Casual Christianity | Part Two
by Dr. William F. Harrell
*This post was taken from Dr. Harrell’s website and is used by permission
This casual approach is also affecting the preachers and staff people. Many preachers and music men stand before their church each Sunday dressed in a way that my school teachers would not have tolerated and would have sent me home to change. My mother used to make me get new jeans if a hole came in the knee. “Boy, you can’t wear those jeans to school, they look terrible”, she would say. But, the casual, contemporary philosophy is that one cannot “reach” the people unless they are like them. Quite frankly, from what I have witnessed, those church leaders who hold that philosophy are insulting their members. Are they saying that they dress sloppily because their church members dress the same way? Sounds to me like they are. The people of the world are looking for an example, not for someone like them. Unsaved sinners are sick of who and what they are and they are looking for something different….something to change their lives both spiritually and socially. They are made comfortable with who and what they are when they see pastors, staff and church people who don’t seem to be concerned with what they are projecting. I am weary of being expected to condone the idea that the casual model is setting the right example and is acceptable. What does the lost person who is looking for an elevation of his life think when he sees a preacher on the platform looking like he just washed his dog, put on a sloppy coat, left his long shirt tail hanging below his coat hem and rushed to the church to preach? When the preacher and staff project the casual approach to Christianity that is what the people will adopt. Everything rises or falls on leadership and that is why a leader must make sure that he does not project the wrong thing.
The way people dress to attend church these days is downright dishonoring to God. When the pastor bites the bait of casual dress, it results in casual actions which breed a casual approach to God. Of course many in the contemporary movement will say, “God is interested in what’s on the inside more than He is interested on the outside” Oh, really? Does one mean to say that because God cares about what’s on the inside that He does not care about the outside and how we come before Him? If one were called and asked to be in the Oval Office within two days what do you think they would do? If they did not have a suit and tie they would go to the expense of buying one so that they could go into the presence of the President of the United States properly attired. But these same people think it is permissible to come before the God of the universe in worship looking like they would not go before the President. I think we should wear the best we have to come before God. I told the people of our church that if a tee shirt and jeans are the best they have, wash them, iron them and wear them to church. That is just fine. But if the best thing one has is a fine tailored suit then don’t wear the tee shirt and jeans. How can the pastor be a proper spiritual role model for others unless he sets the proper example himself?
In the Old Testament God was very particular as to how the people constructed the Tabernacle. He outlined it specifically and the people followed his instructions. When it came time to give the instructions on how the Priest should be clothed, he designed the wardrobe very specifically. He told them how the head piece should be made. He designed the breastplate very intricately as well. The garment of the Priest was designed a certain way because that is the way God wanted the Priest to come before him. Now, why is that? It is because He is God and He can require anything of us that He desires. When He speaks, that settles it. The same God is on the same throne and He has not changed His mind about how we come before Him. Of course, if the object of the worship experience is the people and how they feel about things then the dress down code is just fine. Whatever makes one comfortable is the order of the day. But, if the object of the worship experience is focused on God then we are faced with a different set of expectations. And, we must admit, that if He is not the focus then it is only an event and not true worship.
What Jesus did on the cross was not casual and it should be honored for what it was and is: the act of God whereby it was made possible for us to be taken from darkness to Light; from being lost to being saved. It is the most profound thing ever performed on planet earth and should be honored as such. This does not mean that our people should attend worship wringing their hands, bowed over with faces depicting grief; somber in all we do. But it does mean that we should give the worship of our Lord far more honor than we are giving it today.