[ Back ]
Reverence and Respect
This document reflects commonly held beliefs based on scripture which have been endorsed by the church's Commission on Doctrinal Purity and the Executive Presbytery.
Does God expect us as Christians to give special care or reverence to church sanctuaries and facilities? What part do reverence and respect play in our relationships with spiritual leaders, the elderly, and to each other?
The Bible clearly states that we are to show reverence to God and to the things that represent His person and presence. The writer of Hebrews wrote, "Let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:28,29). The Old Testament reminded the Israelites, "Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the LORD" (Lev. 19:30, 26:2). The passage is interesting because the sanctuary at that time was a tent, not the great temple that was later built. Yet the presence of the Lord makes even the most commonplace setting very special and deserving of our reverence.
We live in an age that treats everything as common. Our prevailing culture teaches that no one should be regarded as any better than oneself. That attitude is one of many contributors to the general breakdown of structure and order in society. The Bible admonishes children to honor father and mother (Eph. 6:2,3). We are also to obey the authorities who are over us (Heb. 13:17). The words honor and obey tell us how to reverence and respect God and others.
Reverence and respect are similar in meaning and are often used interchangeably. However, reverence also carries with it the idea of worship and is therefore more appropriate in our relationship with God and anything associated with Him. His ministers are often addressed as "Reverend." Of course, we do not worship human beings, no matter how important they may be, but we are to respect spiritual leaders because they are Gods representatives to us. Honoring parents and obeying authority means we should show proper respect to them. But showing respect and honor is much more than giving verbal homage to individuals. It involves acting and living in such a way that one avoids insults and injury, and instead extends commendation and value to others.
The spirit of the age prefers youth over old age. Though the elderly should appreciate the enthusiasm, vitality, and abilities of young people, youth should show appreciation for the wisdom, experience, and stability of their seniors. Peter gives wise advice, "Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older." Then he continues by encouraging respect both ways, "All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (I Peter 5:5). Young people and senior citizens must both guard against pride.
Reverence and respect for church sanctuaries and facilities must be taught to children if they are ever to appreciate the biblical importance of showing reverence for God. The church board and congregation should show concern for the appearance and treatment of Gods housethe church auditorium and all the supporting facilities. It is easy to see the same building week after week and not notice deterioration, wear, and tear. Church leaders must realize that visitors draw conclusions about the churchs reverence for God by the way they care for the place where He meets with His people.
The facility need not be luxurious to show reverence. If the tabernacle in the wilderness, just a tent, was to be revered, then a simply constructed building with handmade furniture can also be reverenced as Gods house.
Respect is not a message for everyone but ourselves. The Bible instructs, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves" (Rom. 12:10). We should be respectful to all persons, whether we agree with them or not. There are enough things that we rightfully oppose in others, but each one is a soul for whom Christ died. Showing respect, even while disagreeing, is the first step toward showing a sinner the path to salvation.
Pentecostal worship has been characterized by informality and spontaneity. We are not a church with formal liturgy. Freedom in worship has been Gods special gift to Pentecostals. But informality can sometimes fall into unintended irreverence and disrespect for the things of God, His people, and His places of corporate worship. Though some humor is appropriate in certain times and settings, it should always contribute to community edification, to building relationships, and strengthening our relationship with God and individual members.
Behavior in the sanctuary should always be respectful and reverent towards God. Those who have not been taught such reverence sometimes treat it as a place to play, run, shout, and socialize. Not only during worship services and altar prayer time, but also when the sanctuary is nearly empty, all should respect and reverence the place where God meets with His church community. Though we firmly believe in the New Testament principle of our personal bodies being temples for the dwelling of Gods Holy Spirit, we also recognize that the facilities in which we assemble together for worship should also be treated as specialwith respect and reverence for God. Just as we have stood on holy ground as we worshipped our wonderful Lord, we should respect the space as holy even when we are not worshipping.
Though there are no biblical cautions about appropriate dress for the worship service, the dress of both men and women should show at least as much respect as we would expect to show in the presence of an important government leader. On the other hand, we cannot demand the same of a sinner who walks in off the street needing to find Jesus as Savior. Maturity in the Christian walk will naturally show more reverence and respect for Gods presence.
Our choice of music in the church must acknowledge generational differences and preferences, and we must extend patient forbearance (Eph. 4:1-3) to music that is not our personal first choice. The test should be: Are people being edified and drawn closer to the Lord, even though other music would do that better for me? The mature saint is more concerned about the worship experience of others than about his or her own enjoyment and emotional experience. In all these matters of personal preference, respect for others will keep the peace of God in the church body.
The above statement is based upon our common understanding of scriptural teaching.
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise specified.