It’s True! It’s Religions Fault

How many times have you heard someone say that religion is the cause of wars and human problems? I have concluded that I agree with that statement. Everything good or bad in this world comes down to religion. Allow me to explain. The official definition of religion is:

1.The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal god or gods.

2. A particular system of faith or worship.

3. A pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.

All three applications of the word “religion” are the basis by which each person decides what their world view and behavior will be. The pharisees asked Jesus by whose authority he taught and performed his acts. They were interested in the source of his confidence, power and teaching. They wanted to verify that he had the same god that they followed. Every person has a basis by which they make decisions and have confidence that they’re doing the right thing for themselves and others around them. From a practical standpoint every person is religious because each person has faith in a source of authority that emboldens them to act. It’s easy to see this manifested in the world’s religions. A belief in a supernatural god is the purest definition of religion.

What about the atheists, agnostics and those who proclaim to be non-religious? They also have a source of authority that they trust to give them a purpose in life. They trust the power and wisdom of mankind. They are secular when it comes to a supernatural god having authority over the affairs of this world, but they are humanists (trusting the power of man) when it comes to finding answers about life and behavior. I read a news account where a young man was asked if he had a religion. He responded that he was non-religious. When asked why, his answer was that religion was a way for past generations to explain what they couldn’t understand, but now science has answered so many questions about life. He also believed that modern man has more insight about life, death and successful living. This young man had reduced belief in the supernatural to nothing but myths. Have men found the answers to life’s purpose and truths through science and ideology? There is no substantive evidence that man has the answers to life’s greatest questions. It becomes apparent that trusting the power of man requires faith in a source of authority without proof that it is infallible truth. Religions based on the supernatural have always understood the issue of faith. Man’s efforts to bring stability and peace to the world has failed miserably. There have been more people killed and persecuted in the name of human ideology than those killed to satisfy the commands of a supernatural god.Historically, those who taught that human leadership and government could bring utopia and peace to the world have killed and persecuted millions in trying to bring these about. The communist revolutions in Russia, China and other countries were not in the name of a god but rather in the name of humans that promised utopia, but they brought death. We could talk of Hitler and other dictators who collectively killed and persecuted millions in the name of man’s leadership. The point is this; trusting the power of man’s intellect and commands is a religious act because it is the authority that those who trust in it, base their hopes and lives on.

Mankind has tried to bring peace by two things. The first is religion based on belief in a god that requires people work to earn salvation. This involves obeying commands that sometimes lead to the destruction of those who do not agree with them. Secondly, Man has tried to bring peace through human invention and power. The problem with both efforts is that neither accept the reality of sin’s consequences and that sin cannot be eradicated by false hope or man’s power. The evil that resides in mankind has not been solved by man’s power or ideology.

I am thankful for the gospel of Christ. Among the confusion and darkness there is teaching that does answer the desires of man’s heart. What if everyone were a christian? What if everyone believed that God manifested himself as the Messiah and loved mankind so much that He came as one of us to pay our sin debt so we could  be forgiven. What if everyone believed in the penalty of sin and saw our willful act of rebellion God? What if they sought God? What if everyone accepted Christ and practiced His teachings? What if everyone turned the other cheek, returned good for evil and loved their neighbor as themselves? What if everyone sought the wisdom of God, obeyed Him and loved Him as He has loved us? The world would be a much different place. Time will soon reveal the truth of Christ. The Biblical prophesies have never failed.

I am convinced that everything good or bad comes down to religion. Of what religion are you?

 

 

 

Faith and Mystery

Mar 4:11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:

1Co 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

1Co 15:51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

Eph 5:32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

1Ti 3:9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.

