Sunday is a big day in the life of God’s people. Since the resurrection of Jesus, Christians all over the world have made it a practice to meet together every Sunday for corporate worship and mutual encouragement. It is the “Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10), the first day of the week, set aside by the church to commemorate and to celebrate God’s grace given to his people through the risen Christ. From the earliest days of the church, Christians have met together to worship the Lord and encourage one another on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).
However, we all know that there is nothing magical about going to church on a Sunday morning. Though Christians throughout church history have testified to the importance of Lord’s Day worship, I suspect that any Christian reading this post could share of times he has gathered with other believers on the first day of the week and found it less than encouraging and refreshing. For some, a refreshing Lord’s Day may not be a very common experience.
Every Christian knows what it’s like to meet with God’s people on a Sunday morning and walk away feeling more burdened than you did before the gathering, or perhaps even discouraged. We all know what it’s like to sing songs that we’ve sung before and feel remarkably unmoved. We’ve all listened to sermons that, even though accurately and faithfully preached were too easily forgotten and had little to no measurable impact upon us. We’ve tried to pray with God’s people while wishing we could be out at a restaurant eating a delicious lunch in preparation for a nice long nap. (On a related note, Sunday naps are the best.)
All indications these days point to the idea that Christians are finding less value in Lord’s Day worship than ever before. Where Christians used to attend church three times a week, now many are hard pressed to find time for three church gatherings a month. And this in a day when churches are trying harder than ever before to make things easy on their people; offering shorter worship services at more convenient times, incorporating entertainment and amusement into their worship services, and making every effort to let people know that they can come and go as they please with no real accountability.
This, I firmly believe, is a great part of our problem. For a long time and in a number of ways, many of us have been trained to think that Lord’s Day worship is an experience that we are meant to consume, rather than an exercise that we are meant to participate in with all of our hearts. The ironic thing is, the more we approach the Lord’s Day as consumers, the less spiritual benefit we will ultimately derive from our corporate worship gatherings.
It is not wrong to desire refreshment and encouragement from our weekly Lord’s Day gatherings with our brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s much of what the Lord’s Day is for. But, to derive those benefits on the Lord’s Day, we have to put in some earnest effort.
The purpose of this post (after that long introduction) is to offer counsel to those who desire to make the most of Sunday – hopefully pointing us in a direction that will make Lord’s Day gatherings all the more profitable for each of us. To that end, I offer these nine suggestions. Don’t worry, we’ll move quickly through each of them.
First, show up regularly, insofar as you are able.
This really shouldn’t need to be said, but I actually believe that it may. You can’t expect to gain much from gatherings with your church family, if those gatherings aren’t a priority in your life. If optional activities and commitments are consistently leading you away from your church family on Sundays, you are going to become less and less able to discern the real value and importance of Lord’s Day worship.
One thing is clear, if you don’t show up, you won’t gain any benefit from a gathering of God’s people on the Lord’s Day.
Second, come praying that God will be glorified and will bless His people as they worship him.
“You do not have, because you do not ask,” James says (James 4:2). Could this be a primary reason that we could walk away from a time of corporate worship unmoved and noticeably unchanged? I can’t help but wonder. If we want to see God glorified in our churches and see souls blessed as a result of our gatherings, we need to be asking for these things in prayer.
To see God glorified in the church is a work of God. Jesus himself taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). That is we are to ask God to so move in the hearts of people, that he receives all the glory in the church and in the world. Could it be that the reason God is so often not treasured in our hearts as a result of gathering with our church families, is that we simply are not asking him to cause his name to be hallowed in us?
Similarly, the blessing of God’s grace and peace is God’s to give. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7). What wonderful things to pursue in gatherings with God’s people, but let us not take them for granted. We ought to ask God for these blessings as we come to worship with our churches on the Lord’s Day.
Third, remind yourself as you walk in the doors of your church of how unworthy you are to come to God on your own, and give thanks to God for his wonderful grace in Christ that has brought you near to him.
How easy it is to forget the privilege that it is to come before our holy Creator with songs and prayers, and to hear his holy Word – and walk away unscathed! On the Lord’s Day, God invites us as his people to come together before him, despite our sins and our half-hearted efforts toward holiness, along with our many hypocrisies and our spiritual apathy – to sing songs to him that our hearts are not fully in tune with and offer prayers to him that are fallible in countless ways – and because of the blood and righteousness of his Son, covers our weak offerings of worship with his grace, receiving our songs and hearing our prayers and allowing us hear his Word by grace and grace alone.
That God would invite us, a remarkably fallen people, to worship him and receive the encouragement of his Word is a miracle of grace. And it may help us significantly to remind ourselves of that every Sunday morning.
Fourth, energetically engage in corporate singing. Sing loud and from the heart.
