Monday, August 17, 2009

Reverent or relevent?

Isn't it great that we've advanced in our church culture so much that we're not so stuffy about how we act in church? Forget the church of our parents and grandparents - I mean COME ON. Get with the times, man. You've got to be now, today, cutting edge, and (the buzz word today) relevent. Okay, opening sarcasm is finished.
The question is: are we still reverent? Do we still show respect while we are in the sanctuary? It is called a sanctuary no matter what it looks like. The root of that word is the Latin sanctus, which means "holy". Do we feel like we are in a holy place?
First, let's make a distinction between appearance and behavior. I'm not faulting any church for looking modern or contemporary. I'm glad we do not take the puritanical approach that being uncomfortable is to be equated with holiness. We are fortunate that we have air-conditioning, heat, comfortable pews or chairs; and that's just the basics. I won't even get into all the high-tech, state-of-the-art media, etc. that many churches have. Different discussion. And what about dress code? I'm glad I can wear jeans and a t-shirt and sneakers if I want. I think it's great to see people with piercings, tattoos, crazy hair, and the variety of slices of society coming into church. A church that is welcoming to the full spectrum of people is doing the right thing. So don't misunderstand me on those points.
Where I think we lose it is on how we behave in church. Do we need to walk in with our Starbucks? Is it not enough that churches provide coffee and snacks in the lobby or some room? We have to bring it in the sanctuary and act like we are at a baseball game. Although that does explain why many church-goers are merely spectators - but that's another subject also.
The cell phones. Come on people. We show more respect in a movie theater than we do in church. Seriously. A movie theater makes an effort to play the humorous clip to instruct the audience to be quiet and turn off their phones so that everyone has an enjoyable experience. What about experiencing the presence of God? Is that important? Are we afraid to ask people to turn their phones off for the next ninety minutes because we might offend their personal freedoms? And who are you getting a call from on Sunday morning anyway? Are you a brain surgeon on-call? Then set it to vibrate. Do you have friends who don't go to church on Sunday? That's fine, in fact that's great: I hope you have some non-Christian friends. Tell them you go to church Sunday morning (or whatever day you go - I realize alternative days are becoming popular). Texting? Don't even get me started. Just lump it in with having your phone ring during service. Let me make it plain: it is rude, disrespectful, irreverent, and shows a blatant disregard for the presence of God and His holiness. To go to church is to worship the Lord and focus on Him. When you are involved with your phone or whatever else, you are focusing on you. You don't need to get that phone call during church. You are not that important. If you think you are, then the wrong person is on the throne.
"But I meant to turn it off, I just forgot" you say? How about not bringing your phone to church at all? Inconceivable? Then how about having the ushers frisk everybody on their way into the sanctuary and taking everyone's tech junk, and only giving it back when the service is over? Simply hire some airport security and give them usher badges.
It's all of these careless actions together that do not paint a pretty picture of our view of God and His presence. Casual dress and modern conveniences are one thing; acting like you're at a coffee shop in the mall is another. Jesus made a whip and chased out money changers in the temple and knocked over their tables of doves and other religious items. I think if Jesus were here in the flesh today, He would do the same thing with our coffee shops, book stores, and all the Christian paraphernalia that is so rampant in our churches today.
I go to church to worship the Lord, not to be entertained or be pampered like I'm at a day spa. Maybe churches mean well when they provide over-the-top amenities, but it's back-firing. It sends the wrong signal about Christianity and teaches people an erroneous view of God. Whatever happened to fear and trembling? Awe? Bowing in reverence? "Take off your sandals, Moses, for you are standing on holy ground"?
We may be rightfully free from the bondage of religious "works", but God is just as holy as He has always been - He doesn't change. While it is good that we've grown to realize that trying to earn God's approval by performing religious duties to minute perfection is wrong, it is just as wrong to believe that we can appoach His throne with a non-chalant carelessness. God is King. The King of kings. You don't appoach a king with a latte in one hand, your laptop in the other your blue tooth attached to your head, and walk up and say,"Yo, whatup, dog?"
Let's bring back the spirit of holiness to church. I don't mean the kind of so-called "holiness" that worries about hair length, make-up, clothes, and other petty things. The spirit of holiness refers to an attitude, a mindset. We need to have a healthy understanding of things that are sacred. Having a proper perspective of our relationship with a Holy God will enhance our walk with Him. Let us all strive to bring back reverence to the house of the Lord.

1 comment:

  1. i actually saw a short film (made by a friend of mine) that alternated btwn shots of willem dafoe in that horrible movie "the last temptation of christ" in the scene where Jesus knocks over the tables selling doves in the temple- and actual shots of bookstores, coffee shops and even merry-go-rounds in churches here in tulsa. wow. it made a strong point.