by Dr. Larry Ollison

I come from a Baptist background. As a child, I attended church with my parents every Wednesday and Sunday – morning and night. My parents made sure I participated in all the church functions, both spiritually and socially. I was in the church bell choir and sang with various musical quartets. As a child, attending church was not an option. My father never considered what I had done the day before or what I had to do the next day. How I felt was irrelevant. On Sunday morning we went to church.

Recently, I asked a husband and wife how their child was doing because I hadn’t seen him at church for a while. Their response startled me. They said, “He hasn’t been wanting to come lately.” I thought to myself, Who’s the parent in this household? Those same parents do not allow their child to decide whether or not he goes to school. They require school attendance, regardless. However, they let him choose whether or not he attends church. Without realizing it, those parents are instilling in that child the thought that education is important, but God isn’t.

Likewise, when children are required to show respect for teachers at school, but not required to show respect for elders at church, it also sends the wrong message.While we were at church, my parents had several rules for me. One rule was that I did not talk, walk, or look around during prayer. I was not allowed to talk or whisper during the sermon. I remember one incident where I leaned over to my father and quietly asked if I could go outside. He discreetly shook his head no. I leaned over a second time and whispered, “Dad, may I go outside?” After I asked him the third or fourth time, he looked at me and said, “You wanna go outside?” We went outside together. I never asked him again. My dad could have “spared the rod” that day, but by not sparing the rod and giving me proper discipline, it instilled within me respect for God and for His sanctuary.

I am in no way advocating hurting children or child abuse. However, some households are ruled by the children and because parental authority has not been established in many homes, the lack of respect is carried over into the church.

A few years ago, I was standing at the front door of our church greeting people as they arrived. One of our youth brought a guest with him and the guest was wearing a T-shirt with a nude woman on it. Since my goal is to minister to people and not run them away, I pulled the young man aside and told him he was welcome at church, but I couldn’t let him go into the sanctuary with that T-shirt on. He stepped into the restroom, turned it inside out, and came to church.

It is true that under the New Covenant, the Spirit of God lives inside of each and every believer. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. However, we cannot use this as an excuse to not honor God when we come together corporately.

Once while attending a concert of the Moscow Philharmonic, I was handed a card upon entering the auditorium. The card listed several things that were not allowed during the concert including talking, whispering, and getting up and walking around. Shouldn’t God at least be given the same respect that the world gives to secular musicians?

Our children should be taught respect for the house of God. But how can they be taught respect when adults have none. In most churches, the back of the sanctuary has the activity of a bus station during the service.

Once, I saw a family bring fast food into the sanctuary for themselves and for their children. In amazement, I watched them eat hamburgers, fries, and soda all through praise and worship. While visiting another church, I watched a man and his family eat cupcakes and ice cream cones. They brought them in after the speaker had already started speaking and sat in the center on the second row. As the nationally known speaker gave his teaching, most eyes in the auditorium were on the ice cream-licking children. There was no respect for this great man of God.

Disrespect for God’s house is indirectly showing disrespect for God. All through the Word we find where God requires respect and honor. God has not changed.

Scripture References:

You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 26:2)

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 NASB)

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