Thursday, December 1, 2011

Has today's church said "dignity shmignity"?

I enjoy a good laugh as much as anyone. I love fun, a good time, being with friends, and yukking it up. However, I do not believe those things are appropriate for church, for bible study, for ecclesiastical conferences, or for prayer meetings. The call to dignity is both overt and inferred in the scriptures.

In the first essay I wrote about my concerns with Beth Moore's teaching, I wrote that one of the issues is that she is not dignified on stage. I am not speaking of a personal preference, though I do have biases in this area. The scriptures in that piece speak to how we must act when in the position of teacher or elder. She uses signs, tricks, volunteers, personal anecdotes, jokes, innuendo, and more. When she teaches the bible, she is not dignified.

Mark Driscoll is pastor of the Mars Hill Church in Seattle Washington. He is well known for his casual approach to preaching the Sunday Services, in demeanor and in apparel. He readily admits that his sermon delivery is influenced by stand-up comedians like Chris Rock. I saw the first and only clip of Mr Driscoll a week or so ago. He was speaking of the Twilight novels and movie release in culture and how it is affecting the young girls of today, like his own daughter. I posted the 10 minute video on my blog here, and I fully admit that it is hilarious. He strode about the stage in tennis shoes, jeans, and untucked flannel shirt, making funny remarks and it was a good ten minutes of  punchline delivery that Chris Rock would envy.

I believe that demeanor is important when one is delivering a teaching on the greatest information ever imparted to Man. I am not a fuddy duddy, but the clear call to present the Gospel of Jesus and Him crucified means deliver it with dignity.

How many pastors today forgo a jacket and tie on Sundays anymore? How many over-rely on media such as video, loud music, dancing, casual attire, and any and all things that actually distract from the bible as the central focus?

Venerable evangelist Paul O. Nichols wrote in 1997,

"YOU ARE STANDING ON HOLY GROUND"
"Today if there is ever a time when a man is on "holy ground" it is when he is preaching Christ and Him crucified. Qualifications are specified. The inspired writer says, "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Tim 2:2). Peter demanded, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God" (1 Pet 4:11). Preaching and teaching the word of God is a serious matter. The pulpit is no place for frivolity and merrymaking. Theatrics and foolishness are as out of place in the pulpit as a cowbell in a musical concert, and beneath the dignity of a faithful representative of the crucified Christ. No man has a right to profane the pulpit while representing the Saviour of the world. Cuteness and slang may provoke a laugh from the less spiritual, but the more serious disciple of Jesus demands sincerity and evidence that Christ lives in us (Gal 2:20)."

Do you demand sincerity and evidence that Christ lives in us from your church, your pastor, your services? I hope so. Dignity is an old fashioned word these days, much maligned. But while there is a place for frivolity and fun, guffaws and jokes, there is also a place for dignity. The two places are not the same.

The lowering of standards of pulpit behavior is indicative of the lowering of the place of Jesus in the heart of one who is treating Him so casually. It belies an internal attitude that Jesus is lower than He is, which is consistent with the attitude of many of today's pastors who preach man higher than he is. The lowering and heightening will eventually meet as level after the rapture. It will soon after that find its ultimate culmination in the Man of Sin. Finally, satan (for a little while) will live on earth as the king of earth where Jesus is below man. But not for long.

When the time is fulfilled and the transgression is finished, (Dan 9:24) Jesus will appear as KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS! "These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful." (Revelation 17:14)

There is none higher and all the enemies of Him are under Him at the footstool. "A Psalm of David. The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet." (Psalm 110:1)

You can be a joint heir with Christ, (Romans 8:17) or under His feet when He comes. He leaves the position you want to occupy up to you. Repentance and belief brings the former. Rejection of His pardon brings the latter.

14 comments:

  1. To me a suit and tie says "businessman" or "politician", both of whom tend to be crooked, out for the money and/or untrustworthy. I would much prefer to see the pastor in a robe. Just a simple black robe. Covers the man and emphasizes the message instead. I was very saddened when our pastor decided to forego the robe as 'old fashioned and out of date' and wear only a suit and tie. Now he, the one who brings God's word to us each Sunday, looks just like many other men in the congregation. A robe doesn't make the *pastor* special, it emphasizes that when he speaks, he is bringing us the Word of God and not the word of man, so sit up and listen! - that is why he removes the robe when he leaves the pulpit. I also miss dignity in church.

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  2. I agree that there should be a reverence for teaching the Word of God.

    I disagree that you need to dress in a certain outfit to do it.

    My husband is a youth pastor and he teaches 6 Bible studies a week. He wears his best clothes-- his nicest jeans and nicest button down shirt. He looks great.

    We used to go to a church where he had to wear a suit to teach the youth. We had no money to buy one so the church bought him a suit, which I thought was such a waste of church funds that should go to reaching the lost. But that was my opinion. But in this church there were many instances where we saw that the church was more concerned with the external than the internal.

