From the back cover:
We were all taught in debate class how to build a strong case for our topic by knowing both the pros and cons — not only knowing our main points but also anticipating the opposing side’s. “A Case For…” is a series of articles that are written in a simple format, highlighting some of the main points for and against each topic. While a book, chapter and verse may not be provided for each argument given, overarching principles guide every point. Some people may not think that approach is very spiritual, but this series takes a practical, logical approach as well as maintaining a biblical stance on everything. A Case For Reverence lists some reasons that we conduct our church services in more of a reverent atmosphere. In a day of casual, relaxed Christianity, we still believe that God deserves our respect and devotion, particularly in our church services.
“God… you studly gentleman…”
The local Bible camp was hosting more than just our group that day.
Our group of three sister churches had rented a portion of the camp to conduct our annual Youth Winter Rendezvous, a spiritually refreshing 3-day retreat up in the mountains. On our second day, another group dropped off two full busloads of teens from various churches, and they were stationed on the other side of the camp. The setting was not unusual, but the circumstances were.
We passed by them about twice in our three days there, but both times we received a surprise. At one point just before we headed off for our activities, their group had some free time at the same time as ours, and we witnessed a group of them dancing to the Backstreet Boys! The real topper was when the dance team walked past us… One of the guys was in a black full-body leotard and black tights, a black mask and a purple tutu! To me that seems quite a stretch from being Christ-like, but their leadership seemed to have no problem with it.
Thinking little of it, we carried on our day as normal until mealtime. One of their pastors, a young, “hip dude,” was asked by the camp staff to open the meal in prayer, so he got up behind the mic, waxed long and eloquent and sat down, forgetting to ask the blessing on the food.
At the close of his “prayer” almost everyone from our group was shocked. What he said would have been downright hilarious were it not so sickening…
While praying to the Almighty God, in the name of Jesus Christ my Savior, the Lord of Lords, this pastor actually thanked God for being a “studly gentleman.” At the final “Amen” our table just kind of stopped and looked at each other. “Did he really just say that?”
What’s wrong with that?
You might wonder, “But what’s so wrong with that?”
Many people have a seemingly valid point when they say, “Why don’t you just ease up? What’s the big deal? Are you MAD at these people?”
A mentality that many people have when approaching worship is that God is a God of love, and since He desires our best we ought to enjoy Him every minute. This mentality of “enjoying” God is totally valid, and in some ways perhaps it could be emphasized more in our church. The argument is not whether our church is mad at people; that is a ridiculous notion. The bottom line is which mentality is most pleasing to God?
I have heard several comments about our church along these lines:
- “I enjoyed the services and the people were friendly, but it’s been a while since I’ve sung those old hymns. Not bad… just not my taste.”
- “The services were a bit more… formal… than I’m used to.”
- “I could appreciate the respectful atmosphere, but I felt a little out of place.”
- “As soon as I walked into church, I could see that I was under-dressed for the occasion. I wasn’t quite ready for that one.”
- “The church I came from was really laid back… we called the pastor by his first name… there was a cool little coffee shop… lots of kids programs… The Bible study was more like a sharing time…”
These types of comments reflect a mentality. They are not inherently sinful comments. I have never had anyone make these types of comments in a hateful manner, and none of the people saying these types of things are bad people. In fact, most of the time these comments come from very good people who are sincerely seeking a good church in which they can be comfortable and worship the Lord.
These comments and the people who make them are not inherently sinful; they simply reflect a level of value that is placed on worship. They reflect opinions about personal values. They reflect people’s thoughts about either what they are used to, or how they believe things should be. I am not judging whether that is right or wrong; I am simply making an observation.
People say what they are thinking, and they think about what they believe. A belief about a laid-back God and a comfortable worship of him will cause thoughts and actions down that same road. What you believe affects the way you live…
So what do you believe about God?
God is God… Not a “studly gentleman.”
To me it seemed outright blasphemous to refer to God as a “stud,” a slang term for a good-looking guy who knows how to “play the field.” A “stud” is the king of the hill, and rules by intimidation and/or his sexual charm and finesse. To a horse breeder, referring to God as a “stud” would be blasphemy, because the “stud” horse is the sire, or the stallion, used to father a foal.
“Studly gentleman?” Is that how you see God?
Jesus is NOT your homeboy, as the t-shirts proclaim. He’s God.
God is not your little puppet buddy that’s “cool with you.” He’s your Creator.
