July 19, 2009


My thoughts today have been focused on a conversation I had with a lady a few weeks ago regarding the topic of church. It's an odd moment of contemplation that just seems to be stuck with me for some reason.

A few months ago, my husband and I found a church that we absolutely love. This in itself is a miracle, as we had both grown weary of the process of "going to church" and dealing with "church people." We visited this church in hopes to find a place where our children could interact with their peers. What we found was a family that took us in and wrapped us in a warmth and kindness that neither of us has ever experienced within a church organization before.

A few weeks back, I met this lady at DAC Kids and started talking to her about our great discovery of a church family that truly does care about each other and the world around them. One of her main concerns was the atmosphere of the service. I explained to her that our church is very casual with their attire and worship. The focus is on the family, the learning, and the worship. There is little concern for what those in attendance may be wearing (as long as they are actually dressed). I explained that we even encourage having a cup of coffee and eating doughnuts, as though you were visiting with a dear friend. In fact, there's a committee that provides the doughnuts and coffee for everybody. (There weren't any chocolate doughnuts this morning. That was VERY disappointing...)

Her response to this was that she and her husband felt like there needed to be some level of reverence within a worship service. Our church's approach was probably far too casual for her tastes.

I could never fault her for her preferences with regard to this aspect of worship, but today I've had this thought of reverence stuck in my head. Mind you, this conversation took place several weeks ago, and just now the idea of maintaining a certain level of reverence within the church building has embedded itself into my brain. I decided to define this word for my own personal education.


-- noun

1) a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe

2) the outward manifestation of this feeling

3) a gesture indicative of deep respect

-- verb

1) to regard or treat with reverence

Hmm. This wasn't very helpful. It seems that reverence is all tangled up in this other word - respect. So what does this new word mean? Well, of course I have an idea of what these words actually mean, but I'm still going to get the definition just to see if what I think it means is what it really means.

RESPECT: (there are a LOT of different definitions for this word, so I'll just list those that are intended as verb usage because that's what fits.)

-- verb

1) to hold in esteem or honor

2) to show regard or consideration for

3) to refrain from intruding on or inerfering with

4) to relate or have reference to

Now that I have these definitions clearly in my mind, I can go forward with my thoughts and try to work out what this constant pricking in my brain is.

This lady explained to me that she felt there should be a certain level reverence in the place of worship. To her, this reverance would manifest in a state of dress and behavior. She held a specific vision for how the time spent inside the walls of the church was supposed to be spent. This is not terribly uncommon. Many people feel that they must dress a certain way and behave a certain way when attending church. I'm not in disagreement with the concept of dressing up for church or maintaining a certain level of decorum for worship service. I simply prefer a more casual approach. This isn't about being right or wrong.

Here's where my thoughts have been wandering today with relation to reverence and decorum within the church building.

I am the church.

If what I wear to the service within the walls of the building is of importance, should I also be expected to adhere to this same attire when I am outside the walls of the church? After all, if God is concerned with my state of dress for two hours on Sunday, is He not also concerned with my state of dress for the other hours when I am not inside the church building?

Is it better for me to stay home in pants and a t-shirt instead of degrading the sanctity of the church building with my inappropriate attire? What does reverence and respect have to do with my clothing?

It seems to me that the only concern for what I wear would come from other people, not from God. Certainly God would prefer me to spend time with his people, within a family that will hold me up when I am too tired to carry on.

I am the church.

If I am to lower my voice within the confines of the church and speak softly in order to show respect for God, then shall I always maintain a lowered voice and soft speech? Where, then, shall I lift my voice in praise and raise a joyful noise?

I am the church.

The church is not a building. This is something I've known for many years.

God sees what I choose to wear every day. If He is not offended by my choice of clothing on Monday, then why would He be offended by my choice of clothing on Sunday?

God hears how I speak. If He is not offended by my tone of voice on Monday, then why would He be offended by my tone of voice on Sunday?

If God is unconcerned with these minor details, why should anybody else be bothered by what I wear or how I choose to worship? (As Pastor Howard would say... "Who gives a rip...")


I still come back to this thought of reverence.

I definitely stand in awe of God and His wonders. Small miracles surround me every day, and I wonder sometimes why He would even take the time to attend to such minor issues.