    It really, really bothers me when I see Christians put so much emphasis on the external. It hurts me. The Bible does not say we need to dress up to go to church or teach a Bible study. Jesus didn't wear a suit, Paul didn't care about how he dressed. They lived modest, humble, poor lives.

    I understand that we don't want to dress like we don't care, but God looks at the heart. My husbands heart is to give the best Bible study that the Lord will give him, to reach the youth, to reach the lost, to share God's holy word with people.

    To say that a pastor is wrong because of how he dresses is legalism.

    Just like your post on fasting, you should only dress nice because you choose to do it for the Lord, not so people think you are holy.

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  3. I have never sat under a pastor who has worn a robe. I have never needed that to tell me to sit up and listen.

    In fact the only person who I have ever seen teach wearing a robe, was on TV. Robert Schuller--and his teaching was so bad that the robe was the only thing he had going for him.

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  4. First of all, thank you for your heart and your words. They've spoken to my heart and have meant much to me spiritually.

    I became a follower of Jesus two years ago. So when I think of "dignified" minister who is in a suit or a robe, I get a negative feeling. Not sure why.

    Our pastor wears the dignity of THE GOSPEL on his sleeve - and to me that's more important. He doesn't pretend to be a perfect person who is better than everybody else. He admits he's a sinner in need of the great savior, Jesus Christ. He wears jeans, but he speaks from the Scriptures, depends deeply on the Holy Spirit, and seeks the Glory of God's name.

    I'll take the gospel over a suit and tie any day.

    I do agree though that listening to a sermon is worship and so we should take it seriously. And I actually really like Mark Driscoll, I really do think he means well.

    Side note, I wanted to share this song. Such a great poem on Advent and the longing we have for Christ. http://folkangel.bandcamp.com/track/god-with-us-feat-isaac-wimberley

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  5. See the above is what confuses me about this a bit. Someone thinks a suit is undignified...who sets the standards? To me the most important thing is not if the pastor is wearing a robe or a suit and tie or jeans but if Pike you said he's preaching the unadulterated word of God and where the focus of his delivery is the Gospel and not gimmicks. If the people want more gimmicks, that's a sure sign they need more of the word! Like you said, most of these pastors dressing in jeans onstage are doing it as part of an overall Plan to make the gospel more cool and accessible to people who they think would never otherwise listen to them aka focusing on pleasing the world. Their fruits are telling. Driscoll lives in Seattle and I've heard it's sort of similar to Austin where I lived so I get from a human standpoint why hes trying to be cool accessible pastor but not from a Godly perspective.

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  6. It's dismaying to see the comments that pastors preaching in a suit is oft-putting. I believe that few as they are, there are still places and times when appropriate dress is a statement by the wearer that shows that they are taking the situation seriously. I think if a pastor showed up to preach at a funeral in flip flops and shorts that would be undignified. I think if a bible teacher showed up to teach in a bikini that would be undignified. People dress up for church, court, and funerals. There's a reason for this: we are showing respect to the authority in charge of the situation by wearing our best clothing.

    Pastors wearing a suit is a given, if you ask me. I would not like to watch my pastor preach in shorts in an attempt to make the bible cool. The bible doesn't need any help from pastors to make it cool. It is relevant by itself for thousands of years and always will be.

    Of course in places where there is dire poverty and perhaps the pastor does not have a suit that is obviously not a problem. In that case, I believe the pastor still shows up in his best that he has to offer.

    The Pharisees had special robes. They abused their position by flagrantly embroidering them, lengthening the tassels, and enlarging the tassels. If Jesus had wanted the Apostles to wear robes he would have told them. But He did not, he said to hit the road wearing only what they had on their back, and was specific to the degree He said don't even take a second shirt. (Mt 10:8-10)

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  7. To the Anonymous commenter asking "who sets the standards?" God does. He has scriptures addressing this issue.

    Titus 1:7 talks of behavior in elders. So does 1 Tim 3. So does 1 Timothy 3:11, Titus 2:11-12, and Titus 2:3-5.

    The issue of dress is commanded in 1 Tim 2:9-10. Proverbs 31:25 says She is clothed with strength and dignity; ...

    To answer your question, the bible sets the standard.

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  8. Hi Elizabeth,
    I took this idea a different way: earlier today, I was listening to a Chip Ingram teaching speaking about God's holiness and that too often we treat this too casually. No sooner had I finished listening to this, on the Internet, I ran across a horrible mockery of the song O Holy Night. The sad thing is that this was created by a christian singer literally making fun of other singers. Then I find your post this afternoon. I think God is reminding us that we are on Holy Ground whenever we are in His presence - whether in church, our home or our vehicle.

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  9. Hi NothingNew,

    I agree! His holiness is tantamount. We treat Him so casually, His word so incidentally...His is HIGH! He is HOLY!

