Dressing up, dressing down

formal wearSomeone approached me the other day to talk about my recent Heartlight article about “Dressing Down For God.” They skipped over the main points of the article, wanting instead to talk about what we wear when we go to church. The main argument was that people dress up on Sunday to give God their best.

I don’t buy it. That’s a line, not a true motivation. There was a time when people saved their best clothes for Sunday, but it’s not true any more. Those who dress up on Sunday typically dress up on other days as well. The suit they wear for God is the same one they wear to request a loan at the bank. (And if they really want to dress up, men rent a tux and women wear evening gowns)

If we were really trying to give God our best, we would have “Sunday go to meetin'” clothes that we don’t wear anywhere else. They would be by far our best, much nicer than what we wear to meetings, even with heads of state.

Most Jewish families have special plates for the Sabbath. The nicest plates they have. Only for the Sabbath. If you do that, then I’ll listen to your “give God my best” argument. Otherwise, please save it for someone a little more naive.

You don’t have to rent a tuxedo. If you normally wear J.C. Penney’s suits (Sorry women… it’s hard for me to be conversant in terms of your clothing), go buy one at Brooks Brothers. Only for Sunday. Only for church. Only for God. And you can honestly say that you are trying to give your best to God by the way you dress.

Then, of course, we run the risk of following afoul of the instructions which the New Testament gives about how to dress for church: simply. Avoiding ostentation and show. Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees for fancy clothes. James warns against showing deference to those who are finely dressed. Women are exhorted to dress simply; is there any reason to think that men would be exempted from that?

Now, just to be sure I annoy everyone, let me say a word about those who think that sloppiness equals godliness. I thoroughly disagree. I think you should be acceptably dressed, acceptable being a key word. It is as wrong to dress to offend as it is to dress to impress. I think our goal should be to dress so that no one notices our clothes!

Wear clean, simple clothes. And be sure to wear the following:

“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14)


“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)

Image courtesy MorgueFile.com

Parties and temples

The wedding feastJust wanted to share a thought from a Bible study a few weeks ago. We were reading in John chapter 2. The chapter begins with Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding feast. Later he clears the money changers out of the temple.

We noted that Jesus seemed more at home among the partygoers than he did the templegoers.

I’m afraid we today might have gone into the wedding and cleared out the revelers while leaving those in the temple at peace.

What do you think?

Illustration courtesy Sweet Publishing

I’ve been digitized

Cuba history book coverOK, it wasn’t actually me. It was Tony and me.

OK, it wasn’t actually Tony and me. It was the book that Tony Fernández and I wrote about Cuba.

We’ve got a Kindle edition out now. If you don’t need another paperback lying around, or if you don’t want to wait to receive a copy in the mail, or if you’d like to save a few dollars off the price of a physical copy, or if you just like e-books… you can get A History of Churches of Christ in Cuba in Kindle format.

Here’s the link: http://smile.amazon.com/A-History-Churches-Christ-Cuba-ebook/dp/B00XI0QFDK

(By the way, if you don’t have “Smile” set up on Amazon, it’s a program that donates a part of the proceeds from most sales to the non-profit of your choice. Go ahead and set it to Herald of Truth. You can support worldwide evangelism while doing your shopping)

Links To Go (May 22, 2015)

What Being Pro-Life Means in Light of the Death Penalty

When Americans were asked in a Barna poll if they believed Jesus would support the death penalty, only 8 percent of Protestants and 2 percent of Catholics said yes. Yet, despite these low numbers, 32–55 percent of Christians (range dependent upon generation) still support the ultimate punishment. It seems strange that so many Christians can live with the cognitive dissonance of ardently supporting something they believe Jesus would frown upon.

Evangelicals, Culture, and Post-Christian America

But for the most part, our churches are still poised for ministry in the old cultural mindset. They expect to be heard and respected. They expect to have the power. They expect culture to fall in line under the leadership of the church, but culture is just not listening.
Until American churches understand how to live and work in our specific version of an increasingly post-Christian culture, they will struggle with effectiveness for the gospel.

Evangelical Protestants Are The Biggest Winners When People Change Faiths

Why do evangelicals wind up ahead of other Christian sects in this model? They’re better at holding on to the people born into their tradition (65 percent retention compared to 59 percent for Catholics and 45 percent for Mainline Protestants), and they’re a stronger attractor for people leaving other faiths. According to Pew’s data on conversion rates, 10 percent of people raised Catholic wind up as evangelicals. Just 2 percent of people born as evangelicals wind up Catholic. The flow between mainline and evangelical Protestants is also tilted in evangelicals’ favor. Twelve percent of those raised evangelical wind up in mainline congregations, but 19 percent of mainline Protestants wind up becoming evangelical.

What Was Unique About Fourth Century Christianity

Did you catch that last bit? You may not know this, but Christians established the first hospitals ever known to man. Those of you who work at a hospital can thank the early Christians in part for your job. Did you also notice that the root of “hospital” is also the root of “hospitality,” as well as “hospice.” These all derived from the Latin hospes and was translated as “host,” “guest,” and/or “stranger.” The first hospital to receive substantial attention in Christian literature notes the bishop Basil of Caesarea as its founder in AD 370.

Why Are Christians So Serious about Everything?

Part of Jesus’ Good News to us is that His burden is easy and light. I have seldom met people who really live this out, but when I do, there is one thing they all have in common: They don’t take themselves too seriously. Actually, they’re kind of weird. They laugh a lot. It doesn’t take a lot to impress them, and they are completely in awe of the little stuff. They aren’t waiting for their big break in ministry or culture. They are not comparing themselves to others. They take God seriously, and because of that, they live freely.

God’s Google

It is so easy and so natural to go online to look for answers, that we may just pass over the most obvious means of help. It is here, in the local church, that we have people who are deeply invested in us and specifically called and gifted to assist us. Church first, Google later.

What Christians Can Learn from Secular Business Thinking

For the skeptics, it’s important to clarify: Learning from business thinking does not mean churches adopt everything done in the business world. (For example, I don’t agree with the “pastor as CEO” model.) Still, there remain certain universal principles that apply, namely because in both business and the church we are dealing with people.

Elephant snatches student’s camera, snaps an ‘elphie’

Christian LeBlanc, 22, a University of British Columbia student who shared the photo on Instagram this week, said the elephant on Thailand’s Koh Phangan island snatched his GoPro camera while it was in time lapse mode, so it continued to shoot photos from its vantage point at the end of the elephant’s trunk.

Assemblies that build us up, please God, and attract outsiders

Church AuditoriumI’ve been proposing several things about our church assemblies:

  • The main focus of our assemblies shouldn’t be worship. In the same way, God shouldn’t be the exclusive focus of our worship assembly. If we are people whose very lives are worship, then worship will naturally occur when we come together. If we are people who put loving God at the center of our lives, then we will seek to please God when we gather. But if we make focusing on God our exclusive goal, then we will fail at making the assemblies what they were meant to be.
  • Church services are primarily for the edification of the body. By doing so, we will please God. And as a body of worshipers, we will naturally worship when we are together. But what is done during the times we are together is done primarily for believers.
  • Our assemblies should be intelligible to outsiders. We don’t tailor the service for them. Instead, we invite them to come and see who we are and what we do. The assembly is not primarily about evangelism. It’s not about selling the church, either. As outsiders see us love and edify one another, they should want to know about the God that makes all that possible. Our hope is that what outsiders see in our assemblies will make them open to hearing the gospel message.

So, in short, we seek to build one another up in a way that is pleasing to God and makes sense to outsiders. We don’t expect non-believers to perfectly understand everything that goes on; we do hope that what they see will convey a message of love and mutual edification.