1Ti 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

The word mystery means something concealed or not revealed. The world is filled with mysteries. I would guess that the bulk of science is occupied with trying to solve mysteries. Tremendous resources have been committed to solving the mystery of life’s origins. Medical science is always trying to conquer the mystery of virus, infection and aging. Politically, world leaders have been trying to find the path to utopia and world peace. The willingness of mankind to die for causes like nationalism or loyalty to despot leaders has been a mystery to political scientists. We have more resources than ever before to study the earth, observe the heavens, and unearth the past, but few mysteries have been solved. If anything, the more knowledge man obtains, the more new mysteries appear.

Observation of the daily workings of life causes us to ask the question “why”. Mankind has never been content to leave a mystery unsolved. Herein lies the problem mankind has when it comes to seeking God. If things observed are attributed to God, then the mystery of how they work and why they work will only be answered when God is ready to reveal them. This leaves man in a subservient and powerless position. Mankind wants to solve problems now and by his own devices. Waiting on God to give answers and having to make a passionate appeal to him won’t do. It was decided long ago in the garden that man would be equal to God and could go alone on ruling the world’s affairs. This reality has now evolved into mankind building the case that there is no God.

God created us with five senses to experience and function in this physical world. We cannot experience God or understand the spiritual realm by these five senses. He gave us a sixth sense to experience him and function in the spiritual realm. That extra sense is “faith”. Faith is the ability to believe in the unseen and the unction to seek it out. In Hebrews chapter eleven we are told that faith is the evidence and substance that proves there is more than meets the eye about life. The fact that we have the capability to believe is evidence that there is something to believe in. In Ephesians chapter two we learn that faith is a gift from God. He has enabled us to seek him and believe in him.

Mystery and faith are essential partners in believing that the gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s answer for mankind’s salvation. Before you can believe that Jesus was God incarnate, who came to the world and so loved us that he died and suffered for our sins, you must accept the mystery surrounding God. He has never revealed his motives and mind to us. He has never explained how it all works on the earth and in the heavens. When we are told to walk by faith it means we are to trust that he is providing each day what we need. Faith is to trust that God is in control and that there is nothing mysterious to him. He created it all and knows all about it. Faith is to have peace and calm that there is nothing God cannot control or do.

Does faith require that we do not seek to eradicate disease, work for peace and seek more wisdom about life and its challenges? Of course not, faith in God will lead to a better understanding of how to fix the things that trouble us. The Bible is filled with philosophical and scientific answers. The Bible also has warned us that sinful man will not walk by faith but will seek out his own way. God’s perspective is that the purpose of life is to find him and repent of unbelief and sin. Man’s perspective is to rule the world by his own wisdom and receive the glory for doing so. There are many problems with this thinking but one of the greatest problems is that man cannot tolerate mystery. We cannot be saved and have the wisdom of God until we embrace the mystery of God and trust him with it.

Pastor’s New Book; Life Lessons from Sports

Product Details

After being involved with sports competition for most of my life I decided to share some lessons I had learned from my involvement. I pray that the information will be a blessing to all who are interested in a deeper look at competition. You can purchase the book from Barnes and Noble book sellers, Amazon, Amazon eBooks and Tate Publishers. You can also get a copy from me directly at a reduced cost.

The Subject of Privilege

Recently there was a visitor to one of our services that felt I had made some comments during the service that would be offensive to people of color. I have learned to take criticism seriously and did quite a bit self-examination about the matter. My comments came as I talked of the youth that were willing to be violent and destructive in order to bring attention to their social concerns. The visitor was someone who was doing a very good work with inner city youth, mostly of color. They suggested that I didn’t know enough about white privilege to be speaking about the behavior of these minority young people. Having worked in the jail ministry for thirty four years where I had dealt with poor and disenfranchised youth who had turned to crime and addiction, I could understand the compassion and concern of my friend. I also had grown up poor and lived on more than one occasion in the poverty area of Louisville, Ky. I certainly was not offended by the challenge that they posed to me about what I really understood about people of color and their struggles. Our church is multi-racial. We have attendees of different color and I would not want them offended by a misplaced comment from me as the pastor. I have some thoughts to share about my own experience concerning the racial struggle that the church must deal within our current culture.

