Dear Pastor Gamaliel,
I received an article from David Cloud of the Fundamental Baptist Information Service called, "Trading Ashes for Beauty in Christian Dress." by David Kidd that I think hits the nail square on the head. The article is a composite description of Kidd's visit to a homeschool convention and his disappointment with the lax clothing standards evidenced by some Christian parents. He provides lengthy descriptions of the abominable styles that kids are wearing today and provides some much-needed commentary on the low state of Christianity today. It is an excellent article and I'd recommend you read it.
I had a similar experience to Kidd's and I would like to share some of my thoughts in parallel with his article. While Kidd attended homeschool conventions, I have been privileged to attend some pastors conferences lately and am just as shocked and appalled as Kidd by what I saw. Following, are Kidd's experiences followed by my own.
Kidd: I have visited many homeschool conventions… However, each event I attend…leaves me with burning questions: “What are we doing wrong?” “Why do so many of our young people look, act, and talk like the world?” “How can it be that we shelter our youth from public school influences, yet in language, appearance and conduct one could never tell them apart?
“How can it be?” I wondered. Here was a group of Christian homeschooling families. In addition to our common bond of faith in Jesus Christ, we also had a common bond of insulating our children from the worldly influences and a desire to raise a distinctive generation of Christian youth who will one day establish Godly homes of their own.
At least, that’s what everyone says.
In all of the preachers conferences I have attended, I find the same burning questions. "What are we doing wrong? Why do so many of our preachers and pastors look, act and talk like the world? How can it be that preachers, who are supposed to be set apart for God and sheltered from worldly influence are indistinguishable in language, appearance and conduct from the world?"
Kidd: Considering the standard of appearance and action, these (youth on the street) were no different than some in the group (of homeschoolers) I just left. Perhaps, like some in our gathering, their heart does not match the look they project, but that I could not tell from my mobile vantage point. I only know that they looked and acted the same.
When it becomes impossible on a city street to even guess which might be the lost sinner and which is probably the Christian teen, something has gone disastrously awry.
Let me tell you what I saw. At every single conference, I saw preachers – yes, preachers! – dressing just like the world. It was abominable. Why, this group of preachers was indistinguishable from any group of businessmen, politicians or lawyers. Every last one of them was dressed in a suit and looked fit to join the ranks of greedy robber barons, crooked politicians or lying lawyers. We could have droped the whole lot of them down in a joint session of congress or a meeting of the Trial Lawyers Association and we couldn't tell who was a man of God and who was a worldling, based solely on appearance.
And it wasn't just the dress, but their language as well. They were talking of budgets and attendance and expenses. Even more were talking about their church's Mission Statement and Vision, acting like the work of God was some sort of business enterprise that required a defining vision or purpose. I might as well have been at a trade show for all the spirituality that was in evidence. Some were off talking about pending legislation and how they had actually been testifying before state representatives. What concord has God with Belial in the halls of secular, godless, state government? I don't care what the cause or issue, any man of God should stay as far away from the secular trappings of government as he possibly can. They were absolutely shameless in their embracing of worldly dress, worldly conversation and worldly concerns.
It is bad enough that these supposedly godly leaders resemble the world by dressing like the world, talking like the world and acting like the world. It is clear evidence that they are comfortable in the world and are able to fit in without a single soul detecting that they are men of God. However, more disturbing than how well they fit in the world is how much of the world fits in with them. These men should be the most insulated from the world of any individuals on God's green earth, but here they were talking about every worldly concern possible. They talked about sports and their favorite teams and their favorite performers. They talked movies and what they had seen and what they liked and what they recommended(!) for their friends to watch. They talked books and popular literature and titles on the Best Seller list with a familiarity that was absolutely nauseating. They talked of government and politics and political action committees and issues and legislation as intimately as they did the Word of God.
I suppose that I should have been expected this, since pastors who dress up to resemble business tycoons are going to talk business. And pastors who dress like lawyers are going to talk litigation and the law. And pastors who dress like government officials are going to talk about politics. Why could they not dress instead like men of God and talk of godly things? Why were they so keen to look like other men their age? What evil spirit of compromise was possessing them to look and talk and sound like the world around them?
Kidd: “I do believe these people love the Lord.” “Why do so many of the children, and even some parents, look so much like the world?” “Where are the distinctive marks?” “Is it only a spirit of holiness we are after, or should there be a visible evidence of that inner spirit?” “Is purity and innocence an inner quality which may be disguised behind a worldly façade of popular fad and fashion?”
Yet today, the church and its Christian parents console themselves, mistakenly convinced that God does not care about outward appearance.
These pastors seem to think that God is only looking on their hearts and not their outward appearance. They are so wrong. How can preachers who look like lawyers, politicians and businessmen possibly convey a spirit of purity and innocence when they resemble the corruption that is in the world? These men should dress in a manner that gives visible evidence of their inward holiness. They should dress in a manner that is distinctive and separate from the world, not trying to resemble it. They should wear clothing that uniquely marks them as men set apart for a work to which God has called and sanctified them. And I am not talking about a fish pin or a tiny metal cross stuck on their lapel. They need to seriously dress according to the same standards as the people in the Bible dressed – in a manner that is as different their neighbors as they could be.
Kidd: I appeal to you for the sake of the heritage God has entrusted to you. Look at your children, especially your youth. Do they look different from the world? Look at the clothing of your daughters and ask yourself, “What message do the clothes she is wearing send?” Does your son look like an upright man of dignity and Christian character, or does he look like he stepped off the cover of a Backstreet Boys CD? What your children will be, they are now becoming.
And this is my appeal to pastors. I appeal to you to look to yourselves for the sake of the heritage God has entrusted into your care. Look at how you dress. Do you look different from the world? Look at your clothing and ask yourself, "What message do the clothes I am wearing send?" Do you look like a saint set apart for the godly business of your Heavenly Father? Or do you look like someone who stepped off the cover of GQ magazine? What you pastors will be, you are now becoming.
In His Service,
The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
I Samuel 16:8 (NIV)