Dressing Up For Church–Traditional or Missional?

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A few months ago, I typed a lengthy blog post called Dressing Up for Church: Which Way Should One Go?  In it, I echoed what Joe McKeever said: a leader needs to dress one step ahead of the average dress level in the congregation in order to garner respect from those following him.

That was a few months ago. Has anything changed?

Yes.

Somewhat.

The debate centers around two poles.

The first is the notion of “wearing your Sunday best” and a sense of honoring the position of pastor and a sense of giving honor to God through our dress.  This is the tradition in which I grew up. I remember distinctly how cool it was to be old enough to wear a suit and tie to church. I felt grown up, a part of things.

But then I remember that the church in which I grew up was located in a retirement community of Beverly Hills, Florida, filled with 12,000 retirees strong.  No, not everyone wore suit and tie all the time, but the majority did and thus groomed the culture.

The second notion is that of connecting with the community you’re trying to reach. This deals with the missional aspects of the church. This culture in churches and among leaders seeks to meet people where they are in every aspect of their countenance.

The interesting angle to this notion is the floating scale of what ‘dress’ is.  Flannel and jeans?  Dress shirt and khakis? Print shirt, shorts, and flip-flops?  The easy answer to this is, what is the average dress of those in your community you’re trying to reach?  Then go with that!

Honestly, these questions and notions all come down to this: what is the expectation and nature of a pastor? Pastors run by different, often unwritten rules. Youth pastors, children’s pastors, and most other leaders are, well, leaders, to be sure.  But in some circles, the pastor is, well, the lead pastor.  And the expectations are different.  Higher. More stringent.  He is a reflection of the whole church!

And, this, ladies and gentlemen, is where the rub comes in. Pastors are the tone-setters of the church (or at least they should be). And this is what I have to sort through in dealing with Christ’s command to love our neighbors.  Is the tone I set by my clothing putting off a vibe that, in order to come to my church, they have to have a certain quality of clothes to be part?

Hoo-boy.  So here’s the money question:

If by living in Denver my suit and tie would be a turnoff to a neighbor coming into our church by the tone I am setting, would I be willing to set that aside?

I’d have to say, “Yes.”  Why?

  1. The culture we live in no longer has that underlying expectation of church on Sunday. Many of you reading this lived in an area where someone was looked down upon for skipping church, and thus a societal peer pressure existed.  But now, the societal peer pressure is to avoid church. And with that the understanding of having ‘church clothes.’
  2. Some still have that understanding of ‘church clothes.’  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard of people inviting others to church, only to have them say, “I don’t have any church clothes.” My heart just broke. In pieces. Tiny ones. To me, the requirement should be, “Wear clothes!”
  3. “What about honoring the Lord and the calling?” My response is simple: the qualifications outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 mention much about character. We honor the Lord with our character and with our calling to “preach the Word, in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). Why didn’t Paul (by the Spirit) mention clothing in the qualifications?  I believe that the Spirit gives pastors liberty in executing their high-character calling in a way that’s most missional for those around them.

You see, it’s not the clothes on the preacher that gives the ultimate sense of honor, but fidelity to the Word and the character He exhibits both inside and outside the pulpit. Could a context call for a certain style? Absolutely.  But here’s another kicker: The style of the dress at church should not be miles away from average dress in the community one is trying to reach. 

For us at ARBC, we aim to help all of Denver and the nations believe Jesus is enough. Is our church a place to hide from the city in order to create our culture, or is our church a hub to the city in order to connection with the culture?  

What thinkest thou?

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What hopeful, joyful disciples look like

​Hopeful, joyful disciples bank on God’s love and faithfulness, most fully expressed in His Son, Jesus Christ. #JesusIsEnough

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Hopeful, joyful disciples recognize that hope and joy come from staying on God’s path of purity. #JesusIsEnough

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Hopeful, joyful disciples meditate, not by emptying the mind, but by delightfully filling it with His Word. #JesusIsEnough

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A hopeful, joyful disciple recognizes that God’s Word is fixed and does not change, and is our anchor! #JesusIsEnough #hopeandjoy

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Hopeful, joyful disciples of Jesus look forward to gathering at the appointed time for worship with other siblings in Christ. #JesusIsEnough

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Hopeful, joyful disciples of Jesus long to look more into His works. #JesusIsEnough

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Hopeful, joyful disciples realize that the most important earthly relationship is between a husband and wife. Period. #JesusIsEnough

Clarity of God’s Vision at ARBC

On November 12, 2016, twenty or so of our leaders at my church gathered together to talk about making the Great Commandment and Great Commission a reality. Our vision at ARBC is to help all of Denver and the nations believe Jesus is enough.  We do that by being and making hopeful, joyful disciples of Jesus.

Below is a brief video I put together (complete with a phone, a bookshelf, and a dream) regarding the clarity of the vision.  I’ve found it takes about a year and numerous mentions for a vision to dig in.  And by the time folks are starting to get sick of hearing about it is when you know you’ve gained traction.  Funny how that works.

So, here you go. Complete with soccer scarves over bookshelves–each has a story.

Leading with Joy Means Leading with Pain

I just finished reading Samuel Chand’s book, Leadership Pain: A Classroom for Growth. This may be the most important leadership book that I have read to date. The subtitle of this book is, “A Classroom for Growth.” And this is true. This book insists that your leadership is based upon your threshold of pain . Change entails pain. Growth means change, so anytime we wish to grow either personally or as an organization, pain will come. What will we use it to learn and grow ourselves , or will it crush us in a mound of self-pity?

Before I became a pastor, I honestly believed that leading a church would be free from pain if you were doing it right.  The absence of pain, to me, meant the presence of God’s favor. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is, oftentimes the closer you are to Christ and His Word and His mission, the more pain arrives. Why?

Coasting and being content with the status quo brings no tension, no edge, nor accountability.  It’s like the end of Judges: “There was no king in the land, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (21:25).  Silos exist in each ministry with no connectivity with one another, nor with the church in general.

But with an aim to bring everything under the lane of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, the tension and accountability come.  Some are on -board, some aren’t. Some want to do it their way, but now there’s accountability to do it Scripture’s way.

And pain comes.  Pushback comes. Suddenly, a leader is not simply consumed with being liked, but being faithful!

The money quote in this book is this one:

It is a paradox of a grace-filled spiritual leader that he can be a bold visionary yet humble and willing to listen to anyone at any time; he can be driven but his heart is at rest; he can be tenderly compassionate yet brutally honest when the occasion warrants. He has nothing to prove and nothing to lose (p. 182).

I find myself going back and forth in each of these areas listed, but God used Chand to give me freedom to be both! It does not take away every aspect of pain, but it sure helps raise the threshold of it all.

And it raises my joy!

Small Church, Little Power, Little Influence? Hear Christ’s Words for You

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Your church may never receive any notice from denominational leaders.

Your church may be smaller than the big churches in your area that possess national recognition.

Your church with its preaching and praying and Scripture reading and congregational singing may seem quaint (even antiquated) by the standards of culture and Christian alike.

Here Jesus’ words:

“‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

If we are faithful with what we know from the Scriptures, God will open doors through which our church may walk to multiply that faithfulness to and in others.  

The church in Sardis had a reputation for being alive, but was dead (Revelation 3:2).

The church in Laodicea thought they were rich, were prospering, and needed nothing, “not realizing that you are wretched, pitable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

By what standard do we live as believers and churches?

  • Keep His Word, for He keeps you.
  • Keep His name, for His name is yours.
  • Hold fast, for you are held by Him.

Be faithful with what you know from His Word, hold fast, and He will open gospel doors for you to walk through!

Jesus is enough!