The issue of white privilege has surfaced as a rally cry for those who feel our nation is still flawed by prejudice and oppression of minorities. They look at the poverty and crime statistics and conclude that because people of color have a higher percentage of population living below the poverty level and make up a larger percentage of those convicted for crimes that the problem resides with the white population. I am not going to try and take a position on that issue. I may not have the life and professional experience to decide if there is white privilege or not, but I do have a lifetime of experience teaching Biblical principles. I know that all the debating, protests and fighting over what is to blame for the social stress we all feel has only served to create division, anger and retaliation. There was a time when it was easy to see the political and social reasons for discrimination and reasonable people agreed to fix those problems. Today there are so many conflicting and confusing elements concerning social justice issues. Those being blamed do not feel they have done anything to harm others of any color while those who feel disenfranchised keep telling them that they have.

I’m not sure anyone can pull American citizens back together or be able to discuss real issues without being condemned for political correctness by the current means being employed. I want to suggest that we consider privilege from another perspective. I want to introduce you to the term “American privilege”. What is American privilege? I grew up under the poverty level. My parents were hard working and loving people. They made some decisions based on their desire to help others that limited our household income. My parents never let the lack of money cause their children to believe that we couldn’t chase our dreams. I participated in any school functions that I desired. I attended the University of Kentucky and graduated with a bachelor’s degree. How was this possible? Because of American privilege. Through the years I have spoken with many foreign missionaries about the conditions that oppress people in other countries. They use the phrase often that “only in America” can a poor person of any color can rise to greatness. American privilege is the opportunity for all children to obtain a free public education. High school graduates below the poverty level can work for academic scholarships and obtain free grants to attend college or trade schools. Young people who are willing to work and lift themselves above bitterness and blame can still achieve success. Exceptional character is still noticed by others.

It breaks my heart to see people disrespect the flag during the national anthem. They do have the freedom to protest and exercise their right of free speech to bring attention to a social justice issues but do they realize what they are saying by their method to express themselves? They are saying that there is no American privilege. They are dishonoring the very people who died for their freedom. Those who feel oppressed or disenfranchised should celebrate the national anthem as a symbol of hope. They should celebrate free speech and freedom of assembly. They should celebrate a country where there are so many citizens that would stop and consider the conditions their neighbors live in. Instead of drawing positive attention and empathy to their social justice concerns, those who dishonor the flag alienate and discourage others who can’t understand what they have done wrong.

Is it possible that there is also such a thing as “majority privilege”? In any culture and nation there is going to be a racial, religious and economic majority. The majority of the population will have the greater influence on cultural standards, elections and other social factors. American leaders and social institutions have become increasingly consumed with asking the majority to sacrifice its values and interests to accommodate minority populations. The majority has historically been willing to do that for people of color but in recent years the majority has been labeled the bad guys. They have been mandated through political means and court rulings to forsake their traditional values to accommodate minorities that are identified by behavioral traits instead of unchangeable features like race. Most of the population in the majority believe in social justice for all and race has become less of a factor in their assessment of others.

There is one more category of people that must be discussed and that is those who have “Christian privilege”. Freedom of religion is a critical part of American Privilege. Christianity is the true religion of peace and love. It reconciles people to God and to each other. There is no color or any other social barrier between people of Christian faith. If every person believed in salvation through Jesus Christ and practiced the love, humility and compassion that is taught in the Bible, what kind of world would we have?

I can’t speak with authority about such issues as white privilege but I know that violence, revenge, blame and vindictiveness can only cause a society to fail. American privilege is still alive for all people who will work and take advantage of the opportunities that are still there. It is true that it can be more difficult for those who start out in poverty or belong to a minority but American privilege still opens the door for all, just ask the professional athletes, who are protesting the flag, that came from poor and minority backgrounds to become millionaires and successful people. I fear that the current reaction to real and perceived social injustice will bring an end to American privilege and soon after there will be an end to religious liberty, free speech and other constitutional freedoms as government will have to become more totalitarian to control a society where anarchy rules.

