One important component, and possibly the most important component, of a typical Sunday morning church worship service is the sermon. The sermon should be the culmination by the preacher of prayer to God for guidance, serious study of the text, and other preparation so via expository preaching[i] he can proclaim what God’s Word (not his own) says.
It is vital for you, the recipient, to receive all you can receive from the sermon in order to grow in holiness. One way to accomplish that goal is to prepare to hear the sermon. Your preparation should begin during the week leading up to, as well as continue after, the sermon.
Below, I discuss some ways you can better prepare to hear and respond biblically to the sermon.[ii] I hope these suggestions better enable you to receive all that God has for you through the public preaching of His Word.
DURING THE WEEK LEADING UP TO SUNDAY
Appreciate and accept the biblical truth about the authority contained in God’s Word. The Bible comprises the very words God He has spoken through human writers and still speaks to mankind. The underlying foundation of the sermon is not a self-help book, but the Bible which provides God’s plan of salvation to the lost and His guidance to the saved to live a more holy life. Do not forget that what you are about to hear is serious. It is a weighty thing to hear from God. Do not trivialize the upcoming Sunday morning worship service.
Throughout the week leading up to Sunday, be in worship of God with your family and by yourself. Give some thought to the upcoming sermon, especially if you know the sermon text and the basic thrust of the sermon. Meditate on and read the Word of God with a view to stirring up your hunger and thirst for God and to know Him better. Again, if you know the sermon text, take time to let it soak in your heart, mind and soul.
SPEND SATURDAY IN A WAY THAT ENSURES A SUNDAY SUCCESS
Don’t let Saturday ruin your Sunday morning worship experience. Plan, yes, plan, to get a good night’s rest on Saturday night. Turn off the media early and spend some time in God’s Word and prayer. Purify your mind by turning away from worldly entertainment. Don’t go to sleep Saturday night with a mind filled with the things of the world.
You must plan for Sunday morning so that you aren’t rushing around in a panic. Plan out what you will wear and all the other “preliminaries” that go into getting ready for church.
And, get up early so that you will have some “flex time” in case everything doesn’t go to your expectations.
EARLY ON SUNDAY MORNING BEFORE YOU LEAVE FOR CHURCH
Set your schedule so you get up early on Sunday morning and spend some time in God’s Word and prayer. A Sunday morning worship service is a big deal to God and it should be to you also.
During your early Sunday morning time, pray that God would give you ears to hear (i.e., understand and comprehend) and a true and clean heart ready to obey the biblical truth that you are about to receive. It is a mistake to come to church with the idea that you are a spectator who will receive entertainment.
ON YOUR WAY TO CHURCH
Make certain that you plan to leave for church in plenty of time to arrive early. Build in some “flex time” to accommodate any possible delays.
Be joyful on your way to the church. Be patient with one another and do not grumble, criticize, or complain on the way to church.
Pray when you get in the car to ride to church and pray along the way to church.
Listen to worship music in the car along the way to church. Talk about the upcoming worship experience. Develop a sense of joyful expectation about what God will show you during the upcoming hours in God’s house.
WHEN YOU FIRST ARRIVE AT CHURCH
When you arrive at church make the effort to greet others and converse about how God has showed up in their life and in your life the past week. Talk about those occasions in which you had a chance to talk to others about Jesus Christ. Make an effort to build up others in the church body.
If you have a church responsibility to carry out, try not to allow it to distract you from your expectation of hearing God’s Word preached,
WHEN YOU ENTER THE SANCTUARY
Be still as you enter the room and focus your mind’s attention and heart’s affection on God. Pray before the service begins. Take the time to read the bulletin. Let God kindle your desire to receive and apply the truth of God’s Word. Come in a spirit of faith, love, meekness and readiness of mind to be taught.
WHEN THE WORSHIP SERVICE BEGINS
When the worship service begins, think earnestly about what is sung and prayed as you prepare to hear what is preached. Measure the lyrics against the teaching of God’s Word, and let the biblical lyrics sink into your heart and mind.
DURING THE SERMON
Take notes during the sermon so you can refer to them through the week.
An alternative to taking notes during the sermon is to take home a CD or DVD of the sermon. Audios of the sermons are available on many church websites. At home, listen to the sermon with the advantage of pausing it to better comprehend what was said and to take careful notes.
AFTER THE SERMON ENDS
A sermon is never done, it is just preached.
Talk about the sermon on the car ride home.
Through the week using your notes or re-listening, examine the substance of the sermon to make certain it is founded on a complete observation of the text, consistent with God’s Word as properly interpreted, and the applications are within the scope of and supported by the interpretation. In other words, be a Berean per Acts 17:11. During your examination, trust in the biblical truth that you already possess.
Conduct a self-examination to identify areas in your life that need change, sin in your life that needs repentance and confession, biblical life style practices that need implementation, or unbiblical practices that must be discarded. Be willing to see how your life should display the fruit of the Spirit. Be willing to grow in holiness.
Discuss the sermon with someone else emphasizing how it impacted you and how you plan to implement the principles in the sermon. If the person you are talking with is lost, you can weave in the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
I hope these suggestions have been helpful. No doubt there are others. Feel free to identify other suggestions in the comments section.
If you are reading this post and are not a Christian, your eternal destination is hell unless God intervenes. But, your destiny can change. Today can be the day of your salvation. Please see my blog (https://stevebelsheim.com/2020/04/20/for-god-so-loves-you-2/) for a description of how you can be saved and a more concise description at my (https://stevebelsheim.com/2020/10/20/there-is-hope-even-when-there-seems-to-be-no-hope-2/ ).
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[i] This article makes the assumption that the preacher has prepared a sermon which satisfies the definition of expository preaching:
Expository Preaching is the Spirit-empowered explanation and proclamation of the text of God’s Word with due regard to the historical, contextual, grammatical, and doctrinal significance of the given passage, with the specific object of invoking a Christ-transforming response.
The purpose of “expository preaching” is:
The Purpose of Expository Preaching is to communicate accurately, clearly and passionately the truths of a given text or text of Holy Scripture so that people can understand the truth(s) and the text(s) and can respond appropriately to the Word of God.
The above definitions are taken from the written materials from the course “Essentials of Expository Preaching” offered by the Stephen Olford Center for Biblical Preaching (Memphis, Tennessee) in 2005.
[ii] Most of these suggestions come from one or more of the following resources: John Piper’s Sermon “Take Care How You Listen”) Sunday January 20, 2019 Take Care How You Listen! Part 1 | Desiring God and Take Care How You Listen! Part 2 | Desiring God.); an article (March 20, 2014) at the desiringGod website by Jordan Kauflin entitled “How Do You Prepare for Sunday?” (link: How Do You Prepare for Sunday? | Desiring God); an article entitled “How to Prepare Yourself for the Sunday Morning Service” at the writeforGod website (link: How to prepare yourself for the Sunday morning service – Write For God); an article (October 30, 2014) by Kevin DeYoung entitled “Preparing for Sunday Worship” at the gospelcoalition website (link: Preparing for Sunday Worship (thegospelcoalition.org); an article entitled “One Way to Pray for Yourself Before Sunday” at the 2cherish2commend website (link: One Way to Pray for Yourself Before Sunday | 2Cherish2Commend); an article from Crossfield Baptist Church entitled “5 Ways to Prepare Your Heart to Worship on Sunday Morning” (link: 5 Ways to Prepare Your Heart to Worship on Sunday Morning (crossfieldbaptist.com).