August 07, 2009

Worship War Arguments Deconstructed--Part 5

I've personally been involved in three churches who have made or made the transition from traditional to more modern and from what I've experienced there are several arguments made on both the traditional and modern sides that are similar, no matter where you go. Over the next several days, I'm going to provide one of the arguments, state what I think is really being said, then state what the appropriate response should be. Feel free to comment, agree, or disagree...or throw in your own argument. Click here to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Argument #5: The kind of clothes that people wear when they're on the stage leading a church service affects TRUE worship.

What I really think is being said:
"I like the people who lead me in worship to look respectable/like me/put-together/laid-back/professional/like rockstars/like the last music minister. If they don't, then it's hard for me to take them seriously. If I can't trust them to take what they're doing seriously, then how I can trust them to lead me in TRUE worship. Plus, their slicked-back/helmet/metrosexual/messy/televangelist/comb-over hair looks ridiculous. They need to dress like I want them to dress."

Appropriate response: I once had a family friend who didn't like the music minister in the church where I grew up. Her reason: "He has a beard. What's he hiding under that thing? Ministers shouldn't have facial hair."

At my current church, our bass player wore a "Good Morning Vietnam" graphic t-shirt a few weeks ago. I tweeted that this "isn't your grandma's church anymore."

A friend told me he had a conversation with a senior adult about his church's worship leader. "I don't like his hair and I don't like his clothes," the man said. Of course, while saying this, he was wearing black calf-length socks with shorts...and he has a toupee. You can't make stuff like that up!

With the exception of modesty issues (and who defines "modesty"?...the culture*), clothes are morally neutral. Everyone knows that certain clothes are more appropriate than others for differing situations. You don't wear cut-off jeans and a tank-top to a funeral (well, some people do...) and you don't wear a three-piece suit to the beach (unless you're a fundamentalist pastor). The idea that a person wearing a suit is more godly than someone wearing a t-shirt is absurd.

Of course, there's the old argument, "We should always wear our best for God to church." I heard this a lot growing up. My question is, "says who?" James 2:1-4 seems to be OK with poorly dressed (again, who decides what "poor" is?) and finely dressed people both being in church together. I say what's more detrimental to worship is a casual attitude...not casual clothes.

The same goes for wearing hats in church. There is nothing Biblically wrong with this, but it can be offensive depending on the culture. People like to point to 1 Corinthians 11:4: "A man shouldn't pray or prophesy (preach) with his head covered." Fair enough. But that passage also says that women shouldn't pray or prophesy (um...preach?) with their heads uncovered. So, if your church holds to a strict "no hats in the sanctuary" policy, they should pass out head coverings for the women if they want to be Biblically correct. That's the danger in failing to distinguish cultural practices from timeless Biblical truths.

The clothes of the people who are leading in worship should probably reflect two things: the culture of the church and community, and the style of music being played. Have you ever been in a service where the coat-and-tie-clad music minister tried to lead the congregation in the latest worship song...using the organ...and an orchestra...and a choir? I have. It's not pretty, and no one is buying it. All that does is cause the people who like the song to cringe, and the people who like the instruments being used mad.

If the style of clothing of the people on stage offend you, then I think it says more about you than it does them. On the other hand, if the people on stage are wearing clothes that they know are intentionally divisive, or to prove a point, then that says a lot about their character, too.

*C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianityon modesty: "A girl in the Pacific islands wearing hardly any clothes and a Victorian lady completely covered in clothes might both be equally `modest,' proper, or decent, according to the standards of their own societies: and both, for all we could tell by their dress, might be equally chaste (or equally unchaste). Some of the language which chaste women used in Shakespeare's time would have been used in the nineteenth century only by a woman completely abandoned. When people break the rule of propriety current in their own time and place, if they do so in order to excite lust in themselves or others, then they are offending against chastity. But if they break it through ignorance or carelessness they are guilty only of bad manners. When, as often happens, they break it defiantly in order to shock or embarrass others, they are not necessarily being unchaste, but they are being uncharitable: for it is uncharitable to take pleasure in making other people uncomfortable."

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