May we all cherish American privilege and pray for the God in Heaven to bring healing to our land.

Movies, by Lex Goodlett, Deacon

A Movie Review

Movies have become a large part of our culture. Movies are a major form of entertainment that the vast majority of Christians and non-Christians alike enjoy. This is challenging to us because there are a lot of movies that contain subject matter or behavior that we would rather not be a part of. At the same time we live in a time and place where the movie is a very main stream form of entertainment and we are a part of the culture we live in. In some ways, Christians can appreciate these stories more than most, because we see more clearly the human condition.
In recent years there have been several quality movies that have been produced with the idea of providing entertainment and furthering the cause of Christ. There is something about seeing a story play out visually that makes it more real. For centuries now, actors have played stories out on stage, but now we have the ability through high definition filming and special effects to see things play out that we could never see before. We can see what war really looks like. We can see the terror of being in a sinking ship. We can visualize what the deepest reaches of space look like.
There remains one type of movie that for me, always draws a deep emotional response. Movies or stage dramas about our Savior always affect me profoundly. I think seeing the story of Jesus play out visually allows one to really appreciate the humanity of the characters. Also, knowing that what you are seeing really happened adds a dimension that a fantasy can’t duplicate.
Recently, I watched a movie called Risen. This movie was released by Sony in February of this year. (There might be some spoilers in the rest of this, so if you want to watch the movie maybe you’ll want to read the rest of this later.) This movie portrays the resurrection from a Roman standpoint. A tribune is assigned to investigate the disappearance of the body of Christ. What he finds, shocks him to his core. The man that he saw hanging dead on a cross is now alive and fellowshipping with his disciples before his very eyes. The movie plays out with this tribune abandoning his duties and following the disciples. At first, at a distance, then Peter brings him into the fold as they await further instructions from Jesus. The tribune becomes a bystander as the story plays out until the finale of Christ returning to the right hand of the Father. This tribune is obviously fictional, but enables the story to be told from a totally different perspective. I enjoyed this movie because it communicates to the watcher just how big of a deal the resurrection was. We fail to realize what an extraordinary event this was. Think of any popular figure today. What if that figure was executed and three days later the body turned up missing, even though the US military was guarding the grave. Then hundreds of people were able to give time, date, and place where they saw the person alive. If the resurrection could have been reasonably refuted, it would have been. The Jewish and Roman authorities did not want belief in the resurrection to grow.
The movie also provides a glimpse into the lives of the apostles at that time. Their unadulterated joy at seeing Jesus alive and their uncertainty about the future are striking and real. You can’t help but ponder what it will be like to actually see Him face to face. What will He say? What will I say? What will he look like? How will He have time to see each of us? The questions are limitless, but time will be too.
Movies like this can inspire us and draw us closer to our Lord. I thank God that he has allowed humanity this technology. When used appropriately it can bring glory to our Savior and provide a powerful presentation of the Gospel.

