Monday, December 3, 2012

Taking Care of God's Church: 1 Timothy 3:5



Kindle: Reimagining Church $9.24 @ Amazon
In American courts, there is the principle of “Discovery Misconduct.” “There are many different types of misconduct,” but “one of the most common types is the withholding of evidence.” If “relevant information” that “would have affected the outcome of the trial" [jury’s decision, sp] is not provided , then the “court may order” disclosure of the information and “grant more time to review.” If evidence is not “disclosed that would favor the defendant” a mistrial may be declared by the judge.

In the “courtroom” of the American Church, not only is information not disclosed, but only one “lawyer” (gospel preacher) is allowed to speak to the “jury” of Christian listeners. I think the real Judge of the church Jesus—not the eldership—would have a problem with this, 1 Cor. 14:29-34. Some may think that “the truth” has already been settled, but perhaps thinking this way is the problem. When additional evidence is withheld, it must be allowed into court, because the purpose of the system is to allow the truth to come to light, not control the outcome.

Two years ago, I was involved in an intense discussion in a Sunday morning Bible class about the kind of "authority" God gives elders, so I prepared for the onslaught of "obey, submit, rule" passages that are misused to sustain and support the hierarchical interpretation of the verses that have these words. I came across some interesting information on two words/phrases in 1 Timothy 3:4-5. One is the word “rule” in the KJV (proistemi) [pro-ee-stay-me] and the other is the phrase “take care of” (epimeleomai) [epee-mel-e-oh-my].

‘Proistemi’ is translated "rule" in the KJV. Thayer does not even list "rule" as a usage. Strong gives it lastly, but the general idea is to "inspect” or “lead" as its compound of pros + istemi = "before + stand" shows. The interesting thing that I came across is the phrase “take care of” (epimeleomai) in 1 Timothy 3:5 which Paul tells Timothy was the purpose of a man being a ‘proistemi.’ 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What Is School For? Part 2




This is a 17 minute video and follow up to a blog post from several months back found here.

Since the church is basically a religious version of the state in our culture. I think that the information in this TED Talk is highly relevant, as well as, information that you will NOT get in today's school or church. I hope that I am wrong.

I am not a home-school only advocate or against public schools. I do not advocate removing all structure, since structure is a part of life. I do advocate removing from--the churches of Christ--the current industrial/institutional structure and underlying hierarchical viewpoints.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

How To Live with Another Person: Everyone's Basic Rights in Any Relationship


A healthy relationship is tough.

Like a worn out paperback cover, those involved can be used, bent, creased and flattened back out, maybe even a chunk taken out.

And while wounds come with relationships, "biting and devouring one another," as the Apostle Paul puts it in Galatians 5:15 and "consuming one another" is relational cannibalism.

I doubt there's any cure for those who desire to be that way.

However, if you are like me, and honestly desire to understand for yourself and do what is good and true, then David Viscott's book may be an enjoyable and relief-filled read for you, too.

I gave 25 cents for my copy about 10 years ago before Laura and I got married, but I recently reread it in hope of finding another "profound and life changing" book. Whether this book is profound for you, you must decide, but I was pleasantly satisfied. At least I am through the first 50 pages.

The excerpt that I would like to share is from chapter two on "Everyone's Basic Rights."

Our present day, highly charged, political culture is certainly not at a loss for opinions on what is a legitimate right and what is not, but I think that what Dr. Viscott explains is agreeable to all. If not, I would like to hear your opinion. Perhaps we can all benefit from an increased understanding. The principles outlined by Dr. Viscott are written primarily for couples, but I think that they are universally applicable to any relationship: friends, family, coworkers, social groups, and especially between God and man.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What "Poor" Means in the New Testament, The Lord's Supper & House Churches "Together" in One City


Drawing by Judith Clingan
Eugene LaVerdiere writes:

"Putting proceeds ‘at the feet of the apostles’ (Acts 4:37; cf. Acts 11:30) is an idiomatic expression like sitting, being, or falling at the feet of someone. Sitting at someone's feet, means being a disciple. Falling at someone's feet is a gesture to submission to authority. Putting things at someone's feet, means placing them at someone's disposition. In all this, the community abided by the teaching of Jesus whose concern for the poor and needy marked His life from the beginning” (all bold emphasis mine, sp).

