What’s Wrong With Church 9: The Edifice Complex

There was once a man who decided quite abruptly that he and his family should attend church. He wasn’t a Christian. He wasn’t raised in church. It was simply a notion. So he and his family got dressed up in their best jeans and T-shirts and went off to the local sanctuary. He enjoyed the singing and found the sermon very engaging. As he left, a deacon shook his hand and said, “Next time, dress up.This is God’s house.” The man agreed that he would certainly dress better the next time he went to church.

He never went back again.

This true story was told to me by one of the first converts of my preaching ministry. The man who never came back was his father.

A lot of churchmen [and churchwomen] have an “edifice complex.” The long and short of it is that they get God and a building backwards and so commit idolatry. It starts out with well-meaning comments about how we ought to dress our best when we come to the house of God. It transforms itself into spiritualized snobbery. The man who never came back was wearing his best. It wasn’t a needless expensive suit. But this particular deacon imposed his own dress code onto Christendom.

If Jesus were standing before that deacon, given the historical sketch we have of Him in the Gospels, I am most sure he would say to him, “Go and learn what this means: I will have mercy and not sacrifice, so you will not condemn the guiltless!” Unless of course He went with a more direct, “Deacons! Nitpickers! Hypocrites!” et cetera and all that implies.

In “My Jesus,” Todd Agnew sings: “But my Jesus would never be accepted in my church/the blood and the dirt on his feet might stain the carpet.” I think he’s right about a lot of churches. If Todd has it right, that deacon would likely put Jesus out on the curb as well. Don’t shake your head. Don’t say he’d never do it to Jesus. HE ALREADY HAS! After all, if we’ve done it to the least of these, we’ve done it to Him.

I give these edifice worshippers no quarter, because in all honesty they are just simpering complacent cowards. They sit in their plush pews week after week, hiding behind the church from the world they were meant to reach. And when the world shows up in all its rude earthy imperfection, they drive it out. Casting Crowns has a song called “If We Are The Body” that seems particularly applicable, especially the second verse and bridge:

“The traveller is far away from home/ He sheds his coat and quietly sinks into the back row/ The weight of their judgmental glances/ Tells him that his chances/ Are better out on the road…
Jesus paid much too high a price/ for us to pick and choose who should come/ and we are the Body of Christ.”

Yet when we should be reaching out to the world, some act like the church is supposed to insulate them from it. They act as if the church were under seige. Worse, they act as if polishing the outside of the cup is all Christianity is about! Yet Jesus chose earthy fishermen, former cheating tax collectors and the like as his chosen disciples instead of zealous Pharisees. It’s about the equivalent of passing up your pastor and best deacon to choose a tattooed biker and a lying politician. Or a prostitute.

Christians like me show up warts and all. I’ve never felt the need to impress anyone. I usually wear T-shirts and jeans, in fact. If you call me on it, I guarantee I’ll tell you the true tale of the man who never came back.

–Sirius Knott

Read more of the What’s Wrong With Church series!


6 Comments Add yours

  1. melike3 says:

    So, even the pastor or such should wear shorts and flip flops. Would that same man be taken seriously at a business meeting giving a presentation. But you don’t think your pastor gets paid enough to buy close- toed- shoes, and pants that cover his legs. Jesus wore sandals, but at least he washed his hands and feet. Jesus also did not have a place to lay his head, but I bet your pastor has a Very Nice place to lay his head.
    -I understand, come in “your” best dressed, what ever that might be, but eventually your dress just like your understand of the bible should get better.
    -How would you dress to a wedding or a funeral? How would the bride feel if you walked it her formal wedding where flip flops.
    -You can buy a pair of slacks a button-up shirt at a thrift store for a couple bucks-come on

    This is why people don’t take God seriously any more. If it does not look like his own worshipers don’t take Him seriously, how can you expect onlookers too.

    1. You’ve obviously missed the point.

      The Bible has never enforced a dress code. It has simply said to bring your personal best to God. Even the Jewish sacrificial system made allowances [substitutions] for those who were poor… but not you. In your Pharisaical zeal, you would make buying a suit a requirement of authentic faith! Surely, once we understand the Bible, you suppose, we will take the truth of 2 Opinions 3:16 to heart, where it says, “Can a man love God and wear his best work clothes to church? God forbid! Except a man buy a suit and tie for worship, he is a liar and the truth is not in Him.”

      Well did Jesus speak of you hypocrites, who dress to show your alleged spirituality [Matthew 23:5]. Let His brother James chastise you for your Pharisaical pride, for he addressed the matter of church and clothing more directly and he stands in direct contradiction to your antiBiblical notions:

      “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors” James 2:1-9

      You do well to say that our man-made unScriptural obsession with church dress codes are part of the reason people don’t take God seriously anymore; for if we cannot take His revealed Word as our authority over our opinions, why should we expect anyone else to take God or Hos Word very seriously?

      I have one last thing to say to you on this matter:

      “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” 2 Timothy 2:15-16


  2. melike3 says:

    I, as a 16 year old girl, searching for more, walked to a church, never having been to one, knowing nothing of God, only knowing you wear your “Sunday Best”. So instead of wearing my “teenage garb”, I put on the only nice thing I had, which was a dress from my dad and step-moms wedding that I was in. Needless to say the church I choose was super casual, and as a 16 year old girl in a formal dress, I was modified. I saw people look at me with a snicker. Then they passed the plate-What I had to bring money? I was so embarrassed. I tried to find scriptures, but I had never picked up a bible before and did the couple sitting next did not try to help, NO. I left before it was over and I never went back. That was only ten years ago. Many people have bad church stories, including me. Just thought I’d share mine.

    1. I’m sorry you had that experience. I wish there weren’t so many stories like this, but it is also beside the fact; you see, those guys didn’t have any right to judge you based on your lack of casual attire [their particular church clothes] any more than you have the right to judge someone based on their lack of formal attire in church. Again, James 2:1-11. Read it again.


  3. Christopher Smith says:

    Perhaps if we were to meet house to house we would be more inclined to greet one another as brothers and sisters in Christ instead of treating each other as members of a social club. How many people would be willing to confess their faults one-to-another if they didn’t think they had to dress and act a certain way.

    1. Tony Breeden says:

      Why would a mere change of venue change our hearts? I appreciate your sentiment, but the problem is deeper than that

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