Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 255: How Legalism Sneaks Into a Church

So today my first question came in that someone would like me to answer at Cornerstone this summer. The questions is “How do you perceive legalism to grow in a church because it is really effecting the church I am on staff at?”

This is a great question and sadly something that can make a church quite sickening to attend or be on staff at. Imagine this scenario…you begin a new church. In order to be hip and trendy and attract everyone you say “come as you are and dress how you like.” People begin to come and eventually some snappy business dressed people begin to come in. These people begin to give in large amounts and now they are elected to the board. In a board meeting, those snappy dressers talk about the slack look of the church and that “God requires us to wear our best into his holy temple.” Soon you begin to see the pastor wear suits and not blue jeans and begins to reflect that to the church. All of a sudden you have a group of people that love the pastor beginning to dress sharp and now those who continue to dress how they want (blue jeans, t-shirts, etc.) are made out to be the less holier ones.

This happens in worship and prayer as well. Don’t believe me? What do we tell our children? I just heard a pastors message today where it was time to pray and he said, “let’s bow our heads and close our eyes as we pray.” NO WHERE IN THE BIBLE. I tell my two and three year old to do this so they are not a distraction to each other. So what happens? We get a guest speaker or someone in the church praying and they have their eyes open as they pray. We begin to question how sincere they are. Don’t raise your hands during worship in some churches…than you didn’t worship. Do you want to sit while others are standing during worship? Less holy. When the worship leader begins to sing “How Great Thou Art” and the congregation is sitting, it is inevitable that people will stand during this song perhaps even in a stance of arrogance leaving those who are still sitting feeling like the sinner. None of these can be backed by scripture.

My all-time favorite was while I was on a church staff and the pastor made the entire worship team wear black…ALL BLACK! The only reason he had was to tell us “it makes us look sharp.” What it did was make us look like we were going to a funeral. That pastor resigned and I told the worship team to dress how you want. I still have the letter in my desk that says, “We feel it is detrimental to church growth that the worship team continues to wear black.” LEGALISM!!! Really? If all I have to do to grow a church is wear black then I am in.

A legalistic church or person will turn back to relying on following rules, regulations, or standards to maintain a right standing with God or to prove their holiness (Gal 4:9). In the book of Galatians, Paul addresses the issue of legalism creeping in to the church. False teachers had snuck into the Galatia church, and began to teach that believing in Jesus was a means of salvation, but to keep your right standing before God, you needed to keep a set of rules. Paul referred to this teaching as “another gospel”. Paul also said that those who preach this other gospel should be accursed, with literally means to be banned or excommunicated (Gal 1:9).

Anyone who teaches you that by the following of rules or standards, you will be kept in a right standing with God or that you maintain your salvation by works, is in fact a pharisee or as the bible says, “A false teacher” and the Bible strongly teaches that you should not receive teaching from them. You were saved by faith in the beginning, and you will be saved by faith in the end (Gal 3:2-3). You will never achieve righteousness by your own works, you are not able to. The bible tells us that our own works are like filthy rags. We must always remember that our righteousness comes by faith in Jesus Christ, and Him alone. The works we do are a natural out pouring of the work that God has done in our hearts.

So on that, wear your baseball hats to church…it’s fine. If a leader of the church tells you to take it off..leave. Put your jeans on and wear them proudly with your Project 86 t-shirt.


If you are going to be attending Cornerstone and would like to submit a question simply follow this link http://www.cornerstonefestival.com/content.php?p=165 and click on my name. You will find a link there.


  1. I agree! And I've been in a church like that...and that photo of the pointed finger is a trigger to the pain caused in that place. It sure serves it's purpose to bring the message vividly to our minds while reading.

  2. Thank you Sisterlisa, I appreciate your comment!

  3. And I as well, Bob. The congregation I attended with is a living example of the story you tell. The pastor wore his suit and tie With his blue jeans...and one day, in my trucker's sweatshirt and nicest blue jeans I had, I went to him and I asked, "Who is the woman leading the weekly 'Ladies' Luncheon' you speak of? I'd love to meet her.' He asked if I had completed certain calling card, yes, two of them, I said, to which he replied, "Well, that's a start."...just before he turned abruptly and walked away to greet someone in rayon and silk..with a Big 'smile'. Although it certainly wasn't my intention to be replied to with a question, and as much as I thought over my next weekly route that I should return wearing my steel toed shoes, my safety vest, my trucker's cap and the jeans with the tatter in the appropriate location, the word that came to my soul as a left the building was 'plastic'..and as much as the location of this 'church' was 'conveniently 1000 feet from where I park my truck while I'm home', I realized that it is not the group we worship with that makes us who we are in Christ; it is who we are to the community we are given in our daily walk. Thank you for presenting the truth...and may the 'hits just keep on coming'!!

  4. Genevieve...I appreciate transparent comment. This is a sad but true scenario that plays out often in churches.

  5. It's stuff like this that makes me glad that I am in home church instead. I can only imagine what atheists think of us.

  6. Once a well-known regional 'prophetess' was the guest at church. I happened to be well-dressed that day. I noticed her huge smile of approval, diestly beamed at me, as she made her grand procession doen the aisle.

    Fast forward.

    Due to some hard times, my clothing and appearance diminished. I now was wearing a black over-sized winter coat...over pants and a hoodie. and had gained wight, and generally looked sicker and poorer(which I was).

    So, this time, the 'celeb' was not very nice at all, and even 'ridiculed' me somewhat in front of the whole church.I felt horrible, and was wounded once again.

    True colors eventually arise.