"In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus announced that he was anointed to bring good news to the poor (Luke 4:18). Asked by the messengers of John the Baptist whether He was the one to come, Jesus answered..."the poor have the gospel preached to them (7:22). At the home of a leading Pharisee, Jesus challenged His host to invite the poor... (14:13). That is when one of the fellow guests exclaimed, 'Blessed is the one who will dine in the kingdom of God!' In reply, Jesus told the parable of the great feast where the poor, crippled, lame, and blind were invited. Later there would be the parable of the rich man "who dined sumptuously each day" while a poor man named Lazarus would have gladly eaten the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. In Jesus' teaching, sharing with the poor is closely related to sharing a meal together."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Toward Unity From Sharing Salt at the Lord's Table and Away From Conformity To a Restricted 'Supper'

The New Jerusalem Bible translates Acts 1:3-4 as:

"While at table with them (sunalidzo), he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised…"

The NIV 2011 has "On one occasion, while he was eating with them..."

Eugene LaVerdiere translates Acts 1:3-4 as:

"He appeared to them over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while He was sharing salt with them..."

And, BAGD, the currently accepted standard for first century Greek usages, gives these for sunalidzo:

1) eat (salt) together, share a meal with; or
2) to bring together, assemble, come together, or 3) “spend the night with,” “stay with.”

Vincent Word Studies in the New Testament says of Acts 1:3-4:

"Being assembled together (συναλιζόμενος) From σύν, together, and ἁλής, 'thronged or crowded.' Both the A. V. [KJV] and Rev. give eating together in margin, following the derivation from σύν, together, and ἅλς, salt: eating salt together, and hence generally of association at table."

These translations and comments can help us better understand first century culture and Paul's concern for unity at the Lord's Supper/Table in 1 Cor. 11:17-34; cf. 10:21, especially when the word Paul uses in 1 Cor. 11:20, deipnon, refers to the evening meal.

Robert Banks writes:
"The word deipnon (1 Cor. 11:20), meaning "dinner," tells us that it was not a token meal (as it has become since) or part of a meal (as it is sometimes envisaged), but an entire, ordinary meal. The term indicates that this is the main (normally evening) meal, the one to which guests were invited. The breaking and distribution of the bread was the normal way of commencing such a meal, just as the taking of a cup was the usual way to bring it to a conclusion, prayers of blessing accompanied both."

GRECO-ROMAN CULTURE
LaVerdiere continues:

"For friends, meals were a source of deeper unity, as meal after meal bonded them closer and closer. To see how eating salt was related to friendship, we turn to two philosophers, one Greek and one Roman--Aristotle (384-322 BC), the teacher of Alexander the Great, and Cicero (106-43 BC), famous as the dean of Roman orators."

"Aristotle wrote of the various kinds of friendship. Describing the highest form as that between good people, who resemble each other in virtue: 'Such friendships are of course rare, because such men are few. Moreover they require time and intimacy: as the saying goes: You cannot get to know a man until you have consumed the appropriate amount of salt in his company."

"In other words, people have to share many a meal together before they really get to know one another and become fast friends. Friendship has to mature, and the maturing takes place at the meals together they share with one another. Since salt is a necessary ingredient at every meal, the depth of a friendship can be measured by the amount of salt they take in one another's company."

"Aristotle became a bit more explicit, stating that it takes a long time for a friendship to develop, hence the proverbial reference to a 'bushel of salt.' To take and eat salt together is to have a meal together. To have eaten a bushel of salt together is to have eaten many meals together, to have enjoyed a long history of meals together. Those who have eaten a bushel of salt together are therefore old and very close friends."

"Cicero, in his philosophical treatise "On Friendship" (De Amicitia), wrote eloquently about the value of old friends. "As in the case of wines that improve with age, the oldest friendships ought to be the most delightful; moreover, the well known adage is true: 'Men must eat a peck of salt together before the claims of friendship are fulfilled."

