You can of course lead a service of worship perfectly well wearing a tee-shirt and jeans. You can lead it very badly with a suit and tie and snow white shirt. Spirituality and ability are not affected by what we wear. Casualness is not just about our appearance.
In recent months I have for various reasons had occasion to worship in other churches in this country and abroad. 'Casualness' is the abiding impression left with me - due mainly to the person or persons leading the service, but also to some extent to the congregation. On one occasion (abroad) I did come away feeling I had worshipped God. The way things were led was conducive to worship and I felt edified. In other cases sadly I came away feeling as if I had not worshipped.
Casualness. What is it? Not just what we wear, though that may be an expression in some cases of a desire to be casual. Sometimes it is seen in the use of jargon. In two services recently in quite different places the preacher described the teaching of his text as 'heavy stuff'. Is that language coming back from the sixties?
Casualness is really more an attitude of mind.
I hope it isn't (though sometimes I fear it is) an attitude that says: Sunday is no different from any other day.
I hope it isn't (though sometimes I fear it is) an attitude that says: church is no different from any other place, and what we do there is no different from any other activity.
Above all it comes across as a refusal to show that we are making any effort. It is not 'cool' (there you are, jargon) to put effort into anything. We can dawdle into church (can we say 'God's presence' today - do people believe church gatherings are any more in God's presence than watching the Olympics or relaxing on the beach?) and be casual about how we dress, how we behave and how - we worship. We sing casually, read Scripture casually, pray (if we do at all - one service was horribly lacking in anything approaching serious prayer, certainly of intercession), and preach casually. And - yes, listen casually, of course.
Then, perhaps we live casually.
We are bound to absorb something of our culture. No generation of Christians can avoid that. What we can and must do is be sure that we are not absorbing worldliness. Is casualness sometimes at least a form of worldliness?
Does not God deserve, indeed demand, effort? One of the earliest books I read as a young Christian was entitled 'The Best that I can Be'. That doesn't sit easily with casualness. As Christians our worship and all else we do should be the best that we can do. God is worth no less.
Perhaps it is a sense of God that was most lacking in those services where worship did not seem to happen. God is not a casual God. Spiritual worship is the most difficult thing we can attempt. Striving, not casualness, should be the keynote of our lives and of our meetings.
Especially in those charged with leading the worship of the people of God.