Orlando Shooting by Deacon Lex Goodlett

A California Pastor has made headlines recently because of statements he made about the recent mass shooting in Orlando. Pastor Roger Jiminez of Verity Baptist Church has said among other things, “I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put a firing squad in front of them, and blow their brains out.” He has also expressed that he does not mourn the deaths of these individuals because they deserved to die.
Let me first make clear that the Scripture teaches that homosexual behavior is a sin. If one is a Christian seeking to view life through the lens of the Bible, then there really is not another reasonable position to take, but that is a topic for a different time.
The disturbing thing about Jiminez’s statements is not that he describes this behavior as sin, but in his response to that sin. At the heart of the Christian faith is the belief that all people are sinners. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” The prophet Isaiah described the righteousness of people as “filthy rags” in the sight of God (Isaiah 64:6). When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians he talked about some of them being involved in homosexual behavior before their conversion to Christianity (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Jesus said that all manner of sin will be forgiven with the exception of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31).
So were those murdered in Orlando sinners? Yes, but so are all of us without Christ. Are many of them in hell today? Probably so, but not for the specific sin of homosexual behavior. If they are in hell, it is because they did not believe on the name of the only Son of God. Jesus said that those who do not believe are condemned already (John 3:18). Jesus has provided all people with the way to God if they will recognize that they are a sinner in need of saving and reach out to God for that salvation. Did they deserve to die? Yes, but we all do, because we have all sinned. Even one sin makes us guilty in the eyes of God and death is the result of sin (Romans 6:23). But praise God, He has given us life through Jesus Christ. So can I mourn for these people? Yes I can. How can we not mourn for any lost soul that passes into eternity? Do we wish hell on even the worst of criminals? Peter wrote that God is not willing that any should pass into eternity lost, but that all would be saved (1 Peter 3:9). For the Christian, holding a sincere belief that homosexual behavior is sin and sincerely valuing the lives of those who participate in this behavior are not mutually exclusive. Is our heart so hard that we would wish hell on even our worst enemy? If so, may God help us to love people as He does.

 

 

 

Outside the Circle by Deacon Lex Goodlett

Outside the Circle (One Christian’s Perspective on the Muhammad Ali Memorial Service)

 

Recently the city of Louisville lost one of its most beloved sons.  Muhammad Ali passed into eternity last week and a memorial service was held in his honor at the KFC YUM! Center.  I attended this service at the request of my boss.  The experience was eye opening and to me, very sad.

As most people know, Ali was a famous boxer and later in life a famous humanitarian.  By all accounts he was very generous and sought the betterment of his fellow man.  One thing that was clear from the memorial service was that his name change from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali was not a political stunt or done flippantly.  Ali’s Muslim faith was central to his life.  He also had a very ecumenical view of spiritually.  This was obvious in his request to have an interfaith service at his memorial.  Many faiths were represented on the stage ranging from a catholic priest to Native American Spiritual leaders.

During this three hour service, in which all of these various religious leaders spoke, I couldn’t help but realize how far outside the circle a Christian is who seeks to recognize only the Bible as authoritative for all spiritual matters.  There was a heavy overtone of the belief that there are many paths to God.  I must admit that I see the attraction in this theology.  Looking at all of these different people in apparent harmony is very appealing and could easily draw one in.  After all, these leaders are sincere in their beliefs and many of them seek to do good work.

But as Christians we have a problem.  The problem is that Jesus said that He is the only way to God (John 14:6).  He did not claim to be only a prophet or a great teacher.  He claimed that He and God were One (John 10:30).  The reality is that Christianity is not compatible with the other religions of the world.  Christianity makes clear that there are not many paths to God, but only one path, and that path is Jesus.  So as the crowd cheered and basked in the harmony of the moment, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad and lonely.  Lonely because I knew that I could never be in this circle.  I realized that I will always be on the outside.  Sad because this man that was being celebrated as now enjoying the benefits of the afterlife that Allah promises is burning in a sinner’s hell.  The path to destruction truly is broad.

President Bill Clinton was the final speaker at this event and said something that I thought was remarkable.  When talking about Ali refusing to enter the draft, he said that Ali was willing to live with the consequences of what he believed.  There is wisdom in this statement.  As Christians, we each have to consider this very question.  Once we choose to believe that Jesus is who He says He is, are we willing to live with this choice?  The consequence of this belief is that we will be outside the circle.  It will mean that many will call us divisive.   But it will also mean that some will be saved.  The church does not exist to make peace with the religions of the world, but to divide truth from heresy.  This was what Jesus was referring to when He said that He didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34).  Since the tower of Babel men have sought to unify apart from God, but the only true unity is in Christ.  The church has battled for two thousand years to maintain the supremacy of Christ and our battle remains the same today.

Why are we the target?