The not-so-silent plea from a 4 year old child, wishing with all her heart that just one tiny little butterfly would find her worthy enough to serve as a momentary perch was blessed with two butterflies.

The first butterfly was a bit of a surprise because it lit on Kira's arm when she had finally given up on ever having a butterfly land on her. Luckily, it stuck around long enough for a bit of a photo shoot.

The second butterfly seemed to be so completely enamored with Kira that it took my breath away. This Blue Morpho butterfly crawled around on Kira's arm for more than ten minutes. The creature was never even startled with the fidgety movements of my little girl.

There was no other explanation except that God sent this butterfly to bless my child and answer her heart's prayer for a touch of magic.

In that brief span of time, as Iwatched my child interact with this beautiful butterfly, I experienced more awe and respect for the power of God than I have ever felt inside the walls of the church building.

The building is, indeed, just a building in which the power and glory of God is not confined.

Related Article:

Butterflies Everywhere


Rebecca said...

If I may say so, I feel that the church you have found has a great deal of reverence. As you stated...
"What we found was a family that took us in and wrapped us in a warmth and kindness that neither of us has ever experienced within a church organization before."

It may be the lady you met at DAC Kids that does not understand the true definition.

Anonymous said...

Amen Amen Amen!!!!

OilGirl said...

My husband and I struggled with the "reverence" issue in our casual church family for a few years. We were able to let go of some of the surface concerns as we realized that the Spirit was present and working in our church. We also came to the conclusion as you did that WE ARE THE CHURCH! God was being glorified by believers who worshipped in blue jeans and in suits and skirts!! :)

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

That those two butterflies actually alighted on the arms of your little angel is indeed a small miracle wrought by God to send a message to your darling child. Yes, we Christians embody the true church of God. External manifestations do not count much to God but what is inside the heart of His children. We should go to church to worship God and give reverence due Him. Our interactions with other church goers are just secondary. Thanks for the post. God bless you always.

Marcia Wilwerding said...

Many Christians are taught that we wash ourselves and wear the best clothing we have when we go to church. This teaching probably began with Exodus 19:10 where the people were commanded to make special outward preparation for meeting with God on a specific occasion. It was never meant to force men to wear suits and women to deck themselves out to the hilt. Yet, there is an extreme to the other side which may be detrimental to the reverence due to the majesty of God.

For instance, if our father were a king, we would relate to him as a father in a casual manner on a daily basis. However, if he were to sit upon his throne at a special gathering of his subjects every Thursday at 4 o'clock, we would be disrespectful to him by showing up at that time in anything less than our best, even though the event occurred every week at the same time.

As you say, it's not the style of dress or the style of music, but the attitude of the heart that matters. However, what we wear to any special occasion speaks volumes about how we feel about the those being honored. We must give God at least the same consideration we would give an earthly dignitary. Yet, many do not even give the respect to God in worship that they give at a wedding or funeral.

It is especially important to teach our children that the corporate worship service is not the same as going to a ball game or a rock concert. There is a holy, awesome, glorious King sitting on His throne in our presence, and we are to conduct ourselves appropriately.

Just as in the illustration I gave before about being the child of a king, the Sunday morning gathering is a time set aside to meet with our Father God on His throne. The minister speaks the word of God with the authority of God, and we are to listen with the same or more reverence we would give the messenger of a king. That's not to say that no one should lift their voice in praise. In fact, that is how we *should* come before His presence (Ps. 95)! However, I am afraid we may unintentionally minimize the honor due to God by not giving our appearance more consideration.

Thank you for bringing this topic to our attention. It gives us all some very important things to think about.

Mom said...

Rebecca - Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your input.

Mybible - Thanks for the Amen!

Oilgirl - It can be a difficult idea to come to terms with. Thanks for stopping by.

Mel - So glad to see you again. I was afraid you would stop visiting...

Marcia - Thanks you for your input. It is nice to see where this thought process has come from.

autie said...

That church sounds a lot like my church home. (I'm actually the doughnut/coffee server at my church, with some help on the social part of the job)

I find it wonderful and comforting to go to a place where I can bond with God and fellowship without worrying about being frowned upon for being "different".

God doesn't care how people appear to be, He cares about what's inside. Why should church be any different?

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