart is touched by the Truth. Plus, it helps me to find those passages later on when I’m doing my own work or teaching others.
- Preplan your contribution. Now, thankfully besides giving personally, we have the option of doing so online. Everyone’s effort is important here. Northview’s work is the collective expression of Christians at this location. The devil is so capable of hindering our generosity. Many give very generously and others, to be honest, not so much. Why is it that some must bear the financial burden of which many are all a part? Regardless of whether or not you agree with “every financial decision” leadership has made throughout the years, to use such as an excuse not to give I believe is a copout. We all, whether we are on staff, in leadership or membership should feel compelled to help bear the burden.
- Choose to participate. Be a part of things. Each of us will have a much better assembly experience if we are intentional about engaging our hearts. Remember Paul said we are to “sing and make melody in our hearts.” (Eph. 5:29) An unengaged heart uttering words of praise brings not joy, but displeasure and annoyance to the Holy God. Engage as if Jesus Christ were seated up on the stage with us.
- Be friendly. Most of us have this down. We are a very friendly congregation. I hear that all the time! Many of you are seeking out visitors and are very intentional about welcoming them. I thank God for you. That is so important. Perhaps others of us need to be more focused in this respect. Remember, the assembly is like inviting outsiders to meet the family. Please continue to be “on purpose” about being friendly.
- Remember, Satan will use every distraction to try to hinder the Word from touching hearts. Lately, we’ve been intentional about addressing in a very focused manner some of the distractions in our assemblies. Last Sunday it was evident that such paid off. I told one of our brothers on the front row just before services began, “It’s not about microphones, PowerPoint slides, televisions on the stage, etc. However, taking this stuff seriously. When we do such with excellence it’s evident that it matters.” The assembly matters because God matters!
- Finally, prepare with prayer. I hope that everyone will be very, very intentional about this. Saturday evening, on the way to Sunday services, before things get started in the assembly, etc., may God help all of us to fervently engage Him in prayer. Pray for our members to show up safely. Pray for us to have lots of visitors. Pray for those participating. Pray for me that God can effectively use me to touch hearts with the Word. Pray for service to go without distraction. Pray someone will want to put on Christ. Pray you can be an encouragement for someone. Pray folks will leave encouraged and further equipped to be bold for Christ. Pray the assembly experience will be something so good, so moving, so edifying and such a powerful expression of who God is that those attending will look forward to next time. Pray our visitors will bring visitors. Pray for our teachers. Pray for the Stars ministry. And pray that in all things, in everything and at all times we are using every tool in our wheelhouse the best we can to bring glory to the God of the world.
A brother recently told me about meme he heard. Random churchgoer: “I didn’t really like worship this morning.” Francis Chan: “That’s ok. We weren’t worshipping you.” So true. We’d all do well to remember that the assembly, besides being community time for Christians (who live their lives as an expression of worship), is time devoted to God.
I doubt that anyone who persistently engages in the above suggestions will ever find themselves saying on a consistent basis, “I’m just not feeling it.” I would think that it would be just the opposite. With your efforts, our collective work and God’s help I’d hope we’ll leave encouraged and empowered. Northview, it is to this end I will continue to pray.
You are loved,