Neckties and drum sets: Things we should get over

“Concerning Him we have much to say… (but) you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God….” (Hebrews 5:11-12).

If we do not settle what are the basic principles and doctrines constituting faithfulness to God, we will argue over silly things, unworthy issues, secondary matters.

I’m 74 years old and the playbook says I should be a defender of the status quo, reacting against modern innovations and speaking with reverence of the glorious days of old when I was a young minister just starting out.

I’ll not be doing any of that.

The status quo is nowhere I want to camp out.  The past is nowhere I want to live. Nostalgia, as they say, is not what it used to be. The past is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Modern innovations are what we make of them, good or bad. And the glorious days of yore were anything but glorious.  They were amazingly like today and a lot like tomorrow.

Personally, I like laptops and smartphones.  I love Facebook and enjoy blogging.  I like having 150 channels on my television (since there’s rarely anything worth watching on 140 of them!). I love the SiriusXM radio on my car; it sure makes those long drives easier.

I’m relieved when a host pastor tells me to leave my neckties and suits at home, and overjoyed when I find that the church where I’m to preach Sunday loves to sing lively choruses, that the people come to the altar and pray during invitations, and that the congregation welcomes worshipers of all races. When I hear this church has started two new plants and is regularly sending mission teams to help struggling congregations or overburdened missionaries overseas, I am elated.

Recently, on this website, I posted an article about change, basically saying that life is change.  All living beings are in a state of constant change. If your church is alive, it’s never static but is changing from week to week.

Most responses were positive, but some were negative and a few were hostile. More than one said, “I disagree with everything in the article.”

What I would sincerely and earnestly love to say to some of my brethren (and cistern–lol) is simply: Get over thse hangups about secondary issues..

Jesus never wore a necktie. None of the disciples did.

Some things are cultural and not spiritual.

The typical pair of blue jeans today costs more than the suit I got married in.  And the sneakers cost more than our entire honeymoon trip.

Not one word in Scripture supports the idea that one’s go-to-meeting clothes should be any different from his/her weekday clothes. Not one.

In fact, we get the impression from everything we read in Scripture that people had no special dressup clothing in that culture.  What’s more, my understanding is that they used the outer garment as cover when they slept, meaning some of their clothing was worn 24 hours a day.

We’re going to argue over suits and neckties or denims and sneakers?

These issues are cultural.

Someone sent me a private note last week asking about interracial dating and marriage.  “Is there anything in Scripture that speaks to this?” I said, “Not a thing.”

Whether it’s a good idea or not is another matter. But we must not make it a question of one’s faithfulness to Jesus Christ.

1) If I read from a Bible bound in black leather with the pages edged in gold and you read Scripture from a smartphone or iPad, am I more spiritual than you?

2) If Preacher Ronnie wears a necktie and dark suit and Preacher Hugh wears a sport shirt and khakis, is Ronnie a greater Christian or better qualified to occupy the pulpit today?

I heard of a woman who had tired of the shallowness and superficiality of the role she was expected to play in dating, so she sent her man a package.  Inside, he found lipstick, makeup, hair coloring, and mascara.  The note said, “Apparently, these are what you like about me, so have them with my blessings.”

3) If the church service features music from a a Casavant pipe organ and two grand pianos, is that more Christ-honoring than three guitars, a keyboard, and a set of drums?

Fifty million African Christians need to know this because, if so, they’re getting it all wrong.

4) If Charlie and Bessie attend church on Saturday night and enjoy a day in the countryside on Sunday, are they less spiritual than Glenn and Sarah who are always in church Sunday mornings at 11 am?

I’m a Sunday morning guy myself, just so you’ll know. But Sunday is not the Jewish Sabbath.  To be sure, we need a day of rest each week and a time of worship.  But one will look in vain for anything in Scripture which makes Sunday morning worship the test of orthodoxy.

5) If the Church of the Hymnal sings “Old Rugged Cross” and “A Mighty Fortress” in their service, are they more faithful than the Church of the Chorus which features “The Days of Elijah” and “Shout to the Lord”?

6) Is a 30-minute sermon that moves around the entire Bible and brings in 10 Scriptures all pertaining to the issue less Christ-honoring than one that lasts an hour and exegetes the entire first chapter of I John?

7) Is a worship service where everyone is quiet and attentive less godly than one where many throughout the congregation are standing and clapping, shouting “Hallelujahs,” and weeping?

We need to know and we need to get this settled before we break fellowship with one another over unworthy issues.

If we differ on whether Scripture is inspired of God and profitable for doctrine, correction, etc., then that’s one thing.

If we differ over salvation being of grace through faith or by works, that is a huge matter.

If we are arguing over the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the Second Coming, then I’m willing to enter that argument.

Some things are worth fighting for, worth “dying on that mountain,” as the saying goes.

