02 October, 2006

What Are We Saying???

This morning I picked up a book off my shelf that I have not read in a couple of years. The book is called, "Lost In America" by Tom Clegg and Warren Bird. I really don't know what compelled me to pull it off the shelf, but I did, and opened the book to somewhere near the middle and I saw these words in bold print:
"North America has such a large unchurched population because of the huge gap between what we say and what they need."

That sentence hit me hard and has stuck with me all morning.
We in the church world talk all the time about being "relevant" to the world around us; but how we do that if we don't stop and very honestly evaluate just what it is that we are saying, and is what we are saying addressing the needs of "our world", meaning those in our immediate culture. It strikes me that to do this, we need to have a listening hear bent toward our neighbors, those in our communities, so we can hear what their needs are. Let's be honest enough to admit that in the church world, all too often we are all too eager to jump on the latest craze or gimmick. We hear that doing "xyz" worked to build a church and have rapid growth in some other place, so we carbon copy that, bring it to our church and try to make it work. Chances are, it might... at least to some degree. But the chances are greater that we are being as relevent as trying to sell tofu burgers at a meat packers convention.

It really is time we stop and re-evaluate how we "do church." Is what we are doing, what we are saying, and offering something that has substance and validity to the community where we live? As a pastor, I have to question, do the people sitting in my pews relate to a guy wearing a sharply pressed suit and tie? Doing some soul searching this morning, I realize that in my own church... my appearance stands out like a sore thumb! Most of the time I am the only one dressed like that. And why do I do it? Certainly not because I love to dress that way, but because that is the "cookie cutter" image of what a pastor is supposed to do and look like.
But I am forced to ask the question: "What am I saying?"
The truthful fact is, I don't dress that way any other time, so I am putting on a mask on Sunday.
Another word for that is "hypocrite!" (OUCH!)
I'm not saying that I or any other pastor needs to throw away the suits... but is it necessary?

How about the rest of us? What is it we are saying or doing... and how is it reaching our neighbor. The sad truth is; "It's not working!"
If it were, then 75% of America would not be someplace other than in church on Sunday morning.

I would hope that this one might generate some discussion from some of you folks who normally pop in and never say anything on this blog. For the next day or so I am going to open this thing up to where you don't have to be a registered user to comment, so maybe some of you others will feel free to add your 2 cents. How about it?


michigan preacher said...

Wow, I believe your blogged has unstopped my writer's block. You've given me something to think about, and I'm the one who's been on the "missional kick" for some time now.

This is what the Emergent crowd is trying to do, but some in the movement seem to have given up the plain teachings of scripture to a more "seeking" mindset themselves, removing the solid foundation of Christ for a postmodern worldview that asks as many questions as the people they try to reach. Don't get me wrong, I am all for becoming missional in our focus, and learning to relate to the culture, but we can't afford to be assimilated into a mindset that tries to "break up" the foundation.

Ya know, Darrell, I personally don't like to wear suits. I only do because it's expected as a minister. Even then I don't always wear it (it is correct-only one suit that fits good!) One of my wife's friends from church that knows me well said that she doesn't see me as "suit pastor". Personally, I am more comfortable preaching in jeans or even shorts (perish the thought!), like when I preach the youth service.

Thanks for the food for thought, Bro!

Travis Johnson said...

I'd listen to what Warren Bird says. His finger is on the pulse. Another good read would be Breaking the Missional Code.

One thing Ed Stetzer says there is that when a church growth strategy is copied from a Willow Creek and put into practice across the US, it will work very well in some places and die in others.

It works in someplaces because Willow has discerned the needs of that culture. When another church employs it and that church enjoys success with that model, it is because of a matching or similar cultural DNA. Makes sense.

