Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I have been thinking about church etiquette quite a bit – especially since Easter, when I saw things going on in church that were completely inappropriate. Today I found this article by Teddi Neevel and I thought it was just what I was looking for. It may be long ~ but it is worth the time. Tami

Is Etiquette a Thing of the Past?

I have had a couple of requests lately for a source of today's rules of proper conduct in public. Ie: Church, concert, play, etc. As I began searching on the internet I assumed this would be easy to find, however, I was wrong. There is very little about proper etiquette available today.

Then I began thinking about the rules I was taught as a child, the rules we taught our children, the annoying things that I have witnessed recently, and also the delights of being around well behaved children. I also began talking with other adults, taking my own informal survey about conduct that they witness that either offends, irritates, or conversely pleases them.
As a result of those talks I decided to take a written survey that was composed of 25 questions, some pertaining to public situations, some private small groups, others table etiquette, and a couple of general background information questions. Imagine my surprise when I tallied the results and found that some of the things that are the most annoying to me don't bother some other people at all! This caused me to re-think my standards of etiquette.
In the process of my research I found a book titled "You Can Raise a Well-Mannered Child” by Julie Hines Moore, which is published by Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, TN. Although Mrs. Moore does not quote KJV scripture in her book anyone who prefers the KJV (like I do) can look the verses up in their own Bible.

Mrs. Moore has done an exceptional job of discussing most areas of etiquette and manners. In her book she breaks conduct down into age appropriateness and also looks at the various basic personality types and how the personality affects the child's ability to learn correct behavior.
There is no point in my attempting to re-write a well-written book; therefore I'm going to only address the areas of respect and public conduct. "Etiquette rules are of the head. Manners are of the heart. Together they are a shield against embarrassment." June Hines Moore. I personally love that quote. Etiquette is the rules of interpersonal conduct just as laws govern all other areas of societal conduct. Manners on the other hand are the heart determination to follow the rules because we recognize their value. We are always more comfortable socially when we know the rules.

Sadly, many Christian people have fallen into the habits and thinking of society as a whole. The idea that I can do what I want whenever I want has spilled out of the "If it feels Good Do It" and "I'm OK, You're OK" philosophies of several years ago. While many of society's standards have changed, others have not. The President is still referred to deferentially, a judge, a senator, a member of the House of Representatives, a superior officer in the military, a doctor, and usually one's employer is awarded respect by their title, by standing in their presence, by saluting, etc. God's standard of respect...of honour...of courtesy has not changed.

Let's take a look at a few of the common happenings in church today and see if we can make them fit within God's standard.

Honour toward the Lord. It saddens me to see the number of people who never bother to participate in any congregational activity, who appear bored by the preaching and are focused on their watches. To all intents and purposes, their greatest desire seems to be to get out of the church and be done with their exercise of religion.

Psalm 29:1-2 "Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty, give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness."
John 5:23 “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him."
Respect for the Word of God. To recognize the Bible as having the answers to all of life's questions requires that we actually open the cover and read the words. Yet many people not only never bring a Bible to church with them or don't bother to open the Bible if they have brought it along. I have never seen a church lost and found table that doesn't have several Bibles sitting on it. When a scripture is announced we should turn to it and read the Word of God.

2Timothy 3:16-17 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."

Honour the Pastor. This is an area of neglect that often lies at the feet of the preacher. Some preachers insist they be called by their first name in an attempt to be a friend of the members. Sometimes it is the fault of adults who believe themselves to be equals of the pastor. Sometimes it is smart aleck kids defying formalities. Personally, while I may introduce my pastor as Bro. Harper, when I speak to him I call him Pastor.

1Timothy 5:17 "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine."

Hebrews 13:17 "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."

Respect for the church building, aka the house of God as opposed to uncontrolled children, failing to pickup behind ourselves, and wasting supplies. Service after service, week after week, someone walks through the sanctuary and picks up candy and gum wrappers, bulletins, offering envelopes, and scraps of paper that have been written on and left lying behind, in order for the building g to be neat for the next service. We do not worship the church building but we should respect the property as belonging to God. God has established the church as being a place we can gather to praise and worship, a place where we can serve Him. Wise stewardship includes caring for the church property with discretion. Abusing hymnals, pew Bibles, pews, and wasting printed materials all add un-necessary cost to the church budget.

Ezekiel 5:11 "Wherefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD; Surely, because thou hast defiled my sanctuary with all thy detestable things, and with all thine abominations, therefore will I also diminish thee; neither shall mine eye spare, neither will I have any pity."

Respect for one another. Have you noticed that is common for some church attenders to visit with someone seated nearby during special music, Scripture reading, and the offering? Children routinely sit through cartoons on television, video movies, ball games and school classes but have to leave to use the restroom or get a drink during a one hour church service. I realize that there are occasions when a physical condition may cause someone to need to leave a service during the preaching; however it is my belief that most of the time when people leave and return it is Satan causing a distraction. The point is the individual performing the music has prepared...they have practiced...and to do other than listen to them is rude.
It insults the performer and disturbs those around them who choose to listen. Likewise, the pastor has prayed about the message that God would have him deliver. He has studied and prepared. The pastor preaches the message with heart-felt concern for the eternal destiny of souls. His desire is for the Holy Spirit to bring life-changing conviction to the individuals in the congregation. Then babies begin to fuss, older children parade in and out, candy, gum and notes are passed. I wonder how large the stack of wood, hay, and stubble for judgment day's bonfire is by the time the final "Amen" is said on Sunday. I believe allowing these disruptions of the church service will have lasting effects in eternity. The rules of etiquette...courtesy enable those around us to worship, listen and grow spiritually.
Romans 12:10 "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;"

Romans 13:7 - 10 "Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."

Who then is responsible? The responsibility for raising well-mannered children is the parent's. God mandated that parents should train their children. This would be an overwhelming task if it were a curriculum to be taught but God further tells parents they are to teach by example. Just telling children what to do and how to behave, would be frustrating but we are to walk the walk. Even very young children will mimic the adults they love. Unfortunately they pick up the annoying things from their parents too.

Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."

It has been my experience that well-mannered children are a delight to be around. Children who are taught etiquette develop a self-confidence that carries them into adulthood. They have doors opened to them in education, the job market, and among their peers.

Luke 2:52 "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man."

Leviticus 19:32 "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD."

Proverbs 11:16 "A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong men retain riches."

I must admit there are several things that are thought provoking. I'll mention them here for each of us to ponder.

Dressing up for a job interview, a date or a wedding but wearing play or work clothes to attend Church. Who deserves the greater respect, man or God?

Buying tickets for a Christian concert or play, and then allowing members of your group to traipse in and out during the performance. Not only aren't you getting your monies worth, but you are also cheating everyone around you that you disturb.

Being first in the pew so you can grab the aisle seat, so everyone else has to climb over you.

The never-ending race to be first out of the building or the parking lot.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting article, I am a Etiquette Teacher, it is vitial that children learn manners at a young age, show respect for other people, guest in their home and respect for animals in their lives. These basic skills will stay with them for a lifetime and carry into their professional life. Keep up the good work