Our Father is not just “okay with you” how you are. He’s just. And He still hates sin. Wrath is still in the Bible, and he still desires that we obey His commandments. To be fair, some people can take this concept of God to the extreme and almost forget God’s long-suffering patience, but only a balanced understanding of all aspects of God is the foundation for biblical worship.
A reverent God deserves reverent worship.
Biblical worship requires that we view God as He really is and ourselves as we really are. Many Bible truths are evidence to that fact. Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, and he fell to his face, unworthy to stand before his Almighty Creator in all His power. Elijah would not have been able to live were he to see God face to face. Moses came down from his encounter with God, and his face literally glowed. Paul wrote of God’s wrath and justice as much as any other topic.
We serve a God of reverence.
So why not reverently serve Him?
To me, it seems logical that God expects a certain amount of reverence in our worship. He always has… why stop now? Reverence conveys the idea of respect, and a level of reverence has always been associated with worship. When the Old Testament priests borrowed worship habits from their pagan neighbors, it always ended in idolatry. God’s design was that every sacrifice or offering was done with the utmost respect for God’s way of doing it, and God’s way was never flippant, laid back, or off-the-cuff.
We are reverent when the occasion is important enough.
If we are honest, we would have to admit that certain events cause us to be reverent. Perhaps somber would be the more appropriate term when not referring to a worship service, but the connotation of each is the same – respectful, quiet, orderly and intensely serious.
Church members have to battle with the discipline of their minds to maintain that level of reverence, because they do the “same thing” every week. However, people are almost “automatically” somber and give intense attention to serious things when the occasion is rare – a funeral, a respected leader’s speech or a ceremony, for example. The fact is, though, none of these occasions are regular and do not require maintained, lifetime discipline. The discipline to be reverent is built into the “newness” of the circumstance, in many cases.
Church services are not new every week. They are not rare. Many weeks the schedule of service does not change. There are few emotional ups and downs that cause members to give rapt attention to every aspect of the service.
But the content is no less important.
The very reason for church should produce a reverent atmosphere.
The content of and reason for having a church service should produce a reverent atmosphere. Although it is the same every week, a church service is meant to encourage believers, to convince sinners of their need for Christ, to teach, to train, to edify and to worship.
That’s HUGE! God wants to speak to you through preaching every week. What a HUGE responsibility! God wants you to sing praises to Him. That’s HUGE! You are not singing to be entertained. Singing is not merely for enjoyment… it is to worship God.
According to 1 Corinthians 12 – 14, when all the church members are “on board” with the church service, giving full attention and devotion to the importance of the church service at hand, the Bible says that if a guest were to enter the services, he would be “convinced of all.” That’s HUGE! Basically, when a church service is conducted in a manner in which all members are fully engaged, God uses even that setting to convict sinners of their need for Him!
The very purpose of a church service lends itself toward a reverent environment far more than it would the environment of a comedy club, an entertainment venue or (to the other extreme) a boring, stale and dry chat time. It seems that the kind of orderliness and importance that was laid on the church services of the Bible days produced a reverence that in itself made such a profound impact on people that they turned to Christ.
Church itself is an intensely important aspect of every Christian’s life, and it should be treated as such. It is only fitting that church services have a sense of reverence as we meet together to worship a reverent, holy God.
Reverence either changes or reflects your mindset.
A reverent environment is usually a result of the mindset of the assembly. A reverent tone to a service is a reflection of the people’s reverence, or perceived importance, for what is at hand.
Conversely, a lack of reverence conveys the idea that the setting is not important, that the content is like any other, that the feeling of church should be just as fun and happy-go-lucky as work or home or that God’s truth itself should be more laid-back. Any time I have personally been in other church’s services and the tone of the service was more laid back, I approached the truth that they were presenting with the same “laid back” acceptance. It was almost as if I could take it or leave it because it was almost presented in that kind of a package.
Arguments against reverence seem weak.
I understand the arguments that people bring up against reverence – that it is old, boring, stale, lifeless, outdated, ritualistic – but none seem to hold much water. Worship IS wrong if it is any of those adjectives, and true worship of a holy God is never boring or lifeless. At the same time though, reverence should never be sacrificed for a more lively feeling to a service.
If anything, the arguments seem to make me want to be MORE reverent, MORE somber and MORE respectful because it causes me to reflect more on the purpose of our church services and what we’re doing when we assemble. These arguments make me want to be even MORE dedicated to my God.
Important things receive great respect and sobriety. What deserves reverence MORE than a church service? Why should a funeral feel more important than church? What kind of assembly deserves more respect than an assembly designed by God for God? I do not know that these questions have answers.
Reverence does not negate excitement.
