A few weeks ago on a Wednesday, while helping to take up the offering, I saw almost a dozen of our youth with their cell phones out texting, surfing on the internet, or playing games. This was very disconcerting to me as it became even more apparent how far we’ve come from honoring God and the house of God. Churches have in many ways, and for a number of different reasons, evolved more into a social club than a place of worship to the Creator of the ends of the universe. Churches, in the eyes of many, have become a place of optional attendance where many can go to get the latest updates on what’s happening with others instead of meeting with the one true God. Don’t get me wrong, we do need to interact and fellowship with other believers, and we don’t have to attend church to meet with God, but we’re talking about a place set aside for the purpose of gathering together to meet and worship Him in a corporate setting. Yet, we often time treat it no differently or no better than the local grocery store, a school or place of employment, just to name a few places. In many ways we treat church more as a social club than as a place of worship.
How is that an overwhelming number of churches, places set aside as a place of worship, have become more of a social club of sorts? Is it because we have as some call it, lost the ‘fear’ of the Lord? Do we not value or revere God for who He is anymore? Have we become so caught up with our own life, and our pursuit of it and the happiness we hope to attain by it, that we are no longer concerned about the God who created us? The same God who is more than able to, as Jesus put it, to destroy both body and soul in hell?
You say that I’m wrong, and that churches are still revered as a place of meeting and worship of the one true God? Think about it. If students had their cell phones out to text, surf the internet or play games while in class and their teacher is talking, would that be considered acceptable and overlooked by the teacher or school administration? Or, what about the employee who is having to receive some training but keeps talking to others, either intermittently or continuously, especially about things that don’t pertain to what the training involves or could wait until afterwards? Would your employer be okay with that? I venture to say that neither of these situations would be allowed nor tolerated, and that there would probably be some negative consequences to such behavior either immediately or shortly thereafter.
I’ve heard some argue that there is nothing wrong with this behavior in church, citing various different reasons to justify it. Recently, however, I thought of another situation that discounts many of the reasons I’ve heard and at the same time shows the lack of regard or value some have for the house of God. Or should I say how much they value other places and events above that of our churches which are to be a place of worship? Cell phones have become for many a necessity in life, something that provides a ‘life-line’ of communication and entertainment for many. It’s as if some can’t bear the thought of just turning it off or ignoring it when it beckons for their attention. I’ve known many, both past and present, that can’t seem to leave their phones alone, so much so that some felt just checking their phone was more important than keeping their job, and it cost them.
I told you I thought of a situation that demonstrates how much we’ve lost respect and reverence for the house of God, so I’ll tell you what that is. Now, I must start by saying that it’s been years since I’ve visited a movie theater, but I venture to say that things haven’t changed much since then. When a person goes to a theater to watch a movie they are expecting to see the movie without any interruptions or distractions of any kind. If there is anyone that seems to have a problem staying quiet by continually having to say something or make a lot of noise, that wouldn’t be tolerated and the person would be asked to leave. If someone kept using their cell phone, people wouldn’t appreciate the repeated distraction of the display lighting up or the various audio sounds it would broadcast. I know that there are some who will go so far as to either turn their phones off or put them on silent, and if someone needs to get a hold of them they will have to wait until after the movie ends, unless they will step outside into the lobby area. The idea is that many will keep their phones off or ignore them until after the movie is over, not wanting to be distracted from the movie or to be a distraction to others, not really worried about checking it or making people wait, but will they do the same thing during church? Do they approach their time at church the same way? For myself, my phone goes on silent before church starts and remains silent and unchecked until after Sunday school, the only exception possibly being between the service and Sunday school if not preoccupied.
Like the movie theater, there are other places that we frequent where we have reasonable expectations of what to expect when we get there. When we go to the grocery store we expect to get groceries, not an update on the current events in the Middle East. When we go to our place of employment we expect to do the work our employer assigns us to do, not to take out some golf clubs and practice our golf swings. When we go to school or some other form of training we expect to learn from those giving the instruction, not to sit back in our seats with an espresso coffee in one hand and in our other hand texting others with our cell phones. Yet, when it comes to church, a place set aside for the corporate worship and learning of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Creator of the ends of the universe, we find it hard to avoid the various behaviors associated with a very casual social club and to focus on the purpose the church is set apart for. We can gather with fellow believers at other various locations and times where a more casual time of fellowship is expected and enjoyed, but the House of God should be recognized as such and given the respect and reverence it deserves and requires.
So, I conclude by asking you a few simple questions I hope you will honestly ask yourself over the next few days. Are there one or more places that you frequent where you have no problem leaving your cell phone alone for the duration of time you are there no matter what, whether that means it is turned off or on silent? Are there one or more places that you frequent where you have no problem focusing on both the purpose the place is set aside for and the leaders giving instruction instead of trying to catch up or talk with others in attendance? Did you include the House of God in your answers to the last two questions? If you did, is at the top of your list? If the House of God was not included in either of your answers, or if it wasn’t at the top of the list, then it could be surmised that you do not value the House of God as much as other places, or as much as we ought as both children of God and Ambassadors of Christ. Take the time these next few days and honestly ask yourself each of these questions, then ask yourself if your actions and behaviors support what you say is important and valuable to you.