Honor Jesus Christ by submitting to one another. (Ephesians 5:21)
Believe it or not, this is a story about Christian maturity. Things were going along very well that Sunday morning in sunny, southern California. The sky was clear and smog-less, with pleasant breezes to take our minds off the summer heat. The auditorium was already nearly full, problems were minimal to none, and the organ music was quieting down the conversations. It was five minutes before the hour. The message was ready and well thought out. I thought I would take one final check on my notes and –Oh, no! Now what?
The chairman didn’t usually seek me out at 10:56 on Sunday morning. I’ve got to do what? Settle this right now? Before the service?
It seemed that the young, nineteen-year-old, well-endowed blonde over there was scheduled to be the soloist that day in our worship service. Yes, that one—in the satin, hot pink mini-skirt!
“We cannot allow her to appear on our platform looking like that,” the chairman “quietly” shouted. “Young men will be snickering and the older ones will be leering improperly. It’s just plain disgraceful! Worldly! Shameful!” he added.
I knew the young lady well enough to go to her immediately and calmly mention how glad I was that she wanted to sing a hymn of praise to God, but we did seem to have a problem. “For the song to be most appropriately appreciated by the varied ages in our audience, it might be better received if we made one simple adjustment. I know we don’t have an official dress code, but would you be willing to consider the sensitivities of some of the older folks who are ‘concerned’ about some of the new styles? So as to avoid any scene at this late moment,” I continued, “would you be willing to show your maturity today and accommodate the chairman by joining with the choir in wearing a robe for your solo?” I felt I was standing on biblical principle since Peter had cautioned younger folks to guard against “excess in outward adorning but to have an inner beauty of the heart” (1 Peter 3). I then told her how much I appreciated her willingness to agree.
By the way, before you think that was the end of the matter, did I mention that the chairman was also the president of one of the most ultra-conservative political groups? The letters on his license plate identified the group, he always wore a dark pinstripe suit and a tie with matching cloth cuff links, and his wife was a perfect match with perfectly coiffed hair completing the “package.” They had no children. He had been the board chairman since before my arrival.
Oh yes, in addition, the organist to accompany the soloist was the mother of our young virtuoso. And furthermore, she said, “If my daughter doesn’t sing in her new shimmering hot pink outfit and high heels, she won’t be singing at all—and we’re out of here right now!”
With that, the mother grabbed her sobbing, disappointed, robe-clutching daughter by the hand and belligerently marched away to her parked car and left. . .and she was unfortunately never to be seen in church again.
In case you care to know how the service actually went after all that, my wife, who was seated in the sanctuary with our two children at the time of the incident, never even knew what occurred until I told her at lunch two hours later.
Yes, we had a very smooth service. As the choir director moved to the organ, one choir member stepped up to lead the choir in their anthem, and no one knew that wasn’t the way it had been planned. But there was no soloist.
In thinking back to that day’s event, we probably made the most reasonable decision we could have at the time, having little more than sixty seconds to settle the crisis. But I do wish we could have worked it out in a cooperative Christian way. With more advanced planning by dedicated, concerned worship leaders, a hurtful situation could have been anticipated and avoided. We did come close to a win-win solution, but unfortunately, mutual respect was not forthcoming. We later discovered that the organist, for her own personal reasons, was intent on making a dramatic exodus.
In the fast-changing cultural mores of this postmodern generation, it might be wise for every music and worship planning committee to establish acceptable norms for all who perform in services, while at the same time considering the cultural norms of the audience. In addition, this sad incident mandates a call for spiritual priorities within the hearts of every believer, regardless of their part in the worship of our Lord.
The goal in true Christian worship should never be to exhibit ourselves, but rather to lead us all into adoration of God the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, directed and controlled by the Holy Spirit.
“The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart” (Psalm 51:17).
Colossians 3:23 and 24 should be the guiding standard for all actions—service, worship, and gift sharing. After all, whose church is it anyway?
“WHATEVER YOU DO, do it enthusiastically as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. . .for it is the Lord Christ that you serve” (HCSB).