Sunday, November 28, 2010

No Suit Required

“This pastor is changing things and we don’t like it. He wants people to stop wearing suits to church!”

A couple in their mid-40’s had only been coming to the church for a couple of months when they decided to go to one of the weekly dinners that are served on the large campus. They ended up sitting at a small table with a suit-wearing, sour-faced, ugly-talking older man and his wife. The crotchety couple didn’t waste time giving their tablemates an ear full.

They were, they boasted, founding members of the church and there are rules—ways of doing things around here. The new pastor, they said, didn’t respect the “traditions” of this old church.

The church I attend hired a new pastor/teacher eight months ago. The much beloved preacher he replaced retired after 44 years at the same pulpit. The outgoing leader was the only minister many in the congregation had ever known.

The new guy is a very young 48 years old. The man who retired was in his 70’s and he definitely came from a different era. His preaching style reflected his this-is-how-you-do-it confidence. No one could deliver a hellfire and brimstone sermon like the old-school minister.

Most of the staff pastors at the mega-church have been around for many, many years. They are used to doing things their way, and true accountability has kind of fallen by the wayside. A “good ol’ boy” mentality prevails.

So, in comes someone new and he’s ready to move the parishioners into the modern era, even if he has to drag the old-fashioned church kicking and screaming into the 21st century. He brings change to the table and, let's be real, change is met with opposition 100% of the time.

Pastor New Guy offers weekly “get to know me” gatherings. I’ve been to several of these small group meetings where people are allowed to ask questions, raise concerns, voice their objections, and discuss the challenges that come with this type of transition.

The husband and his wife raised their hands and asked the pastor the question, “Are you really telling men they can no longer wear suits to church?”

“What?” Pastor New Guy was truly shocked. “Who told you that?”

The visitors related the strange conversation they’d had only an hour before. They told us they were sitting alone at a small table where the dinners are served when the old man and his wife asked if they could join them. As soon as the gray-haired man learned the younger couple was new to the church, he began bad mouthing the new pastor.

As I sat listening to this tale I was getting angrier by the second. Luckily, I didn’t have to open my mouth. Our lead pastor was plenty enough outraged.

“I didn’t say they couldn’t wear suits to church. I said they have the freedom to not wear suits to church.”

“If we hadn’t been Christians for our whole life, we might have been really offended by them.” The couple was being sweet about the ugly encounter.

“How do they know?” Pastor’s frustration was palpable. “How do they know you’re not a new believer? This is the way the ‘founding members’ of the church are talking to new attendees?”

No wonder the church stopped growing 10 years ago!

Listen up; Jesus doesn’t care whether or not you wear a suit to church! He doesn’t care about designer shoes, name-brand labels, or smart jewelry. Jesus just wants to love you like you’ve never been loved before.

Most of us have heard that church is a hospital for the sick and Jesus is the healer. A pastor friend of mine takes that analogy further. He says churches are like hospitals—you have to be extra careful to not contract an infection worse than the one you came in with.

Have you been infected with negativity, gossip mongering, pride, a judgmental attitude, or legalism? Get off the pew and take it to the great physician. Come to Jesus just as you are…no suit required! Get off the pew!

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