But not guitars and denims, drum sets and choruses.

Come on, folks.

Sure, we all prefer some things to others.  I can take a certain amount of high church music being blasted from the pipe organ, but not much.  On the other hand, give me Professor James Allen playing Bach’s “Gesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” or “Sheep May Safely Graze” and I can sit there by the hour.

I confess to liking some music fast and loud.  Some like “A Mighty Fortress” should be played and sung with all the gusto we can manage. But let’s not get carried away. No ear plugs for me, please.  When a church hands those out to the congregation, I’m gone.

It’s not a spiritual matter, it’s just personal.

The suit and tie are cultural.  Entire civilizations have come and gone–with millions of their citizens loving Jesus Christ and following Him–without ever seeing a Hart, Shaffner, and Marx suit.  Those poor people. They’re going to be so surprised when they get to Heaven to find their rewards diminished because of this failure.

I am well aware that my Grandma Bessie Lowry McKeever would not have approved of a preacher wearing blue jeans.  But Grandma is with Jesus now, and she knows the truth.

Obedience is the essence of faithfulness.

17 thoughts on “Neckties and drum sets: Things we should get over

  1. Pingback: The Stuff That Doesn’t Really Matter | Worship Links

  2. Very good. I agree 100%, but doesn’t the story of Moses marrying the Ethiopian woman and his sister being struck with leprosy speak to interracial marriage? God punished Miriam for criticizing Moses’s choice in marriage. Therefore, we can assume God does not care if we marry or date other races.

    Add to that the fact that God said man was created in his image. Not white man, or black man, or brown man, all mankind – thus we are all God’s children and there should be no barriers between the races and ethnicities.

    God does say not to be unequally yoked, but there he is talking about a believer and an unbeliever. Not different races. Two believers from differing races should be able to date without judgement – God has already spoken on this in the case of Moses and Miriam.

  3. Amen, Amen, Amen.
    I agreed with everything you wrote in the first post, and I thoroughly appreciate this second post as well. THANK YOU for your faithfulness to the gospel, your acceptance and knowledge of an ever-changing church culture, and your ability to write about it with grace.

  4. One problem with this article is that it answers the wrong question.
    The question should not be “What am I comfortable with in worship?” but
    “What does God desire in my worship?”
    God desires a heart that desires Him. That is far different from “I’ll do whatever I please, and God better like it” or “God exists to make me happy”.
    If we wear blue jeans because “we can” then we have missed the blessing of coming to God “just as I am”.

  5. Agreed… race is not an issue, culture is not an issue, preference is not an issue. Style is apparently not an issue, regardless of what statement a manner of dress makes. Personal appearance is not an issue, and modesty is a sliding scale. After all, some people feel modest in a bikini. They can no longer blush. So that’s certainly not an issue, right?

    We are apparently not dealing with the power that music has to make a statement. Sony and Cher knew there was something significant happening when they observed “The Beat Goes On.” But for the Christian, the declarations of the world about its own music are not an issue, especially if the Christian LIKES the music of the world.

    Some people like hymns. Some people like marijuana. Some people like Megadeth. Some people like flowers and kittens. Some people like Atheism. Some people like the Scriptures. The point is once you start letting things go according to what people like, there is no end to the possibilities where things will go.

    No decent Mother feeds her child whatever they like. She has to learn PRINCIPLES of good nutrition, and make decisions on the basis of those principles. The same is (or should be) true of a Pastor and music leader.

  6. no the Bible doesnt say DRESS UP clothes, but it sure states all things be done decently n in order…. the priests were dressed specficly for worship in worship attire. May I say the worship order was ordained by God!!! T he word of God also about modest discreat clothes!! What i\I see today is that Gods not worthy to be dressed approprately ,they have deminished the worthyness of God n the Holiness of God!! they are bringing disrespect for the awesomeness of Christ n God the Father!! I know God looks at the heart ,but, but arent we supposed to reveal , might I say commanded, to allow the Holy Spirit to flow out of our temple to the world?? this we do in respect for the respect for the sanctuary that was set apart for the specific purpose of worship !!! women today are very disrespectfull to there temple n the sanctuary by wearing revealing necklines n short , SHORT, dresses might i also include young girls wearing short shorts to the sanctuary n setting like boys with some revealing way to much!!!! Also some jeans are so tight the reveal every nook n cranny!!! Do u call that modest n discrete??? I have no problem with nice dress pants n a sport shirt on men nor dress loose fitting slacks on women ..But lets face the facts here we have allowed to much of the world into our churches . Does not the Bible state “Be not conformed {folded with} the world but, be transformed by the renewing of the mind, but off the old man of this world!!! Ive noticed that when the world comes in standards are lowered ,this all boils down to rebellion n giving the people what they want n God is being brought down to there level…. this is how satan is deceiving n defeating christians ..He was once the one incharge of the music in Heaven he was in charge of the worship n praise to his creator GOD!!! So now hes using music to distract and disrupt services today by bringing feel good music that ministers to the body more than the spirit plus ma making it so loud u cant even hear the words… If u look at any worldly rock concert today ur so called contempory christian music looks the same sounds the same!!!! Satan is blinding our eyes n he is desenctizing believers!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. RoseFerster, You hit the nail on the head. I may be of the ‘older’ generation, but so is the Bible. You brought out all the right comparisons Thanks, you said it so much better than I ever could..

