Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Friendly Appeal to Church Service Etiquette

Note: This was edited and adapted with my own tweaks and concerns from

A Friendly Appeal to Church Service Etiquette
Several years ago a Baptist College Professor attended a sports awards banquet at a high school. Soon after the speaker began, the professor became disgusted. Not with what the speaker said, but with the terrible lack of respect and common decency given him by the crowd. He said you could barely hear over the conversations going on by students and adults. As well as people constantly coming and going, rattling snack wrappers, cutting up, and other disrespectful behaviors.
Such disrespectful manners among those at banquets, concerts, plays and other public occasions are common today. BUT, lack of respect through bad manners has reached into local churches. 

One sad truth of my generation is: the world has changed the church more than the church has changed the world.

 People used to wear “Sunday Clothes” for church out of respect for God and fellow believers, but in a society where it’s OK to wear shorts, t-shirts and tank tops most anywhere that’s quickly falling by the wayside. True many don't own suits and ties any more, or have fancy dresses. The Bible doesn't say that ties and fancy dresses are required for worship. How about "Dressing Respectfully"? If I went to a Cowboy church I would expect them to be in their better Cowboy attire.
Also, folks used to behave in church services in a way demonstrating respect for the speakers, singers, congregation, facilities and, most of all, for the Lord. However, in many churches even those who desire to hear the Word are too distracted by irreverent conduct of others to get much out of it.

In some churches it’s hard to focus on God with people coming and going, conversations going on, rattling wrappers, slurping drinks and smacking food. That’s not to mention children who aren’t taught to sit quietly, cell phones, and the sound of Bible covers being zipped before the end of the sermon. Bad manners in church are a reproach to God, His Word, preachers, churches and the members themselves.

We’re to respect and glorify God at all times, but most especially in His house.
Leviticus 19:30 reads, “Ye shall keep my Sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.” In the New Testament the Temple is not the building but God’s local church joined in worship and service.

Psalm 29:2 exhorts us to “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name” and to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”
·        When people are walking in and out of the sanctuary when it’s time to worship God in song, prayer, and preaching is that giving the Lord the glory due Him?
·        When distracting conversation is going on at such times is God given the glory due Him?
·        When people choose to wear inappropriate clothes and such to church rather than dressing in their nicer clothes is the Lord given the glory due Him?
·        When folks are still somewhere else drinking coffee, fellowshipping, or procrastinating after services have already started is our Savior given the glory due Him?

The popular trend in churches is to gratify people by making dress ultra-casual, ensuring that coffee and pastries are available, provide never-ending entertainment for all ages, and since it appears to be just like any other event in our society, people tend to talk and move around as they please. But any honest reader of the Bible must surely conclude that this new tradition is contrary to the worship of God recorded and instructed in His Holy Word. More and more so the worship of the Lord in churches is being replaced by the traditions of man which revolve around worshipping self.

The Bible says we’re not to be conformed to the world, we’re to be transformed from it. People should see a difference from the world when they come to church. They should see a people who are giving the Lord the glory due unto His name. They should see Spirit-filled saints honoring and reverencing God rather than a laid-back, sleepy congregation devoted to getting their blessing and glorifying self.

The worst thing about bad church etiquette is it disrespects God; but it also hinders those with spiritual needs. Those who contribute distractions to people in need of God should heed Rom 14:13b “…but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.”
·      There’s the person who needs to be saved, distracted by folks continually talking or walking out.
·      The visitor seeking a church who wants to leave due to continual horseplay of kids in front of her.
·      The church member who needs the message but misses it through the crackling candy wrappers, cell phone noises, and other assorted disruptions.
·      And, the person under conviction who thinks it must be time to leave when Bibles are zipped up and people gather their things to leave. Bad manners disrespect God, and everyone else.

Jesus said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” With that in mind, we need to conduct ourselves in church as if we are the ones praying, singing, teaching or really need to hear from God. Especially when the preacher is telling people the most important message of all, how to be saved from eternal hell.

Wonderful things come forth through practicing proper church etiquette. The Lord will be reverenced and honored, receiving The Glory Due His Name.
·      The Word of God will have free course.
·      The congregation will experience the unhindered ministry of the Spirit.
·      Visitors will be drawn to the church.
·      The entire ministry of the church will become more effective for the cause of Christ.
What more motivation does one need to repent of bad manners and begin to practice proper ones?!

“Steps Towards Proper Church Etiquette”
·      In order to avoid walking into services late, leave home or Bible class earlier.
·      Don’t bring food or drinks into church service. (Certainly water bottles are understandable if needed)
·      Silence cell phones during services.
·      Please! Don’t walk out of services during the Invitation/Commitment Hymn.
·      Don’t expect someone else to make kids behave whose parents aren’t around. Give it a try yourself.
·      Wait until services are dismissed before zipping up your Bible and gathering your belongings.
·      If you must have a cough drop or mint in a crackling wrapper, unwrap as many as you need and put them in a noise-free container.
·      If you need to exit, please take the least distracting route, even if it means walking farther. Or sit close to an exit if you may need to leave early.
·      Use the restroom before services.
·      Consider how the way you dress relates to respect for God and His people. This is not about wearing “ties or fancy dresses”, but respect and reverence.
·      And don’t hand this list to someone else as a hint, Fold it and put in your own Bible.

Yes, Worship is more a matter of the heart than outward appearances.
But the words we say and the way we act - reveal what is in our hearts.


  1. Good stuff, bro. Of course, the Lord doesn't dwell in anything made with human hands; but your point is still good and it is still a place in which we meet with the Spirit as He indwells those there to worship together. A very useful post indeed.

  2. I could have elaborated a bit more on this: "In the New Testament the Temple is not the building but God’s local church joined in worship and service."
    You are correct about the building.

  3. This is one of your best ones yet. I have always been taught "you give your best to God on Sunday morning" whatever that is. If it is jeans and a t-shirt, they should be clean at least. However, in AZ the dress is ultra-casual to the point that a couple of churches we visited made me uncomfortable to be in a sun dress. We have had long-time members of our current church say they weren't coming back due to misbehavior of children. Ridiculous. I"m forwarding this on to our staff. Maybe they'll run it in the newsletter? Do they need your permission or something?

  4. I'm guilty as charged:

    "Wait until services are dismissed before zipping up your Bible and gathering your belongings."


  5. I'm just glad people are in church. I don't care about their etiquette, I do care about their souls. I don't care about whether they zip their Bibles and gather their belongings before service is dismissed, I'm just glad they were there and heard the Bible preached. The rest I think can be turned into an expectation list which I see nowhere in scripture.

  6. Well gee Debbie, doesn't it sound like I'm NOT glad folks are in church? I just hope the folks who came for their souls and the worship of God can hear from God without being interrupted by people walking around, making extraneous racket, and having a general disregard for the souls of those around them.
    But having said that, I'll turn the other cheek and let you slap that one.

    1. Well Clark...yeah it does sound like that. Babies cry, people will disrupt. I guess I believe in Grace that much. Loving people where they are...disruptions and all, which aren't disruptions unless we make them be.

      I'm sure the souls will be fine. God can work even in the midst of disruption. In fact the one you allow to go as they please may be the very one to find Christ through that act. Grace. Something the church should be full of. Even to "disrupters".


Feel free to tell me and others what you think. You can use the tools of rhetoric but please, be clean and nice.