“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Christian Life - Part VI - The Cult of Nonchalance

There is a pervasive issue within the church today, and it has been propogated by the leaders of the church; it is the cult of nonchalance. We have become so laissez faire in our approach to the worship of the Creator of the Universe that we have robbed our young of the joy of worshipping a Transcendent God.

You see this everywhere -- it closely ties into the Cult of Revelevance (see post), and is directly tied to the pastor's attitude towards worship. We see this more and more, with men who try to be relevant by being nonchalant in their approach to God, appearing, for all intents and purposes to be disdainful of God. They think that this will make people feel comfortable at their church (as if that was the main purpose of the church!).

The problem extends from their dress to their words, to their overall attitude. I know that many an argument has been started and hard-fought regarding dress and words, but before we start that here, listen to what I am saying:

1. I fully realize that what one wears to church is not an indicator of their salvation -- but I also realize that clothes say much about attitudes. Before anyone gets up in a huff about this, let me say that our church is full of bikers, and they come in leathers and jeans, and I have no problem with that -- however, I am fairly concerned about women who show up braless with tight blouses, and low cut jeans showing off their mid-section. I am concerned about men who show up with a 'F--- Corporate Rock' T-shirt; the deacons (one of which is a biker who is usually dressed in jeans and leather), have been known to say something to people who come in dressed in such a manner. Now, when a person first comes to our church, we do not say anything, but through our teaching and guiding we expect people to pick up the idea of what is proper and what is not proper.

2. When people are standing around in the church and talking like they are out on the forecastle of a ship with their Navy buddies, we have been known to say things about it. Why? Because we are trying to get people to realize that there is a proper way to approach God; much to the surprise (I am sure) of many a pastor, Jesus is NOT our homeboy, nor is He our buddy we swap dirty jokes with! Again, words do not indicate salvation, but they most CERTAINLY indicate attitude. Now, I have many people who use colorful language to express themselves, especially when they first come to the church -- I mean, many of our folks come in right off the street -- but again, through example, and guidance, we try to show people that there is a proper way for a Christian to act, and talk.

With these two volatile statements being made, I am sure many would not only disagree with me, but would actually think I am hindering evangelism. Funny that one would think that -- I have baptized most of the people at our church, and many of them have come from backgrounds which are generally not evangelized (two of our members were homeless when I met them). This has not hindered evangelism without our community, as a matter of fact, it has caused people to come to the church! Why? Because if they want to be secular, they will find better venues to do so, but many of the people are tired of the world's ways and actually want to join a group of believers who actually are DIFFERENT than the world!

And here is where I have the biggest rub -- a pastor who makes a seven figure salary thinks he is relevant by dressing in torn jeans, and a T-shirt to preach -- when in reality people, ESPECIALLY those who do not know who God is, need to see that He is Holy and Transcendent -- and they do not get that impression when the pastor sounds and looks just like a B-Grade comedian (and most are not even B-grade).

The Cult of Nonchalance is definitely expressed when one walks into a church and thinks that they have stumbled into The Comedy Corner, or a Rock Concert -- somehow we have forgot how we are to approach God. many will say that the unbeliever will feel uncomfortable in a church that actually treats God with the Awe and Respect due Him. Well, I would say GOOD, the unbeliever SHOULD feel uncomfortable during the worship of a Holy God, as should the believer! Ask Isaiah:

Isaiah 6:1-5 -- In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"

Do you see Isaiah's response? Not much like a pastor who turns the pulpit into his own humor pedestal!

Now, you may be saying -- "Well, Ray that is Old Testament -- we live in the New Testament." You are right -- so lets see what happens there:

Luke 5:1-8 -- On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."

Do you see any nonchalance in the attitudes of these men? Now, you may be saying -- What has this to do with our outward actions and appearances?" Well, I think it is a tragedy that Christians in this country have so little respect or awe for God that they show up for corporate worship dressed DOWN -- in clothing they would not wear to work! That reflects an attitude, not of respect, but of disdain. I have worked with and visited many from countries that are dirt poor, and they will WALK for miles on Sunday, dressed in their best attire, to hear the Word of God preached, and we, in the richest country in the history of the world INTENTIONALLY dress as sloppy and casual as we can. Then we talk just like the world talks, and we think somehow we are being relevant -- we are not! We are irrelevent at that point -- people come to church looking for God, and we show them a cheap imitation of the world -- no wonder many do not stay once the novelty wears off!

My friends do not mistake this post as a call for suit and tie Christianity -- it is a call to change our attitudes; this will be reflected in our walk, talk, and appearance. It is not suit and tie Christianity, but it is the concept of offering our bodies as living sacrifices. Whether you wear jeans or a three-piece suit, the bottom line is that we should approach the Lord with respect, and not use our outward appearance as a tool to be relevant; rather we should come to church expecting to meet with a Holy, Transcendent God!

Malachi 1:6-8 -- A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, 'How have we despised your name?' By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, 'How have we polluted you?' By saying that the LORD's table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts.

Do you offer the governor, (or your employer), the best while giving God less than that?


Even So... said...

Right on Ray...

Charles North said...

I just want to let you know that I have been reading your series of posts on the Christian Life. It's good stuff. Sorry for not commenting earlier, or posting on my own site in such a long time. God Bless!

Ray said...

even so -- Not too bad for an old man :-)

Charles -- Good to hear from you -- when you come down to the area, give me a shout -- we all three (Ryan, you and I) need to get together!