    I loved how you were noticing hwo the Spirit was bringing this theme to mind all day in different ways Very cool

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  10. Those that you listed above, are not verses that say that a pastor should be wearing a suit and a tie. 1Timothy 2:9-10 is talking to women being modest and NOT wearing clothes that are too fancy (drawing attention to self and making poor people feel self-conscious).

    Your opinion is based in church tradition and denominational traits and not the word of God.

    I only saw ONE person who said they wouldn't want a pastor that is dressed up and you didn't even listen to her reason. The other posters simply said it shouldn't matter.

    Remember when David was bringing the Ark back and he disrobed and danced before it. Michael looked out her window and looked down on him, thinking he was shaming himself. She did not look at his heart.

    What did he say, "And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor." 2 Samuel 6:22.

    If it was okay for him to been seen as "undignified" in his worship of a Holy God, it is okay with me. I will continue to serve God in my jeans. It isn't to "relate" or be "cool" as you mistakenly assume. It is simply because our church has casual dress, so the homeless people won't feel out of place.

    I love what you write about. God uses you alot. But especially with things that are not central to the faith, be careful you are not being too legalistic.

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  11. Anonymous,

    You forget the verse from Matthew I quoted. And the verses that urge to sober behavior are verses that are talking about dignity. The verse calling women to dress modestly can by extension can be seen to say that people, including men, should also be modest.

    Really, are you saying that a pastor who preaches in shorts is giving the same impression of his approach to the duty of handling he word on holy ground as one who dressed modestly, soberly, and in dignified fashion as the scriptures call for???

    The pulpit calls for dignity. I didn't think that would be a difficult concept to accept.

    I didn't say that pastors *had* to wear a suit and tie, but that if they are dressing casually when handling the word of God before men it belies an internal attitude. That's not legalistic, that's simply common sense.

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  12. I think "dignity" depends on where you are at. Elizabeth, you live in the South, which is a whole different culture than Seattle, LA, Denver or even New England (as you know). My husband was preaching in a suit in a small country church in the West. After the service, one of the men in the congregation came up to him, flipped my husband's tie up and said, "Who are you trying to impress?" Not one other man in the church wore a suit - my husband only ever wore one there again during a funeral and maybe one of the weddings he preformed there. A suit truly was not dignified in that church, it was an in your face "I'm better/richer/more educated/or something than you are." Since that time my husband has preached in different parts of the US in jeans, or in slacks and a nice shirt (with or without a tie), or in a very nice suit, and yes, he has preached many times in a robe. He would never, under any circumstances preach in shorts, unless he was already in shorts on the beach or something and a spontaneous worship service began - maybe then (but he never wears shorts, so that's beside the point).

    Paul said, in his first letter to the Corinthians: "9:19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."

    A youth pastor dressed in a suit is laughable for most teens and rather than respecting him, most would make fun of him and not listen to anything he said. It's hard for me to imagine a church even suggesting such a thing!

    We were in a church in southern California where the only 2 men in the congregation who were NOT wearing shorts (and flip flops) were the pastor and my husband. It's weird when the men taking the offering are wearing shorts, no doubt about that, yet the Word of God was preached with power and authority that morning.

    Preaching in Eastern Europe my husband wore a robe. The congregation had decided this is what they wanted their pastor to wear. The first Sunday the elders came to the front of the building in their robes the people stopped talking, sat quietly and listened. In that culture a robe means something (altho among many of the Protestant churches the pastors do wear suits, so it depends on the church there, too).

    Look at photos of men at a baseball game in the '30's - most of the men in the stands were wearing suits and hats. Look at photos of men at a baseball or football game today - most of the men dress casually in public (as do women now). Cultures change, not always for the better, that is for sure! but they change. We wouldn't want our pastors to dress as they did 500 years ago, nor would we want them to dress like a Circuit Ridin' Preacher of the 1800's. They need to be dignified within the culture in which they live - and that is not always a suit in today's world.

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  13. Hi ANonymous,

    You make some good points. Apparel does vary depending on culture and level of poverty, as I'd mentioned. But I think we have gotten off track in focusing on clothing as the only representative of dignity. I still maintain that the scriptures call us to be dignified in behavior and apparel. I quoted those. The overall point is that pastors are handling the Word of God and need to behave and appear like they *know* they are handling the Word of God. Else why are there so many calls in scripture to certain behavior in the elders and deacons? Because the biblical call to dignity, inside and out, separates us from the world.

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  14. Millie M.

    We should stop worrying about what we are wearing and focuse seriously on Christ. He is coming soon for His bride, and He knows who is serrious for Him and who is not..regardless what we are wearing....I believe there is too much joking around in church and that really gets to me when i see this...I wish church could be more serious and focuse just in Christ...Lots of christians just dont get it...What He has done for us..We should be on our knees everyday giving Him Reverence, thanks,, for all He has done...There is no more revival in churches..we need to bring that back to church...God is good and His love endures forever...Lets do the same..

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