What does your Sunday morning look like? Recently, I read a line in Iain Murray’s biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones that caused me to pause and think. In describing the worship service at Westminster Chapel in London where Lloyd-Jones ministered, Murray writes, “The keenness with which 11 A.M., the hour of public worship, was awaited each Sunday will ever remain in the memories of those who were there. In a day in which church-going was no longer fashionable, a certain sense of expectation could be found in the very streets approaching the Chapel as hundreds converged from all directions.” 
As I read those two simple sentences, I paused to reflect upon what’s typically happening in our corporate worship gathering five minutes before the service begins. The countdown is on the screens and I’m typically talking with people near me or rereading the Scripture reading passage for the day. Do you find yourself ill-prepared for worship on Sunday at the beginning of the worship service? As you plan for this upcoming Sunday, don’t overlook the simplicity and the importance of those last five minutes before worship.
Prepare Yourself to Worship God
If you’re like most Christians, you feel rushed on Sunday. The pressure to meet deadlines and to be on time is often discouraging if you travel any distance at all to your church or if you’re like many mothers who juggle many responsibilities related to the preparation of their children. However, it’s essential to not overlook and undervalue the importance of the last five minutes before the worship service begins.
Leaving home a few minutes earlier each week in order to arrive early will take a great deal of pressure off of you and your family. You will be surprised how less stressed you feel as you approach the worship service. Planning ahead and preparing to leave early is the key to making sure you arrive early on your church campus.
It may be that you are already on campus, but you need to plan to be in your seat five minutes early. That will require you to plan appropriately, manage your time, end valuable and enriching conversations, and get to your seat. If you are getting out of a small group or Sunday school class, it may be that you have to minimize your fellowship time during that time leading up to corporate worship.
Arriving early is of no added value if you don’t get to your seat and prepare yourself to worship God. Where does one begin in this process? What better place to begin than prayer? Take a couple of minutes to pray to God and repent of known sins and then delight in the privilege of gathering in corporate worship on the Lord’s Day. In addition, you will want to pray for the service as a whole—from both the congregational involvement to the pastoral leadership and preaching—that everything will bring honor to God.
Read the Sermon Text
Just prior to the beginning of the service, it would be good to open your Bible and read the text of Scripture that will be preached on that particular Sunday. In many churches, the text is found in the order of worship. If your pastor is preaching through a book of the Bible, you should be able to easily locate the next passage from where he left off on the previous Sunday. Reading the text and meditating on it before your pastor expounds the text will enable you to be better prepared.
Teach Your Children to Prepare Themselves for Worship
Such preparation seems like it may require far more than five minutes, but if you get into a groove and manage your time appropriately—you can do far more in those five minutes than you think. If you find that ten minutes would be better for you, make the necessary adjustment.
As we prepare ourselves, we should likewise teach our children and grandchildren the art of preparing to worship God. How will children come to value the solemnity of corporate worship if we as parents and grandparents don’t lead by example? Many theologians and Christian authors lament the statistics of how college students are disappearing from our local churches after they graduate high school. The same authors observe that a growing number of teenagers are playing games and looking through social media networks on their smart phones during worship services. Could such tragic patterns begin with a lack of teaching on the part of parents regarding the need to approach the corporate worship service with a serious mindedness?
Meeting with God for corporate worship should not be downplayed as a causal event. A mind and heart that isn’t properly prepared will not result in a God-glorifying spirit of worship. Consider how altering five minutes could impact your local church this coming Sunday if the entire church approached the corporate service with this same attitude.
- Iain Murray, The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones 1899-1981, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2013), 299.