As a child, I used to think I would be a rather suave, sophisticated adult: a snappy dresser who could appreciate the finer things. But, alas, now approaching the 40's, I live in a cookie cutter house (don't get me wrong, it's very nice) in a vanilla suburb (also nice). My wardrobe is typically geeky white male, got on the cheap (mostly) at places like Stein-Mart, Marshalls, and the Maxx (okay, my wife will add my penchant for Bean/Lands End --still pretty square). I like classical music, red wine, and the theatre, but my knowledge of them doesn't go very deep (sometimes, that's a blessing).
I am great with all of this. I work in a very image conscious part of probably the most Southern city on earth. Status, appearance, knowing and being known, and connections are everything. The appearance of wealth is prized. In this, it is not unique, though it has a far different flavor here than elsewhere --people have something to PROVE, and the wealth is not easily worn like in other parts of the country. Incidentally, the wealthiest people I have known (and I have casually known a few billionaires and several more that sat on tens of millions --don't ask me how that happened) are some of the most humble and down-to-earth --it seems that the upwardly mobile, upper-middle are the ones who need the APPEARANCE of wealth.
We run into this in the church. Sometimes, the argument is made that we need to polish image. Words need to be parsed carefully, also tone of voice. Staffing decisions that favor young, polished, handsome athletic types would be prized by some (thankfully, not all). We think, somehow, we need to adorn the gospel with polish. We need beautiful buildings and designer clothes, and a winsome type A personality.
The truth is: Jesus was none of those, nor did he seem to include such people on his team. He picked losers --let's be honest about it. Yes, the early church picked up a physician later on, but I doubt Luke carried the prestige of top-flight doctors today. And, he did this for purpose --he puts his treasure in jars of clay to make sure we know the surpassing greatness of his power has nothing to do with us.
Image does not help substance. Image does not help advance the gospel. Image harms the gospel. The church is not an auto show, where a curvy young thing needs to be strewn across the hood to sell a product. The gospel is the supernatural power of God, and it changes lives. Is the church anemic today because we don't understand this? I think so. Humility, service, sharing the gospel, and cultivating Biblical knowledge and spiritual disciplines work every time they are tried. Why do we keep seeking something better?