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Attention to attendance

Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill? — Psalm 15:1

Some churches are cold and correct, decorous and dead. In such places of worship the emphasis is placed on God’s awesomeness, His holiness, and the reverence due to Him. Worshipers enter with silent tread and downcast eye as they make their way to sacred pew, where they kneel in solemn reflection.

Other churches advertise what they have to offer in the Yellow Pages, with exuberant claims like, “The end of your search for a friendly church!” Should the man whose fingers have done the walking arrive at the entrance to such a place of worship, he would find himself swept along by a hurrying crowd, greeted warmly by a strategically placed greeter, led personally to the youth center to park the children, and shown to an inviting pew where his hand is warmly shaken and he is engaged in animated conversation. Meanwhile, the musical prelude tries desperately to be heard.

Only God knows the heart, so He alone can say who is truly worshiping. But one thing can be said with confidence—before the worshiper arrives at the sanctuary entrance, he should ask, “Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?” (Psalm 15:1). In the formalized worship of the Jerusalem sanctuary, worshipers would ask that question at the entrance to the temple, and the priest would reply with a list of ten qualifying requirements which can be summarized as follows:

  1. Taking God’s law seriously
  2. Ordering their lives accordingly
  3. Engaging in practical good works
  4. Being known for integrity of speech
  5. Having warm neighborliness and helpfulness that is well attested
  6. Avoiding being entrapped in ungodly liaisons
  7. Supporting those who serve the Lord
  8. Saying what they mean and meaning what they say
  9. Fulfilling “their promises even when it hurts”
  10. Having business dealings that are beyond reproach

Taken seriously, these requirements could cause the biggest and most precipitous decline in church attendance in church history. But they are not designed to keep people away from worship—they are intended to draw prepared people into worship. The key word is “prepared.”

The Lord wants His people to spend time searching their hearts to identify the things they have done that they should not have done and the things they have failed to do that they should have done. In this way, a humble, repentant attitude is ensured, a longing for forgiveness is born, and a sense of delight in God’s grace is fostered all over again. And then worship begins.

Church attendance requires careful attention!

For further study: Psalm 15

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.