Have you ever stopped to pay attention to how you are feeling when you walk into church on a Sunday morning? Perhaps excited to see everyone after a busy week. I hope you feel welcomed when you walk through the doors, and that you are coming to a safe place. You might even feel expectant for what God is wanting to speak to you.

But have you ever stepped through our reception doors and been filled with a sense of holy awe and wonder?

I’ve recently been reading the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, and having read through the meticulous details that God gave both for the building of the Tabernacle and for all the different types of offerings and worship to be given to God, I can’t help but try to imagine – what would it have been like to be an Israelite going to the tent of meeting in those days? During times of worship, sacrifice, or all the different festivals that they celebrated? How about on the Day of Atonement, when once a year everything stopped, and the people gathered as the High Priest made his way into the Holy of Holies to make atonement for all their sin?

A while ago during one of our Sunday services the Lord challenged me on my attitude towards church. We were singing the song ‘Nothing Else’ by Cody Carnes and The Belonging Co. – a relatively new song to me, but some of the lyrics caught me off guard, and I felt the hand of the Lord’s loving conviction. Here are some of the lyrics –

Oh, I’m not here for blessings
Jesus, You don’t owe me anything
More than anything that You can do
I just want You

I’m sorry when I’ve just gone through the motions
I’m sorry when I just sang another song
Take me back to where we started
I open up my heart to You

I’m sorry when I’ve come with my agenda
I’m sorry when I forgot that You’re enough
Take me back to where we started
I open up my heart to You

In that moment, I looked back on the times when I had complained about the worship songs being in an awkward key, the band singing a song that I didn’t like, or even worse, used the phrase ‘the worship didn’t do anything for me this morning’. Because worship is all about me and what I like, right?

Or how about those moments when the person speaking went on for too long, the service overran, or it’s an all age service with children running around everywhere and the talk isn’t theologically ‘meaty’ enough for my liking? What has my heart attitude been in those moments?

To make things even more complicated, I thought back on times when I had been watching church online from home for various reasons. My reasons for not going in person may have been legitimate – but was I truly engaging, worshipping the Lord with all my heart, whilst sat on my sofa in my pyjamas and eating a bowl of cereal?

Because that’s what church is really about, right? Worshipping our Creator – the Lord our God, the King of Kings and Saviour of the world, who is worthy of all our praise. And it is wonderful that I get to do that in community with all my friends, and yes, I can enjoy the music and the singing – but it’s not about that. I come to give my love and adoration. I come because He is worthy. I come because He deserves my sacrifice of giving up my Sunday morning lie in, or the opportunity to have a nice breakfast or get a few other jobs done. It’s about Him.

So although I am not at all a fan of uncomfortable wooden pews, sometimes I wonder if those who built our nations cathedrals and ancient stone churches or intricate stained glass windows had the right idea. They wanted to create a place of beauty that would give honour to God. A place that was different from other buildings, that would cause people to stop and admire. And a place where people would come, find a sense of beauty and majesty, and awe – that would lead them into a place of worship.

Now that’s not to say I’m against church in school halls and community centres or indeed, tents in fields. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be having fun on Sundays, or we need to stop with the teas and coffees at the end of the service. Far from it. I love those things. And I celebrate the fact that these are the things that have made Christ more accessible to people in our communities and allow us to develop a community of people who love one another, have fun with one another, and do life together. And let’s not forget the joy of comfortable chairs with 4 legs!

But my question is this. How do we make sure that our attitude is right when we come to church on a Sunday morning, that it really is all about Jesus, and not our own desires, agendas or preferences? How do I drop my consumerist attitude where everything is about me and my needs or wants, and pick up a heart of worship, giving, and sacrifice? How do we protect ourselves from ‘going through the motions’ or ‘just singing another song’? How do we reclaim the lost sense of awe and wonder?

“Jesus – may my heart be full of worship to you even when the worship leader sings out of key, the drums are off beat, or we are singing a song that I’m not that keen on. May I be a seeker of truth even when the person speaking is boring, I’m tired from a busy week, and my Sunday lunch is waiting for me at home as the minutes pass by. And when I walk into church every Sunday, may my heart be filled with gratitude for all the wonderful people you have placed in my life, but may I also be reminded that it’s all about you, and that I am entering into a Holy Place.”