When I taught the missions classes at CCBC in Murrieta from 1997 to 2000, I absolutely loved the assembly at the beginning of each semester when the instructors were introduced to the students. But it wasn’t being introduced that was so pleasureable to me. It was watching the faces of the students when Pastor Chuck got up behind the podium to welcome everyone. They were in awe at this incredible man of God and the way God had used him over the years.
Here were all of these young people dressed pretty much whatever way they wanted, with various lengths and styles of hair and piercings of various kinds on display in all kinds of interesting places. They were so excited to hear from one of the key figures of the Jesus Movement.
Every one of them knew this was the man that reached out and loved on young people and hippies just the way they were. This was THE key man that God used to begin a church movement that was built on rebels to the status quo. The man of God who made no big deal about the way people looked, the style of music they enjoyed, or most of the language they used. This was the guy who made clear that the people attached to the bare feet were more important than the carpeting in the sanctuary.
As Pastor Chuck began speaking these young people hung on every word. It was amazing to watch.
But then, after welcoming them and sharing his excitement about them being there, he basically pulled the carpet out from under them. Ohhh, the looks on their faces when he said something to this effect:
“….and by the way. Young men, as students at this bible college, the only place a ring a should be seen on you is on one or more of your fingers. Not on your ears, in your nose, or anywhere else. Young women, rings should only be on your ear lobes or on your fingers. Pay attention to what the majority of people outside the grounds of this college look like. Change, if necessary, for the sake of the message.”
It was incredible to watch the wind go out of the sails of so many students. I would talk to many of them later in the afternoon or over the next few days. They said they were disappointed at the “legalism” that had obviously overtaken Pastor Chuck and the Calvary movement. A few of them decided they just couldn’t go to a school that obviously majored on such minor things.
Needless to say, I agreed with Pastor Chuck. Obviously, he knew that you can challenge and even demand things from those who say they follow Jesus that you can’t, and shouldn’t from those who are just checking Him out or who have recently decided to begin following Him. Brilliant. Mission-like.
One of the reasons I rejoiced at Pastor Chuck’s admonishment was because during my time on the mission field in the Philippines I ran into way too many Christians from America, including Calvary Chapel missionaries and visiting senior pastors, that had a similar attitude to these students. They obviously weren’t paying attention to some of the ways Pastor Chuck actually ministered over the years. Instead, they lived with an American cultural trait that they had come to believe was actually acceptable in the Kingdom of God.
Here’s the most succinct way I can express it:
The individualist aspect of American culture produces a mindset, an attitude, and then actions that communicate the following:
“My individual need to express myself in the way I feel most comfortable with is what is ultimately important”.
“Because of this, it is your responsibility to accept me the way I am”.
“I have a message I would like you to hear, in fact, that you NEED to hear”.
“Now, if there is anything about me, including my hairstyle, dress, or language that might distract from this great message I have for you, it is your responsibility to sift through it and then pay attention to this great message”.
“I have no responsibility to change anything about me in order for this great message to be more easily understood by you”.
“When you’ve grasped and responded to this great message, you’ll be set free from sin and self, just like I am”.
Is it possible that this accepted cultural trait is also a contributor to the issue Chuck M. brought up regarding Millennials and their view of drinking?
How does this kind of thinking square with Phil 2:3-11 and many other texts?