June 13, 2010 Q & A

Is it hard to "fit in" at an OPC?


Some people think OPC congregations are characterized as being well dressed and having well-behaved children in their worship. Might that be a turn-off for poorer families, or ones with difficult children? How can we address that with people unfamiliar with those practices, without making them think they must conform to fit in?


Thank you for your question. My immediate response was laughter: they should come visit with us! Our congregation is multi-racial, though most of the population is Caucasian, and if you come for an evening service, you'll likely find that I'm the only one wearing a necktie. I well remember when a man, arriving for the service at which he would make a public profession of faith, had to search his vehicle for another shirt to wear: one with sleeves. He does manual labor and has few shirts other than those in which he works. And we don't mind!

Sadly, the characterization is a caricature. It is perhaps drawn from the importance we attach to worship. We come to meet with Someone very important, so we seek to make our outward dress suitable to the importance of the occasion. It is a mark of respect, a universally recognized application of the Fifth Commandment.

The "children" thing also is a part of our understanding of their place in the Covenant. We recognize their covenant membership in baptism, and a part of our keeping of the vows is their regular attendance upon the chief means of grace: the Word preached. They are a treasure from the Lord, and we rejoice in the hope of their joining with us in praise of our God.

I would suggest that you approach people with such concerns with a simple affirmation: the Church is made up of sinners. We are all saved only by the grace of God in Christ, and have no right to look down on anyone who is also seeking that same grace. Every pastor could tell tales of marvelous redemption in his flock, and also describe heartbreaking situations which are not evident to the casual observer. Many years ago I read an insurance brochure, from a company that specialized in providing insurance for ministers. It said, "The average pastor sees more grief in one week than most people deal with in a lifetime." As the years go by, I understand the truth of that statement more and more.

So, encourage your "critic" to come on in. We are just sheep, coming to our shepherd for his care.



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