A couple of days ago I copied a link a friend from college posted on Facebook. The ensuing firestorm of commentary on the link was interesting in that much of it was on point from, as Obi Wan once told young Luke Skywalker, a certain point of view. Some of it naturally missed the point completely. All of it got me thinking.
Here’s the link: http://philcooke.com/pastors-its-time-to-send-the-affliction-brand-shirts-to-goodwill/
I could be missing the point myself, but I think the author of the article was saying that when the first preacher stepped out of his suit and tie and donned jeans and a T shirt to make those outside the church he was trying to reach more comfortable, he was unique. When all the preachers on the block were doing it, it was no longer unique.
I do understand the concept. I think that first guy and probably all who followed had something the Apostle Paul said in mind :
“to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. (1 Corinthians 9: 21-23 NKJV)
It is clearly well intended. In another place Paul said we are to be in the world but not of the world. To the contrary, Paul clearly warned Christ followers to NOT be conformed, using a Greek word that means to fashion or model yourself to be like, the world, another Greek word meaning ‘the practices of your age or culture’. In other words, I think Paul was saying yes, use the tools available to you. Take the World’s devices and use them. But do it in such a way that you remain distinct and separate from the world. After all, that’s what the church is, isn’t it? The ecclesia? The called out?
Now the point of the article was to take our God given, God inspired giftedness and uniqueness and use to tools at hand to be unique and different and reach our world without being just one of a herd of many all doing the same thing; all dressed the same, all going through the same motions, all thinking we were all the time the only ones being the ‘cool’ Christians in our respective hoods.
And somewhere in this idea the discussion, as discussions often do, took a wrong turn at Albuquerque.
So rather than try and drag the discussion kicking and screaming back to home base, I’m going to just follow this rabbit for a little while – at least until my hand seizes up and makes fixing the typos more trouble than it’s worth.
When I first saw the ‘become all things’ approach in church, it would take on the form of ‘offend no one’ by dropping our denomination name from the church name. Instead of being (Our town) Baptist Church, we became Faith Community Church. Now lest anyone I know who actually attends a Faith Community Church somewhere that I also lived and worshipped be offended, it’s not you. I just picked that name out of the air. Off the top of my head I think I’ve been part of three bodies of believers by that name.
Anyway, the reason given was that some on our board of deacons were concerned that our attendance (read offerings) was suffering because people were offended by the word “BAPTIST” in our name. Once that ball started rolling there was no stopping it.
We stopped being openly Baptist, giving a new meaning to the idea of coming out of the closet. Then we stopped singing hymns because you can’t reach young people with these old fashioned songs. Then we preached in jeans and sandals. Then we added Christian Rock Worship to our newly incorporated Saturday night services.
And somewhere along the way we lost sight of the idea that there is a difference between the Church and the World; the Saved and the Lost; and the Biblical reality that the Church is the PEOPLE and the building is just a building and that apart from the omnipresence of God, if there are no Christ followers in the building, there is nothing sacred about it.
We forgot that ‘Church’ – the organism is for the Christ followers, and it’s purpose is to equip the Christ followers to be Christ’s ambassadors to the part of the world who are NOT Christ followers.
We lost sight of the fact that the order at the end of Acts three was the unchurched were saved and THEN became part of the church, not the other way around. Instead we have replaced that model with the Field of Dreams model – the one that says build great programs, run good advertising, open the doors on Sunday with your smiling faces and rock and roll bands, and the lost will come to you.
The great Commission was GO, not Build and wait.
But, I digress.
I’m not a scholar. I’m the first (after my detractors) to admit it – and I agree with them. I’m just this guy, OK. When the discussion on originality took a left turn at Albequoiky (as Buggs Bunny called it) and plowed into a pothole of legalism, I did a little looking around. My findings are not scholarly, they are not the final word. This is just what I found.
Dressing up for church – Old Testament Style. What I found was that the ‘church’, as it were, was first the Tabernacle and then the Temple, but a big difference between then and now is that the building wasn’t built for the people to get dressed up to go meet with God. In fact, only the Priests actually entered into the presence of God, and only the Priests had to dress up for it, and that was very specific, very detailed.
Dressing up for church – New Testament Style: A number of distinctions here from the Old Testament model.
First, the Building:
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19 NKJV)
Second, The Bidding:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2 NKJV)
Third, The Bling:
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;” (Ephesians 6:10-17 NKJV)
Which leaves us precisely where?
From what I could tell, and like I said, I’m no theologian or scholar, but the only people who ‘got dressed up for church’ in the Old Testament were the priests. Their dress was particular and described in detail by Law. The catch was that while the people as a whole didn’t dress up for church as it were, neither did they come into the presence of God.
On the other hand, Jesus Himself said He came not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it. Jesus took the people as they came to Him. We used to sing about this, remember? Just as I am without one plea but that thy blood was shed for me and that thou bidst me come to thee, oh, Lamb of God, I come! I come!
Yes, I get that, that was before I was a Christ follower. Now that I am a Christ follower I should respect the House of the Lord. I absolutely agree! See number one above. This piece of meat that carries my spirit and soul around is the Temple of God! I should be treating it like it is God’s Temple and not polluting it with the crap I use my five senses to allow to enter into it.
And as for dressing it up, well, all I can find apart from number one above and general instructions on modesty, is that it is absolutely critical that I adorn my Temple with the whole Armor of God. Neckties, Nikes and Chuck Taylor All-Stars are optional.