Wardrobe Wars August 25, 2015 13:27

In an attempt to engage conversation in the spirit of Jesus, I will choose one of His favoured methods: metaphor. Rather than choosing a metaphor of my own, I shall shamelessly borrow a biblical one introduced by Isaiah.

"A garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." Isaiah 61:3

In the tradition of the Canaanite woman with her crumbs, and the thirsty woman at the well, let's now extend the metaphor...

Praise is a garment. Clothing. Something that is "put on".
Apparently when we put on praise we actually cover up any heaviness, any depression, any sadness or grief, with expressions of awe and wonder and praise to God. Just like putting on a T-shirt, a dress, a jumper... Clothing has colour, texture, weight, style.

The thing about this metaphor is that nowhere does Isaiah specify what style of garment is to be put on. Given the multiplicity of composers, composition styles, and instrumentation compiled in the OT worship collection of Psalms (maskils, laments, prayers, songs, miktams, ascents) it must be deduced that we are supposed to have a whole wardrobe to choose from!

Obviously everyone has their favourite outfits and most people develop a unique style of dressing. Generationally, small children generally have their clothes bought and chosen by their parents and reflect their parents own style. Teens like to rebel and fit in, all at the same time, so can be seen expressing their individuality by wearing clothes that horrify their parents but which conform to the narrow style of their friend group - goths, surfers etc. Twenties and thirties have settled on their adult style and have their own money to pay for it, managing to keep up with current trends. Forties and fifties are realising it no longer matters what others think and wear things somewhat retro but not enough to be fashionable, embarrassing their teenage children. The older age group value comfort and durability above all and may be seen wearing clothes they have had for years, occasionally breaking out with a leather jacket! Yes, I'm generalising, and badly.

Churches can in fact often be classified according to their praise-garment style. You can probably imagine which church is more Just Jeans, which ones are Factorie, Katie's, Lowes, and which one is Wal-Mart!

The thing is, shouldn't church be more like a department store with a wardrobe choice for everyone? Why should churches prescribe a uniform for the worshippers? Why not offer a broadly appealing wardrobe collection instead of a boring-after-a-while uniform? Isaiah did not specify a dress code! The psalms are not uniform. Lyrical form and instrumentation in the psalms is incredibly diverse!

As a person with eclectic taste, perhaps I am just as guilty of trying to impose my wardrobe on others. I happen to have a wide range of styles both in my wardrobe and on my iPod and choice depends on mood. Just because I like to mix it up, does that mean everyone should enjoy mixing it up? Is it unfair to expect that the traditional crew should incorporate Hillsong outfits with their hymn clothing? Is it too much for the Hillsongers to be forced to wear a few scripture-in-song getups? Why shouldn't we just create a few homogenous groups where we can all look alike in our praise garments? Wouldn't that be easier?

Yes. And uniform. In that case, I would not know where to find my home. I love them all, but if forced to spend every week wearing the same dress... well you can imagine my praise might get a little stale and less enthusiastically worn. Which would have nothing to do with the One being praised, nothing to do with the fashion designers (aka composers) who love creating new outfits, and everything to do with the wardrobe consultants (aka worship leaders) who are completely out of touch with the diverse personalities, body types, ages, and needs of the garment-wearing family who gather together simply to PRAISE God! It cannot be one-size-fits-all. Unless it is One-fits-all-in unity.

Ok, perhaps I have worn out this metaphor (pun intentional) but you get the point. I wouldn't want to try doing a parable...

Also, in case you think this is just about music, God forbid! Praise is so much more than that, and so should the elements of a church service be.

Going to put on some praise now... This spirit of heaviness is really getting me down.
(Praying the garment I choose, whether vintage or trendy in style, is acceptable to the only One I care to impress...)

P.S. Have a listen to sample tracks from the new intergenerational praise album by maxiPraise (you may notice the eclectic style mix!)