Perhaps you have seen the poster which says ‘CH__CH – What’s missing? U R’ or maybe the cool (not) ‘Jesus is my rock and that’s how I roll’ poster.
They are posters which certainly make a point, yet make you cringe at the same time.
Over the past couple of weeks I have been preaching in a small church in Belfast. This church has a couple of these kinds of posters up on their walls. One of these posters in particular caught my attention. It said, ‘Before the service, speak to God; during the service, let God speak to you; after the service, speak to one another’.
Admittedly, it is a little cheesy and somewhat simplistic; but nonetheless a helpful way to think about attending a church service and therefore an appropriate poster to have up in your foyer.
Today I want to very briefly draw attention to the benefit of living out this poster.
- Before the service, speak to God
This is a great piece of advice.
Obviously it is talking about praying. This is a necessary spiritual discipline, which if we follow both the example and commands of the Apostle Paul, should pervade all of our lives. We should be unceasingly involved in prayer – however, at particular times our prayers should become more focused. A Sunday morning is a good time to do such a thing.
This can happen in a number of ways. When I was a lot younger I was taken to a more traditional church, as people entered the building they would have taken their seats, bowed their heads and taken a few moments of silence (the assumption being that they were speaking to God). Most churches have a pre-service prayer meeting which offers this opportunity also. However, it may be something that you should do by yourself at home before leaving for a church service.
In all reality the ‘how’ is not so important as the ‘what’. We should be focusing our prayers, and therefore our minds, on the service which is about to take place. We should pray for God’s working through his Spirit in the service; we should seek that God would glorify Jesus through all that takes place in the service; we should pray for our attention and involvement in the service.
In doing so we prepare ourselves to hear God speak.
- During the service, let God speak to you
Our communication is not one way – we must speak to God but God also speaks to us. We must be willing to listen.
If a service is saturated in Scripture then all of its elements will carry God’s voice. Scripture is God breathed and so as it permeates the service so God’s voice permeates the service. This means that as we sing truth, pray sincerely, read and preach faithfully and even observe the sacraments of baptism and communion – God is speaking.
God is all powerful, and so if he wishes us to hear his voice he will ensure we hear his voice. However, this no way undermines our responsibility; and our responsibility in a church service to be attentive, engaged, listening, learning, and open to hearing God’s voice.
We can do this by waking up early and making it to the church building in good time for the service starting. Perhaps taking notes could be a good way of listening to God in a service. Even approaching the service with the question of ‘What is God saying?’ could aid our focus in a service.
Hearing God speak must provoke us to action though.
- After the service, speak to one another
The longer I spend in church the more and more I am learning that it is a community of people who must live their lives together. And as difficult as living in community is I am coming to appreciate more and more that this communal life is actually a great gift to us from God.
One way to foster this relationship with others, and to continue to develop these relationships is to spend time with them. The post-service period is a great opportunity to do this.
This can be anything from asking what people got up to on Saturday, to asking how work is going, to discussing the sermon or songs sang. All of this builds a relationship, encourages brothers and sisters and sharpens our own spiritual life. This may be more difficult for introverts – but it is certainly possible (even if you can only manage to speak to one person after each service).
Our relationship with God inextricably links us to our fellow Christians and one way we can serve them is by speaking (meaningfully) to them.
So, next Sunday (or maybe even some evening this week) speak to God before the service, let God speak to you during the service and speak to others after the service.
It makes a cheesy poster, but also a Christ-like saint.