From time to time, I will post on social media that “Sunday morning worship is a Saturday night decision.” This little sentence of encouragement did not originate from me. I first heard it from my pastor during seminary, and it has stuck with me ever since. Consequently, on many Saturdays that mantra rings in my head as a reminder to get ready for the Lord’s Day. As a result, I have followed suit in exhorting Oak Park the same way.
But what exactly does it mean that Sunday morning worship is a Saturday night decision? While there is not a verse in Scripture that makes this statement, there is a consistent call for God’s people to prepare their hearts for worship. For example, Israel is instructed to prepare to meet the Lord at the great assembly. Exodus 19:10-11 records the Lord’s instructions to Moses: “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.” What happened once the Lord came down on Mount Sinai? Moses “brought the people out of the camp to meet God” (v. 17)!
In the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews reminds us that we are not like those of the old covenant who met God at Mount Sinai, which, quite frankly, was a terrifying event (Heb 12:18-21). But now, we, the church, are called to “come to Mount Zion… to innumerable angels in festal gathering… to the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven… to God… and to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant” (Heb 12:22-24). In other words, when we gather for worship on the Lord’s Day, we are meeting with God and the heavenly assembly! Therefore, as those who have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ, how much more so than Israel of old should we offer acceptable worship with reverence and awe. This, then, is why we must prepare ourselves for worship. As we gather to worship the Lord, we are truly meeting with God.
Yet it is often the case that we do not think about meeting with God. When this happens, our worship becomes mechanical, and our hearts are far from him. So back to my question: What does it mean that Sunday morning worship is a Saturday night decision? It means that you prepare your heart for worship on Saturday, so that on Sunday you are ready and eager to meet with the true and living God in the great assembly of his saints!
Practically, what does this look like? Here are a few suggestions that may help get you started:
1. Review the order of service sent in the weekly email. Each Thursday afternoon we send out the list of songs we will be singing, as well as the Scriptures that will be read. Take time before Sunday to learn the songs and read over the sermon text so that you can build some anticipation for the service.
2. Guard your Saturday nights. Most of us do not plan activities that will keep us out late during the weekdays because we need to be well-rested for work or school the next day. If this is the case, why would we not have the same practice on Saturday night in preparation for the Lord’s Day? Make sure you get to bed at a reasonable time so that on Sunday morning you are rested and ready to get to the church.
3. Get up and pray. While it is always a good practice to start your day with prayer, it is especially helpful on the Lord’s Day. When you get up, give yourself an extra ten to fifteen minutes in the morning to read over the order of service in a spirit of prayer, asking God to prepare your heart to meet him. I often pray, “Lord, give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to receive what you have for us today.”
4. Arrive on time. In the mornings, make sure you give yourself enough time to be in the worship center before the service starts. Arrive fifteen minutes early so that you can drop off your children in the nursery and find a seat. This will also give you time to greet your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, which is an especially important part of corporate worship. On Sunday mornings, we are not merely gathering together as individuals, but as a corporate body which sings and speaks to another for mutual edification.
5. Bring an actual Bible. Using an actual Bible instead of an app on your phone will not only limit unnecessary distractions, but it will also help you follow along with the Scripture readings and the sermon. Therefore, as we read various Scripture passages throughout the service, open your Bible to those texts and follow along. This will also add more active participation, which helps to keep you from being passive in the service.
6. Come expectant. So often we do not commune with the Lord in worship because we are not expectant to meet him. Yet, the entire worship service is saturated with God’s holy word for this very purpose—so that we might encounter him. The call to worship, the singing of songs, the Scripture readings, the prayers, and the sermon are all meant to lead you to meet with Christ and receive the bread of life.
So, the next time you hear me say “Sunday morning worship is a Saturday night decision,” put these things into practice so that you may more actively prepare your heart to meet the living God!
Chase Sears (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as the Lead Pastor of Oak Park Baptist Church. He lives in Charlestown with his wife, Sarah, and their five children.