The Graham experience is unique in all of NTCC, an organization that maintains oversight of many congregations throughout the country which are generally of small size and modest means. The organization began in obscurity and once looked upon this as a mark of particular distinction. Their belief that all other churches were ‘compromised’ and enjoyed large attendance by appealing to the worst of human nature allowed them to enjoy and glory in their miniscule numbers. Since that time, with growth has come the belief that this philosophy is no longer applicable, and now it is thought large numbers are a sign that God is blessing. It is a mark of legitimacy. Yet the average NTCC congregation still ranges from between twenty and fifty on a sunny Sunday morning, with some larger exceptions. Ordinarily you will be ushered into a modest free-standing building with a seating capacity of about two hundred, or perhaps a humble hotel conference room, a community center, or a tiny rented retail storefront. But no matter the size of the place or the number of the group, the following description is what you can expect to find in practically every New Testament Christian Church. Your experience is about to begin.
Warm and Fuzzy
You will be greeted at the door by the pastor and his wife. They are friendly people who really seem to be interested in you, your personal background, where you hale from, and whether you like your job, be it in the civilian realm or the military. Chances are that at least one of them or both were in the Army, Air Force or Marine Corps when they were younger, and are anxious to swap war stories and banter with you in the terminology of military life. They call it “speaking the language”, and will engage in this activity in order to endear themselves to you.
Immediately you will notice some very stark outstanding features of the lady in question. She will have a distinctive hairdo, worn either down or up, which makes it obvious that her hair is rather long. She will be attired in an attractive dress of modest cut and length. She will be wearing no jewelry except for perhaps a wristwatch, and absolutey no facial cosmetics of any sort.
The ‘Mane’ Issue
The reason for the long hair is found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians in which he makes a comparison between a woman’s religious veil and the length of her hair for the sake of ameliorating a local doctrinal dispute. One could say from a cursory reading of the text that it is appropriate for a woman to have long hair. But whether the writer of the scripture ever intended for this practice to be universal and dogmatic is questionable. NTCC, on the other hand, believes and enforces this standard for all women everywhere, and places a prohibition on the cutting of female hair entirely. They even go so far as to place the cutting of ladies’ hair in the category of ‘rebellion’, saying the word as if it were a verbal punch in the mouth, and using an Old Testament scripture that equates the seriousness of rebellion against God with the practice of witchcraft. Therefore, if you are a lady, and you are speaking to the pastor’s wife, please be fully aware of what is going on. Her affection and ‘niceness’ are probably genuine, and she will not say anything to embarrass you just yet if you have your hair cut short or trimmed, but on a certain level deep down, she is pretty sure that you are not a Christian, because if you were, or if you “get saved today”, or if you truly submit your life to the will of God, you too will cease to take the scissors to your hair ever again. To do otherwise will confirm that you are indeed guilty of witchcraft (or at least its equivalent–rebellion).
The reason for the lack of pigment enhancement is more than likely the modesty of the lady herself, and an unwillingness to portray an artifice rather than the “real her”. There is nothing wrong with this principle if the conscience of the individual so dictates, and you need not be alarmed at this if you are a woman who wears make-up; just as long as you are prepared for the cold reality that NTCC promotes a dichotomy between anything you might put upon your face and the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying influence. They believe that the Old Testament reference to (the wicked queen) Jezebel’s painting her face before greeting Jehu at the window is a reference to her adulterous ways, and therefore not to be emulated by a godly woman. In point of fact, this reference also includes Jezebel’s donning of her tiara, which indicates that she was not undressing to seduce, but dressing for a queenly execution. Her words indicate that she expected to be killed. She was killed of course, but not at all with the dignity she expected. That having said, NTCC subscribes to the old Pentecostal prohibition against facial cosmetics as being reflective of an adultereous “Jezebel spirit”. The pastor may not say anything to you on your first visit, but he and his wife are assuming that if you ever become a “real Christian”, you will “wipe that junk off your face”. While they know you are not actually a street-walking harlot in real life, they assume that on a deep-seated psychological and/or spiritual level, you display the innate character of a “whore”.