"Both Aristotle and Cicero provide a foundation in ordinary human experience for what Jesus did, sharing salt with the apostles. Sharing salt with them, Jesus was building up the bond of friendship between the apostles and Him and among the apostles themselves. Since salt was an extremely important element in a meal, indeed, a life-giving element, taking salt with the apostles meant sharing His life with them. Taking salt with the apostles over a period of 40 days meant Jesus was deepening and strengthening the bond of unity."

FIRST-CENTURY CHRISTIANS in GRECO-ROMAN CULTURE

"The evening meal was in progress... I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you" (John 13:2... 15:15).

It is paramount not to read the following passage with the 'public worship building vs. at home secular meal' hermeneutic:
"So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment..." (1 Cor. 11:33-34).
The Lord's Supper was a meal in a home consisting of "breaking bread" at the beginning and "taking the cup" after supper even in 1 Cor. 11:25:

"The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:23-25).

This is why Romans 14-16 talks about (Jews & Greeks) accepting one another concerning food and other scruples.

Romans 14:1ff is not about "secular matters outside of worship" or "matters of opinion that don't pertain to 'worship,'" They are passages designed to unite Jews and Gentiles in worship/life, or living together as a community in the kingdom of God:

Paul writes:
"Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand."
"One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living."
"You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.
It is written:
"'As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
  every tongue will acknowledge God.'"
So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God."
"Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval."
"Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall."
"So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin" (Romans 14:1-23).
We really need to keep reading chapters 15 and 16 to see that Paul is uniting Jews and Gentiles in Romans 14-16--not separating worship from the 'rest of life.' The false dichotomy of either "all of life is worship" or "all of life is not worship" does not help increase our understanding of the NT or first century culture. Accepting a false dichotomy prevents us from seeing numerous other possibilities, especially the correct ones if we are in error.

From food/special days preferences in Romans chps. 14-16, to the collections in 1 Cor. 16:1-4, to the Lord’s Supper in 1 Cor. 11:17-34, to circumcision not being a condition of salvation in Acts 15:4-29, to just about everything Peter and Paul say in their letters, the broader context of the NT is uniting Jews and Gentiles into one community.

These "commands to obey" are in the NT/first century context of an apostolic, conscientious attempt to unite people of different cultures/races--not to rule/control from the top down by demanding submission to timeless principles/truths through a man-made, dualistic hermeneutic of 'matters of faith' and 'matters of opinion' that separates 'worship' from the 'rest of life.'

Authority in the NT is not about satisfying a few at the top who demand that you ‘submit’ for your protection. This modern, government-style fear tactic does not encourage Biblical faith in God or Christian maturity/growth--it hinders it.

Dining in the Kingdom of God--eating at the Lord's Table--serves the purpose of uniting Christians. Jesus prayed for unity (John 17:20). This is what Paul's concern was for the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11:33).

Do you know Christians who "forbid you or others from eating certain foods?"
"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer."

"If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed..."(1 Tim. 4:1-5).
____________________________

http://newepistles.wordpress.com/2008/10/17/acts-14-jesus-eating-salt-with-his-disciples/

Eugene LaVerdiere, SSS, "The Breaking of the Bread," in The Development of the Eucharist According to Acts, 1998, pp. 50-51.

Robert Banks, Paul's Idea of Community, Revised Edition.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Going to Church in the First Century, Part IV: A Proposed Model Further Restoring the Church of Christ

Illustration by Judith Clingan
Going to Church in the First Century: Part One

Part Two

Part Three

“Greet also the church that meets in their house” (Romans 16:5).

“It is the clergy system and the institutional structure that inhibits the rediscovery of face-to-face community, supplants the functional Headship of Christ, and stifles the full ministry of every believer. Consequently, all attempts at renewal will always be shortsighted until the clergy system and institutional structure is dismantled in a local fellowship.”— Frank Viola, ReImagining Church, p. 268.

