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The number one question I hate hearing from churchgoers is, “Will I get fed here?”
What I really hear is, “What can I get out of this?"
Our consumer lifestyle has seeped into our religious activity. Many of us come to church wanting something. We want to feel good by hearing a motivational speech from the pastor, secretly use a sermon to guilt trip a relative to emphasize our point or attend service to experience a spiritual high from the heartwarming music every week. And when we don’t get what we want, we leave. We find another church for a season. And yet again, we miss the point of the church gathering.
The church gathering is for us, yes, but not only for us to receive; it’s for us to participate, to praise God with other believers, to see families grow together, to share life stories of good and bad, to pray for one another and participate in communion. God designed us for community, no matter how big or small. But the sad part is we don’t prepare to participate in church community.
People prepare for most everything in life. We prepare for work with the right clothes, our briefcase or purse, a computer and our agenda for the day. Kids and students prepare for school with their homework and backpacks. We get ready to exercise, carefully prepare meals and have nightly rituals before bed, but most of us don’t know how to prepare for a church service.
I’m not sure when my paradigm shift of receiving to participating in church services began, but I know when I prepare for a church service and enter into community, my walk with Jesus is stronger.
And though this isn’t a hard and fast solution for spiritual growth, here are a few thoughts on how to prepare and better engage in a church service:
- Get ready for church early.
I know between sleeping in, football games, getting kids ready and Sunday brunch, there is a lot to do to get to church on time. Let me recommend adjusting your schedule just 30 minutes earlier and take time to prepare for church. The sacrifice of 30 minutes will help you be less stressed. Take your time in getting ready, pray with your family beforehand for what God might teach you and come to church service expecting to connect with other churchgoers.
- Ask questions.
Sometimes engagement is hard in a service between music that sounds bad or pastors that may have an off week (or two). Try internally asking questions to God. What are these lyrics saying? How does this Bible verse speak to me? How might the pastor’s challenge apply to me? How can this passage shape my life? What can I pull from this message to talk about with my spouse?
- Share yourself.
Many people show up to a church service and leave before the last song. Let me just say, if that’s you, you are missing out. Not only are you missing out on developing friendships, we are missing out on your potential friendship, laughs, wisdom, comfort, growth and love. I know being vulnerable is one of the hardest things to do, simply because people don’t do it. But whether or not you’ve been hurt before, it’s the risk God wants us to take every Sunday (or Wednesday) to build each other up and be the Body of Christ.
It’s not always easy, and sometimes I tend to drift into a routine. But I really believe when you come to a church service prepared, and you participate, your paradigm will shift from “Will I get fed?” to “How can I feed others?”