One of the greatest men my wife and I had the privilege of being shepherded by used to wear his pants very high on his waist. His belt was practically underlining his chest. He looked like a dork, and it was distracting when he stood before the congregation. So one of the creative guys at the church “took one for the team” and took him aside one day to recommend he wear his shirts untucked. He did, and the sight was much better. But what I loved about this pastor is that he had zero idea this was an issue. I mean, I’m sure he thought he looked fine — he wasn’t unkempt, just uncool — but obviously worrying about his image wasn’t even on his radar.
By contrast, I used to see another area pastor at the local coffee shop in the same town who was pushing sixty and was rockin’ — or thought he was — the embroidered jeans, Affliction tees, leather cuffs, and frosted bedhead. Professing to be cool, he became a fool.
In the age of Pastor Fashion and sermons forbidding the eating of pork in service of the gospel of weight loss — I mean, does anything scream “Judaizer” more loudly than preaching the dietary law? except maybe actually preaching circumcision — don’t the pastors who don’t care about their image, their profile, their reputation seem more dignified?
Now, of course this is not to say we should be careless about our bodies and our general health. I have nothing against Joel Osteen (pictured) looking good on the surface; I just have a problem with him preaching there. He is perhaps the West’s most successful purveyor of the paltry. I mean, no matter how much abundance he promises, his gospel is actually the puniest one out there. The love of the superficial will kill the soul, stealing our spiritual oxygen like Ed Young’s spanx. Man looks at the outward appearance, of course, and that’s who these guys fear, that’s whose ears these guys are trying to tickle, that’s who they’re seeking to please. When Paul warns in Philippians 3:19 against those whose god is their belly, it’s just as applicable a warning today about the Crossfit junkie as it is the chocoholic.
The pursuit of the appearance of having it all together is not new. We might have the most advanced whitewash, but you can’t really improve a tomb.
I don’t think you even need me to list all the evidences that American evangelicalism is obsessed with image, with cool, with seeming impressive. What we need are men (and women) who will lead the way in rejecting the Photoshopping of our faith. And wouldn’t it be a huge relief, wouldn’t we all just kinda exhale in relief if we were led in this way to stop sucking in our guts? Our stomach might increase, but wouldn’t we actually decrease in the right ways? Wouldn’t that kind of freedom to breathe — the freedom to simply be ourselves — be a fruit of the gospel?
So no, I am not advocating gluttony here, just a Christward self-disregard, a godly un-self-consciousness. I am praying for an increase in the tribe of self-forgetful pastors — if not all-out dorky ones — with platforms thrust upon them genuinely “aw shucks”-wise, men who will love not their images even unto death. Men who at least are not obsessed with the camera catching their good sides. Give me a fat guy in the pulpit so long as he preaches not himself and not the law but the glorious gospel. And if you’ve got a pastor with washboard abs who does that– well, that’s okay too, I guess.
…He had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
— Isaiah 53:2