Our’s is an image conscious society. How we look is ail important. Designer labels (which change in value based on generations) are crucial for our self esteem. We spend billions wearing clothes that provide free advertising for designers who could care less about us.
Our society is obsessed with youth. We will take botox injections, have face lifts, transplants and implants to convince ourselves we look good — or younger than we really are. We don’t age gracefully as a society; we are obsessed with living forever in a body that is doomed to die.
Our culture is dominated by a desire to be vogue. The car we drive portrays us in a certain light. The house we live in, the brand name furniture we buy all symbolize who we are trying to be, or become.
Politicians become what the crowd wants them to be. If you listen to 90% of politicians, their position on any issue will change from year to year. It depends on if it’s an election year, and which way the wind is blowing. They have no principles, it’s all about getting elected. I like a politician who is willing to stand for what he believes, even if it’s unpopular. At least I know what he’ll do when crunch time comes.
For politicians, it’s style over substance. During the recent Presidential debates, John Kerry worked on his tan and had his nails done. John Kennedy worked on his tan before his debates with Richard Nixon. Some say Nixon lost the election because he had a five o’clock shadow. Style over substance.
Does image, hair style, color of tie the candidate wears really matter in a 9/11 world? Are we so shallow that this is what determines who we vote for. If so, the state of the union is pathetic. Hey, democrat or republican you’ve got to scratch your head when this stuff is what matters.
We liked Ike because he was a great General. We voted for Truman because you never had to wonder where you stood with him. Teddy Roosevelt wouldn’t stand a chance today with those who are opposed to guns. I wonder how they would vote given the fact that he was a hunter and a conservationist. The reason we liked those men and they have been honored is they were comfortable in their own skin. Today, the lions change their spots at a moments notice.
Today, we’re bombarded with edited images and slick campaigns that hide the real issues of values, morals, principled decision making and integrity. No wonder Americans are cynical.
In reality is, this is not a non-Christian problem. It’s not even a politician problem. It’s a problem in the pulpit and the pew. We are so haunted by the thought that we might not be cool that we become very uncool trying to be cool. I see people every day who don’t get it. They need to dress their age and act their age. It’s embarrassing.
In our effort to be hip, we’ve become hypocrites. We aren’t as concerned about portraying the image of Christ as much as we are the fall fashions. We’re more concerned about what others might say about us, than what God knows about us.
Even pastors and recording artists are hiring image consultants. Image sells. Forget substance, if you’re slick, you can make it. I know of one pastor who has totally changed his image and hair style because he’s gone from a more traditional church to a more contemporary church. He’s even made a 360 degree turn in his style of preaching. Who is he trying to kid? Which person am I to believe? Why isn’t this man comfortable in his own skin?
Hey, I’m a starched shirt, pressed jeans and dress shoes without socks kind of guy. I was that way in high school and have been all my life. I’m not a Hawaiian shirt kind of guy. Some guys think that since Rick Warren wears a Hawaiian shirt and reaches thousands, they should wear a Hawaiian shirt and then, they will reach thousands. I’ve met Rick Warren one time, these impersonators are no Rick Warren.
Our efforts to become cool are uncool. We are laughed at by any serious thinker (which, by the way is an endangered species). Preachers are as guilty of trying to be something that they are not as politicians are. Whatever works is the new law of the church. Scripture has taken a back seat to style.
Preachers, lacking time or discipline to study the Scriptures, now depend on props, Power Point, drama’s a film clips to get the message across. Now, there’s nothing wrong with using those things, I have and will when they are appropriate. The issue for me is they have taken the place of substance. Today’s sermons are more illustrations than Scriptural exegesis and application. Illustrations are like a window in a house. Windows are great, but you don’t want a house with nothing but windows.
I’d like to hear some good old Bible preaching. About the only book you hear anyone preach through these days is the book of Revelation. We pick out themes and then find stories, movies and dramas to enhance our theme. But, I ask, where is the Word of God, preached without apology. Where is the preacher who honestly believes that the Word is quick and powerful – even more powerful than a two minute movie clip? Where’s the man of God who will stand on the Word of God, in the power of the Spirit of God?
As long as we think we NEED these props to communicate, we are deceiving ourselves. We’ve bought the lie that image is more important than illumination. We’ve fallen into the trap of style over substance. Yes, we can get a crowd by being cute, but you can’t build a congregation without getting them rooted in Christ. I’m not saying we need to do away with these things, I’m pleading for a return to sensible balance and Scriptural substance in the pulpit before we raise a generation of Biblically illiterate church members.
© Michael Catt, 2005.
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.