"We are all shaped by our experience. When we think about “church,” we conceive it in ways that approximate our experience. When we think about “preaching,” we conceive it in accordance with our experience of preaching. When we think about the Lord’s supper, our minds are filled with images from our experience. We think about pews in a church building, multiple-cup trays, (perhaps even “one cup” for some), unleavened bread in the form of crackers, a man officiating from the pulpit, men standing behind a symbolic table with their arms formally crossed at the waist aligned in a meticulous order, silent meditation, and focused attention on the death of Christ. But what was the practice of the Lord’s supper like in the first century?"

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Oversight is not "Control"

As long as the western church continues to view Biblical oversight as "control" instead of "living by example" then we will continue to have problems (Acts 20:28; cf. 1 Pet. 5:1-7; cf. Mark 10:42-45). 

As long as the church is viewed as a school-house business instead of a family around the Lord's dinner table, then we will continue to have problems, because we are imposing a worldly superstructure over the church that God never intended (Luke 22:14-34). 

The church is not a business where a board of directors governs by "control" of the auditorium, classroom, and treasury. The church is not a school where elders focus on the curriculum or what "doctrine" is taught.

The church is about living life in community in a godly manner, not controlling dependents from the top-down from an oligarchical and hierarchical-orthodoxy-viewpoint that turns a blind eye toward the behavior of those who supposedly hold positions/offices in the church, or because possession of "sound doctrine" (which often are merely rituals that one repeats) is deemed as most important. 

Biblical doctrine is behavior.

False accusers ARE false teachers.
 
The tighter the current misinterpretation of "oversight"--and more desperate the control grip--becomes the more the younger generations will rebel, because it is their God-given right to not be controlled, but to be free (Gal. 5:1). Of course, they will continue to be falsely accused by some of "leaving the Lord or church" or "being unfaithful," etc. None of which is true. Truly, none are so blind as those who refuse to see anything other than their own viewpoint as "right."

This in no way absolves the younger of personal responsibility or the necessary integrity that is demanded from Christianity. In fact, it demands that they mature as commanded by God, but in many cases are presently being hindered by men who have no integrity (2 Pet. 3:18; cf. Eph. 4:11-16). And no, "chaos" will not reign when people grow and mature in Christ, it's just the opposite. They'll quit following men who lack integrity and develop their own = conforming to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).

Previous generations that remain vested in their hierarchical, oligarchical fixed beliefs they view as "sound doctrine" of which they are dependent on paid preachers and elders for interpretations will continue to be the largest part of the problem. Many don't even believe they interpret the Bible. The Myth of Nature's Nation and the Millennial Nation are still alive and well in the minds of many who, like Henry Ford, see historical facts as "bunk." As much of a fan as I am of Ford and his ability, his ignorance was on display often, and history matters. Especially, knowing one's own history and WHY we believe what we believe and do what we do.

American Christians are taught to believe the national myth of all truth being "self-evident" which means they don't have to do their own research (study, give personal diligence and courage--2 Tim. 2:15). They can just "go to church" 3 times a week and the preacher and elders will get them to Heaven.

Not wise.

Following authoritarians who falsely accuse (slander, 2 Tim. 3:3) those who threaten their power will prove costly.

Better to repent now--change our minds and direction we are traveling--than to pass the point of no return someday.
_________________________________________

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Do Not Be Enslaved To Religious Men

I strive to be real rather than religious.

I have found that when we strive to be religious rather than real, we can become more controlling sometimes than the people in government.

Control is achieved and maintained by trust, but trusting others to think and do things "for us" prevents God commanded growth and ends up destroying relationships.

If "religion" should do anything, it should strengthen individuals and relationships--not destroy them.

Wisdom warns of trusting in man.

Paul writes: "You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings" (1 Cor. 7:23).

And,

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with a yoke of bondage" (Gal. 5:1).

Obedience and responsibility are not the same thing.

Obedience to God increases man's responsibility and maturity.

Obedience to man stagnates man's responsibility and maturity. The Apostle Paul knew this and taught against it.

Do we?

Or do we have a worldview of compartmentalizing life that justifies obedience to man which is not the commanded responsibility and maturity that increases from obedience to God through his grace? (2 Pet. 3:18). 


As Seth Godin says, "Perfect is the enemy of good." Do we let men fool us into believing that God wants us to be perfect with their man made laws and interpretations?