So, the challenge is not to be a copy cat (if you can, you should though). Our challenge is to discern the needs of our community and speak to those needs in the same language the culture is using.

ruthrap said...

perhaps we are saying that we are trying to be someone other than who we are? maybe who we really are doesn't come through in how we appear! Maybe Pastors, as well as church goers should start being more real. that would mean putting aside all the trappings of what one would think a Pastor or a Christian should be and just be genuine..not only in how we dress but how we act, how we relate to others and most of all how we relate to God! He knows us "behind the scenes". I think that people who don't attend church, for whatever reason, often use the excuse that churchgoers are hypocrits. I don't believe that people who attend church are any more hipocrits than those who don't. I think some people put too much effort into looking good for church and not enough effort in being there for the right reason. God doesn't look at how fashionable we are or if we are up to snuff with our style....He's looking at the condition of our hearts. I think that more people dress casual at church now than years ago, but tradition would have some still "put on their Sunday best" when entering the Lord's house. There's nothing wrong with that, but I think we should be accepting of all who would enter our church and look beyond what they have on. As far as gimmicks go in churches, I don't even want to go there! God has got to be laughing at some of the tricks performed from the pulpits these days!

Phil Hoover, Chicago said...

Well DAWG, a song from my past comes to mind:

"Gimme that clothesline religion,
Gimme that clothesline religion,
Gimme that clothesline religion,
It's good enough for me...."

Great post. Now you know why I do not wear a suit on Sundays. I was even told at a local church where I was a member for over three years that I couldn't "serve" in the congregation if I didn't wear a suit on Sunday mornings. After all, "no one will want to receive from you" if you are not properly dressed......hmmmmm

I thought it was God who was doing the giving anyway.

We are living in an emotionally numb culture, and the "church" seems to be just one more sleeper to those who are outside--and to many who are on the inside!

I'm convinced that we can win more than we do when we truly love them as Jesus loves them...and as Jesus loves us. People respond to love...well, most people do.

Sean McKee said...

"tofu burgers at a meat packers convention." I love that comment. This is what happens when the church tries to Christian-ize the world's gimics to 'sell' Christianity back to them.

The church will never be relevant in the world till it walks the walk. Why should they look to us when we have the same problems and act the same way as they do. When we talk all they hear is a 'clanging bell'.

Sean McKee said...


So are you going to wear jeans to church on Sunday?

Darrell said...

Hmmm... probably not. That would be too big of a jump for me. I have already stopped wearing a suit most of the time on Sunday evenings. I struggle with the Sunday AM, out of respect for some of the "old-timers" that would be offended. I could see the transition to a more casual thing on Sunday AM, but probably not jeans. But then again, you never know.

Sean McKee said...

I will wear my jeans on Sunday as a tribute to you. Nothing like suffering for the brethren. It is the least I can do for you…

Sean McKee said...


I was thinking about the dress up issue some more. Dressing up out of respect for the old timers is a good thing because the reason they feel you should dress up (I think) is that you are showing respect to, and the importants of, the event and who the event is for. It's like dressing up to take your wife out on a date. You show your wife her worth by 'dressing up'.

If you dress up for church with this attitude, it is an act of worship to 'dress up' on Sunday.

ruthrap said...

me again! when you put it that way, you are right, but not everyones' idea of 'dressing up' is the same...i think if you wear the best you have and are clean and presentable, doesn't necessasarily have to be a suit or anything really fancy..let's face it, not everyone can afford to dress that way!..and we should be respectful of everyone and especially Who we come to worship!

Sean McKee said...


Just like everything, it's a heart issue. Two people can say and do the exact same thing and one will be a hypocrite and the other a worshiper.

Jim said...

I disagree strongly with the idea that pastors should dress down to try to impress people.

I was a member of a church where the pastor was bullied into dressing like a slob. His dapper suits, ties, starched shirts and dress shoes gave way to jeans, tee shirts and even flip-flops at times. He looked ridiculous. He did not seem humble to me: just controlled by the trendy slobs in the congregation. They took away the polished shoes off his feet! How controlling can you get?

I am NOT promoting materialism. What I am saying is that dressing like a man of Godly authority is very important. So many pastors dress like they are pretending to be 25 because they think that will bring in unbelievers. When I was an atheist, and a militant one, I was impressed by the calm assurance of Christians. I did not want a pastor to drop his wingtips in the trash and put on sneakers to try and "reach" me by putting on a costume.

Keep your suits and ties, pastor - and don't let some trendy, controlling person convince you to dumb yourself down beacuse of the self-righteous need to dress up pastors like slobs: as if dressing like a bum makes us holy!

There is not enough real authority now. Men and women both have to stand up in the authority God has given us - pastors and laity.