Sometimes I think there should be a class, call it Church 101, that all of us are required to attend before we set foot in any given Christian church.
Why? Because I believe most of us go for the wrong reasons: to find a mate (boyfriend or girlfriend, husband and wife); to socialize with folks we haven’t seen in a week; to see and be seen; to entertain or be entertained, ad infinitum.
These are not reasons pleasing to God, so he has given us clues in scripture that, if we take them seriously, will put us on the right track. First, we’re encouraged to develop the right attitude before we get to the church house. The psalmist (Psalm 122:1, 9) and Jesus (Matthew 21:13) refer to the church house as “the house of the Lord” and “the house of prayer,” respectively.
These passages tell us that we should enter God’s house with an attitude of respect, reverence and prayer, knowing that as we enter we are coming into the presence of God. We are also encouraged to “come before his presence with singing” and “enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise” (Psalm100:2, 4). Proper attitude is paramount.
Once we develop the proper respect and reverence for the house, we enter with a desire to contribute to the worship service. We do so in one or more of four ways:prayer, (Acts 2:42) according to your needs; thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4) to God for his blessings; pay homage to God through worship (1Chronicles 16:29); and, praise (Psalm 145:3, 4) him for his goodness.
If you’ve gotten the idea that church is nothing but a celebration, you are exactly right. That’s precisely what it is, a big celebration for the goodness of God.
So our focus upon entering and remaining should be totally on God and not on any other person in the room. If we follow God’s lead, after the benediction we should recognize what we received from the experience.
There’s an old saying that if you got nothin’, you brought nothin’. That’s why attitude and contributing are such important aspects of attending church services. If we come ill-prepared, nothing will happen; but if we come prepared, we can expect to receive spiritual edification, knowledge of the word of God, and a desire to serve God with our gifts and talents.
God encourages our service in Psalm 100:2 where he tells us to “serve the Lord with gladness.” Note the emphasis on attitude again in the phrase “with gladness.” God is impressed with whywe do what we do, more than just what we do. Jesus tells us that we serve him through serving others (Matthew 25:31-40). So we should depart from the church desiring to serve.
The next time you decide to go to church, try it God’s way and make yourself three promises: I promise to prepare myself mentally; I promise to contribute to the worship service; and, I promise to recognize and receive spiritual blessings because I was there.
I believe your life will take a turn for the better if you are consistent in your obedience and your attendance.
Rev. O.L. Johnson, a retired LAPD lieutenant, is an associate pastor in his home church, Greater New Zion Baptist, 501 W. 80th St. in Los Angeles.
Pastor’s Corner is a monthly religious column that looks at the relevancy of scripture to life today. The column appears on the first Thursday of each month in the Wave and its website, www.wavenewspapers.com.