People go to church for different reasons, some good and some not so good. For instance, some people attend out of fear, superstition, obligation, or even hoping to find romance. In Ecclesiastes 5, Solomon explained the art of going to church, if you will, giving us three things to watch out for in ourselves when it comes to attending public worship:
1. We should watch our approach to God. Solomon alluded to three possible approaches to public worship:
- The ceremonial approach. Solomon noticed people were keeping the ceremonial law by bringing an animal for sacrifice to the temple, but they were breaking the moral law in their own personal lives (see v. 1). But God doesn't separate the two spheres of life, and it's foolish for us to do so.
- The superficial approach. Verse 2 speaks about rash speech—rushing through prayer just to get it over with—while verse 3 talks about much speech, filling your prayers with flowery words that might impress the people around you but won't impress God (see Matthew 6:5).
- The sincere approach. This is the right approach. As verse 1 says, "Walk prudently when you go to the house of God." The idea is to walk carefully and come prepared. Why? Because God wants to speak to us: "Draw near to hear" (v. 1). Did you know that you can worship with your ears, simply by listening to what the Lord has to say to you?
2. We should watch our affirmation of God. Under Old Testament law, the most important regulation for making vows was that once you made a promise, you kept it, which Solomon echoed in verses 4-6. I believe gathering together in a place of worship ought to be a time of singing songs, reading Scripture, and hearing a sermon, but then also committing to do what God spoke to us about doing. We should make a personal decision to do what we've heard, by God's grace.
3. We should watch our attitude toward God. "Fear God" (v. 7), Solomon wrote, or have reverential awe before the Lord. I believe our attitude before the Lord will make or break a church (see Luke 18:10-14; 21:1-4). Attitude impacts everything.
Here's the key to coming to church: it's all about God. It's not about us or what we get out of it—though we will get out what God speaks to us. But we cannot allow church to simply become another consumer-driven commodity.
So examine your life before the Lord. When you approach Him, are you just going through the motions, or are you sincere? Do you consistently commit yourself to Him with the verbal integrity of following through on the promise? And when you gather with God's people, do you do so out of the fear, respect, and honor of God? Remember that when it comes down to it, the art of going to church is all about the Lord and our relationship with Him.