This one turned out WAY longer than I expected so it is now my first official series of posts. You can link to the other parts with these: Part II, Part III
I'm in the bigtime now.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not really a rebel. I like to think I’m all raw & edgy, but when it comes down to it I generally don’t have a problem going along with rules and systems. I work for the government, where silly rules & systems are a way of life; it is the government after all. They govern.
The thing about church is that it is intended to be the place where believers live out what God says to us and about us. From the Bible we can gather that God’s way of doing things is pretty much the opposite of our kneejerk reactions as fallen sinners. Our natural inclination is to try harder, set rules, and build formulas. We want to control our surroundings as much as possible because if we feel in control, we feel less afraid (a false sense of security, by the way). God’s way is for us to stop trying, to set aside the rules and formulas. He wants us to relinquish our control and false security to Him so that he can give us real freedom from the mess of fear we live in. It’s about relationship. So theoretically, church should be a place of rest & freedom from the rat race of the world’s way of doing things.
This gets messy because we are still on earth, so to an extent a church has to have some laws & rules in place in order to interact with the world on a business or organizational level. But I’m not getting into that here. When it comes to the church leading and interacting with its members, there should be very little in the way of regulations for the general congregation to follow. I think that’s why I flinch when there’s talk of rules and such at church. I’m going to church to get a break from the structure of the world, I don’t want to walk into another set of standards and regulations.
In a former church they decided to enforce a worship team dress code. It wasn’t all that extreme. Basically you had to be adequately covered (ie legs, stomach, and shoulders), and no jeans or shorts. The official reasoning was that the worship team is up in front, representing the church to the people, and they were afraid of people getting the wrong message because someone on the team could dress inappropriately. The unofficial reasoning was that some felt that dressing casually was disrepectful to God, and my guess is that they pressured the pastor to do something about it. There was a big meeting and a big debate and when it boiled down to it the pastor said, “It’s my call and I’m making it.” Most people responded with “You’re the pastor, it’s your prerogative and we’ll submit.” I felt very conflicted. I was livid about the dress code, but I complied and gave myself a stern lecture about sucking it up and just wearing the dockers without complaining. I also questioned my motives and wondered why on earth I was so hung up over this. I ignored my anger and hoped it would go away—I resigned myself to the situation, wishing I was a little more submissive so I could get over it. Over time my resentment built, and worship team wasn’t fun anymore. I just couldn’t let it go. The time came for us to move out of state, and frankly I was relieved to be out of that particular situation.
I’ve thought a lot about the dress code since then. I do believe God is sovereign, and He has something to teach us through every situation. I certainly learned a lot about myself during that time, but if given the opportunity I think I’d do things differently. I think I would say to the pastor, “It is your call, but I can’t obey with a happy heart so I will have to not participate in worship team.” Of course that’s easy to say on this end of things--I only came to that conclusion after 2 years of experiencing the results of halfhearted compliance. But I did learn.
So we moved to a new state and a new chuch, and got involved in the worship team right away. Guess what my first question was? Yep, I asked if there were any dress codes. There were none—I was relieved. The first year was nearly-bliss, but then the pastor decided to enforce a rule that participants on the worship team had to be formal members of the church.
Without taking up the time and space, let me say, in a nutshell, that while I am not necessarily against church membership, per se, I have a problem with using it as a requirement for ministry participation, and I will eventually get to my reasons for that.
Having learned from my halfhearted compliance to the dress code in the previous church, I knew that this time I couldn’t go along with it. I wasn’t going to go through the motions of membership just to keep drumming every couple weeks. My heart wasn’t in it. It eventually became a moot point, as the Cat-Daddy and I ended up leaving, bringing us to our current new church, where there is neither formal membership nor anything resembling a dress code for any aspect of the church, and they are not big on rules, which suits us fine...
Part II, Part III