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Archive for September, 2009

Evangelicalism rarely displays its desire to be relevant and attract the masses, regardless of credal statements to the contrary, with its longing to find the next great thing that “works,” that gets the crowd. A few years ago, some decided it was time to “diversify” their worship “services” (events?) by having services according to style of music and order of worship. Out of that arose the now common-place offerings of a contemporary service and a traditional service in many churches. One mega-church took the idea to its logical conclusion by offering several services at the same time on its campus with a different style of music in each venue to satisfy different tastes. The pastor preached to all the gatherings via telecast.

The now latest and greatest idea seems to be for the pastor to dress like “everyman.” Neckties and suits are out; untucked shirts and jeans are in. I viewed a video the other day of an immensely popular pastor in the now-required (if you’re going to be “cool”) untucked shirt and jeans. Taking it another step in the “cool” direction, the pastor’s jeans looked as though he had worn them for several days.

Someone will doubtlessly protest the drift of this post. “Clothes don’t matter. Why does a minister need to wear a suit? Neckties are just dumb.” To be fair, I’m no great fan of neckties! However, if clothes do not matter, why is the new fashion of the day untucked shirts and jeans? It seems that clothes do matter to those wanting to be cool.

I contend that what pastors wear to worship does matter, and the appeal should not be the appearance of “cool.” Worship is serious business. Believers have gathered in the presence of Almighty God. The atmosphere is not kick back in the recliner and let’s hang out.

Would the pastor decked out in his untucked shirt and well-worn jeans wear the same clothing to an invitation to the Oval Office? Why do television news anchors wear coats and ties when relaying the news of the day? Clothing implies the degree of seriousness with which one undertakes certain duties.

Does an evangelical minister have to wear a coat and tie? In our culture, such attire indicates a degree of the importance of the task at hand. In other cultures, one would “dress up” differently. And even in our own culture, though I may not insist on a coat and tie, I think when we come for corporate worship, we should wear our best, especially those conducting worship.

I realize that my viewpoint is not the popular one and will be misconstrued. To be clear, I’m not saying that an evangelical minister who wears a coat and tie will be more serious about worship and preach a more orthodox sermon than his untucked shirt/jeans wearing counterpart. Some of the “cool” guys are preaching some really good, expository sermons. Wearing proper clothing does not ensure that one worships “in spirit and in truth,” and wearing jeans does not mean that one is not worshiping rightly.

What I am saying is that our never-satisfied quest to be deemed relevant and appealing to the masses undermines the business about which we gather–the worship of the thrice-holy, sovereign God. I think I’ll skip this fad.

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Proverbs 22:1 reminds us, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” Character matters. How a Christian lives, particularly among unbelievers, is an issue of no little concern.

Think about how a person handles his finances. That person is building a reputation among unbelievers. Let’s say that a Christian has gotten into some financial difficulties through foolish spending. He sees the problems he has created and works to overcome them. He sees his debt as a matter to be resolved, so he cuts back on his spending, perhaps drastically so, and pays his creditors. He will build a reputation as an honest person who sees his mistakes and accepts responsibility for them.

On the other hand, let’s say that this Christian sees his debts as a non-issue in the overall scheme of things. When told that he needs to contact his creditors and work out a plan to pay his debts, he responds with, “It’s not that important. They have already soaked me so much with interest charges that they made enough to cover what I owe. They’ll eventually write it off.” Not only is that person a thief, he is providing evidence that he may actually not be a true Christian if he does not repent of such an evil attitude (“The wicked borrows but does not pay back” [Psalm 37:21a]). Unfortunately, there are some men who serve as pastors of Baptist churches who have that very attitude.

The Bible instructs us “to be ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1). We often think that good works are spiritual duties, but good works encompasses all deeds which a Christian should do as he lives in this fallen world. Christians should benefit their fellow citizens whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Paul insists that Christians are to be consciously engaged in performing good works among their fellow citizens: “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people” (Titus 3:8).

Unfortunately, we too often think that such works are to be attention-getting endeavors, perhaps leading a food drive or building a house for someone in need. News of the deed is published in the local newspaper, “to the glory of God,” of course! While there is certainly nothing wrong with such deeds, we need to recognize that it is the relatively simple deeds that really glorify God. Returning to our earlier illustration, one’s personal finances ranks up there in importance.

Why is that? Why is how we handle our money so important? Money serves as a universal language and a universal concern. For instance, money is at the forefront of why elections are won or lost. We saw that with the infamous behavior of President Clinton and the infamous public response to it. Because Mr. Clinton was credited with the relative prosperity that the United States was enjoying during the 1990’s, his sexual sin proved no serious long-term threat to his popularity.

Those who are careless with their personal finances—who exhibit unconcern about outstanding bills and obligations and complain about what they cannot afford while heedlessly spending money on non-essentials—inhibit the spread of the gospel, regardless of all their talk of personal evangelism.

How we handle money may seem boringly “unspiritual,” but it is a part of the essential “good works” in our lives among unbelievers. May we adorn the gospel of Christ by being good stewards, by paying our debts on time, by living frugally, and by exhibiting generosity.

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