There is within the doctrine of NTCC a prohibition against pants or trousers on women. There is no Biblical authority for this teaching, and they will admit to this fact when robustly challenged. There is a reference in the Mosaic law concerning women and men not wearing things that pertain to the opposite sex. The law does not describe the required clothing in detail, however, and since men of the Old Testament did not wear breeches, one is hard pressed to prove that such things pertain only to men. The organization’s founder, R.W. Davis, took it upon himself during the sixties to review all of the churches of his day, assess their worthiness, and having weighed them in his balances, found them sorely wanting. He was aghast that churches let women get away with such abominations as the wearing of pants, and felt that God was therefore calling him to start an organization of churches that would put a stop to it. He had no Biblical mandate for this attitude then, and he has none now. It is really a detailed and rather daunting question of historical development and the indignation of ecclessiastical authority and its helplessness in the face of inexorable change. It is another matter of personal conviction in which so many hair-splitting Christians become foolishly enmeshed. If you are a lady who wears pants, or if you bring your wife to church in pants, the pastor and his wife will treat you kindly at the door, and probably you will not be told to go home and change clothes right away. But rest assured, they know that if you ever expect to be what God wants you to be, if you ever hope to make it into heaven, you will run home right after church and put on a dress. Otherwise, you only demonstrate your stubbornly willful immodesty, and your perverted desire to play the role of a man.
She may have holes in her ears which hark back to a former time when she was a “sinner”, but you will currently find no earrings on the pastor’s wife. Again, the absence of this type of jewelry is not wrong as a matter of personal conviction, but it is difficult to be dogmatic about such things based upon the New Testament. This church that you have just walked into will judge you according to your earrings, which can become an obnoxious distraction to other truly spiritual matters. The primary heartburn with earrings stems from an ancient pagan belief in the talismanic power of ear ornamentation to frighten evil spirits away from those convenient holes in the sides of one’s head through which they would gleefully enter if they could. Supposedly, such practices bespeak the superstitions of bygone days and are therefore strictly verbotin. It is also a commonly held piece of background information that earrings are a token of excess intended to display wealth, even though they are normally just cheap junk and contain no actual precious stones of any kind. Another belief of NTCC is that the placement of these items draws the attention of the male sex to an area of the woman’s anatomy that is, supposedly, more sensual than some other areas. By placing emphasis on outward standards of holiness, NTCC has entered a trap. They have to constantly refine their explanations of what constitutes enticement, which reveals more about the people who make the rules than those wearing the stuff. If you stick around long enough, you will begin to feel the wrath of the pastor coming down hard on your diamond studs. He will begin to stamp and tramp and bellow in such a way as to create the impression that the Holy Ghost is “all over the room” and proclaim the certainty that “hell will be your home” if you do not immediately “pull them dinglebobs off your ears.” You will wonder what happened to that nice man that you thought was a real pastor.
A word about “dinglebobs”: This is a homespun moniker given to earrings based upon the fact that they are often suspended and they sometimes bounce. Like the playground bully who christens every new kid with his official nickname, R.W. Davis assigns his own lingo to various and sundry persons, places and things, and NTCC is populated with a thick stratum of preachers who, utterly lacking in imagination and bent upon emulating their leader, thoughlessly repeat his favorite forms of phraseology whether he is there listening or not. More on these items as they arise.
The point to be made about these artificial standards that NTCC refers to as standards of “outward holiness” is that they lack scriptural and spiritual support. They are fundamental to the organization’s history and existence, having been promoted as the requirements of God and used as a line of demarcation between the saved and the sinner for many years. In recent times, the organization has learned to soften its approach to the teaching of these doctrines, laying upon them less stress and amplification than in past times. This softening is done for one reason only; the habitual driving away at these spurious doctrines from the pulpit has a negative effect upon attendance. But it must be made known to the unwary victim that NTCC will never accept your claim to be a real Christian until you submit to these and many other ridiculous prohibitions.