How To Behave in the House of God
These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
— 1 Timothy 3:14,15
Growing up in church, there were many opportunities for my parents to teach me how I ought to behave in the house of God. Today I see that many parents are not teaching their children about these things, and it’s a shame. Children must learn to respect the house of God and the atmosphere where God works among people corporately.
But children must be taught this kind of appropriate behavior in order to learn it; it doesn’t come to them naturally. When I was a boy, my church friends and I didn’t always do so well at behaving correctly in church. But each time I erred, I paid for it handsomely when the service was over and my father and mother disciplined me at home!
For example, there was the notorious Sunday night service when we kids were seated on a cracked pew in church. Every time we bounced up and down on that pew, it squeaked. I was a young boy at the time, and the thought of making our seat squeak every time I bounced on it just elated me! So I started vigorously bouncing — up and down, up and down, up and down. My friends sitting with me joined in the fun, and we all bounced until I (and everyone else in the auditorium) heard a huge, cracking noise like the splitting of timber. It was our pew cracking all the way through, from one end to the other!
As that pew split and cracked, it sloped down to the ground — and everyone sitting on it slid onto the floor and under the pew in front of us! It was quite a sight and sound, interrupting the whole service as men, women, and children came crawling out from under the pew in front of us to find another seat in the auditorium.
I knew that I was going to be in serious trouble after church that night — and I was right! My father gave me a strong lesson, never to be forgotten, about how I was to behave in the house of God!
Then there was another time when, during a Wednesday night service, a group of us boys skipped the service and — for some unknown, unexplainable reason — decided to climb onto the roof of the church auditorium just for fun. We each scaled the wall of one side of the building and scrambled all the way to the peak of the main auditorium — while the service was simultaneously being held!
We boys all noticed what a cool, “hollow” sound we could produce if we stomped on the roof, so we started entertaining ourselves by stomping and stomping — until the side door of the auditorium was flung open, and the pastor himself emerged! He called out to us to get off the roof and find our seats in the service!
That was another night I’ll never forget! I paid a dear price not only for skipping the service, but also for interrupting the preaching of the Word and the work of the Holy Spirit taking place inside the auditorium beneath our stomping feet!
Another memory of my behavior in church as a young boy is from a time when my parents sang in the church choir. Choir rehearsal was always after the Wednesday night service. While my parents practiced with all the other adults, the Renner kids and some other kids of parents in the choir had nothing to do. So we would run around the church, scamper around the auditorium, and often prove to be a distraction to the choir rehearsal, which was led by our pastor.
One Wednesday night, we kids were especially disruptive, so our pastor yelled, “Renner kids and all you other kids, get up here!” We shook at his tone of voice because we knew that we had crossed a line that night and were about to get in trouble. We all stood before him on the church platform waiting to be rebuked. But instead of scolding us, he said, “I’ll give you a dime to leave the church building and go across the street to the gas station to buy a soda. But you have to promise to stay out of the auditorium until rehearsal is over.”
A soda! That was a big deal when I was a youngster, so we excitedly extended our palms toward him as he placed a dime into the hands of all us Renner kids and the other kids who were with us. We then ran down the aisle of the church, burst through the auditorium doors, and headed across the street to the gas station, where we each inserted our dime into the pop machine and bought ourselves a soda as the pastor suggested.
But when we returned home that night my father had a serious talk with me about my behavior in church. And every time I misbehaved in the house of God, he used the opportunity to teach me about right and wrong behavior in church. Because of my parents’ instruction as I was growing up, I learned how to behave appropriately in church — and that helped me know how to teach my own sons when Denise and I became parents.
This reminds me of First Timothy 3:14 and 15, where Paul wrote, “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” In verse 15, Paul was addressing wider issues that affected the whole house of God. But there is a principle in this verse I wish to discuss: We “ought” to know how to behave in the house of God!
The word “ought” in verse 15 is the Greek word dei, which describes a necessity or something that isn’t optional. In other words, this is mandatory behavior. The word for “behaveth” is from the Greek word anastrepho, which means to conduct oneself appropriately. It is simply inappropriate to be disrespectful in the house of God or to act unbecomingly in the presence of other believers who are trying to seek God or to prepare for His work.
Paul said it is obligatory that we behave appropriately when we are in the house of God. This is something that must be taught and imparted, and it is why I am so dismayed at parents who do not teach their children how to behave properly when they are in church. Frequently children talk loudly, sit lackadaisically, or even move about the auditorium with no restrictions from their dad or mom.
We once had parents in our Moscow church who refused to discipline their son and teach him to sit quietly and listen during the service. They actually allowed him to run all over the auditorium, which disturbed everyone who was trying to hear the Word of God. These parents had been counseled multiple times about this problem, but to no avail. The disruptive behavior of their children continued without parental correction.
One Sunday, I’d finally had enough of the outrageous behavior of this child — although I realized the problem was not really with the child; it was with the parents who refused to discipline him. So I called the parents aside and told them that if they would not enforce a measure of order with their son when they came to church, they would no longer be welcome because they were so disruptive to others. That was the last time they ever came to our church.
This unchecked behavior in the house of God isn’t true only of children. We live in a society that has increasingly drifted so far from God that when people finally do come to church, they often talk out loud during the service, loudly chew gum, write notes back and forth to one another, send text messages on their phones, and do other things that are disruptive and disrespectful. As more mature believers, it is our God-given responsibility to gently teach them to respect the house of God and how to behave while they’re in church.
In early New Testament times, people were attending church for the very first time since they were newly converted. Neither men nor women knew how to behave in church and had to be taught. But they were taught, as we can see in First Timothy 3:15. Paul knew that people had to learn how to behave in the house of God; thus, he addressed the issue in this verse.
I ask you today to look at your own children or grandchildren and determine if they behave respectfully when the Word of God is being preached or taught. Do they move freely about during the service, write notes, chew gum, or do other things that are distracting or disruptive to the preaching of the Word and moving of the Spirit?
The house of God is a cherished place where we assemble corporately to worship Him, grow in Him, and serve Him together to further His purposes. That’s why it’s so important to allow Him to teach us — so we can then teach others that it is a place where respect and honor are mandatory. I encourage you to make a decision today that you and your house will always fit that description when in church, behaving in a way that helps others hear the Word of God and that does not disrupt the moving of His precious Holy Spirit!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I ask You to help me behave appropriately when I am in the house of God — not only when I am in a service, but also to behave appropriately as a Christian. May my lifestyle and behavior bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. Forgive me for the times I have acted out of order or done things that were inappropriate or disruptive. Help me develop a personal discipline in the way I conduct myself not only when I am in the house of God but also in every area of my life because I am, in fact, Your temple, and Your Spirit resides within me. Therefore, I desire to conduct myself worthily as I ought at all times in a dignified manner that reflects You, giving both You and the sanctuary where Your people gather the full respect that is due according to Your will.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am mannerly, honoring, and respectful when I am in the house of God. I listen attentively, and I do not disturb others who are trying to hear the Word. I honor God in my behavior. When I see others, either young people or adults, who are disruptive and dishonoring, God shows me how to respectfully teach them how to behave and to conduct themselves in church. Because I am serious about my life with Christ, I behave seriously when I am in the house of God!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- If you grew up in church, can you recall times when you had to be corrected and taught how to behave in the house of God?
- When you see how others behave inappropriately in the house of God — sending text messages to other people, talking out loud, and so forth — do you ignore it, or have you found a polite way to teach them that their behavior is incorrect?
- Nothing is more serious than the proclamation of God’s Word and the moving of the Holy S What things have you witnessed that can disturb these holy moments?