  8. Bless you for calling the church out on one of the biggest obstacles our faith has encountered. It saddens me to realize the anger and obsession with which many Christians seek to keep the church from changing, adapting, and reaching out to the unbeliever. I recently talked to another believer about atheists and we realized that of all those we knew who claimed to be, the church had hurt them ALL–often over a ludicrous issue such as attire. Just as we will all give account for our words and actions one day, I feel sorry for those who will realize how many they turned AWAY from Christ due to such heartless attitudes. He commanded us to LOVE others–not to reform them. I believe that in showing love to the hurting, insecure woman who wanders into a church in a short skirt, looking for answers and acceptance, the love she sees in our actions opens her heart up to hear the Holy Spirit tell her how she should dress. He’s far better at knowing how and when to address such areas of our lives. We should be so humble as to let Him do His job!

  9. Rose and Barbara, the problem with what you’re saying (and with the “the Bible is of the older generation just like me” comment) is really callous to the overarching reach of Christ an His Church (capital C). That view says to the world, look like us, sound like us, talk like us, do like us, and THEN you will be welcome to worship with us. I picture these comments being made by Pharisees saying, “back away poor person, you’re not dressed right,” and “move along, person with a tattoo, the church is not the right place for you.” And then Jesus came in and turned that kind of fake religion on it’s head. He went and ate with the sinners and spent time with those that didn’t look like “acceptable church people.” Jesus did that!

    Where do you think a person is going to learn to make right decisions about modesty and music discernment a myriad of other life decisions? The “when they get right with God and start dressing the way we approve of THEN they can come” attitude is a lie from Satan as we try to feel good about the level of Christian we’ve become and for all those check marks God has given us for dressing the “right way” or singing the “right songs” for so long!

    The author said it well when he said that for centuries, people never had a suit and tie… (You know, many were poor farmers!) “Those poor people. They’re going to be so surprised when they get to Heaven to find their rewards diminished because of this failure.”

  10. I only have one disagreement with you. The songs you mentioned, “Days of Elijah” and “Shout to the Lord” are not choruses. They are hymns. They have verses and a refrain sung after each verse. Most of the late 20th-century and 21st-century songs we are singing in church now are in this format and are therefore rightly called hymns.

    • Janet, please allow me to correct your definition of the word hymn. No malice intended.

      Hymns typically had only stanzas (rather than calling them verses) and no chorus or refrain. Isaac Watts is a great example of true hymns. When refrains/choruses began being added to traditional hymns and new songs were also written with this verse-refrain structure around the turn of the 20th century, those songs were not called hymns, but instead they were a new genre of church music called gospel songs. Fanny Crosby was a pioneer of the gospel song genre, & she had a great deal to do with changes in church music that have carried on and continued to develop through the music of B.B. McKinney, Bill & Gloria Gaither, and all the way to today’s offerings by Chris Tomlin & all the other worship songwriters. The difference between today’s worship songs & yesterday’s gospel songs is the addition of more structural elements like the bridge, pre-chorus, “hook,” & tag.

      But between the gospel song & worship song genres came a brief time of singing choruses in the 70s, 80s, & early 90s. Choruses were just that: choruses, originally taken from gospel songs & then became it’s own format. This had more to do with TECHnology than THEology, as all the words needed to fit on a single overheard transparency & still be readable.

      So in the recent history of church music, we have hymns, gospel songs, praise choruses, and worship songs. According to these musical descriptions, “Days of Elijah” is a worship song as it is comprised of 2 verses, a repeating chorus (that contains the hook, behold he comes), a bridge, & usually a tag. “Shout to The Lord” is a hybrid song that could be defined as a chorus or a worship song. It was an important transitional song in the development of church music. But I don’t fault Bro. Joe or anyone else for using terminology they are more familiar with.

  11. hi pastor im thishon from jafffna srilanka.
    im 16 studying in ais
    i wrk for my saviour . i play keyboard in my church and i like to buy a keyboard as im frm a low cast area im just from a poor family. i play piano, keyboard, drums, guitar and bass in my scul also. but the true is i hve only guitar for my own. a gud frnd of mine gifted for me frm scot.

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