14 November, 2005

Is It THAT Important To You?

I am blown away that this issue continues to come up in my church... but it does. When I first came to become the pastor at Harvest Church in the summer of 2004, I was shocked to see the behavior of many folks in the sanctuary. There were not just one or two, but many people who brought drinks to church with them for service. It was not uncommon to look out into the crowd and see someone with a McDonald's cup, another from Hardee's, a diet Coke here, a bottle of juice over there. And as if it were not bad enough to bring them, some would leave their empty cups and bottles behind in their chair for someone else to clean up after them. (Any guess who usually cleaned up after Sunday morning so that the sanctuary would look presentable that night?)
A few times I looked out and saw someone munching on french fries or potato chips. Once, someone brought popcorn and distributed it among the kids during service.
I thought, my goodness... is this God's house or the movie theater?
Being new, I tolerated things for a bit, and then I started hearing from many in the church, things like, "Pastor, can you put a stop to this?" People told me that it was distracting, that it was so irreverent toward God and that they found it offensive. More than one told me that they were having trouble not having bad feelings toward those with the drinks and food.

The straw that broke the camels back came last December.
I looked out and there was someone with a breakfast burrito in one hand and a drink in the other, chowing down during service. It deeply offended me that someone would have so little repect for me as pastor, not to mention the disrespect they showed the Lord! I had already planned to confront this, but then another layer was added to the mix. We had visitors that day, who on their visitor's cards had checked that they were looking for a church and to please contact them. I did contact them that week, and the man told me that while they really enjoyed the service, they would not even consider attending a church that showed such disrespect toward God as to allow someone to sit in church eating a meal while the worship was going on.
The next week, I had signs in place asking that no food or drink be brought into the sanctuary. It has been on our powerpoint announcements since January. Most people have complied with this, although there have been some who have continued to sneak their soda's in, and a couple who very defiantly openly display their drinks. A couple of months ago, I asked one man to not bring his soda into the sanctuary, and he stormed out of the church. The next week, he had his bottle in hand again.

This leads me to this question: Is it that important to someone that they have their Coke in service that they would risk offending a weaker brother or sister in Christ? Is it so important that they would rather cause others to not want to worship in our church than comply with the rule that no food or drink be brought into the sanctuary?
Maybe it is time some people go back and read what the Word of God has to say about offending your brother!
I have had it turned on me, and it was said, "Well what if I find it offensive that you restrict me from my civil rights to have my soda in church?" My response is to that is that is that if you feel that way, then you really have no clue what serving God is all about, and furthermore that you really have no clue about what civil rights are either. Try taking that drink into a school classroom and see how far your civil rights go.
The church service is not a show for your personal enjoyment... it is not even about what you can get out of it... but it is about giving glory and honor to GOD! Yes, you will get something out of it as well, but it is designed to glorify our God.

There are stores that have signs posted, "No food or drink allowed inside" and we will comply with the rules of merchants who depend on your patronage for their living and not think one bad thought about them while we fork over hundreds of dollars as we shop this Christmas season.
But it is said, "How dare the pastor tell me to not bring my drink into the sanctuary! I just won't go back to that church!"
We show more respect for these store owners than we do the God of all creation!

I ask again: Is it really that important?


Sarah said...

Apparently, this is yet another occasion that I am completely oblivious. I wonder sometimes how I function while wearing my horse blinders. I hadn’t noticed these things and I am kind of surprised it is even an issue. I grew up in church and it was always known that food and drink were NOT allowed in the sanctuary. I guess if someone did not grow up in a church they may not have the awareness and understanding that it is not an appropriate action.

It is funny how people have “rights” on everything. A brother of mine is fixing up the basement and moving back home. He is unhappy that he will not be able to smoke in that room once it is completed. My other brothers and I have all been smokers at one time or another and would have NEVER even thought of asking such a request because of the respect and understanding that it is our parents’ house and their “right” to a smoke-free home.

michigan preacher said...

