Friday, June 21, 2013
By: Thomas F. Booher
I can't think of a better way to get labeled a legalist than to title a post like this. Hopefully by the end you will not see this as legalism and will see this as what it is- my attempt at describing what I believe is proper ecclesiology as defined by God in Scripture.
So then, what is church? What does Scripture say we should be doing and not doing on Sunday mornings? That's what I want to explore.
The Bible says to gather together in Christ's name; to teach, encourage, and admonish one another; to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in our hearts to God (Heb. 10:24-25; Mat. 18:20; Col. 3:16). There are to be deacons (Acts 6:1-6) and elders (Ti. 1:5) in the church who act as overseers, and in the case of elders, are the shepherds of the flock who teach the word and rebuke with authority (Ti. 1:9). God must call one to be a pastor/elder (Eph. 4:11). As such those who are called by God to preach the word are held to a higher standard (Jas. 3:1), and those who are younger and are not elders are to submit to their ministers (Heb. 13:7; 1 Pet. 5:5). Clearly then, there is a structure and substance that God expects from His people when they come together to worship. All things are to be done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40).
The tendency of many who are reformed, especially Presbyterians, seems to be to stifle any and all emotion and enthusiasm in the church service. I don't believe that is right or healthy whatsoever. Scripture speaks of making a joyful noise to the Lord, of singing and dancing in worship using instruments like clashing cymbals (Ps. 100:1; 150). I believe this means that expressing exuberance for God in worship is more than acceptable, but that doesn't mean we should start mosh pitting. Again, all things are to be done decently and in order. Nor do I think worship should be something that leads to distraction or a show of individualism. When the church body comes together to worship, it is corporate worship. We sing as one voice of God, one bride, not a bunch of individuals. We represent the elect of God, not ourselves primarily. Churches geared toward "seekers" and entertainment will necessarily become more individualistic as they seek (ironically enough) to use aesthetics and the ambiance of worship as a drawing card for those who need to be enticed to come to church or "try Jesus."
But Scripture makes it clear that this is not fitting for corporate worship. I do not think this means that we cannot use electric guitars, drums, and the like. On the contrary, when I think of a joyful noise and loud, clashing cymbals, that's where my mind generally goes. The question becomes why we are choosing to use the instruments that we do use in worship. Do we use drums and guitars to look cool and relevant? Then we are missing the point of worship. Do we use organs and harps and flutes and cellos to look and sound sophisticated? We miss the mark again. What then is the goal of worship?
The goal of worship and singing praises to God is to be God-centered, God focused, not me-focused. This goes for the whole service on the Lord's day, including the preaching. Church is a foretaste of communion with God and the saints in glory, with its focus on the worshiping of God. As such, we aren't coming so much to catch up with our friends or have some private religious experience with God as we are to reflect on the majesty of God, of who He is and what He has done. As soon as we do that, I think we will begin to see how silly it is for a pastor to wear jeans while he is preaching. Since the pastor represents Christ to us, exercises authority and wields the sword as a minister ordained by God, he misrepresents God and His majesty when he dresses casually. Is it possible for a pastor to wear jeans and not misrepresent God? I would think so, but not without much difficulty in this culture. It would be akin to the President of the United States wearing jeans and a t-shirt at his inauguration. I suppose there would be a scenario where this would be proper and fitting, but it's hard for me to think of one. Or consider when students graduate, whether it's from K-5 or college, it's done in robes. There is a certain special attire for such a momentous occasion. It wouldn't be fitting to wear jeans.
Likewise, for a minister to wear jeans is not fitting. It's out of place. Those wearing jeans, in this culture, usually aren't doing so to represent authority, majesty, or worthiness. They usually do so to represent nothing; which is to say there is nothing special about a man or woman wearing jeans. It is the casual attire of this nation. But God is special. God is not just another Joe. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and His spokesman out to dress in a way befitting of Him.
This of course goes for the whole church service. A pastor wearing jeans does so because He sees God and the purpose of church differently, and likely quite differently, from the way a suit and/or robe wearing pastor sees God and the purpose of church. This is no small matter. Is church meant to lift us to the heavenlies, or make us think of Starbucks? When you think of Christ, does your mind go to something that's a lot like you, or a lot like something beyond you, something greater than you?
If worship and the church service is to lift us to the heavenlies and the glory and majesty of God, then how can skinny jean wearing pastors reflect this? How can a rock concert atmosphere make us think lofty thoughts of God and Jesus Christ? Conversely, how can a man in a robe droning on without emotion and a funeral atmosphere make us think God is worth praising? Neither reveal to us who God is, and both make God look like something He is not, which is grave sin and even idolatry.
You cannot create uniformity in a worship service. God allows for a variety of instruments and new songs, but He also says all things must be done decently in order. The music and the message are both to be focused on God and His Son Jesus Christ, on who He is and what He has done. He is not like us, and the God-Man has done for us what we could not do for ourselves, namely reflect God perfectly and take on all of our imperfections, bearing our wrath for being so unlike God. Because of this, our worship and preaching must flesh out His otherness, for again, He is not like us and we are not like Him. He is holy, He is greater than us, He is the object of our affection and worship. He is our Lord and Savior, Redeemer and Friend. He is our King. And He is worthy of all the praise, honor, and admiration. He is glorious.
It should be clear, then, that a pastor in jeans undermines who Christ is and what He has done. No man evokes thoughts or images of glory, honor, and admiration by wearing jeans, and that is why pastors shouldn't preach in jeans. Our God is greater.