By Edward O. Bragwell, Sr.
While talking with sister Polly Phillips recently, she related an incident that happened during one of her beloved husband, H.E. Phillips’ hospitalizations shortly prior to his death. It was a Sunday morning and brother Phillips was alert enough to realize that it was the Lord’s Day, so he decided that he needed to get up and go to worship services. Of course, he was not able, but in his mind he was. As I recall, one of his daughters was attending to his needs that day. Anyway, after announcing his desire to attend worship, he ordered the one staying with him to bring to him his “Testament and tie.”
Those of us who knew brother Phillips well know how important those two items were to him at worship time. He needed his Testament because he respected its authority and relied on it check to see “whether those things were so” (see Acts 17:11). He needed his tie because he considered the worship service a solemn and dignified occasion that required him to be as dignified as he could possibly be, both in behavior and appearance. Many could profit from the example of brother Phillips’ love for his “Testament and tie.”
Brother Phillips believed that we should “make all things according to the pattern” (Heb. 8:5). He believed that the New Testament is the pattern for the Christian. To him it was quite simple. If it is authorized in the New Testament do it, if it is not don’t.
We should always consult the New Testament when ordering our own lives and when teaching others how to live. One should listen as others teach with an open mind, but always consult the New Testament to see if the things are so. It matters not what the subject is. It may be the structure, work, worship, or organization of the church. It may be marriage, divorce, and remarriage. It might be the kind of daily life a Christian should live. Whatever the topic, the New Testament is needed to get and keep one on the right track.
Brother Phillips also believed that the public worship of the Creator of the universe was an occasion that required dignity. His tie was a symbol of that dignity. After all, if one attended a public meeting in honor of a world leader he would want to appear in the most dignified manner possible. How much more should it be when one attends a meeting honoring the “King of kings and Lord of lords”?
As I observe many who attend gospel meetings at various places and regular services at home, I wish more would be more considerate of the occasion. It is not at all unusual for brothers and sisters (not just babes in Christ) to attend services dressed more fitting for a wiener roast, hay ride, or hog killing than for a service honoring the Savior of the world — even some of the men taking a “public part” in the service. Am I saying that a man must literally wear a tie to services to appear or to be dignified? No, not at all. But at the same time, it should seem obvious that when one dresses as sloppily and casually as some habitually do that they need to give more consideration to the solemnity and dignity of the occasion.
It is axiomatic in our society that events have varying degrees of solemnity and dignity and that people show their regard for the nature of the event by the way they dress and behave. Dress and behavior appropriate for a ball game is quite different from that of a funeral service honoring a friend. Maybe the problem would be solved if we would just stop and reflect upon the special place that a worship service should have in our hearts.
I realize that my thinking along these lines may be influenced by the way that I was brought up. As a youngster growing up in the country, with limited financial resources, we had “everyday” clothes and “church” clothes. Sometimes the difference in the two was the age of the garment. At “church time,” whether the “regular” Sunday services or the “big meeting,” we were expected to dress up in the best that we had. Sometimes it was the newest pair of Liberty overalls that we had, but by wearing our best we were showing our regard for the occasion. If the President of the United States had come to town and we would have had the privilege to meet with him and hear him speak, we would have worn those Liberty overalls, washed and neatly ironed — it was the best that we had. We felt that we could do no less when meeting with our Lord around his table and hearing his word proclaimed.
Yes, it might do all of us good to follow brother Phillips’ example as we prepare to attend services and ask for our “Testament and tie.”
223 First St., Russellville, Alabama 35653 firstname.lastname@example.org