Isaiah says:

"Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?" --Isaiah 2:22, NIV 2011.

And, again, Paul says:

"Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ....What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.... So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Peter or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God"--1 Cor. 3:1...23, NIV 2011.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Recovery From Shame

Here is a link to 10 characteristics of ungodly, shame-based relationships contrasted with the 10 characteristics of godly, grace-based relationships:


SOURCES OF SHAME

Dale and Juanita Ryan write,

"Shame is a social experience. It is rooted in exchanges between people. It may grow out of experiences of public humiliation."

"It may result from experiences of being devalued. It may come from experiences of rejection. Many people learn shame early in life in their family-of-origin. Harsh criticism, neglect, lack of affirmation, humiliation, contempt and ridicule are not uncommon features of family life. Any of these experiences can contribute to shame in family members. The family is not, however, the only source of shaming experiences."

"Shame learned in families is often reinforced by experiences in other relationships and in other systems, such as schools and work settings. And shame is sometimes fostered as well by experiences in the Christian community. Experiences of public exposure, judgment and rejection sometimes happen in the name of Christ."

Monday, May 7, 2012

How To Build Self-Confidence


In The Ultimate Secrets of Total Self-Confidence, Robert Anthony reveals three detrimental behaviors that prevent living an abundant life: Conformity, Comparison, and Competition. The way, he says, to overcome these harmful behaviors is to "de-hypnotize" ourselves of false beliefs. 

He writes:

"You may have spent valuable, irreplaceable years trying to fit into the parade only to learn, too late, that you will never fit in. What makes us follow each other like sheep?"

"It is because we are trying to conform to the majority."

"It's time to break out of this sheep state of mind and stop punishing ourselves because we are different from our family and friends, or anyone else for that matter. Much of our suffering can be eliminated if we refuse to let our lives be marred by conformity.

To think that we are controlled in any way by another individual, group, or society imposes a condition of mental slavery that makes us prisoners by our own decrees."

Dr. Anthony continues:

"The problem is that we have been conditioned by false concepts, values and beliefs that have prevented us from realizing how truly capable and unique we are. Faith is limitless. Jesus says that the "kingdom of heaven does not come with observation, but it is within you" and that "all things are possible to him who believes."

"Health, happiness, abundance and peace of mind are natural states of being once you break the bonds of negative thinking. Unless you perceive your own true worth as a person, you cannot come close to achieving self confidence and personal freedom. Only to the degree that you can acknowledge your own unique importance will you be able to free yourself from self imposed limitations."

"Yes, I said self imposed!"

Friday, April 27, 2012

Hebrews 13:7-18 in Context

Being Questioned By Authorities
When Jesus was asked by the religious rulers,

"By what authority are you doing these things?"

In his article--Mark 11:27-33--The Question!

John Mark Hicks writes,

"Jesus does not deny he has authority. Indeed, he implicitly asserts it. Moreover, the previous day he had acted on that authority by cleansing the temple. He simply refuses to justify his authority to those who not only would not believe what he says but who are only interested in some pretense for executing him."

"Jesus exercises the authority of the kingdom of God against the authority of the temple priests and rulers who live in shocking compromise with Roman authorities."

Reading Hicks blog and watching an interview on The O' Reilly Factor discussing "corruption" and a lack of "oversight" as the main culprits for problems in our society caused me to want to examine Hebrews 13:7-18.

In conjunction with the article, the interview reminded me that "oversight" is not about controlling others as one man once told me oversight meant, but is leading by example, desiring to be involved in the lives of people where they live, caring selflessly, and having the courage to confront corruption.

The damage done by corruption among the few in the state who are in power over others, as depicted in Hicks article and O' Reilly's interview, results from the inaction of people (overseers) not wanting to be troubled for standing up to the status quo.

When those in power are challenged--they don't like it--and often seek to punish those they view as troublemakers for challenging their power. Often the powerful just want others to join them so the status quo may continue. This is certainly the easiest thing for anyone in any generation to do.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sunday Morning Costumes

Kindle Edition $9.68 @ Amazon.com
Man made doctrines like "give your best to God" are often cloaks for clerical control that compartmentalize rich and poor and sustain ethnic and class divisions, but what else should we expect from a dualistic Christianity?

