When Christians get together, it’s not always church.
I chatted with some Christians when at the footy last Friday night. It was encouraging. It was not church.
I often have a ride with Christian friends, and it’s a good chance to have deliberate conversations. (‘I’ve been meaning to ask how that thing went …’) But it’s not church.
What makes church church is when Christians draw near to God, whom we meet in his word. To draw near to other Christians is great, and necessary for love and service – but that’s not the definition of church.
Church will see us ‘let the word of Christ dwell among us richly’ (Colossians 3:17). Since ‘the word of God is living and active’ (Hebrews 4:12), we long for it to be effective among us. We know that faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17). For us, the word of the Lord is more precious than any other treasure (Psalm 19).
That’s all too brief, but required to intro the next topic for preparing for Sunday. Here’s the slogan version: prepare for church by preparing for God’s word.
Some ways we can do this:
- The most simple and obvious (simple and obvious are good!): read and pray through the passage that will be read and taught in the next gathering.
- Less obvious, but building on the previous: talk about the passage with people. Informally mention what you’ve seen already, what questions you have, what might be a challenge, etc. Include the preacher in this. Personally, it’s immensely encouraging to be asked questions beforehand. I spend time mulling over the passage, and it goes better when I can talk with others. (This can also help preachers remember that preparation is important.)
- Plan a possible conversation-starter for after church. Nothing complex, but perhaps ‘I think verse 18 is a challenge to put into practice – what do you reckon?’ I say possible becasue maybe the talk will throw up a better option.
- Plan to listen. Do you do better by taking notes? Then get paper and pencil. Do you nod off during readings and sermon? Then get better sleep, sit in a different part of the building, whatever helps.
- Do whatever you can to encourage those involved in preparing and proclaiming the word. We’d never be content with unprepared music, but churches frequently have Bible readers turn up without any practice. Although they usually say the right words, I guarantee they usually butcher the reading. We can helpful in turning this around. Eg, get readers to practice together (offer to listen, ask for a listener, get the whole month’s readers together for one night to read all passages, …).
There’s plenty more to be said. Perhaps you have great tips to share with us all. Please do!