Why do so many people quietly dislike the culture of the church? Why do we wish it would change, that someone would step up and, from our perspective, put things right?
Well, we are that person. We need to think long and hard about what is the gospel and what is the baggage left behind by generations of well meaning but less than inspired church members or new ideas dragged into the church by people with self serving political or economic agendas.
We can start with simple things. If we are comfortable that the Lord won’t mind if we wear flip flops to church then we should wear flip flops. If we think that white shirts are fine for missionaries but are an affectation of mid twentieth century fashion for the rest of the population then we can wear blue shirts or stripped shirts. (Can we move beyond the pantyhose generation? Are they for wearing to church or for dressing like a skank?) The list goes on.
Do we desperately want a tattoo or a piercing? It may be a fading fashion but we can get a Madison, a nipple piercing, or a Hello Kitty inked on our bums and no one ever needs to know about it. At least until we are old and our grandchildren laugh as they change our diapers and give us sponge baths.
Are your ward's hymns sung too slow? Let’s ask our choristers why we can’t sing with joy and energy? If that doesn’t work then we can bake cookies for our organists and suggest they just play faster. They probably want to and our encouragement maybe all they need to step things up.
Do our leaders take the boys hiking and waterskiing while the girls stay home? Let’s organize other parents into adventure groups to show our girls we know they can do anything they want to do. We can take the lead and the organization can catch up later. Do our leaders talk down to girls? Well, let’s take them aside and explain that we recognize the gender issues of our culture and that regardless of that burden, we have high expectations for them in this world and we know they can learn the skills to solve the tough challenges they will face just like men do.
I have a friend who is so disappointed that good people are not speaking up in response to the closed minded loudmouths who are leading our popular culture. He has inspired me to make some changes in the way I approach our church culture. I don’t think conflict and contention will help us, but I think it is time for some small steps in leading by example.
Think of the issues that are troubling for our community. Immigration, race, gender issues, greed, substance use, chastity (and of course flip flops and white shirts). Are we dealing with these issues with charity in our hearts or are they an excuse to mock individuals or hate entire groups?
If we want to change how our culture deals with these issues we can start by dropping our concern with appearances.
I know we should avoid the appearance of evil, but concentrating on the appearance of good isn’t much better. Remember, we should be doing unto others as we would have done unto us. No one said we should appear unto other as we would like them to appear unto us. I take that back, business leaders, media personalities and politicians may embrace that idea. But I do not endorse it.
Let’s stop listening to the petty anger in the world, stop worrying about small differences in fashion, stop spending energy on actions that don't build others, and start looking for the good in others. That is how we can change the church. And if not the church, then ourselves.
Thank you friend for speaking up.