I don’t know about you, but over the years I’ve put a lot of effort into getting myself to small-group meetings only to sit there like an empty shell. Either I completely zone out and take advantage of the one hour a week someone isn’t depending on me for something, or my mind is a flurry of activity, covering every topic under the sun—except, of course, God.
(And maybe it’s just me—you who ride to your small-group meeting with a spouse and/or kids can verify this—but doesn’t it seem like more arguments occur during the ride to church activities than during the other 167.5 hours of the week? If I’m not frazzled and totally distracted before I leave the house, I certainly am by the time I get there. Enemy tactic, perhaps?)
We come to meetings, having the opportunity to feel the very presence of God, to unite ourselves with other believers, and to see the Spirit move in the hearts of the people.
Yet we somehow manage to leave un-amazed.
Clearly, we miss out on something huge when we go there without being there. There’s a hymn you may know—it’s been around forever—called “Brethren, We Have Met to Worship.” I was listening to this song when God began to help me understand the elements of true worship. Check out the music with lyrics here. (This version arranged by Bart Millard.)
We’re aware of the physical things that have to happen for meaningful small-group meetings: literally, getting up and going, actively participating in discussion, interacting with people, etc.
These physical actions get us to the meeting and make us seem engaged, but it’s the unseen spiritual actions we take that ready us for what God wants to show us:
1. Prepare your heart. In my opinion, the best way to get ready for small group (or church meetings in general) is to get thankful. Thank God for who He is and what He’s done in your life. This helps us remember that He is worthy of our trust and our attention.
2. Pray for leaders. Don’t forget that small group leaders and others in church leadership are no more immune to struggle than you or I. It’s important to pray that they will accurately and powerfully convey God’s Word.
3. Get humble. Think about what and who God is—Creator. Faithful. Mercy. Forgiveness. Power. Then focus on the awe and wonder of being able to worship Him in a manner that actually pleases Him.
This is by no means a complete list, but taking the time to do even one of these things prior to your small-group or church gathering will help you start to turn your empty attendance into genuine worship. It doesn’t make sense, but God craves our undistracted presence with Him. And when we show up ready to engage with Him, He is faithful to bless us, to cheer us, and to steady us (Psalm 21:1-7). And I don’t know anyone who doesn’t desperately need these things.
I’d love to know what other things have helped you prepare for worship and how God has blessed your commitment to being fully present and ready to interact with Him.