Never let it be said that this writer/pastor ever claimed to be perfect in any sense of the word; far be it and this article is not in any sense meant to be judgmental of churches, pastors, leaders or the people of which the church is made; although it will probably be seen by many as such.
This article is meant solely as an observation on the (dare I say) “evolution” of the church and nothing more.
In my nearly thirty years as a pastor I saw everything one could and many did call hypocritical “among the brothers and sisters” of the church.
The known practicing alcoholic along with the practicing gossip, mistresses, adulterers as well as child and wife abusers in open worship celebration with South Florida’s finest in the illegal drug and money laundering business would be dressed in their Sunday best singing and worshipping as if they were the perfect father, mother, child and family; it was as though none of their weekly “outside the box” activities of life even existed.
It was often like a scene out of a Norman Rockwell painting come true; the men dressed in suits and ties, women and children dressed in their very best.
The scene was surreal.
Although most of those in attendance were well aware of their own social, moral and spiritual status as well as many seated around them, often the pastor was the only one truly aware of the height of the church’s hypocrisy and its actual implications.
In thirty years of ministry, things would change through the years including the congregants and even the pastors and staff appearing to be less formal and more “real world” related.
Everything from music, liturgy as well as worship order and style began to change; church services began to become less worship and more celebration and fellowship.
Even the pastor/preacher’s dress in most protestant churches started to change with those who had worn robes, shedding them for suits without ties to others going the way of my Southern Baptist Colleague Dr. Rick Warren’s Saddle Back Church approach with the dawning of a dress casual look.
In full disclosure, this writer/pastor was right there with them with at least one “contemporary service” in the last three churches I was pastor; contemporary Christian music and yes casual dress.
Of course, as the church leadership “dressed down” so did the congregation; in fact it was even encouraged as “anything to get them in church”.
Today the church has gone from casual to down right sloppy.
The church should never exclude or refuse anyone because of their dress; we are after all, the people of "Who so ever will may come" and "Just as I am" but certainly those of us who know better should do better and teach by example the respect God desires of His people.
If restaurants, schools, colleges and most work places can have dress codes, certainly the house of God can at least set an example through outward simple suggestion.
As time progressed, this writer/pastor has realized that all we have done is “openly cover up” the hypocrisy already there; what I like to call, "reverse hypocrisy" or the process of open hypocrisy by the church to help and even accentuate Christian unfaithfulness and disrespect for the things of God.
As a result the question must be asked, “Have we accomplished what we intended”? In this writer/pastor’s opinion, absolutely not.
This past weekend found me involved in two services of two different denominations which gave perfect examples of reverse hypocrisy.
One service this writer attended was a wedding which included communion with full and formal liturgy. Although the pastor was dressed formally and appropriately, as were the Bride, groom and their wedding party, the invited guest were dressed from casual to absolutely sloppy and disrespectful for any wedding.
Including the Bridal party there were only two other men in suits and ties and only three women in dresses. There were even people of both genders and all ages dressed in shorts, cargo pants and jeans.
It was absolutely the most flagrant display of disrespect for both a Christian service and the institution of marriage this writer has ever seen at a wedding (and over thirty years as a pastor I performed hundreds of weddings).
The other service I attended was what I thought was going to be a somewhat traditional service at a church I had not attended in some time.
The church like many has battled for years with the blended worship style of some contemporary and some traditional ideas.
My Sunday visit was an absolute shock; apart from the singing of one traditional hymn and one contemporary worship chorus I was familiar with, this writer felt as though I had entered another dimension.
The pastor was out of town; on Father’s day no less.
In thirty years of ministry I was never out of the pulpit on holidays. It just wasn't done and if it was, the pastor would probably be looking for a new church come Monday morning.
The young associate supplying was boring, near monotone and until he learns how to speak, project, dress appropriately and have a genuine knowledge of Biblical content, languages and culture, he should not dawn the pulpit again anytime soon.
The young "would be preacher" was wearing a plaid shirt (designed to be worn tucked in) hanging out down past his waist over khaki pants with all of his keys attached to his belt jingling and reflecting light as he moved from one side of the platform to the other; his dress and mannerism distracted from anything he could say.
He had four points which were published in the bulletin handout (as most churches now do). He preached for over one solid hour, never got to his fourth point and frankly never made his case for the three points on which he continued to dwell.
After being at one of the worst Sunday church services ever, I finally did something this writer/pastor has almost never done, I got up and left.
The young man who attempted to preach should remember that the Koine’ Greek word “keirugma” used in the Bible in many passages means in its purest sense, “to proclaim with authority”.
When a preacher is unprepared, unequipped, unable to speak beyond a near monotone quality and dressed extremely casual, his appearance of authority is diminished and the ability of the Holy Spirit to speak effectively through him or her for the purpose of calling and influencing people to follow the risen savior is near impossible.
In addition, the young preacher should remember that the average person’s attention span is around ten minutes. If you can’t make your point(s) in that time span, it is time to close the Bible and say “let’s pray”.
America and her churches and houses of worship are in deep trouble.
What this writer experienced this past weekend is unfortunately not the exception but practically the rule.
Pastors are no longer real genuine theologians and preachers in the tradition of Spurgeon, Moody, the Wesley brothers, Dr. Billy Graham or Dr. Charles Stanley but rather self-proclaimed orators attempting to hype their listeners on the pabulum and religious psycho-babble of what the current trend is among the latest church growth expert or the tel-evangelist.
If America is to experience a real third spiritual awakening (which meaning are talking about these days) and rid herself of increasing hypocrisy in our churches, then Preachers, pastors and spiritual leaders must grow a “spiritual pair” and start to teach respect of both Christ and His church once again.
One more thing to my fellow pastors, put on a robe or decent suit and tie this Sunday; you might find you preach better and I guarantee your message will be shorter and to the point as you seek to get out of those clothes.
© 2014 Dr. Lee W. Outlaw III