Church is a place where Christians build each other up.
Some thoughts on getting ready for church.
“ …to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ…speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Eph 4:12-13; 15)
The Bible says that church is where Christians gather to hear God speak to us through the Bible. His purpose is to equip us all for building each other up in our faith in Christ in order to serve him in the world. Put like that, it changes the way we think about our Sunday meetings.
Each of us has a part to play in this by speaking the truth in love through the preaching, through our singing and in our conversations. Working as a team, coordinated by our church leadership, we can use our different abilities, experience and opportunities to build Dundonald Church. (The Bible calls this ‘edification.’) We are not, therefore, merely passengers on a bus, or consumers in a store. Nor is church just an event where we are entertained, or a club we attend for our enjoyment. Church should be more about serving others than serving ourselves.
These biblical principles shape our thinking here at Dundonald, for our life as a church in general and for our Sunday gatherings in particular. So here are some things to think about when it comes to making the most of Sundays in order to build others up in their faith and to be built up in Christ ourselves. They’re aspirations, not rules, so do what you can with them and don’t worry about the things you can’t always manage. We know it isn’t always easy, but as a church, we do want to lift our game. Here’s how we can make a start…
1. GET THERE EARLY
Life is busy. And complicated. And whilst some of us find it easy to be punctual, let’s be honest, many of us don’t. Turning up late is, of course, better than not turning up at all, but better still is getting to church early enough to welcome others. Such occasions sound like miracles, but they do happen. Try it. It’s hard to get the children out of the house at any time of day. Many of us know this. It’s also hard to walk away from a Sunday afternoon with friends or to get up off the sofa whilst watching the sport. But when visitors arrive to find nobody here to welcome them, it doesn’t create a great impression!
2. PUT ON A BADGE
We are consistently told that the simple practice of putting on a badge makes it easier for people to get chatting, easier to remember (and return to) conversations we’ve had before and easier to pray for people when we go home later on. So please put on a name badge if you can (using the sticky labels provided) with both your first name and your surname. We’re serious about doing this because we’re serious about greeting people and – more than that – we’re serious about getting to know them. We enjoy catching up with friends at church. It’s part of our life together. But we also want to have an eye for newcomers. We want to give them space (some may prefer to sit at the back or on their own to begin with) but we also want to introduce ourselves so that they feel comfortable with us and know what’s going on. This is especially helpful when people come with children and want the reassurance of knowing where the crèche is and what provision is made for children. Genuine, relaxed hospitality breaks a lot of preconceptions. And it’s often what brings people back.
3. THINK ABOUT WHERE YOU SIT
To make the most of the formal part of our gathering, it’s worth thinking about where you’re going to sit. You may have children in with you for part of the service, in which case you’ll want to think about where’s best for them to sit in order to engage with what’s happening at the front. Or you may have guests with you, in which case you might want to sit near friends so you can introduce them. Or you may see a visitor or a family you don’t know, in which case choosing to sit with them so that you can say “hello” and welcome them is a great thing to do. It may not seem like a big deal, but if we come to church thinking about how to serve others, then thinking about where we sit and who we sit with is a sensible thing to do.
4. PRAY FOR WHAT’S ABOUT TO HAPPEN
Let’s begin with praising God for his grace, then let’s pray for all of us, that our hearts will be receptive to God’s Spirit as he speaks to us through God’s word. Pray for the preacher, the musicians, and others involved in leading the service: that God will be glorified through them and that our faith in him will be strengthened. And pray for conversations afterwards, that they would be helpful for building each other up. So often when we pray for God’s help we find we go home having had one or two really significant conversations.
This paper is adapted and developed from selected excerpts taken from Colin Marshall ‘The Ministry of the Pew’ published in The Briefing #131, March 1994 by Matthias Media.
PART 2 next week…