February 3, 2014

Good In Church

I’ve been the mom with the sweet note-taking children, the ones who pass the offering plate without letting their quarters clink, and who sing the hymns just loudly enough to make nearby worshippers sing a bit more heartily themselves. I’ve been the mom who, after the final benediction, is greeted by other congregants with smiles. The mom who hears from little old ladies and visiting graduate students: “They were so good in church!”

But I’ve been the other mom, too. The one who doesn’t encourage people to sit in the same pew because, well, you want to actually hear the sermon, right? I’ve been the mom who has wrestled through weeks of Sundays, who has more pen marks on her church clothes than in her sermon notebook. The mom who has worn a path in the aisle—not down to the altar to pray, but herding a child out the back door to pray even harder.

On those Sundays, post-postlude, other people don’t look me in the eye. They lean over and pat me on my sob-heaving shoulders. They tell me they love me, and it will get better. They promise.

Someday, they say, my battles in church will be finished. My child will be like Johnny or Susie who finally—finally!—learned to sit still and be quiet. I’m sure they are right. I’ve never met an adult who isn’t good in church. Pretty much across the pew, everyone over the age of sixteen has learned not to kick the chair in front of him or scream during prayer or throw used tissues down the neck of his brother’s shirt. Every adult I know is good in church.

I'm sure someday my children will be, too.

Every adult is good in church. But not every adult is a true worshiper. Not every adult savors the notes of the hymns and grabs the words of the Word like they are life itself. Not every adult comes to worship and meets with God.

My problem most Sundays is that I set my heart too low. Whether my kids are rapt or raptors, I’m too quick to want only “good in church.”

If I do even a half-hearted job, eventually, all of my children will learn to sit still. To be quiet. To stop tearing pages out of the hymnal. They may give up out of exhaustion or boredom or peer pressure. Their bodies and minds will hopefully mature. They’ll get with the program.

Good in church is always easier on me (and those in the nearby pews.) It saves me embarrassment, and keeps my hair and makeup intact. But good in church is not what I'm hoping for.

I can wrestle my child into quiet and still. I cannot wrestle him into fellowship with the Triune God. For that, I am dependent on the Spirit. And so, on the hard Sundays—those WWF-comes-to-a-pew-near-you Sundays—and on the easy Sundays, too, I pray the same prayers I will pray for a lifetime.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:16-17)

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. (John 4:23)

The Father has little interest in people who are merely good in church. But He has every interest in seeking sinners who need a Savior, capturing the hearts of the most ardent wigglers, making them His worshipers.

And that's my hope.

Seek my child, Lord. Not simply to be good in church. But to be a true worshiper of You, which is far better.


  1. This made me laugh. My children are getting older and they all can sit in church (as they should be able to in their teens and twenties). But I can remember sweating through church services just hoping that one of them wouldn't yell or cry or any of the other things uninhibited children do. I can remember once my little girl was quietly drawing a picture during a service and after she showed it to me, I whispered, "That's a great bunny!" She yelled, "It's not a bunny! It's a dog!!!"

    1. So funny. My kids have been known to answer rhetorical questions asked by the pastor during the sermon.

  2. "Rapt or raptors" - that image will stick with me! Thanks so much for this post, Megan. Very encouraging!

  3. Yes!!! My baby is six now, but through the years I rarely even looked at my kids during worship....it's about our LORD and I figured they'd see that I'm focusing on Him, not them during this time. Julie Anne

  4. A good reminder for a fellow wrestler. Especially since I'm now back into the season of leaving the service via that well worn path every week. But oh, the joy that comes from hearing my older kids discuss the sermon and sing with hearty voices out of love for the Lord instead of obligation to me!

  5. And precious Megan, as you wrestle and pray and pray and wrestle... I (and likely many others) are lovingly praying and pleading for your child as well. May God fortify you for the task!

    1. Those prayers are precious to my weary heart!

  6. It is very tempting to reduce belief to outward appearances, of children and ourselves. Thanks for the reminder of heart issues and what really matters.


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