For Christians, attending church on Sunday is the core activity. Many also attend Bible study groups, one to one meetings, prayer meetings or the like, but the highlight of the week is when all of their local brothers and sisters are gathered together in one place.

At our Bible Cafe meetings this term we have been looking at practical Christianity, and last Friday we considered where the Sunday service fits into the Christian life. The lessons and discussion were useful, so this blog seems a good place to share them more widely.

‘Worship’ is a word that has many different uses in the Bible, and arguably even more uses in modern times, but basically it comes down to two main meanings. The first is that we worship God all the time by living lives glorifying to Him, as Romans 12:1 and 1 Cor 10:31 point to. The second is when we directly praise or worship God, paying homage to Him, often together with others (there are many references, but 1 Cor 14:23-25 and Rev 4:9-11 will give the idea). Our Sunday service is when all of the people in our church meet together to worship corporately.

When we gather, there are some principles we follow as to what we actually do in our service. We want to worship God as He desires, not as we see fit, so we look to the Bible for principles and examples rather than just dreaming things up. This means we will want things to be in order (1 Cor 14), for the purposes of building up others, be intelligible (even to those who are not believers), and include things like Bible reading, prayer, sacraments, singing and an explanation of the Bible (for example, see the descriptions of believers meeting in Acts). But within these guidelines we have freedom as to how we actually arrange these elements – how long the sermon is, how many songs and what type, and what order we put things for example.

Where the real practical issues are for the average believer who attends such a service is how we make the most out of our regular church attendance. We do not learn or grow simply by turning up, as if attending a police station makes you a police officer. We can do some great things before, during, and after the service to help our faith and that of others in church as well.

Before the service: it is very helpful to be prepared. This might involve reading the Bible passage beforehand so you have some idea of the issues and can get the most out of the sermon. It should definitely involve  prayer for the people involved in leading aspects of the service, and for ourselves to have opportunities to build others up. And practically, being well rested the night before and coming to the service on time mean you are ready and have made this a priority for you.

At the service itself: remember that church is not just about you, as if you were on a bus where all the passengers are heading in the same direction but there is an unwritten law that no-one should talk to each other. Come early and greet others. Sing heartily and thoughtfully together with the others. Listen carefully, following along in your Bible during the sermon. Just being there is also an encouragement to the others; often our weeks are spent with no other Christians around, so knowing our brothers and sisters make our service a priority is wonderfully helpful.

After the service: the informal talks over morning tea should be for building one another up too; running straight out the door shows you were there only for yourself, with no interest in building up others. The sermon should be a starting point for applying God’s word to your life this week; it will require some thought, some prayer, to apply it afterwards. Maybe you could talk about it with your family or friends to help one another.

See, the service is not just a performance by professional Christians! It is supposed to be useful for all of us. Let’s make the most out of next Sunday together.