Part 1 of 2…
“New Normal” Christians are different than the Christians that our grandparents were used to – different than the Christians our parents were probably used to – and maybe even different than what we are used to, and expecting, or even comfortable with.
What is the “New Normal,” you might ask?
To me, it’s those that are coming to Christ and submitting their lives to Him that are not the people that we once expected to come to Christ. They are not taking the traditional routes we expected them to take. They have not memorized the books of the Bible as a youth. They are not all married with two kids and financially independent with a steady job by the age of 30. There is a good chance that they were raised in “broken homes.” A lot of them probably do not have the conservative values that our society once held, back when a lot of churches we attend were founded. They may not even be from the neighborhoods that we once expected Christians in our city to come out of. They may not act the way we expect or want them to, and they may not look like or dress like what we expect them to.
What Do “New Normal” Christians Look Like?
It depends on who you ask I guess. The longer you are a Christian the harder it is to truly remember what a “new normal” Christian should look or act like. The deeper you are engrained into the Christian culture, the closer you grow to God, the more your life comes into line with Christ’s… the less you probably remember what you were like as a new babe in Christ yourself.
I have been a Christian for so long that it’s very easy for me to forget what new normal Christians look like or should look like. I forget what I was like as a new normal Christian.
Christians come in all shapes, sizes, heights, nationalities, and colors.
This is one of those, “Duh…” statements – we know that, right? I know that we are cognizant of this fact at a high level, but I think we forget it sometimes… Christians don’t all look alike. Why do we fail to remember this simple fact? Well, I think one of the main reasons is, because the Christians I am with, the ones I see most often, especially outside of a corporate worship assembly, usually aren’t much different than I am.
They’re the same color, similar socio-economic influences, same likes and dislikes, etc. To see what my Christian friends look like – generally I can just go look in the mirror – right?
Of course, everyone that reads this article will be an exception to that – I’m sure. We aren’t really like that are we? It’s not that black and white is it?
As stupid as it sounds – I think we do forget that there are Christians that don’t look like exactly like us. And I don’t know how comfortable we are with that, but I think we need to be a lot more thoughtful about it. Just like when I picture God, he looks a lot like me, right? Jesus was a white guy with dirty blonde-hair and blue-eyes, right? What does God look like to you? What about Jesus? We tend to picture them much like ourselves, so it is only natural that we would picture their followers much like we picture them.
A lot of churches are setup the same way that we do our own individual Christian living, too. Whites go to church with whites, blacks go to church with blacks, Koreans have their own church, so on and so on. And we seem pretty comfortable with that, don’t we? As much as we wouldn’t want to admit it – we still tend to live that way and we worship that way.
We worship with those that we are most comfortable with, when we have a choice. Answer this honestly… if there were two churches in your area that were just as loving, just as spiritual, just as God-fearing, just as <fill in the blank> as each other – say they were equidistant to your home, everything was the same – except most of the people at the one church were the same color as you and most of the people at “the other church” were a different color than you… where are you most likely going to attend?
Maybe it’s not all about color. What about all of those old people? What about all of those young whipper-snapper millennials? What about those people with tattoos or piercings? What about… What do we expect our Christians to look like? We all have expectations of what new normal Christians should look like.
In the back of our minds do you believe it is possible for us to think… I am comfortable knowing that there are other Christians that don’t look like me, aren’t similar to me in background and experiences – as long as I don’t have to mix with them regularly. I could even worship with them if I had to, but Sundays are good enough. We wouldn’t think that, would we?
There’s a very good chance that the new normal Christians don’t look like what I expect them to or want them to? Would I be accepting of a new normal Christian that was the total opposite of me?
What Do “New Normal” Christians Wear?
If you go to the church where I attend or a church similar to it (like many of the ones I went to growing up) – you might begin to think that all new normal Christian males wear suits and ties and all new normal Christian females wear dresses on Sundays when they come to church. You might also think that the children of new normal Christians all dress like they just came from a prim and proper, Southern, fashion magazine photo shoot. Disclaimer ahead… I will be the first to say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with dressing up for church and a lot of the people that do so are very well intentioned.
When I lived in Southern California, how we dressed for church was similar, but a little less formal most of the time. In fact we would even have people show up to worship with shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops on, every once in a while. Jeans were a lot more common, too and women wearing pants, not skirts or dresses. Shorts with flip-flops – you would be pretty hard-pressed to ever find that where I worship now in the South – not because we would reject that person, but we have, mostly silently, suggested to the group as a whole that there is a certain dress code that is expected and acceptable. It’s been this way for years and most newcomers will pick up on that pretty fast. That’s true at any church – even the unwritten dress code is quickly understood and expected.
Why would we suggest dressing like we do at our church – especially dressing up in a suit or wearing a nice dress? The reasoning would usually go something like… “Well, you are worshipping before God – wouldn’t you wear your best clothes? If you went and saw the President you would dress up…” So, I have gotten very used to and expect a new normal Christian to wear suits or dresses, because that’s their best clothes, right?
And when I say normal in this instance – I mean those that are striving to please God, right? I mean, why wouldn’t we continue to dress the way people did 50 or 60 years ago for church – even if trends, and fashions, and cultures change? Why wouldn’t we expect someone who has never owned a suit to go out any buy a few immediately after baptism so they can look like normal Christians should look? We wouldn’t expect that – would we?
The norm for you may be very different, because where you worship everyone looks and acts and dresses like you do. Maybe you think people in suits are pretentious and Pharisaically holy. I like to dress up sometimes – some days I like to wear a suit. I also like a clean and casual look, too. I could be cool with either environment and comfortable in both. Honestly when I am dressed casually and not pulling at my suit coat or tie – I personally like that a little better. I don’t feel any less holy in either wardrobe. The closest I have probably ever felt to God in a worship service has been on a camping trip, sitting in my shorts and flip-flops around a campfire with friends on a Sunday morning in the woods, more than any other place.
I will tell you that I do worry though that because of where our church building is located, that when people come in “off the street,” maybe even some of these “new normal” Christians, that maybe our very nice dress can be a little off-putting. Although we wouldn’t want them to feel unwelcome, that’s exactly what they are probably feeling, because they don’t fit in with all these “more mature” Christians. I think they are probably very focused on the way “everyone else” is dressed even though that is not our intention. And I think the opposite could happen at a church where everyone is dressed casually and someone comes in dressed in a suit – they would feel just as much pressure to conform, whether they understand it or are comfortable with it.
We may not tell someone overtly – although it does happen more than we want to admit – that what they are wearing is not acceptable, because it is not something that we expect or a standard that “we have always had,” but they’ll get that message in a short amount of time. I understand the modesty arguments, but I think even those, especially the ones that are more of a personal nature need to be handled much more delicately than how they are normally dealt with – again you have to remember, these new normal Christians may not understand “our issues.” Generally our issues though are more, because it is not what we wear, or what we would expect, or what we like to see. I can tell you that the new normal Christians are probably not suit-wearing kind of people. But, we wouldn’t let that be an issue worthy of driving someone away to a church where they would be more readily accepted would we?
What do new normal Christians look like and wear?
Part 2 of 2 deals with…
- What Do “New Normal” Christians Act Like?
- How Do We Attract More “New Normal” Christians?