Really? Is this still a thing? People aren’t still arguing about what we wear to church, are they?
Yes. Despite the much more relaxed approach most people have, the debate about appropriate church attire still rages in some circles. So I’m going to weigh in on it.
Where angels fear…
Why Is Clothing An Issue?
First, let’s frame the debate at hand. There are some people who feel that what you wear in the church is a non-issue. Throw something on. Show up. Worship and serve. As long as your heart is right, what you wear doesn’t matter.
There are others who feel that what we wear in the church should be different than what we wear for other events – or at least from what we wear on our day off.
I don’t know anyone who would chide a newcomer or poor person for not wearing a suit or a dress, but there are those who think that regular church attendees should wear their Sunday Best. And ministers especially, should dress well.
“God deserves our best”, they say. Or “there’s a dress code when you meet the president or a king.”
What Is Best For Church?
I fall into the “wear what you want” camp. If a suit and tie feel respectful to you, do so. If casual clothes help you feel less self-conscious, go for it. Here are two reasons why I don’t think it matters what we wear in church, followed by three biblical rules for appropriate clothing, not just in church, but anywhere.
First, let’s address the argument based on God deserving our best.
This argument falls apart on so many levels that it could be its own blog post, but for now, I’ll just say this. There are no universal or biblical standards for what is “best” when it comes to clothing. Is “best” based on the cost of the clothes, the formality of them, or what is culturally perceived as church attire?
If it’s based on the cost, I’ve seen a lot of people wearing ripped jeans, a t-shirt and shoes with no socks that cost more than the preacher’s suit. If “best” is based on the formality of the clothes, then shouldn’t we be wearing tuxedos and evening gowns to church? The more formal, the better, right?
But if it’s about what’s culturally perceived as church attire (which would be the main argument), perceptions vary widely from culture to culture and from person to person, so wear what works for you.
Second, I’ve always found the “there’s a dress code when you meet the president or a king” argument to be very odd. Sure, there’s a dress code for meeting a king – unless you’re the king’s kid, of course. Which we are.
Third, this is all based on a faulty theology of what church is, to begin with. As I’ve written previously, we don’t go to church to meet with King Jesus. Christ is with us everywhere.
If I have to wear appropriate clothes to worship Jesus, then I’d better not sing worship songs or practice for an upcoming sermon while I’m showering. And plumbers had better not pray while they’re wearing coveralls, crawling under a house through the mud.
The argument that we need to dress up to worship is based on some seriously flawed theology about what constitutes worship and the purpose of gathering as the church.
Are There Any Guidelines For Clothing?
Finally, there are some rules for how Christians should dress. And they are a matter of the heart far more than the clothes themselves. As believers, we should not dress immodestly, pridefully or rebelliously.
This may be the only point on which virtually all Christians everywhere agree about clothing. We may not always agree on what is or is not modest, but we do agree that modesty matters. Anything that emphasizes our sexuality is inappropriate for anyone but our spouse. And this goes for men as well as women.
It’s amazing how some people get upset about seeing a t-shirt or baseball cap in church, but they have no problem with outrageously expensive suits or dresses, tons of makeup, expensive haircuts, gold watches and fancy jewellery on the preacher. Scripture does not address casual clothes at all, but it directly forbids such displays of “adornment” (1 Peter 3:3).
While some people dress in their Sunday Best out of pride, others want to wear clothing that is different from everyone else just to make a point. Just like the teenager who wants to wear what their parents hate, if what we wear to church is to push back against that church’s cultural standards, we’re being inappropriately rebellious and not very Christlike.
Why I Dress Casually
Most people who dress casually don’t do so out of disrespect for God or the church. We do so because we can be less self-conscious that way. That’s the case for me.
When I’m wearing a suit and tie, I’m constantly aware of it. I think about the tie being straight, the jacket being buttoned and the shoes being uncomfortable. Dressing up that way causes me to divert too much of my attention away from where it should be.
When I dress casually, I can relax and stop thinking about myself and my clothes. I can lift my hands in praise without feeling my suit jacket bunch up awkwardly. And I can help stack chairs after church without worrying that the sweat I’m working up will require another expensive visit to the dry cleaner.
Point To Jesus
The bottom line is this. Wear what helps you think more about Jesus and less about yourself – and what will help others do the same. In church. At home. At work. Anywhere. Everything should point to Jesus.
Written by Karl Vaters from Christianity Today
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