I remember growing up in New Hope Baptist Church, which had a congregation between 300 and 400 people. The church building was average size and was just a block away from Morning Star Baptist Church where my grandparents still attend to this day. I remember the other kids and me laughing at people running up and down the aisles shouting on Sunday mornings. We would always end up getting scolded by one of the adults. I can still hear the fast beat of the drums, along with the people’s hand claps and my mother keeping up on the piano. I remember the pastor whooping and hollering during his sermons and my mother playing chords, as if she were a background singer to his sermons. The summers at the church were filled with Vacation Bible School, and I began honing my vocal skills by singing in the youth choir. Sunday morning services would last for at least three hours and then there was still the evening service for that night! The elderly mothers of the church wore their hats decorated in magnificence and always smelled like roses or peppermints. The deacons and trustees always wore suits and ties. We would always wear black on first Sundays because of communion, and I remember the hand fans that had Martin Luther King’s picture on them that we used because it was so dang hot during the summers! I’m not sure if the church had central air or not. This was my reality back in the early 1980s and I’m sure the same or similar experience existed years ago dating back to post-slavery.
So why am I reminiscing? Because back in those times, I believe that there was a more sincere reverence for the Lord in the church. Now please understand that I’m not suggesting that folks didn’t have sin issues. I’m not saying that the churches back then were free of gossip, slander, doctrinal error and even scandal. I just believe that there was more of a reverential fear of the Lord compared to the present times. For example, when I was a kid, the nicest clothes I owned were reserved for church. I believe that is where the term “Sunday’s best” came from. The tradition was to look our very best because we were entering into the Lord’s sanctuary and it was regarded as holy. When I think about all of the special instructions that the priests of old had to follow and the holy garments that they wore when coming into the presence of the Lord, it was because of a deep reverence for Yahweh. I believe that God has never changed (despite the fact that we are now under grace) and would appreciate us at least trying to show some reverence. What happened? Many people still dress up for church, but the new trend is to dress down and be casual. “Come as you are,” so to speak. Granted, I know some people cannot afford nice clothes, but we should always look presentable when entering into the Lord’s sanctuary, if possible. Nowadays I only dress up when I go to my parent’s church and my suits and ties seemed to be reserved now only for special occasions like weddings, banquets or a special night out on the town. Wow… I thought gathering with the saints to celebrate the Lord was supposed to be a special occasion. It seems like the things that were once considered to be sacred no longer matter. When I read in the book of Exodus about the numerous details and excellence that was done in regards to building the Ark of the Covenant and its accompanying pieces, I wonder if God is longing for that same kind of reverence to be shown to Him in this hour. I am thoroughly convinced that there is a standard of excellence that the Lord expects, but we are so blinded by this thing called grace that we forget Yahweh has not changed one bit! We need to lay prostrate before Him because I believe that we’ve gotten way too comfortable with Him and He is grieved. You know; the “Jesus is my homeboy” mentality. Hmmm… We probably need to be very thankful that He is slow to anger and is withholding His wrath from us.
Flashing back to my childhood again, I think about how I and others got scolded for various behaviors (even playing with toys) that were considered inappropriate inside the sanctuary because it was held in high regard. During church we were supposed to be attentive and involved in the service. However, it is now common to see people on their cell phones texting, checking Facebook statuses and checking email while sitting in service! Even worse, cell phones ringing! Lord help us! Like I said earlier, nothing is SACRED anymore! But I have been guilty of some of these very things, and for me, it didn’t stop there. The Lord corrected me even in not showing up to church or ministry commitments in a timely fashion. We can show up to our jobs, movies and concerts for our own selfish reasons but we get real lax when it comes to church or doing the Lord’s work. Is the Lion of Judah now an alley cat? Is the Rose of Sharon now a weed? Has the precious Lamb of God become a donkey? Have we “progressed” and supposedly received so much new revelation to the point where maybe too much flesh is in the way? Or maybe this is because many are worshipping a god of their own making and NOT the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (That is a separate blog post coming in the near future)
This lack of reverence has spilled into almost every aspect of the present institution of church. For example, worship has become more about us than Him. While this is not in every church, I believe many have forgotten that worship is to honor Him alone and that it is not about showing off vocal and musical talent. It is not about what is pleasing to our ears but what is pleasing to His ears. Recently, my pastor mentioned how we can raise our hands at a football games to clap and cheer for a team, but not lift our hands during worship. How sad! I can even recall the times I have visited a prominent church here in the Atlanta area and on two separate occasions the dance team performed (not ministered) to a SECULAR song. Now I’m not saying that all songs outside the Christian or Kingdom genre are bad, but this was in the sanctuary! If the priests of old would have done something like that in the temple, God would have struck them down dead instantly! Read Leviticus 10:1-3 about what happened to Nadab and Abihu when they offered up something that was unsanctified, unholy and that which the Lord did not command. They offered up defiled worship because they did not regard the Lord with a proper reverence and it cost them their lives.
Something else I notice is that some churches show an undying devotion to a leader but not to God, just like the Israelites who were desperate for a king more than God Himself. Well the result was not a good one because we know what happened with Saul. (See I Samuel) As a matter of fact, all of the kings failed because they were mere men. However, people will give away their money and lust after a chance to meet with the pastor. Yet they don’t have a hunger to be in the Lord’s presence. There is no devotional life of prayer, no studying the Word nor simply learning to sit in His presence at home. As a result, of this lack of reverence, there are many places of worship that have become places of entertainment and charisma, and the Holy Spirit does not dwell there.
I know that I have different areas of my life that need much improvement to reflect a sincere love and devotion to the Lord. If we are truly disciples, then we should be disciplined in showing reverence to the Lord in the various areas of our lives. We have become too big in our own eyes and that has caused us to not regard Him as Lord, but more of a spiritual Sugar Daddy who will bless our mess. We want to be on the throne just like Lucifer did. I pray that we get back to the proper place of fearing Him and desperately removing ourselves from the throne so He can take His rightful place in our hearts. Funny how we are so quick to refer to the old school church as outdated (guilty as charged), but one thing they had over this newer generation is a sincere reverence for God Almighty.
Nathan Allen Copyright© 2012