The other day I was walking into a building behind a person. In a millisecond my eyes caught a sight that I had never really seen before. Let me explain.
In the 1980's when I was a teenager the "hair bands" and big country rock stars as well as professional hockey players popularized something called "The Mullet". The mullet was two haircuts in one in that from the front view one could see a short, well-trimmed top and sides of the head where in the back it was as long as one wanted it (oh my goodness, I just got off Billy Ray Cyrus' web site and he STILL HAS ONE at sonynashville.com!). Before the eighties were the sixties and seventies where men and women beat the system, stuck it to the man and were at one with the universe. They also popularized long, straight pony tales on men and women. The remnants of these are found in biker populations around the country. Then there is the hair style, not of choice, but of heredity, where the real estate of the top of a man's head loses it's tenants - it's called male pattern baldness. What kind of haircut one wishes to don makes no difference to me, just be prepared for social repercussions should they come.
Now, back to the man walking in front of me. As I followed him I first saw the pony tale. Then I saw the male pattern baldness, then as he turned, I saw the front of the mullet. This guy was obviously locked in some decade. I just couldn't figure out which one. Here was a clear case of preference for "what used to be" current, in style and up to date', over "reality". Now I'm not here to host an episode of "What Not To Wear" or some make over show. However I do want to unveil some spiritual parallels here.
In the religious church world I see "male pattern mullet tales" all over the place. How often do churches use outdated techniques to reach the lost? How many times do we play music that has no cultural relevance? How many church people, board members and/or pastors say "we've never done it that way before"? I mean really, does anyone think that handing out tracts is going to get it done anymore? I'm not busting on churches that don't have the latest technology because they can't afford it. I'm not chastising people for handing out tracts either. What I am saying is that we must constantly be challenging the notion of relevance in our efforts to be the Church. God help us if our music, our ideas and our programs are locked in some decade that people of today wouldn't even recognize! If we don't, someone like me is going to come and see us from behind and write something like this.
There is another latent danger that we must be careful of. If we are totally wrapped up in style, technique and presentation etc. then we run the risk of doing things for a great show on the outside and forget what we are really supposed to be. We run the risk of being an organization called a "church" instead of an organism called the "Church".
So, yes, style is important because it is the first impression. It should be a good one. But let's not forget the substance. And for the record, there are plenty of "male pattern mullet tale" people and churches that are made of great stuff.