One of the things that I struggle with, and which simply reveals that I am a cranky person, is the noise in the church sanctuary before the service on Sunday mornings. Now, I understand that people are just having fellowship, and that it is good. I further realize that the sanctuary (or auditorium if that's what your church calls it) is just a room like any other, and it isn't any more holy than any other room where we meet with God.
It's what we're about to do inside that room that makes it important. Every Sunday morning, we are gathering as a people to worship the God of the universe. We are approaching the throne of grace. Hebrews 4:16 tells us we can come before it with boldness because of what Christ has done. Maybe I'm just old fashioned or even grumpier than I realized, but I want to prepare myself to do that. I'm not asking for complete silence, but honestly, can't the noise be contained in the foyer outside? These days, church foyers are made big for the purpose of fellowship. Our church was built in 1989, and it has an ample foyer in comparison to other churches. On Sunday morning, I like it when there is a bit of quiet before the service begins.
We went to a church years ago where there was quiet in the auditorium before the service. I think it was more customary back then. The sign that the service was going to start soon was the pianist sitting there, playing. People waited expectantly, quietly. These days, there is usually music overhead, coming from the sound system, and the sign that the service is about to start is when the worship team goes on the platform. It is this background noise that I think encourages a little noisier atmosphere.
Everywhere we go, there is noise. The grocery store; the waiting room at the doctor's office; an elevator; the workplace. All of those locales usually have music playing. Some places have televisions. When I broke my wrist a couple of years ago, as I sat in the waiting room for an hour, I was treated to an entire episode of "General Hospital." Fortunately, in the 30 years since I'd last watched it, I had not missed a thing.
Noise, noise, noise. It's everywhere, so we're used to having to speak over noise. And that goes for the pre-service time at church. When there is someone at the front, we know to be a little quieter. When there is music overhead, it's like we're at the grocery store or the place where we go for pancakes after church.
I don't think we need to turn a room in a church into some sort of shrine where we have to be careful what we do inside. But what we are doing there on Sunday morning is not what we do every day of the week. It isn't just a bunch of people in a room. It's the Body of Christ, coming together to worship. And I would like a few quiet moments beforehand to prepare my heart for that. I don't expect complete silence, but sometimes, it's like a cocktail party and no one has brought his inside voice. I would be happy with a few minutes before the worship team gets up there. And surely, after the service is just as good a time for fellowship and all its joyful noise.