With dualism, we expect to look and act differently when "religious" than while we are "in the world."

When a foundational part of western Christianity's hermeneutic is to be "called out" of the world (which is NOT what ekklesia means--it was a political assembly called together), and when we view worship as "separate from the rest of life," then there are bound to be manifestations like dressing up for church to show that you are giving your best to God.

Here is yet another inherited "doctrine" that in many places in the institutional churches is a cause of division (Rom. 16:17), perhaps because people fear an established hierarchy, and/or they have been taught that this human tradition is another factor of "faithfulness." If not in word, then certainly by example.

When and where did our modern practice originate? As we will see from James 2:1-13, it was not first century Christianity.

In Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices,

Frank Viola writes:

"Admittedly the dress has become more casual in a number of churches over the past few decades. A person dressed in denim can walk into the sanctuaries of many churches today without getting dirty looks. Yet dressing up for church is still a common practice in many churches. The practice of dressing up for church is a relatively recent phenomenon."

"It began in the late-eighteenth century with the Industrial Revolution, and it became widespread in the mid-nineteenth century. Before this time, "dressing up" for social events was known only among the very wealthy."

"With the invention of mass textile manufacturing and the development of urban society. Fine clothes became more affordable to the common people. The middle class was born, and those within it were able to emulate the envied aristocracy. For the first time, the middle class could distinguish themselves from the peasants. To demonstrate their newly improved status, they could now "dress up" for social events just like the well-to-do."

"Some groups in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries resisted this cultural trend. John Wesley wrote against wearing expensive or flashy clothing. The early Methodists so resisted the idea of dressing up for church that they turned away anyone who wore expensive clothing to their meetings. The early Baptists also condemned fine clothing, teaching that it separated the rich from the poor."

"Despite these protests, mainstream Christians began wearing fine clothes whenever they could. The growing middle class prospered, desiring bigger homes, larger church buildings, and fancier clothing. As the Victorian enculturation of the middle class grew, fancier church buildings began to draw more influential people in society."

"This all came to a head when in 1843, Horace Bushnell, an influential Congregational minister in Connecticut, published an essay called "Taste and Fashion." In it, Bushnell argued that sophistication and refinement were attributes of God and that Christians should emulate them. Thus was born the idea of dressing up for church to honor God. Church members now worshiped in elaborately decorated buildings sporting their formal clothes to honor God."

"In 1846, a Virginia Presbyterian named William Henry Foote wrote that "a church-going people are a dress loving people." This statement simply expressed the formal dress ritual that mainstream Christians had adopted when going to church. The trend was so powerful that by the 1850s, even the "formal-dress-resistant" Methodists got absorbed by it. And they, too, began wearing their Sunday best to church."

"Accordingly, as with virtually every other accepted church practice, dressing up for church is the result of Christians being influenced by their surrounding culture. Today, many Christians "suit up" for Sunday morning church without ever asking why. But now you know the story behind this mindless custom. It is purely the result of nineteenth-century middle-class efforts to become like their wealthy aristocrat contemporaries, showing off their improved status by their clothing. This effort was also helped along by Victorian notions of respectability. It has nothing to do with the Bible, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit."

James writes,
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, "You shall not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Someone may answer that we do not discriminate against the poor. They may sit anywhere in our auditorium just like the rest of us, but this misses my point.

In James' day, they met for a banquet meal and those with lesser status were expected to "stand" or "sit on the floor"--not at the table. Our modern equivalent is "dressing up for church" during the "worship hour." Those who do not are treated differently than those who do on the basis of a man-made doctrine.

So rather than "giving our best to God" by dressing up for church, it seems we have, in reality, institutionalized the division that God condemns between rich and poor. And James says that God sides with the poor. Not necessarily a good thing to be dressed up for church in that case, is it?

My hope is that we will continue to recognize more and more why we "do church" the way we do today, and speak up.
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Frank Viola; George Barna. Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices. Kindle Edition.