Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! —Psalm 46:10 NKJV
Let all things be done decently in their proper forms; with becoming reverence; according to their dignity and importance. Everything in the church of God should be conducted with gravity and composure, suitable to the importance of the things, the infinite dignity of the object of worship, and the necessity of the souls on behalf of which those religious ordinances are instituted. (Clarke’s Commentary)
In the hustle and bustle of modern life, where does one go to seek peace and tranquility? The church? Shouldn’t the church be such a place? In many instances it no longer is.
I went online and asked: “What about silence in the church?” It was amazing how many other folks have an equal concern about the widespread disregard for the holiness of worship and the required respect for God- ordained church authorities.
This goes along with our modern- day apparel, what we wear while entering the church for worship, noisily conversing with one another as we enter God’s sanctuary and approach the worship service of our most holy God.
Contemporary worship services are frequently preceded by loud introductory music as accompaniment to even louder and boisterous so- called praise teams. While entering certain of the emergent churches you are informed, “If you have tender ears, we offer earplugs.”
Not only the Reformed community struggles with this, but, surprisingly, much of this exists in the Roman Catholic community, along with every worship community in between. This cannot and should never be overlooked for the ultimate reason that we come to the dedicated sanctuary to worship a most holy God who demands our undivided and absolute respect, awe, and attention as we come before him in subdued reverence.
At the point of entry, we had best leave all our self-satisfying, preconceived notions and secular trinkets (by all means our cell phones) far behind, clearing our mind of all things carnal. Our Lord and Savior demands nothing less, to the point of telling those who would follow him: “Sell all what you have, give it to the poor, and follow Me!” (Matt. 1:21; Luke 18:22; Mark 10:21).
In days gone by, when entering the church proper, reverent silence was a prerequisite, adhered to by all. Conversation was at best in low tones or a whisper. Now, frequent, boisterous, and loud conversation in the narthex has become a common occurrence, often spilling over into the sanctuary itself, immediately prior to the commencement of the worship service.
A number of churches have reached a point of doing something about it, or at least are making an attempt. If this is to progress, they feel, the ultimate result may well be that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ becomes little more than a back-slapping buddy.
A Bulletin Announcement About Quiet
Members and attendees are encouraged to maintain a respectful silence before the worship service begins. Traditionally, the time before the service begins is not the time to visit with friends and greet newcomers but rather a time to prepare for worship in silence and prayer. Newcomers may mistake this practice as being unfriendly, but rest assured, this is not the case. It is a practice that underlines the holiness of God’s temple and the reverence we give to his holy place of worship. This silence begins in the narthex, the entry room into the main room (sanctuary) of the church.
When you leave the service at the end (also, ideally, in silence as the postlude plays), all are invited to go to the fellowship hall for the coffee time and to greet your old and new friends as enthusiastically as you wish.
We all know how hard it is at times to pray. In the noisy hustle and bustle of modern life it is often difficult to find the time and a quiet corner to talk to our Lord.
In church you would expect to find such a place!
However, it is nearly impossible to pray when someone in the pew behind you, prior to the start of the worship service, tells his neighbor, several pews ahead, about his car battery giving out, or he can’t get a good looking front lawn, or the baby has a terrible rash.
When we walk into a library it is generally quiet because everyone knows how hard it is to read when it is noisy. Even in movie theaters of yesteryear the ushers would go up and down the aisles admonishing the noisy to tone it down.
How much more then should we be silent when walking into church, even if for no other reason than out of common courtesy, allowing people to quietly pray? Too often we walk into church and it is just as loud (and exhausting) as the world. The church should be other worldly, and this can begin to be accomplished only through increased and reverent silence.
A Word About Apparel
When we are invited to a wedding many of us wonder, “What am I going to wear?” We wouldn’t think of showing up at a wedding, or any other formal event for that matter, in our gym clothes. Compare that with how much thought we put into what to wear to the church service each Sunday.
Simply put, how we dress for an occasion indicates the importance we place upon that particular celebration. Make no mistake, at the worship service we encounter our most holy God himself by means of his sacred Word presented to us by the faithful preaching and teaching from week to week.
Therefore, by the way we dress while attending the worship service of our God, we are pretty much displaying our level of awe and regard for all things holy. Especially when we approach the throne of grace, we should be modest in dress, clean, and decent. Immodest dress, especially for women, distracts others and could cause them to sin in thought.
Certain churches have felt it necessary to be specific:
* Shorts and sweats: not permitted.
* Ties and jackets for men; this is considered the mark of a well-dressed man.
* Special for women: a dress or a skirt is considered most appropriate, but with hemlines that cover the knees; shoulders should be covered and, no plunging necklines. By all means, tight- fitting clothing should be avoided.
All of the above is why we should not conclude too quickly that because God looks on the heart, what we wear to church doesn’t matter. We cannot disentangle our internal and external state so easily. Our physical appearance is often a clear picture of our internal condition. Therefore, what we wear for worship may matter a lot more than you think.
As a Point of Interest
Certain churches, even to this day, maintain a reverent silence upon entrance, along with the practice of the men standing during congregational prayer. Their men, as they enter the sanctuary, before the service begins, prior to seating, remain standing, offering a short silent prayer for the pastor and worship service.
This is a most commendable practice which tends to lead to a worshipful frame of mind, permeating the entire congregation, focusing directly on the reason for being. It indicates a worshipful regard for a most holy God and Savior, Jesus Christ. This can never be overemphasized.
Make no mistake, as Christ-honoring Christians we are to be a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that you should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9, King James Version).
Let’s face it, those who wish to worship our Lord in spirit and truth are, in today’s world, viewed as being very peculiar. And most certainly in the minority. Sad to say, even in much of today’s modern church world this is the case.
When a church seeks to be attractive to the world, is it not at the verge of wandering into the realm of Paul’s comparison between the true and false proclamation of God’s holy Word as found in 2 Corinthians 2:17? We must remember that there are no “seekers” after God found among mankind, no not even so much as a single one (Ps.14:2–3; Rom. 3:11–12).
When even the most ardent and self- sacrificing promoter of God’s holy Word, the apostle Paul, ultimately claims, “For what I am doing I do not understand, for what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do” (Rom. 7:15), should this not lead us to a serious reexamination of our worship behavior?
Mr. Nicholas Lindemulder is a semi-retired contractor and currently a member of the Pompton Plains Reformed Bible Church URCNA in Pompton Plains, NJ.