As alluded to above, praise, rejoicing, preaching, excitement, life and happiness are all part of church services, too. Reverence does not negate excitement, joy or happiness; it is just that these feelings are not the goal or the purpose of our assembly. They are byproducts of following God’s plan and giving Him the importance He deserves. I love that our church services are downright hilarious sometimes. I love that we can perform skits, make jokes, sing songs that get your foot tapping and laugh in church; but these things do not define our church services. They do not “overpower” the sense of reverence and importance of what we are meeting together to accomplish.
We are reverent on purpose.
It is by design that we are reverent. It would be easy to let loose and be more free with our entertainment, our rules, our dress, our music or our schedule; but that would have to be at the sacrifice of a sense of importance to our services.
Reverence is often by design, and it has to be practiced and guarded. It is practiced by church members seeing the importance of what is at hand and agreeing to contribute. It is guarded by leadership making sure that plans are in place to keep it that way. It would be easy to lose the practice of reverence if we were to let down our guard. What it takes is every church member on board with our church services:
- See the importance.
- Believe the importance.
- Respect the importance.
We should contribute to reverence.
Everyone in attendance at church either contributes or distracts from every service. No matter who you are or what you do, no matter how old or young you are, you either contribute or detract from the level of reverence in our church. If reverence is going to be on purpose, it will take some purposeful people to practice it every time we meet together.
The following might seem heavy-handed or over-the-top, but if you find yourself disagreeing, ask yourself, “From a Bible perspective about the worship of God, is the issue with this suggestion or with my point of view? Would doing this contribute or distract?”
Here are a few somewhat random thoughts toward reverence:
- Walking out during the service. It is amazing how often nature strikes during church. Those with the mindset to contribute to the importance of the church service will either: discipline himself to take care of any problems before the service, or discipline himself to just “suffer” until the service is over. Imagine if God were convicting someone sitting directly behind you, and right at the critical moment of perhaps a major spiritual decision you decide you need to get up. You will never know if you distracted their mind from the conviction and diverted it to watch you, but suppose you had never moved. You will never know how God might be moving in any situation, but you should be of the mindset that you would never want to distract anyone from hearing God.
- Fidgeting. You might be uncomfortable, but work to discipline yourself to not fidget. Not only is it often unnecessary (when you fidget excessively), it is also distracting to everyone around you.
- Looking at your watch. We can add to this one: sighing loudly J. Thankfully, this one does not happen all that much, but in the interest of guarding reverence, we at least had to mention it.
- Dressing down. “What?! You have a dress code?!” No. Not at all. But we do encourage our leadership to contribute to the reverence of the service by dressing up. Dressing up goes hand in hand with perceived importance. I have seen men in suits at a Saturday funeral and back in their every-day clothes for Sunday services. Dressing up contributes to the sobriety, importance and reverence of any event, and we like to encourage it for the most important event of every week: church.
Some ways to contribute:
- Treat the facilities with reverence. From the moment you walk into church you are entering a sacred place. The buildings itself are not where God resides, but the meeting of church itself is what God has designed. We ask the kids not to run in church and the people to respect the facilities because of what they represent: the house of God.
- Pray before every service. Probably nothing else will prepare your heart more for church than praying for it. Prayer has a way of getting our mindset in tune with God’s, and God’s mindset is always more serious than our own. Pray for God to move and work in the upcoming service, and you can’t help but expect Him to answer that prayer. You would be a lot less inclined to distract from the service when you have spent time praying for God to work in it!
- Discourage anything that might distract. I DO NOT mean that if you are by nature a serious-minded person that you police all the happy-go-lucky people in the room. Those types of “policemen” usually come across as fuddy-duds and Holy Joes, so pious they can seemingly have no fun. What I DO mean is that you encourage other people in a right mindset. Supposed “perpetrators of the reverence law” might simply have never been trained to be reverent in church. Maybe they just need to hear from someone who loves them on how they might improve. Regular “offenders,” or people that might not view reverence as an important matter, might just need some time and some loving help from a friend rather than a sharp, passing rebuke, so build a friendship! Use time and influence to discourage anything that might distract from reverence.
The lists could be several pages long, but the overall philosophy is simple: Place the level of importance on church that God does, and you will soon start to act more reverently. Our church has designed the services to be somewhat reverent, all the while trying to worship the Lord with a balanced approach. Reverence is not boredom; it is a sense of intense importance. Every church member should seek to always contribute and never distract from the deep importance of God’s plan for the world today: the church.
May our mindset this week at church be ever more reverent.