I was recently interviewed by Skye Jethani on the subject of authenticity for Leadership Journal. During our conversation, Skye made a comment that continues to linger in my mind. He contrasted one pastor wearing "torn jeans and an untucked shirt and a goatee" with another "in clerical robes burning incense"—and how both can be viewed as authentic by different onlookers. I'm troubled by how the entire matter is framed by outward appearances. Yesterday's Worship Wars have morphed into Wardrobe Wars.
There has to be a better way to think about how well pastors guard the gospel that has been entrusted to them. There has to be an alternative set of criteria to evaluate the evangelical faithfulness of pastors. . .
About the same time that I was interviewed I came across an interview of someone else talking about doing ministry today. Can you guess who said the quote below about their labors? And as you guess, try to picture the clothes worn during the interview:
"I am just . . . riding and searching down the highway with the Apostles . . . But it's modern-day Jerusalem, so everything . . . feels like. . . today. I want to create the feeling that if they were here now – which when you worship with us, you want them to be here—I really want the Apostles to be real. I want it all to be real. It's so powerful and inspirational and we're revolutionaries and we're bad-ass and we're preaching love. And it's not about Christianity. And it's not about Religion. It's just about Identity. It's about saying, 'We can change the world.'"
The answer may surprise you. Before disclosing, let me admit that I swapped out the phrase "watch the video" and replaced it with "worship with us." (That's really not too much of a stretch given the rise of video-screens and remote feeds for showing sermons in some churches today).
The quote was transcribed from an interview on Fuse TV with Lady Gaga ("Top Ten Lady Gaga/Lady Gaga Take Over) promoting her recent release of Judas. The YouTube video for the song has since had over 175 million hits. You read that right: 175 million hits (advisory warning: many will find the video blasphemous and offensive"
No less disturbing than the video associated with this quote are Gaga's ridiculous lyrics, which I only share to vividly point out the very real objects of worship in our society today.
As I watched and listened to this Gaga interview, I wondered: How many pastors today take cultural cues from Lady Gaga more than they heed the pastoral pleas of Paul?
I'll let you be the judge.
Jim Gilmore is author of The Experience Economy: Updated Edition.