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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Attitude and Worship

We don't reverence God anymore. I just finished reading the book of Ezekiel and God goes into great detail to explain reverence, holiness, and worship. Not all worship is acceptable, you know. Isaiah 1:11-15, God tells us, "What purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me? I have had enough of your burnt offerings...I do not delight in the blood of bulls...I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear..."

Yikes. That's sobering. Yet, we approach God with the same insincerity and slapdash attitude as did ancient Israel. We too, act like any pittance we throw God should suffice, especially if we're not inconvenienced.

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to usher at a Ladies Retreat. In our training, we were asked to make sure no one entered the sanctuary with food or beverages. During one of the sessions, I spied a woman sipping a latte and offered to show here where she could finish it. She paused a moment, then stood to follow me out. She said, "I was going to rebel but decided against it."

I see how we enter the sanctuary to come before a holy God and I am sick at heart. We come with soft drinks, lattes, and cell phones (yes, I've seen people actually talk on them during worship). You mean to tell me that you can't sit one hour without these things? I wonder what these people would do if I behaved in their homes with the same disrespect that they show God. Would they likely have me back?

Picture this. We've just met and you invite me to your home. When I arrive, there's a sign on the door, "Please do not bring drinks into the house." Ignoring it, I walk with a latte, plop down on the couch and kick my feet up on your coffee table. You are watching a T.V. program I don't like so I walk over and change it without asking. I leave used tissues and garbage on the sofa. I see a friend across the room so (with my shoes on) walk on furniture so I can get around everyone and to my friend. When you, the host, have had enough, "You politely ask me to refrain and show some courtesy." To which I reply, "You're mean! I'm never coming here again."

It sounds ridiculous.

Unfortunately, I've seen these very behaviors in many services and in many churches. I was even in one church where a cockatoo was allowed to roam about because the owner didn't want to leave it home alone. Adults and teens walking on the pews rather than wait until an isle is clear. Adults texting and slurping lattes during worship. Adults kicking off their shoes and propping their feet on the back of the pew--and in their neighbor's hair.

Newsflash. Worship isn't for you. It's for God. If you can't do it for Him, show some respect for the furniture at least.

What all of this leads up to is this: our attitude in coming to God, in approaching a holy God, is often sloppy and disrespectful. We lumber in with all the aforementnioned goodies, plop down on a pew, sing a song and expect that God will be pleased with it. Why should He? Do we even consider the Person He is? Do we have a clue what He likes, what pleases Him? Do we care how our thoughtlessness might hurt Him? Are we really saying that we can't sit respectfully for an hour--an hour--without texting our friends, drinking a latte, or propping our feet on the back of a pew? Come on, people. We're not children.

In our minds and in our hearts we must be clear on why we're in church. Be clear on Who worship is for. Be clear that at least for one hour (of 168 hours of the week) we can behave like God matters, like His feelings matter, like we really do love Him.

In discussing this with many church leaders, I've heard a myriad of explanation. Most "don't want to hurt people's feelings." Excuse me? People's feelings? What about God's feelings? If we cared as much for God's feelings as we claim for people, perhaps the Church wouldn't be in it's present pitiful state. He deserves the highest praise, pure praise, praise from a pure and contrite heart.


Aine Willis said...

Debbi, I really appreciate your blog. This gave me alot to think about. I've never looked at it from this perspective. I, myself, don't take drinks or cell phones into the service. But, I've noticed others that do and always wondered why it bothers me so much. You're right. This is the reason. Thanks for the insight.

Jenny M. said...

Your blog gripped my attention, especially after I read, "We too, act like any pittance we throw God should suffice, especially if we're not inconvenienced." My small, local community church out in the country doesn't allow any food or drink in the sanctuary; the large urban church we now attend not only allows lattés, they'll custom make them for you. It bothers me that people are so casual about the "sanctity" of the sanctuary. Maybe this started when churches started using their meeting places for basketball games and other forms of recreation. "User friendly" seems to be more important than "worshipful." I personally don't see the need to suck down my latté in church - I finish it beforehand and turn my cellphone off. I think it's not only okay, it's imperative for churches to set standards for a house of worship.

Onye said...

I am on the Praise Team in my church and I am also a firm believer in the fact that worship is for God and not for my personal benefit. Singing well and dancing well is all well and good; coming in the sanctuary with complaints and a funky attitude is just as detrimental to the ability to welcome God's presence as letting one's phone go off loudly or sipping your coffee in the middle of a song. My prayer is always 'let my sacrifice be acceptable in Thy sight'. Everyone doesn't worship the same way, but worship is more than the praise service on Sunday morning. It's a lifestyle, it's an outward manifestation of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

lynnmosher said...

Hey, Debbi! Your examples are mind-blowing disrespect. Wow! This was such a great post. Worship is so important and even more so than we can imagine.

I don't know if this disregard for the reverence of the Lord and His house bothers me more or the disregard for the reverence of the Lord within His other home...the hearts of Christians, the vessels of His presence. What we do to Him within us is disturbing.

Thank you so much for this. Blessings...Lynn

Jane said...

Debbi - we've discussed this - and I totally agree - somehow reverence and reverent attitude in God's house doesn't seem to be taught as much as when I was a youngster. I remember going to church with my Grandma and Grandpa - and there was an air of reverence and respect that seemed to permeate the sanctuary. Even then I felt that's the way it should be. Reading in Ezekiel 44:5 this morning it struck me fresh - the Lord told Ezekiel to give attention to everything and proceeded to give instructions in how to come before Him to worship (in those days to offer sacrifices for sin and cleansing). In verse 23 he instructs the priests to "teach His people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean." I'm sure it still applies today - the part about holy and common. I think we could leave the lattes outside the sanctuary!

thedomesticfringe said...


Amen to everything you said. I'm a pastor's wife and recently I've been really upset over the amount of people who blatantly curse in church while in conversation with me. Ok, these are not visitors or newcomers, but people who I know have been sitting in the pews long before my husband and I came. I'm just shocked at the disrespect to God. How can it be?

It's not just the language either. We just have no awe of who God is anymore. It really bothers me.

Thanks for this post.

A_Heart_Like_Mine said...

Such a tough subject this respect thing. People seem to believe as times change and society evolves into new heights of selfishness, God comes along for the ride. Not so. I leave my electronics, attitude, and notepad at the door. Good for you for writing this!

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