For the past few days I have had two competing trains of thought concerning my weekly blog.  One of which was this: The method is the message.  Rather than deal with it this week I will just touch on it and come back to it next week.

 This week I want to consider what it means to be clothed with Christ.

 I was at a church growth seminar this today.  Normally, I wouldn’t go to a church growth seminar because they focus on a pragmatic approach to church growth.  For example, at this particular seminar, the speaker was considering barriers to church growth.  Number one on his list was space (sanctuary seating, Sunday school chairs, parking spaces, etc.) even though he said only 50% of the pastors had this issue before them.  Number 2 on his list was the pastor.  He said that 80%-90% of pastors were a barrier to church growth.  I think he has these two reversed.

 The number one barrier to church growth is always the pastor.  I love what Robert Murray McCheyne said.  “The greatest need of my congregation is my own holiness.”  McCheyne was one of the key figures in the Scottish revival of the 1840’s.  The effects of that revival were felt through WW2!  He died at the age of 31 (or maybe 30).

 If Church growth is spiritual, which it must truly be since the church itself is spiritual (even though it is also visible), then the greatest hindrance, and only hindrance, is spiritual.  Therefore, if the pastor is failing spiritually, he cannot shepherd the flock in the paths of righteousness.  A pastor can only lead people where he himself has already gone. 

 This is why I have to come back and say, I don’t like church growth seminars.  They tend to treat the symptom and not the disease. 

 All of this to merely set the stage for what I really wanted to talk about: being clothed with Christ.

 In the course of the church growth seminar, and while the speaker was discussing the pastor barrier, he mentioned the pastor’s appearance.  Does the pastor’s appearance have an effect on the people?  Of course the answer is yes.  To quote the speaker, “If the pastor doesn’t wear deodorant, the people may still follow, but it will be at a distance.”

 The part of the pastor’s appearance I want to consider is what he looks like behind the pulpit.  How should a pastor dress when he preaches?  There is a wide variety of opinions on this issue.  I knew a young pastor who went into an old, dying church.  He wore flip-flops (which I haven’t done, but would like to someday if the opportunity were right.), holey jeans, and a t-shirt.  In the course of about 2 years his church grew to be almost 1000 people.

 The other side of the coin can be seen by preachers such as Joel Osteen, TD Jakes and other TV preachers.  They wear top-of-the-line business suits.

 In both of these cases I can’t help but think about the message that is being communicated by the pastor’s preaching apparel.  In the one case, the pastor has dressed now as to appear just like the common person going to the beach.  There is nothing sacred communicated by his attire.  On the other hand, the high-class business suites are exactly the kind of thing worn by top-level executives and what is communicated is that this preacher has his act together and is controlling the church much like a CEO.   And for those who choose not to be so formal, the normal attire is what is typically called business-casual.  Whether it is a suit or slacks, the message sent by the preacher’s clothes is that the church is a business.   And sadly, the message is usually that church is the place where we do business with God.

 But the church is not the place where we do business with God.  It is the place where God does business with us.  He addresses us by calling us to worship Him.  He undresses us by exposing our sin in prayer and the Word.  And then He re-dresses us in forgiveness and the mind of Christ.  Church is where God does business.  Church is where God clothes us with Christ.

 Is there another way for a preacher to dress than to convey the absence of the sacred or the prestige of a well-oiled business? I believe so, but that will have to wait for another time.

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