Hey, Darrell, I know exactly what you mean. A couple of years ago, when we moved into our new sactuary,my pastor set the rule, and for the most part, it has been obeyed. No food or drink in the santuary. Now, I can understand a pregnant woman like my wife who has to keep something in her stomach to keep from getting sick. But your story seems so defiant. A few weeks ago I blogged about offending other believers, using the analogy of the roof battlement, the retaining wall Israelites were to erect around their roofs, to keep anyone who might have to work up there safe. In the same way, we have to make sure our conduct won't hurt a weaker brother or sister. God bless.

Libby said...

Being a teacher I use those experiences for many references because it is what I know and have lived. Such is the case now. I have worked in numerous school districts and it seems to be the rule of thumb that NO food or drink be allowed in the classrooms. This rule is a recurrent theme in the School DISTRICT Handbooks. Now if we are not allowed to have food and drink in a SCHOOL, how much more should we respect the HOUSE of GOD?!!!
Even if as Sarah had alluded that perhaps these people were not raised in church and did not understand automatically that food in the sanctuary is disrespectful, you would think they could make that assumption from having attended school!
For heaven's sake, I have attended both concerts as well as SPORTING events where no food or drink was allowed! How could ANYONE think GOD's house should deserve less respect than a GYM?!!!
The truth is it has more to do with selfishness and what THEY want than respect for God. Maybe what needs to be taught is selflessness and how to be a servant.

Libby said...

By the way, Sarah, I agree with you completely.

The 6 Karns' said...

A few years back, there was a new church created here in Galesburg, and it was told to me (I never witnessed it myself) that they had coffee/snacks in the back of the "sanctuary" and people could just go and help themselves during sermons/worship or anytime. I was so astonished! I, too, grew up in church and "respecting" the house of GOD was just a given.

When we first came to Galesburg and started in Youth Ministry - that was one of the 'hardest' things for us to teach our young people. To respect God's house. Their arguement (and I do mean arguement) was that our Bodies are the Temple of God...that the church was just a building. But, that is what their parents and/or other adults were teaching them. Maybe not in words - but in their actions. The youth (at that time) cleaned the church - to raise $$ for missions - and we got to see 1st hand the laziness/laxidative attitudes of the "stuff" left in the sanctuary pews.

Henry Haney said...

Good grief- I don't feel so bad about my grumblers and complainers now Bro. Darrell- LOL

Just kidding- this does seem like really selfish behavior manifesting at your assembly. I know that you will be blessed for taking a stand and that others will respect you as well. (I know I do)

These same types of people typically go from church to church- staying just long enough for the pastor to apply some loving correction- then they're outta here and onto the next victi...er I mean church.

Be blessed!

The 6 Karns' said...

This a P.S. to my earlier post. I failed to mention that the new church I spoke of earlier is no longer "in service"...

Amy said...

I agree that Gods house is not a place we should disrespect , eating and drinking whene we should have our hearts set upon the Lord is not right, 2 hours is not long to wait do those things!! uuuggg


Eric said...

I must say, this is the first I have ever heard of food or drink (other than the obvious) in a church. I've attended several churches in a few countries in my relatively short life. We've always been a fairly religious family (my grandfather was a priest)...
In recent years, the church that my grandfather retired from almost 20 years ago... the same church he rebuilt after a fire... has had some trouble finding a steady priest. When the church guilde finally found one, they found one that drove most of them away. The reason? He felt that children should be allowed to make as much noise, and general "ruckus" as they wanted to. It got to the point that even during funerals and weddings kids were allowed to run free around the church (and run they did). After losing many of the church's faithful parishioners (including my grandmother, who I never thought would ever regularly attend any other church)... the priest backtracked and stopped all that he had started. What happened? People left the church... the new people, that is... and other people came back once word got out that the priest at this church was a "stickler".

You can't ever make everyone happy, as you know. Food and drink in church? That even makes me mad... and I wouldn't consider myself to be a very conservative christian when it comes to the way the congregation is supposed to conduct themselves. You did the right thing.