Envision worship in heaven. We’d never imagine poorly attired cherubim and seraphim imbibing some drink while worshiping God, would we? Nor any angel or host of angels responding to God in any type of lackadaisical manner. Neither should we. We should come to God in worship with our humblest attitude, appropriately attired, not distracted with earthly needs, and not sharing his glory with any human being. All who are present in our worship services should be overwhelmed by how we all are focused on the one true God and revere his majesty.
As a missionary to the Muslim world, I couldn’t be unimpressed with the reverence Muslims bring to their worship of Allah—standing, then on knees and touching their heads to the floor. In Christendom there are different approaches to the practice of worship. For example, Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches bring a visible reverence to worshipping God, kneeling, sitting, and standing according to the liturgy taking place. Protestant churches, whether evangelical, reformed or progressive, traditionally show reverence in worship in their regular practice of sitting and standing. Lately, there have been some changes in some of the latter; a casual, less reverent ambiance appears to be growing in some churches.
What are some trends of lapsing down reverence of worship to Almighty God? One may have begun with clerics no longer wearing robes, which is neither right nor wrong. Yet it may have measurably diminished formality and authority (consider that judges wear robes as a sign of their authority). More formal or less formal attire doesn’t contradict Scripture—first century church leaders dressed as everyone else. Israelite priests wore specific apparel as commanded in the Law.
Another is casual dress. In the past, people attending worship dressed in their “Sunday best.” What people wore was intended to show respect for God; understandably, if we aren’t careful it could turn into making a fashion statement. The result was that whether rich or poor, the manner of dressing appropriately to the occasion made all more equal in appearance. It appears that in recent years our overall manner of dress has become more casual to the point that our clothing appears poorer with holes and such in them. It may mean that the unintended consequence of dressing down may result in a lack of respect toward God as we worship him, in contrast to the Psalmist exhortation, “Worship the Lord in holy attire” (Psalm 96: 9).
Can the approaches to worship over the centuries be called a lapsing-down of worship? By “lapsing-down” is a way to describe a lapse of awe, reverence, and worship of Almighty God as our Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer and Judge. Our worship is to be directed to God alone.
Now the practice is to applaud or clap after musical performances or testimonies. Why may this be disconcerting? Worship is to laud and honor God alone. Scripture refers to clapping to God, which clapping while singing may be appropriate. We don’t normally clap for the Scripture readings, prayers, or sermons, do we? These parts of worship may be more appropriate to receive such affirmation, more than applauding human performances. Children can be taught to sing to the Lord to bring attention to Him and not to themselves. Worship and entertainment are not the same.
Another trend current in our modern worship is bringing drinks into the sanctuary. Worship is not entertainment in a theater or a lecture in a classroom. Worship is other worldly; it’s spiritual. Sipping or drinking can be disrespectful in worship. What’s next, eating in worship? The time to eat and drink in worship is during the sacrament of Lord’s Supper. There is a certain decorum expected at formal events such as a presidential address. That is not the time or place to drink coffee or lemonade, which those attending don’t. Doesn’t God deserve better? Our entering into God’s presence is a call to humility, awe, and reverence.
Dr. Carl R. Trueman recently wrote, “God is a consuming fire and to be approached with awe and reverence.” Envision worship in heaven. We’d never imagine poorly attired cherubim and seraphim imbibing some drink while worshiping God, would we? Nor any angel or host of angels responding to God in any type of lackadaisical manner. Neither should we. We should come to God in worship with our humblest attitude, appropriately attired, not distracted with earthly needs, and not sharing his glory with any human being. All who are present in our worship services should be overwhelmed by how we all are focused on the one true God and revere his majesty. Instead of lapsing in our worship, rather let us acclaim in our worship the glory He deserves:
“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, The Almighty, Who was and Who is and Who is to come; Worthy are You, our Lord and our God to receive glory and honor and power” (Revelation 4: 8, 11).
Helen Louise Herndon is a member of Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis, Missouri. She is freelance writer and served as a missionary to the Arab/Muslim world in France and North Africa.