Preparing for worship means making time and making choices. Worship, especially corporate worship, takes time. It takes commitment. We must set aside time to come. We need to guard our schedules and consider times of corporate worship a priority.
Listen to what the Word of God tells us about gathering together:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24–25)
Here the writer of Hebrews highlights the importance of regularly meeting together with the church. He also acknowledges that “neglecting to meet together” was a problem in the early church, and had even become a habit of some. The word used here in the Greek for meeting is episunagogen. We are not to neglect the “coming together,” “assembly” or “gathering” [synagogue].
Though we should daily encourage and pray for one another as we have opportunity to invest in each other’s lives, there is a measure of encouragement, participation and life in the church that cannot be attained or replicated apart from the regular assembly of God’s people in corporate worship. We need to hear God’s Word read and proclaimed together. We need to pray and sing God’s praise together. Listening to sermon recordings or broadcasts can’t replicate it. Singing worship songs along with your iPod can’t match it. We need to see and hear and know and feel the testimony of lives changed by the power of the Gospel, covenanted, unified and gathered together all in one place, in the same room, for His glory.
We live in a sad day, when for many the church and worship have been pushed to the periphery. It is a sad day when people are willing to profess Christ, but unwilling to identify with His body. It is a sad day when making time to gather for worship is more a matter of senseless habit or convenience than spiritual hunger or conviction. It is a sad day when, awaking to a beautiful day outside, the idea of skipping church to go to the beach or a golf course is even an option that Christians would entertain.
It is a sad day when people are willing to profess Christ, but unwilling to identify with His body.
The early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). They were constant and committed to worship: being under the preached Word, breaking bread and praying. And their worship was together, fellowshipping—encouraging and strengthening one another by being together as God’s people.
As you prepare for gathered worship, make worshipping God together with your church family a priority. Remove hindrances that might keep you away and apart from worship. Set aside one day in seven for rest, as God commands. Cherish that day. Regard it as special. Make it clear to family and friends that gathering with your church family is the priority of that day. If you are providentially hindered by illness or circumstances beyond your control, or by a work schedule that requires you to miss the gathered worship of your church, then make it a priority of prayer.
And don’t stop making worship a priority when you arrive for a worship service. We live in a day when it is a simple thing to bring our distractions along with us. We open our Bibles on our phones and iPads, where Facebook, Twitter, email, and messaging all reside alluring close by. Tune out the world and enjoy the rest of adoring Christ and delighting in His Word with your brothers and sisters in gathered worship.
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). He obtained it “with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). The church was a priority to Jesus. And it should be for us as well, not just in theory or theology, but in practice and attendance. Make it a priority to worship God regularly and faithfully together in the church.