Our current letter series “Wise Practices” aims to share practical knowledge and wisdom to help us grow as doers of the word. Each letter will share applied methods and answer a ‘how.’ These practices are not perfect or comprehensive. They are personal testimonies; shared knowledge and wisdom gained through pursuit and service that helped facilitate growth in our lives. We pray they help you grow as well.
Gathering for worship is one of the four core Practices of Tri-Cities Baptist Church. These practices lead us to act faithful and wise action.
This particular practice Gather To Worship happens to be what the average person associates most with the word “church.” You may have referred to the worship gathering a number of ways throughout your life: going to church, attending services, congregational worship, headin’ to preachin’… to name a few. Your mama may have made you wear your “Sunday best” or told you she had to put on her “Sunday go-to-meetin” dress. No matter your personal history, gathering for worship is your most common experience with God’s people…and for good reason – it is primary in the life of God’s people!
Faithful Jesus followers don’t just gather to worship out of mindless routine or cultural expectation. We should actively anticipate and cherish gathering with other believers to worship the one true God. We should weekly prepare to gather for worship. How?
Learn, Understand, & Remember Why We Gather
I am a firm believer that the consistent practice of many behaviors are dead on arrival, or at least handicapped, because we don’t deeply and fully understand why that action matters. We don’t prioritize the pursuit of something because we don’t value its purpose or benefits. Many practices never become gut-level convictions. Learn, understand, and remind yourself why the gathering is important. A few brief starters:
The gathering exalts God.
- We exist for Him so we gather with others for worship to celebrate the greatness and grace of God in Jesus Christ.
The gathering edifies and equips you and the rest of God’s people.
- The gathering is a means of grace God has given us. God graciously shapes us in unique and powerful ways when we gather. (Colossians 3:16)
- The teaching of God’s Word teaches us how to study and interpret it for ourselves, admonishes and encourages us, and prepares us to take the gospel out each week.
- If you are a member of TCBC, you promise “to gather with my church family to worship” (Matthew 4:10, 22:36-37; Hebrews 10:25). View the Membership Promises here. Your presence and engagement helps others, and you’ve committed to gather faithfully. (Heb 10:24-25)
The gathering exemplifies God’s rule and reign to the world.
- When we are together corporately, we demonstrate that we belong to something bigger than ourselves: the Body of Christ.
- The gathering helps the church serve as a shining beacon of hope to a lost and dying world. We are giving testimony and bearing witness to the truth that we bow in humble worship of our Lord and Savior.
There’s a ton more that could be said here! Consider doing a study on the importance of the church and the gathering to further cement your conviction to prioritize the body of Christ. A few short books I’d recommend are, Corporate Worship: How The Church Gathers As God’s People, What If I Don’t Feel Like Going To Church?, Gather: Loving Your Church As You Celebrate Christ Together, Rediscover Church: Why The Body of Christ Is Essential (I have 10 free copies of this last one in my office I’ll give to anyone that emails me and asks for one!)
Purpose & Plan To Gather
I don’t know who originally said this, but you’ve no doubt heard it: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Attending the gathering consistently requires resolve and commitment. Plan your week and your Sundays well to help maintain consistency. Here are some practical tips:
Consider your Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons.
- A pastor in a Florida college town named Dean Inserra tweets almost every weekend “Sunday morning church is a Saturday night decision.” I generally agree with that with one caveat (he’s not implying you go week to week in deciding your Sunday practice instead of making it something you commit to weekly). He’s simply trying to remind his young congregation to consider how their Saturday evenings affect their Sunday mornings. I believe there is great wisdom in that. Don’t make the gathering the last thing you plan and prioritize in a weekend full of recreation or rest – build out from the gathering first.
Set and clearly communicate boundaries for your children, particularly pre-teens and teens as they begin doing more things outside the house and with friends.
- Two weeks ago I had to do this. I don’t think one of my teenagers was pleased with my insistence that if he spent the night with a friend, I’d be there at 9:00am to pick him up on the way to the church (and that I’d take his friends too) or he couldn’t stay. Sure, I had to deal with “Dad, it’s just one time” etc, but this was my opportunity to communicate priority and that the Jesus follower’s normal consistent rhythm includes corporate worship.
Create some accountability mechanisms.
- Invite others to join you or sit with you. Our behavior often changes when someone expects us.
- Be part of a GO Group that discusses elements of the gathering like sermon applications.
- Create a rhythm of digesting the sermon with your family on Sunday afternoons or evenings.
Prepare To Gather
Now it’s Sunday morning. Here are some things that help me prepare to worship (and a few I’m growing in or plan to implement):
Give yourself some margin on Sunday mornings.
- Most of us are thinking about anything other than corporate worship with God’s people on Sunday mornings. We’re thinking about where we’re going for lunch, our list of chores, a ballgame, a family gathering, a nap! If your house is full of kids, they need your help getting ready. And I don’t know if anyone has ever done a study on child behavior on certain days of the week, but I’m convinced that if they did, Sunday mornings would be #1 in frequency and intensity of sibling fights, bad attitudes, making messes, and multiple diaper blowouts. Many parents often wonder, “What else can happen this morning?!” If it can go wrong, it’ll go wrong on Sunday morning. A wise practice to help combat all of those challenges is to give yourself some margin. You need some built-in time buffers for the unexpected. You need some quiet moments to ready yourself before the rest of the house is rockin’ and rollin’. I hate to get up really early, but I need it on Sundays. I need some time to prepare for the morning without distraction.
Take advantage of the Prepare page (tcbchurch.org/prepare/) on the church website. You can also receive a push notification to your phone every Saturday afternoon via the TCBC app (Click here for Android). This page is specific to the coming Sunday’s worship gathering and is updated weekly. It contains:
- the sermon’s Scripture passage to read and meditate on – have someone read it aloud over breakfast
- a playlist to the songs we’re going to sing – play them in the car on the way
- prayer and application points to consider before arriving – meditate on these in your own quiet time
- any additional elements like the Lord’s Supper to be aware of and prepare your heart for and to prepare your children for (Spoiler Alert: in next week’s elder letter, Pastor Austin will provide some wise practices to help your children engage in the gathering).
Think about how you can serve others.
- Who do you need to look for you haven’t seen or talked with in awhile?
- Plan to introduce yourself to that person you’ve been sitting near for a few weeks but never met.
- Consider who you can invite to join you for lunch.
- Resolve to help others around you engage by limiting distractions.
Now, you’ve purposed to gather, you’ve planned to gather, you’ve prepared to gather…what about during the gathering? The Prepare page I referenced above provides a few additional keys to gathering well:
- Be Early – Prioritize the gathering with your time. Don’t be late. The practical discipleship of this priority can be profound for you and your family.
- Be Uncomfortable – Sit with different people. Sing loud. Challenge routines. Gather on mission.
- Be Responsive – Don’t just be hearers of the word; be doers. Pray. Ponder. Repent. Change. Practice. Respond in action. Too often we gather to affirm what we already hold, rather than be taught, rebuked, corrected, or trained in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Gather to be transformed.
Elder / Connections Pastor
Wes Tucker serves on staff as our Connections Pastor. He served in various leadership roles for six years at TCBC before coming on staff in the fall of 2013. He earned a Master of Arts in Church Ministries degree through The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary while participating in Cohort 1 of the Tri-Cities Leadership Training Program. Wes and his wife Jennifer have four children: Cameron, Grayson, Hayden, and Caroline.