Repeatedly in the Psalms, God’s people are called to sing unto the Lord; to set the truths he has revealed about himself and the desires of our hearts to melody as an act of worship unto him.
Consider these verses in the Psalms and what they tell us about the importance of singing to the Lord.
“Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name” (Psalm 30:4).
“Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!” (Psalm 47:6)
“It is good to give thanks to the LORD” and “to sing praises to [his] name.” (Psalm 92:1)
“Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.” (Psalm 96:1-2)
Singing songs of praise, thanks, and even lament unto the Lord is an opportunity for God’s people to force the truths that God has revealed about himself out their mouths, so that their hearts might submit to those truths humbly and sincerely. So, singing loud and from the heart is an important way to make the most of Sunday.
Fifth, listen attentively to God’s Word as it is taught and preached.
This is a simple point, but important nonetheless. A Christian can’t expect to be greatly blessed by the ministry of the Word on a Sunday morning (or any other time) if he is not actively engaging with the Word as it is being proclaimed. If you desire to be blessed under biblical preaching and teaching, don’t check out when the Word is being preached and taught to you. Work hard to pay attention. Have your Bible open. Take notes. Prayerfully consider how to apply what you are hearing. Give thanks to God for the privilege of hearing his Word as you’re hearing it proclaimed.
And, be careful not to be critical of those who are preaching and teaching the Word to you. Discipline yourself to be fed by solid biblical content, whether that content is delivered to you in an especially engaging way or not. Learn to be easily blessed by faithful biblical teaching and preaching.
Sixth, look out for people to serve and encourage.
As we meet with our brothers and sisters in Christ on the Lord’s Day, let’s be careful not to forget the words of Hebrews 10:24-25: “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.”
In those words we find a major reason for gathering together with other Christians on a regular basis in our local churches; to provoke one another to stay faithful to the Lord and one another, and to encourage one another to persevere through difficult days while we wait for Jesus to return.
So then, when we head to church on the Lord’s Day, it’s incumbent upon us to look out for opportunities to do this for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Inevitably, these opportunities will come, so we need to be ready. Can you imagine what a Sunday in your local church would be like if every member came ready to serve and encourage others? How rich and refreshing our Lord’s Day gatherings would be.
Seventh, stick around after the worship service ends if you’re able.
There is a reason it’s called the “Lord’s Day” and not the “Lord’s Morning” or the “Lord’s hour or two.” A very natural way to receive an even greater blessing on Sunday is to spend more time with God’s people after the time of corporate worship has ended. Don’t leave immediately if you don’t have to. Go out to lunch with a group of people from your church. Have them over to your house or go to a park. Just do something beyond the whole church gathering if you are able.
And when you get together, talk about the ways in which you were blessed, encouraged or challenged that morning. Take a moment to give thanks together for your local church and for the kindness God showed to you that morning in the gathering of the saints and the ministry of the Word.
Beyond that, have fun together. Watch a football game. Play games and laugh together. Eat some good BBQ or whatever floats your boat. Enjoy God’s goodness to you and rejoice in it together.
Eighth, determine to make some specific application as a result of your time with God’s people under his Word.
James makes it very clear: It is the “one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, [who] will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25). If we want to be blessed as a result of hearing God’s Word proclaimed, we have to be committed to responding to it in obedience and faith.
Every encounter with God’s Word brings with it a great responsibility; a responsibility to respond to God with our sincere “amen.” We exist by the Word of the Lord and are sustained by the Word of the Lord, but it is not enough to simply hear his Word, we must respond to it and act in light of it. Otherwise we have heard his Word in vain. So then, making the most of Sunday necessarily involves actively putting God’s Word to use.
Finally, worship the Lord throughout the rest of the week.
If a person is not worshiping the Lord in his day to day life, why should he expect to profit a great deal from a weekly worship gathering? Truly, he really shouldn’t. Don’t expect your love for Christ to be stirred up on Sunday morning, if your life is consumed with everything but Christ the rest of the week.
A vital and growing walk with Jesus is undoubtedly the most critical way to gain a blessing from the Lord’s Day. It is the Lord’s Day, after all. Those who have no vital relationship with the Lord Jesus are not likely to find an entire day devoted to him to be of any particular value. Without question, a God-centered and Gospel-saturated gathering of Christians can do a great deal to fuel the flames of our love for Christ and lead us into fellowship with him throughout the rest of the week. But while that is certainly true, neglect of personal fellowship with Christ during the week can also numb the heart to the blessing of the Lord’s Day. Walking with Jesus during the week prepares us to make much more of Sunday than we would be inclined to do otherwise.
I pray at least one or two of these suggestions are helpful to us as we consider how to make the most of Sunday. The Lord’s Day is truly a gift to us as God’s redeemed people. May God give us grace to find an ever increasing blessing in it until Jesus returns and every day becomes the Lord’s Day.