Dignity in Worship Leadership

By Wayne Jackson

Under the Mosaic dispensation a special class served as the leaders of worship for the nation of Israel—they were called “priests.” Aaron and his offspring (via the tribe of Levi) officiated in the tabernacle worship ceremonies according to divine prescriptions. The priests were required to wear certain garments in the administration of their ceremonial duties as they led in worship. These clothes, made of fine white linen, are described in the book of Exodus (28-29). The Mosaic system, of course, was abolished by the death of Jesus (Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14), and has been replaced by the new covenant (Hebrews 10:9). The priesthood was changed as well (Hebrews 7:12).

Under the current regime, all Christians are priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:6). While we do not have a formal dress required in our corporate worship before God, it surely must follow, if the type-antitype analogy has any significance, that God requires that we appear with a reasonable level of dignity when we lead in the worship of Jehovah.

In 1 Timothy 2:8-15 Paul addresses a problem in the church at Ephesus (cf. 1:3). Apparently, false teachers in that church had found a willing audience in certain women and this flaw needed correction. The problem had a twofold emphasis: (a) the way women were dressing in the assembly, e.g., with elaborate hair styles and extravagant clothes (2:9-10); (b) female exertion in an authoritative way (vv. 11-15).

From this situation, we can extrapolate these principles: (a) men are to be the worship leaders; (b) they are to lead in a dignified, non-flamboyant fashion as to their disposition and appearance.

The Age of Statements

We are living in a colorful age when folks enjoy making “statements” reflecting their interests, their favorite places, people, teams, etc. I have a tee shirt emblazoned with “San Francisco,” accompanied by an emblem of the Golden Gate Bridge. I have another adorned with “Oakland Raiders” (both of which I mostly bought some years ago because of their bargain prices). These are fine for lounging around, working in the yard, etc., but not for display as one directs the worship of the Lord!

When I was in high school I wanted to get a mohawk haircut. One of my buddies had one, but my parents said no. Those were the days when parents still had control over their children as long as the kids were at home and on parental support. I really don’t care how stylishly weird my brothers and their families want to get in their private lives—whether they are still in their primary childhood (1 Corinthians 13:11) or in their second childhood (from which some seem never to emerge).

If one wishes to shave his head, leaving only an Oakland A’s logo crowning his skull, he has the freedom to do it. If a brother wants to dye his hair red, white, and blue in honor of Independence Day, that’s his option. If you want to show up at worship with a NY Yankee ball cap, no one will knock it off. If you want to decorate yourself with a shirt advertising “Three Dog Night” or “Sting,” you won’t be arrested—unless the culture patrol is handy.

On the other hand, it is the option of wise elders, or the church leadership when there are no elders, to determine whether an exhibitionist should be permitted a leadership capacity. No one wants to be distracted by outlandish styles while he is attempting to worship his heavenly Father and concentrate on spiritual matters.

The apostle Peter takes up the matter of Christian dignity and influence in his first letter to brethren in the Mediterranean world (1:1)—again from a feminine vantage point, but certainly with a masculine application as well.

Whose adorning let it not be the outward adorning of braiding the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price (3:3-4).

All agree that the restrictions of this text are not absolute, as evidenced by the phrase “of putting on apparel.” But do these inspired passages from 1 Timothy and 1 Peter mean anything anymore? Do they have any application to us? If so, what do they teach?

Have we become so pharisaically skilled at ignoring Scripture teaching which runs counter to our obsessive quirks that the word of God is virtually meaningless in our lives? Or do we insist on our “right” to make a statement. Insecurity manifests itself in such a variety of ways. Why don’t we try putting the interests of the cause of Christ first for a change?

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.