Thinking Out Loud

October 6, 2016

Faith and Snobbery

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:23 am

We’ve visited the blog of author and pastor Mark Fox, Christians in Context, several times at C201, but I thought today we’d share his most recent post with our larger audience here at Thinking Out Loud. At C201, we ask readers every day to send some link love to our writers and click through to read the post at source; just click the title below.

Snobbery and faith don’t mix

In his commentary on James, Kent Hughes tells the story of a woman who came from “the other side of the tracks,” to visit a prominent church in her city. She may have wondered why no one ever spoke to her or welcomed her, but she liked the church anyway, wanted to join, and told the pastor so. He told her to go and think about it for a week. She did and came back and told him she wanted to join, and he said, “Let’s not be hasty. Go home and read your Bible every day for an hour, and come back next week and see if you still want to join.” She did. And came the next week wanting to join. He said, “Let’s do one more thing. Go home and pray every day this week, asking the Lord if he wants you to come into this fellowship.” The pastor didn’t see her after that for six months. Then one day they met on the street, and he asked her what had happened. She said, “Oh, I did what you suggested. I prayed every day for a week, and one day while I was praying the Lord said to me, ‘Don’t worry about not getting into that church. I’ve been trying to get into it myself for the last 20 years!’”

James questions the integrity of those in the church who would welcome the rich man to the church, offering him the best seat, fawning over him because of his wealth, and then telling the poor man dressed in shabby clothes to stand, or if he must, be seated on the floor. There’s a difference between showing honor to someone and showing partiality. We honored three sailors in our church two weeks ago, three young men who are stationed at different places and had come home to Antioch while on leave. If the governor or any civic leader were to visit the church, we would honor him or her because of the position God has given them. Peter said, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” But here’s the thing. If the wealthiest person in town showed up in your church, you would do wrong to make a big show of his attendance, to honor him simply because of his wealth. The sad truth is that too often churches go even further, making a rich man an elder, not because he has the spiritual qualifications, but because he has a pocketful of cash.

The question James is asking us to consider is this: does our reaction change depending on who walks in the door on Sunday morning? To show partiality means literally to “receive the face,” to accept or reject a person based on outward appearance. Our tendency may be to see the clothes and the car and the house and the lifestyle, and to honor someone based on those things. We must not do that, and if we allow that thinking in the church, we are headed for trouble. You see, though the world puts premium value on wealth and status, the church must not, because God has turned that upside down in Christ. “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.”

True riches are only found in Christ, and He welcomes all who come to Him by faith: rich or poor, highly educated or a high school dropout, powerful in society or just known by friends and family.

 

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December 9, 2011

Preaching in Your Pajamas*

No, this isn’t about a recurring nightmare that your pastor has, although, as a regular in a church orchestra, I can honestly say I had the dream where I was sitting among my fellow church musicians in sleepwear. 

Nor is this a rant about the trend in the last 20-30 years of preachers losing the three piece suit, or at least the jacket and tie.  That shipped sailed long ago.  While I agree with the maintaining respect or decorum for the ‘spiritual office’ of pastor, I also appreciate that the slightly more casual look is (a) more welcoming to visitors and (b) more affirming of the principle that the pastor is a human like the rest of us.

Years ago, in order to catch a piece of history, I visited The Vineyard church in Yorba Linda, California while the late John Wimber was the pastor.  (If the trend in my Charles Shultz and Bil Keane pieces holds up, someone will now turn up in the comments section to speak ill of Wimber.  Trashing the deceased is apparently acceptable now, to some anyway.)  Wimber was also a musician, so he was playing in the worship band and was probably the last person you would pick out as being the one who was about to deliver the sermon.  Dressed in a sky blue jogging outfit or track suit, he then got up and gave a passionate message for the better part of an hour, and if you walked away only remembering the way he was dressed, you probably needn’t have bothered to go at all.

I say all this because, as part and parcel of the ongoing Rick Warren bashing, I’ve noticed a few people talking about his Hawaiian shirts.  I’m not sure if he still wears them on a regular basis, or if it’s just a stereotype, but it appears to some these shirts represent less than the minimum standard for a respectable pastor.

I’m not so sure, however.  I keep thinking back to Wimber and wondering if maybe it’s just a Southern California thing, something reflective of west coast culture. Of a pastor who is trying to connect with the local culture in order to, as the Apostle Paul put it, “win some.”

It also occurs to me that some of the Warren bashers have run out of things to say, and in the process have noticed that despite their ravings, Warren and Saddleback haven’t gone away, so they fire a cheap shot across the bow that’s in the spirit of, “Your maternal parent wears military footwear.”  Or the virus that got into my computer years ago and sent people a note that simply said, “You are fat;” hoping to strike injury at some deepest level. By their clothing ye shall know them.

Makes you wonder who is really showing up for church in their p.j.’s… and perhaps their recurring nightmare should be the one where they are keying in their latest hate rant on their blog and suddenly realize they have absolutely nothing to say.

*For the record, I originally titled this “Preaching in Pyjamas” using the spelling I grew up with in Canada, and the one known to my UK readers; but again my spellchecker would have none of it; so in concession to the sheer numbers of my U.S. readers, I caved, but only for numeric reasons; the Brits did (literally) invent the language after all.

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