We have made great strides in helping non-churched people feel welcome to our church services. However, in this shift to be more seeker-sensitive in our worship services, we have lost a reverence for this sacred time. As we have sought to make all feel comfortable, we have allowed for distractions that interfere with others’ focus on God. What are some of these distractions that should be minimized in a church service? Talking, whispering, coughing, sniffling, cell phones ringing, texting, exiting for the bathroom, crying toddlers, sleeping patrons, wandering thoughts, people watching, bulletin reading, gum chewing, coffee drinking, doodling, dropping pens, and wiggling people. Then, there are the outside distractions such as sirens blaring and motorcycles roaring. These actions and noises cause people in the assembly to zone out rather than focusing on giving God the highest praise and honor He is due.
The architecture of the old cathedrals reflected a dedication to the worship of God. High ceilings, church bells, stained glass, and the symbol of the cross for centuries have pointed people to seek His honor and His glory each Sunday. My first memory of church was when I was around four years old, and I accidently created a very loud noise by falling during a moment of silence. My dad who generally was easy going gave me “the look” that spoke volumes immediately following my mistake. I learned at a very early age that there was a certain behavior expected during church which has remained with me to this day.
How do we ensure that our worship services are not field trips for our pleasure but rather services that assist the members to worship the one true God? How can we improve our church etiquette? The Bible states in Ecclesiastes 5:1, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifices of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.” How do we ensure that it is “The Lord’s Day” and not “Our Day?” Here are just a few suggestions that can protect the House of God from being a house of distractions:
• Standing joyfully and reverently for the reading of the Holy Word. In Luke 4:16 Jesus stands up to read the Word.
• Dressing in our Sunday’s best clothing. It is true that God looks at the heart, but our hearts are reflected in the ways we speak and act including our dress. Looking like we just rolled out of bed or dressing immodestly speak loudly that God is not our first priority.
• Choosing worship songs that honor the true and living God rather than entertain us. Some of the modern praise choruses are self-centered, and we need to check our worship songs for subtle narcissism.
• Preparing the night before and waking up on time so we do not regularly walk in late and need to be ushered in while others have already begun to worship.
• Limiting our food and drink intake during the service. There are those who must have water or food due to health issues. However, most of us can sit in the one hour service without the need to get a drink of water, slurp our coffee, or eat a snack.
• Giving ourselves permission to stay home when we are truly sick. While many of us look forward to and are dedicated to the corporate worship of God, there are times when we are so ill that our sickness affects those around us.
• Reminding all of His people to silence cell phones before the start of the service.
• Sitting in the back if we choose not to use the nursery and have small children who may distract others.
• Instructing our ushers to save the last few rows for late comers.
• Praying for our pastors that they will set a tone of reverence.
Here are a few suggestions to help our children develop a holy reverence in the church setting:
• Having our young children use the restroom before the service begins.
• Teaching our adolescents that the church service is not the time to text or to be on social media.
• Instructing our sons and daughters to minimize their movements and develop self-control.
• Having our children, particularly our teenagers, to go to bed at a decent time on Saturday night so there is no tendency to fall asleep during the service.
• Encouraging our children to save their questions about the sermon for the ride home.
• Instructing our children to behave properly before and after the service not running or playing in the sanctuary or narthex.
It is a privilege to worship together. Let us do our best to ensure our house of worship is just that.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25