On Choir Robes and Helping the Church

SUSAN SHEPHERD|CONTRIBUTOR

Our choir has always worn robes. I mean, always. Until one day, we didn’t.  Seriously, one week we arrived for rehearsal and our Worship Pastor announced with great enthusiasm that we were going without robes that Sunday. Without robes! What?? He explained the desire for our choir to grow in numbers, and the concern that perhaps the robes made choir participation seem either stuffy or unapproachable.

As you can imagine, there was more than a little murmuring in the ranks. Some of our members were offended—our robes were an institution, not to be trifled with. Others were elated, pleased to be rid of the dated burgundy gowns and free to be seen in their Sunday best. Regardless, that Sunday we filed in to the Sanctuary robe-less and the service went on without incident.

After several weeks, our Pastor announced that we would be going back to the robes for Sunday’s service.  I don’t really know how everyone else felt, but I was really annoyed. I actually preferred the robe-less look and I thought abandoning the polyester gowns made a positive and winsome statement.  (Although admittedly I am not sure we had any new “joiners” as a result of the disrobing experiment.)

For several days, I stewed on this situation.  I had a good relationship with our Worship Pastor and I knew that he trusted my opinion.  While the robe/no robe issue was clearly not a pivotal one for our Sunday worship service, I felt pretty strongly about the need to lighten up a little and I thought it would be beneficial for my Pastor to hear from me.  I really thought I could help.

God’s Purpose Prevails

Truth be told, I actually have an opinion on pretty much everything.  And let’s be honest, I often think that my perspective adds value to a discussion.  However, at some point in my musing, the words of Proverbs 13:3 resonated in my soul and caused me to prayerfully submit my opinion, and my perspective to Christ:

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin…”

As I thought about all of the decisions that had to be made for every worship service, and all of the critique and ideas and commentary that this Brother must have been subjected to on a weekly basis, I realized that the very last thing he needed was to hear my opinion. Even if it was “helpful.” So I refrained from opening wide my lips.

But I was still disappointed, and I really did think that going back to the robes was a mistake. Over the course of several days, the Holy Spirit gently reminded me of what I know is true about God:  “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me…I will accomplish all my purpose…I have purposed, and I will do it…” (Isaiah 46:10, 11)

God has made a promise, a covenant, with His people. Whether or not a particular decision is “right”, the vitality of the church does not rest in her perfection, but in God.  God will not abandon His church. His purpose for the church, for our church, will prevail, robes or no-robes. And while He very often chooses to deploy us in community to speak truth to one another, He certainly does not need my wide open lips to accomplish His purpose. My very best gift to my beloved Worship Pastor was my unwavering support, my prayers, and my enthusiastic obedience to his directive.

Which is not to say that I don’t contribute my opinion at the decision-making table.  I do. But in this instance, I knew that what was cloaked in my “helper” guise would have really been my personal agenda, and my confidence in my own wisdom.  It would not have been life-preserving but might have, instead, produced insecurity in a man that I deeply respect.

Submit Agendas

Sisters, our influence in our churches cannot be understated.  With it we have the opportunity to breathe life into our leaders, and our church family.  The danger is that we can also wreak havoc among the people of God, and particularly for the men who lead us. As we have opportunity to deploy our influence, it is incumbent on us to seek the Lord, to submit our agenda to His, and to speak into church life in ways that are for her good, that “fit the occasion” and that build up, give grace, and do not drip with self-promotion.

To robe or not-to-robe is not really the question.  The issue is what does helping really look like in this circumstance?  This dilemma is not easily answered and at least one strategy in our helper effort is to wait. Typically, waiting a day or two, or even a week before offering an opinion or commentary regarding a decision will give the Holy Spirit margin to encourage or reprove our effort. As we hear from Him, we can feel confident engaging in a dialog with grace. Or such time might reveal our own spirit of self-service and personal ambition…which should cause us to repent and submit with humble gratitude.

Either way leads to life. And isn’t that what we hope for? To be life-givers pursuing the vitality of His Bride?  Burgundy polyester robe and all……

About the Author:

Susan Shepherd

Susan is the Director of Women’s Ministries at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. Her first book, Becoming Eve, is now available along with a study guide for personal and small group use. She and her husband, Charles, have two married children and two grandsons. While Susan loves cooking, photography, reading, writing and ministry, she mostly loves being Gigi to Micah (2) and Jack (8 months)!

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