As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Rom 8:36-39)

 

When I began my journey in the ministry over forty years ago I could not have predicted the changes that would take place in four short decades. As a young preacher I rarely encountered people that didn’t understand what you were talking about when you asked them if they were saved. Forty years later it is more of a rarity to find someone who does understand what you’re asking. We are seeing the fruition of decades of intellectual, religious and moral assault on the foundational beliefs of Christianity.

 

The contemporary challenges we face can seem overwhelming. Spreading the gospel becomes more challenging when the society you’re witnessing to is growing more evil with the passing of each day. When you couple that with the challenge of training Christians to stay unspotted from the world you can become easily demoralized. Before we get too discouraged we need to remember the scriptures. The apostle Paul wrote the book of Romans during a time of great wickedness. As the apostle to the gentiles he was sent into a world of idolatry and hardness. His life was always in danger.

 

In order to get a grasp on dealing with today’s challenges we must see everything through the eyes of the scriptures. The Bible gives us a look at God’s perspective by taking us back in time through the history of his dealings with mankind. He also teaches us his wisdom by taking us forward in time through the prophecies. There is a great truth that emerges when we see life through a Biblical perspective. Here is that truth: the entire history of mankind, since the fall in the Garden of Eden, has been about mankind rejecting the authority of God, the creator, and his plan of salvation through Jesus Christ.

 

Politically, kings, queens, despots, dictators, Marxists, socialists and communists have opposed fundamental Christianity. Behaviorally, drunkards, drug addicts, fornicators, entertainers and other hedonists have resisted fundamental Christianity. Religiously, there have been false prophets, cults, false religions and many other movements that have condemned Christianity. Even within the scope of Christian sects there have been those who perverted basic Christian doctrines and changed the gospel story from one of grace to works.

 

The greatest threat the church faces in western culture today is the loss of religious liberty and freedom of religious speech. The assault is coming from the movement to grant civil rights protection to individuals who are practicing behavior that the Bible condemns as sinful and destructive. Such protection would be unprecedented considering that it has been historically granted to racial or religious minorities. It’s one thing to protect the freedom of individuals to make behavioral choices but something completely different to elevate  a behavior to civil rights protection when such behavior can be practiced by any gender, race or age. Individuals can choose to not practice this behavior so this signifies that this behavior is not an unchangeable feature or condition.

 

As great as this threat seems to be it is no different than any other threat that Christianity has historically faced. The battle has always been to find a way to silence the fundamental teachings of the Bible. There have been many nations that have provided peace for Christians but it has never been permanent. We are seeing the end of peace for Christians in America. Why is this always the case? Why did Paul recognize this reality during the earliest days of Christianity?

 

Here are some reasons we are “killed all the day long”. First is sin nature. Our flesh is filled with appetites for pleasure and indulgences. The earthly body has been judged and condemned by God. It is corrupted and God has provided a way to escape the judgment, but men would rather sin.

 

Secondly is the pride of life. Men find it offensive to be told they are sinners who need a savior. There is an arrogance in men that prompts them to find their own devices to answer life’s toughest questions. It can be in the form of false religion that requires men to be saved by their own goodness or atheistic science that prompts men to figure everything out without a creator.

 

Thirdly is the power of darkness. There’s not enough to be said about this. As it was in the days of Noah when the world became so corrupted that God nearly put an end to mankind, so will be the last days. The power of Satan grows stronger as people continually practice sinful behavior. Sin causes delusional thinking. The reality of consequences and death can be lost in the fog of sinful behavior.

 

Fourthly is the power of influence. Bible believing Christians have been easy targets. We have not been given instruction by God to form governments, destroy governments, form armies or otherwise force others to receive our message. The tool we have been given to spread the gospel is the power of influence through preaching, teaching and personal testimony. False religions and the lost take things by force or eliminate any opposing views. They soon figure out that they have the advantage with government and law. This does not eliminate the thing they fear the most; the power of the gospel message. The truths of the Bible are still, and always will be the most comprehensive explanation of life. The disciples of hedonism and humanism know that when people are exposed to the message of the gospel they will in large numbers receive it. The greatest obstacle to a world order, where man is glorified, is the truths taught in the Bible.

