Is my garment really that important?
"Come just as you are ... It doesn't really matter what you wear, what matters most is your heart."
Common words spoken by Christians when encouraging non-church goers to attend services, but oftentimes, the words and the actions are incongruent, as those invited are met with a look of scorn and/or pity from church members when they arrive in 'less than ideal' garments.
Shouldn't modesty be the only measuring stick used to assess the dress code of the Church? Why is man looked down on when he wears jeans to a church service? Why is a woman pressured to change her outfits every week or risk being pitied?
Many have left congregations for this very reason and others continue to leave, citing that their jeans and consistently repeated outfits are hardly ever looked down upon when they are out in the world.
"I was six years old when I got baptised. However, there was a constant struggle between us and the Church, because of our 'poorness' folks wouldn't associate themselves with us. Most Sabbaths we would stand in church because brethren didn't want us to sit beside them, neither would they allow their children to play with my siblings and I," said Jeremy Arnold, a young man who Family & Religion caught up with recently and asked to share his experience.
He further mentioned that the typical thing was done: a bag of clothes was collected for them, but how it was done and the embarrassing episodes surrounding receipt of the items were enough to chase anyone away.
"It reached a climax one Sabbath after the elder spoke to the church asking them to put together a package for mommy and her godforsaken children. The following Sabbath we all went to church in 'new' clothes, however, one church sister said to mommy, 'I notice you wearing the skirt I put in the bag, I hope you don't wear it more often than I did'. Mommy picked us up, saying God is not here and left the church."
Arnold said that his mother stopped attending church and his siblings were at liberty to do the same. He said, since then, the family as a whole has not congregated for worship, and added that as a result of that, he witnessed siblings become atheists, and he started playing in clubs from an early age, where he had more friends than in the Church.
"It was a near-death experience that changed me. While I was in the club playing, a fight broke out. The young man (who was) getting the beating left, got his big brother and friend and returned to the club. Picking up on what was happening, I packed up my discs, laptop, and made a run for it. Upon reaching the gate, I realised it was closed. In my fright I ran to a dead end and I was blocked in by three vehicles. The men alighted from vehicle the big brother of the young man asked me if I had beaten up his brother, I said, 'No sir'. He then call his little brother and he asked him if I was the one who had beaten him up, and he said yes! Heaven knows I didn't touch him."
Arnold said the man pointed a gun at him and told him he would be taught a lesson. He said the man pulled the trigger but the gun snapped. Puzzled he then lifted the gun towards the sky and fired, it worked. He then pointed it Arnold once more and pulled the trigger, but nothing. He repeated the first step twice before Arnold made a run for it.
"I was praying that if God would take me home safely, I would go back to Him. When I got home, and pushed the back door, what I saw changed my life: I saw Mommy on her knees praying for her baby boy."
Not everyone's story of leaving the church, because they felt more welcomed in the world than in the church, is as gripping as Arnold's, but it remains a cause for concern.
Are we missing the mark and risking a depopulation of heaven because we seek to major in the minor?