"Go right back upstairs and put on collared shirts."
That used to be my boring Sunday morning mantra until I read Trolls and Truth (New Hope, September 2006) by Jimmy Dorrell, pastor of the The Church Under The Bridge in Waco, Texas. The book should have come with a warning label: "If you don't want to be confronted with prophetic truths spoken by the poor to comfortable churches and people, don't open this."
Founded in 1992 as a Bible Study with five homeless men, the The Church Under The Bridge now draws 300 people of many races and economic backgrounds who meet outside under the same interstate bridge each week. Dorrell tells the stories of some of these changed lives to remind us of 14 realities in Jesus' upside-down Kingdom, giving fresh, revolutionary meanings to words we take for granted like "family," "giving," "work," "friendship," and "worship."
Book in hand, I approached our teen sons about our on-going tussle over what they should to wear to church.
"I've always thought it's important to honor God by wearing our nicest clothes on Sunday," I said. "But listen to this quote: 'When asked why they don't go to church, poor people list clothes as the number one reason.' What do you think about that?"
"So if we dress up, we might make people who can't buy clothes feel unwelcome?" one of my sons asked thoughtfully. I could almost hear the background noise of wheels spinning inside his brain ... and heart.
"So you're saying we've been right and you've been wrong?" The other one asked. He looked shocked.
"Maybe. But it's more about why we're wearing the clothes, not the clothes themselves. I need to ask if I've been dressing our family to impress others. And you should probably ask if you've been dressing to indulge yourselves. Both of us would be wrong."
When they came down the next Sunday, one son was dressed in his everyday faded-cargo-pants-and-sweatshirt ensemble. "I'm thinking about the poor, Mom," he told me, grinning.
The other was in a collared shirt. "Let's go," was all he said. "We're going to be late."
For once, I didn't say anything. Trust me, there might more changes to come for the Perkins family, because you can't listen to prophets like the ones in this book without "acknowledging the hardening process that our sin and culture have on us," and asking God to transform your status quo.