 

These explanations may seem too simplistic in the face of the world’s complicated problems. We must remember that God’s answers have always been simple, no matter how complicated the problem. We must simply live in obedience to Biblical truths. Looking at life through a Biblical perspective not only explains life but it also provides hope, faith and love. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, not even death. Attacking the faith has always been the duty of the wicked, keeping the faith has always been the duty of the believer. Ultimately, God is in charge. There’s nothing we could experience that he cannot provide grace to endure and use us as his ambassadors while we are enduring. According to the signs of the times we may be soon raptured. If Paul could preach hope, love, forgiveness and righteousness in his day, we can do the same today. We do not know what circumstances we may face in the near future but we do know how it all will end. Those who reject Christ can never say that.

 

The Church and Dress Attire

Cold winter days cause me to go to the closet and look through the sweaters, sweat shirts, coats and other clothes that only get worn a few times a year. I don’t like being cold. I do so little work out doors that it is hard to choose what would be best to put on. I had to buy a new pair of rubber boots last winter, not because I had worn the old pair out, but because the old pair had been in the closet so long they dry rotted. Choosing what clothes to wear is as challenging as choosing what restaurant to eat at.

Choosing the right clothing for the occasion reminds me of how important clothing is. Cold weather calls on us to choose warm and protective wear. Hot weather calls on us to wear as little as we can without becoming immodest or what will best protect us from the sun’s heat. To the immodest it is a call to wear virtually nothing. There are professions that mandate dress attire, while others have uniforms. When you stop and notice, most businesses and employers have requirements concerning the dress of their employees. You rarely see politicians conducting business without dress attire on. All of this is for practical reasons. The purposes of clothing are; protection from the elements, identification, modesty and appropriateness for an occasion. The use of clothing will fall under one or more of these purposes. When someone’s dress is out of the ordinary for an event or environment, it causes quite a stir.

I want to focus on the modern church and dress. During my lifetime I have observed a dramatic change in the dress attire for church attendance. I am a conservative pastor and still preach in dress attire, but it is becoming obvious that I belong to an increasing minority. The arguments for having more casual attire for church services have prevailed in most evangelical circles. Those in favor of casual dress argue that it departs from the formal and stuffy church of the past. It creates an environment that is more welcoming to the poor, who have little dress attire, or the sinner that may be intimidated by a church full of people who appear formal and unwelcoming. Casual attire is consistent with the message to “come as you are”. The Bible doesn’t specify or command a particular dress for assembly. These arguments can be hard to refute. At face value, they seem reasonable enough. I remember hearing as a young boy people complain about how churches were nothing more than members trying to see who could dress the best or that they were a bunch of do-gooders that thought they were better than everyone else. There’s the old complaint that church members are nothing more than hypocrites who dress up on Sunday and then live it up on Monday. Churches wanted to appear more engaging and down to earth. With these things in mind, you may think that it makes sense to offer a more casual and laid back environment for church services. I started my career as an evangelical and as a young preacher I would have agreed with the more casual approach to church services, but my thinking has changed about this matter over the years.

I think it is wise to investigate why traditions existed before discarding them. There is the possibility that some great principles could be the reason that the tradition existed. There were commonly held principles that influenced church dress in the past that were covered up by formality, ritual and vanity. Often, bad behavior causes people to lose sight of great principles. So why did the church traditionally practice “dressing up” for worship services?

The first reason was the importance of what was going to take place. If the carnal world recognized that dress attire should reflect the importance and seriousness of an event, then the church ought to do likewise. When the church comes together there are going to be the most important issues about life discussed. Life changing instructions are going to be given. Although the Lord abides in each of us and we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, there is something especially powerful about the church assembling.

A second reason was the principle of giving God your best. Your best may not be a suit or expensive dress, but it would be the best you have. This reflected a desire to present yourself before the Lord and the brethren in an appropriate way. Children were taught that the church was a special place and the environment should be kept different than any other place they could go.

