Summary: We live in an image-driven culture and our churches seem to be buying into the concept in their efforts to reach people, but more than ever, what people need is for us to be genuine followers of Christ. Consider these thoughts from our Family Minister Scott Jewell.
*Disclaimer- You need to know your audience to do what I did. It could probably be tamed down with wearing just a pair of sunglasses. I started behind the closed doors at the entrance of the sanctuary. When the entrance music for WWE’s The Big Show started to play, I flung the doors open and began to strut up the aisle, decked out in a three-piece suit and sunglasses. I shook hands, gave high fives, and chest bumped someone on my way to the pulpit, then flung the sunglasses to the people in the front row. After reading the text, I removed the full suit to reveal my normal attire underneath as I began the message.
From the looks on some of your faces, it seems that something isn’t quite right this morning. I know most of you have never seen me in a suit outside of a wedding or funeral. You’re probably wondering, “What in the world is going on here? Has Scott lost his ever-loving mind? Don’t tell me he fell down another set of bleachers at the baseball game this week!” I assure you, I didn’t fall. You see, what we wear when we worship is really about personal preference. Personally, I feel constrained by a suit when I’m preaching, it makes it harder for me to move around and I tend to talk with my hands. Besides, it’s rather hot today.
Don’t get me wrong- some of us like to wear suits every Sunday to church. It’s what they’re used to, it’s what they like to wear as they worship, and that’s perfectly fine. Some of us prefer more of a business casual outfit as we come to worship and that’s fine too. Some of us like to dress more leisurely, maybe we’ve had to wear a uniform of some sort and we’d like to feel more relaxed as we spend time with our family in worship and that’s also fine. You see, God doesn’t look at what we’re wearing, He looks at our heart. We simply need to be true to who we are as we honor God together.
We’ve been studying the book of James together with the them of #fakenews. We’ve been looking at how James addresses several misconceptions that have crept into the church today. We’ve looked at the claims of the prosperity gospel, we considered the tenets of the faith only movement, today we’re debunking the idea that image is everything.
We live in an image-driven culture- you’ve got to wear the right clothes, have the right haircut, buy the right car, live in the right neighborhood. This has created a celebrity culture in which we now learn how to act from the Kardashians. Many American churches have gotten caught up in this image-driven trap. They believe they have to create just the right atmosphere to draw the people THEY want in THEIR church. Some have created a concert atmosphere, complete with light shows, fog machines, and great musicians. Some have made it all about how you dress- whether it’s dress to the nines to see whose outfit draws the most attention. I’ve even seen guys preach while wearing shorts because they wanted the poor people of their community to know that they were welcome to come as they are. All of these can be okay when they’re genuine, but too many times, it comes off as fake.
People are looking for people who are authenticate. There are a few things people need to know about us before they’re willing to listen. They need to know we care, they need to know we’re fair, and they need to know we’re there. Let’s see how James teaches his readers to prove these three things to people who may not yet know Christ.
James demonstrates showing people you care with two simple words- my brothers. You see, James had already greeted his readers. He writes, “My brothers,” to indicate that he is writing from a place of concern. It’s like a big brother speaking as a mentor to younger brothers and sisters. He’s coming from a place of concern.
People are looking for people who care, but they don’t want to be your next project. There was a church that provided its members business cards with blanks to add their name and phone number. They were to give the card to people they were inviting to church so they’d have a way to stay in touch. One man would approach visitors at church, hand them his card, and tell them to give him a call if he could help them out in any way. Nice gesture on the surface, but when I’d follow up to visit guests, many of them asked about the guy who made them feel inferior to him.
Sometimes, showing we care is as simple as saying hello, asking how a person’s doing, and then listen. During our fellowship time, how many of you catch yourselves asking someone how they’re doing and moving on to the next person before you get an answer? I know there are times when I’ve done that. But what might happen if we stopped to listen and let them give an honest answer? There was one time a young man was arriving to help with VBS after a rough day at his job. You could see it written all over his face. I asked him how he was doing and he told me fine, preparing to move along. I caught his arm and asked, “No, really, how are you?” He acknowledged that he was struggling and we discussed it later. He had been looking for an accountability partner to get past some sin in his life but wasn’t sure who he could trust. Because I expected