This week I was thinking heavily about churches across the nation and the heart of churches today. I was thinking about how things have changed, even just in my lifetime; how much of the formality at church in services and environments has been dropped. I was thinking about all the different services and different churches I attend and am familiar with through friends and loved ones.
And I posted a simple little facebook status that I had no clue would explode into tons of comments and private messages.
Is it possible that having a more casual church environment causes people to treat God less than holy? Wondering.
Apparently “more casual church environment” struck a note among the brethren because all sorts of opinions and issues were noted. And honestly, I didn’t know what to say. Any way that I respond has the possibility of being distorted. So what’s a girl to do when she’s in over her head?
1. Delete the facebook status and pray that people forget it ever existed. (This was sounding good. I do not enjoy conflict.)
2. Ignore any and all comments and messages and hope that people don’t get angry. ( I can’t stand it when people are mad at me.)
3. Address it straight on with her heavenly Father and then respond accordingly.
So, I chose number 3.
15 years ago, when Taylor was just a tiny baby, I had the privilege of starting her routine of attending church each Sunday. And every Saturday night, I would lay her little dress out, and say, “Tomorrow’s church day, Tay.” This was such routine that when Taylor was between 3 and 4, when I went to the closet on Saturday night before church, she began to sing and dance: “Tomorrow’s church day, Mommy.” The signal had registered. Sunday was a different day of the week. A special day. And we should treat it special. So we did our humblest best.
That routine grew. In fact, six times over, because with each of my children, from the time they were born, the little routine was now a ritual. Six outfits pulled out of the closet. Six sets of eyes that all register the signal. Tomorrow’s a special day. Better than any other day of the week. We get to go to God’s House. As one of my Twitter friends posted this week that her older son asked the younger:
You want to go to church and see Jesus?
Now I’m not telling you that you have to establish our routine. No, not by any means. In fact, one morning you might just find us all trekking in to church in less than our very best because it was either come like that or don’t come. And we’d much rather be there. That’s for sure.
When I reflect back on my “best” moments with God, many of them were not in church at all.
In fact, God and I tend to have our best conversations when I’m in a stained t-shirt and bleached jeans, scrubbing the toilets and showers at home.
On the other hand, when I go on purpose to God’s house, out of reverence and respect for Him, I definitely leave the stained t-shirt and bleached jeans at home.
And the funny thing? In my facebook status, I wasn’t even talking about the clothes we wear. Or the coffee we drink. Or where we sit. Or whether or not we have hymnbooks. ( I remember 10 years ago when that was a big deal.)
By “casual church environment,” I meant the demeanor, spirit, and attitudes of the people. I meant when we aren’t engaged. When we don’t display the love of Jesus. When we don’t look each other in the eye. We don’t shake hands with one another. (Come on, just use hand sanitizer afterward like we do…) We saunter in, slide out and hope we don’t have to talk to a soul. I’m guilty as charged.
I suppose nothing has changed much since Bible times. Samuel, God’s high priest, even failed to recognize David as the true king of Israel and thought the eldest son of Jesse should be anointed instead. In fact, Samuel was basically saying, “Really God? Are you sure?” David just didn’t look the part.
And that is why we have the verse that man looks on the outward appearance and God looks on the heart. (I Samuel 16:7)
We’re all still doing that. Looking at the outward appearance. Including me. You know why? Because we are human and we have eyeballs. Truly.
In I Peter 3, Peter approaches this topic. And while legalists love to hop all over these verses with do’s and don’t's, the point is that our inner spirit inhabits the environment. Our inner spirit, when in tune with the Holy Spirit, will look at people with compassion. Just as Jesus would do if he were here. This is what creates the church environment.
What should we not wear to church? Or anytime, as Christians? A sin-filled attitude that is unprepared to receive the Word.
Can I just tell you one little special thing? Though my Taylor girl’s little brain is ridden with neurological degeneration, each week, there is one time I can count on getting a smile. A look right in the eyes and a happy disposition on her face.
It is on Saturday night, when I lay out her clothes, and say:
Tomorrow’s church day, Tay.