A third reason was the difference between the sacred and secular. The music, preaching and other aspects of the worship service were elements you could only get in the church. Today’s church is focused on praise and worship. In reality it appears that the focus is much more about praise than worship. There is a difference between the two. Praise is when we celebrate and rejoice in what the Lord has done and is doing. Worship is when we fall silent and stand in awe because of who he is. It is hard to make joyful noise and have a celebration AND have silent, awe-struck reverence at the same time. The environment created in today’s church services is conducive to praise but falls short of worship. Everything from music to dress is designed for praise. The pulpit was designed to reflect majesty and serious concourse. It has been replaced with podiums, theater lights and a stage that is prepared for performance.

Fourthly, the church service was designed for inspiration, instruction and participation. You must listen attentively to learn from a speaker or teacher. Instruction through preaching and teaching gives the Holy Spirit an opportunity to inspire and convict the conscience of the believer. In past generations people were moved by great thought, now people are moved by strong emotions. The song service ministered to the listener through special music and congregational singing was designed for all to sing together and participate. Parishioners learned great truths by singing hymns. This also gave them an opportunity to participate in the service. Often, today’s church services are about watching musicians perform more than the congregation participating. Congregational singing is more celebratory through praise songs with few words and much emotion.

Western culture has changed dramatically concerning social issues like dress attire. Changing attitudes about modesty and gender identity have impacted the church. People used to wear dress attire to go to town for social functions. Suits were worn to ball games. Society has become much more casual than in the past. Modern technology has offered an explosion of options for dress and entertainment. It is difficult to keep contemporary tastes out of the church environment.  Christians have been commanded to occupy until the Lord returns and this requires that the believer be visible, busy and have a mission among others around them. We must participate in society to have the opportunity to witness to unbelievers. The church used to have a profound influence on social norms. It was much easier for the church to teach stricter moral codes of conduct when social institutions reinforced them. The same educational, governmental and private institutions that reflected the moral values taught in the church now attack Biblical teaching as an enemy of enlightenment and modern science.

Biblical truth is timeless and can be practiced in any culture or era. The challenge for the present church is teaching and practicing Biblical Christianity in an increasingly hostile environment. The church of the past fell to the temptation to become formal, judgmental and ritualistic. The present church appears to be succumbing to the temptation to be shallow and carnal in its presentation. Both generations lost their mission to challenge the believers with true Biblical teaching about love, compassion, mercy, judgment, separation from sin and personal testimony. Can a more casual approach to Church ministries sustain the practice of Biblical principles? This is the question that is before the church today. The Bible does not specify what type or style of clothing to wear. Nor does the Bible specify what style of music to use or what methods to employ during a church service.  With this in mind, it is difficult to be dogmatic about a subject when the scriptures are not. We need to be careful when judging others to be in sin when we only have our own preferences to judge them by. Sometimes an issue is about what is good, better or best. I think much of the debate concerns this issue rather than sin and wrong doing.

I have come to my own conclusion about the contemporary movement in the church today. I believe that the modern church struggles to discern the difference between the sacred and carnal. We would be better served to maintain some timeless Biblical principles that have been discussed in this article. I do not believe we should fix what isn’t broken. Our doctrines and methods can become sinful if they cause us to lose the ability to win our society to Christ. We cannot win a sinner to Christ if the truths about judgment and sin are not preached. These issues cannot be properly dealt with in an environment that is always casual and celebratory. There must be balance between a relaxed environment and a serious one. There should be a place for challenge, tears and repentance in the church. God has given us only the power of influence to evangelize a lost and desperate world. If the world hears and sees no great truths from the church and sees nothing sacred to draw them, then we will lose our influence. There should be a noticeable difference between the believer and non-believer. I strive not to be judgmental with fellow believers, but I think we can do better and in some cases the contemporary movement has led to sin.

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God’ 1Cor. 10:13