Should We Dress For Church Like We’re Meeting With the President?

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Bert Perry's picture

For me, the command to come comes first--rich and poor, Israel was commanded to come to Jerusalem three times a year, no?--and then the James passage about "vile raiment" comes to mind.  Come, do your best to be decent and clean, but .....COME.  

That said, Jim's suggestion appeals to me in terms simply of how we ought to minister.  Now few of us are going to drop half a grand on a whim like that, but what about getting to know the guy in the next pew, and if it turns out that he seems to be a guy whose prior poverty is holding him to garments that are going to prevent him from getting decent work, by all means help him out to get an outfit or two that might help him get to the next level--and when he asks (as he probably will) what he can do to "pay you back", just tell him that the biggest thing you want is for him to use the opportunity well, and if he's really blessed, do the same thing for another guy.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

WilliamD's picture

This was a good article to debunk the idea that I grew up hearing as well. The church is not a place, it is a people, it is not an event (although it involves weekly events), it is a congregation of people. The idea of "Sunday Best" is meant to honor God and I appreciate its sentiments, but it really is about making us feel as if we have honored God because in reality God never requires this kind of thing and has never hinted that dressing nicely honors Him. The intangibles of mercy, love, forgiveness, humility are what really honor God.

Besides, the whole culture of dressing in a suit for church is a throwback western cultural cue that for the most part has been left behind. It used to be understood that was what you do, but today as the "Christendom" dynamic is shifting, the once understood cultural elements of a Christianized populace are quickly diminishing. The kind of fundamentalism that insists on preserving these cultural expressions only reveal how irrelevant they are because they've missed the point of the church's place in society. 

On a side note, the picture of Obama with Zuckerberg above is more of an accommodation on the President's part than an accommodation Zuckerberg's part. The President is not wearing his coat and Zuckerberg met him half way by wearing a tie with his jeans.  Even Presidential statesmanship is becoming more casual.

DLCreed's picture

Isn't there a rule that says you aren't allowed to gripe about the music if you aren't wearing a suit and tie (preferably 3-piece or double-breasted) in a traditional church or torn jeans and a graphic t-shirt in a contemporary church?

Bert Perry's picture

It's worth noting that the traditional meaning of wearing a coat and tie, at least since the Industrial Revolution started, was that you could wrap a piece of silk around your neck without fearing it would get pulled into a pulley at the factory or the farm, and that your nice wool coat and silk tie were not likely to be ruined by grease and other substances.

In other words, apart from special occasions, it's always been a sign that you had attained an office job, that you were in the upper middle class or above.  Now I don't know whether people generally know this today, but we might consider what message the suit & tie actually sends these days.  It could be very benign, or it could really put off those who are blue collar and self-conscious about it.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

SamH's picture

"The kind of fundamentalism that insists on preserving these cultural expressions only reveal how irrelevant they are because they've missed the point of the church's place in society."

Does this translate down to the individual who is preserving these "cultural expressions?"

 

SamH

Doug Flynn's picture

“So often it seems we want a fortress where the overlooked and underprivileged aren’t allowed through the front gate, and where outcasts are denied membership and are silently pushed out of our designer label kingdom.”

After 50 years of attending conservative churches, I have never seen that statement to be true. However, I have seen it turned on it’s head and witnessed those who would wear jeans that they had taken the time to rip up and scribble all over in order to make some kind of point. They are the only ones that I have ever seen separate themselves and promote a certain dress code. (http://www.churchinroanoke.com/)

Larry Nelson's picture

Here's an experience I had with conservative church dress codes:

A few years ago, I visited a local church attended by some friends of mine.  They had invited me to a special service, and I was happy to oblige.  After taking a seat, an usher (he wore an "Usher" nametag) came over to me.  I assumed he was coming to greet a visitor--someone he'd never seen before.  Nope.  He had come over to scold me for being inappropriately dressed for church!  (I was wearing tailored dress slacks, a long-sleeved shirt with a button-down collar, and a pull-over sweater.)  No jacket & tie though, which was the offense for which he scolded me...

 

M Leslie's picture

Larry Nelson wrote:

Here's an experience I had with conservative church dress codes:

A few years ago, I visited a local church attended by some friends of mine.  They had invited me to a special service, and I was happy to oblige.  After taking a seat, an usher (he wore an "Usher" nametag) came over to me.  I assumed he was coming to greet a visitor--someone he'd never seen before.  Nope.  He had come over to scold me for being inappropriately dressed for church!  (I was wearing tailored dress slacks, a long-sleeved shirt with a button-down collar, and a pull-over sweater.)  No jacket & tie though, which was the offense for which he scolded me...

 

Sounds like classic IFB-3 procedure. Smile

 

Rob Fall's picture

Oh, really. come to Hamilton Square Baptist Church in San Francisco and find out.

M Leslie wrote:
SNIP

Sounds like classic IFB-3 procedure. Smile

 

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Bob Nutzhorn's picture

Doug Flynn wrote:

“So often it seems we want a fortress where the overlooked and underprivileged aren’t allowed through the front gate, and where outcasts are denied membership and are silently pushed out of our designer label kingdom.”

After 50 years of attending conservative churches, I have never seen that statement to be true. However, I have seen it turned on it’s head and witnessed those who would wear jeans that they had taken the time to rip up and scribble all over in order to make some kind of point. They are the only ones that I have ever seen separate themselves and promote a certain dress code. (http://www.churchinroanoke.com/)

Two horrible instances - first, as a young youth pastor, I was told by a deacon's wife to take a young girl home because her odor was bothering people. This was a girl who we were really ministering to and really trying to help because of a bad home situation. My wife and I took her home with tears - and soon found another place to minister. Second, I was making calls to a girl's home who I was told was not allowed to come to our youth group activities. I wondered why, so I called her. She had been met at the door of our church in the early 70's by a couple of leaders in the church and told that the young men she had with her needed to go away because they were dressed liked hippies. This was a young lady who had recently come to Christ who wanted her friends to come hear about Jesus. She never came back, and 30 years later did not want her child to come to a church like that. Our "snobbiness" has an effect on people.

Bert Perry's picture

Really appreciate Bob's point; I've done a touch of youth ministry as well, and it was always tough to figure out where to "let things slide" in terms of dress, and where to approach someone.  I came to the conclusion that I did best to "let things slide", present basics of modesty, and only confront when the offender was (a) long time attender and (b) behavior fairly egregious.  Even then it wasn't fun, and I'd appreciate hearing from others on this.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Greg Long's picture

As I posted on Facebook when someone posted this article:

My feelings about this are mixed. I certainly don't believe we should "dress down" for church. On the other hand, it is striking to me how cultural this whole issue is. I'm not even talking about the foreign mission fields--I'm talking about right here in Des Moines from neighborhood to neighborhood. Of the 5-6 neighbor guys I have a relationship with, I would be shocked if more than 1 of them owned any kind of a suit or sportcoat. So if I were to invite them to a church where that is the predominate dress of most of the men in the church, that would be like me being invited to a Burmese church where the men wear sarongs. If I came in pants I would feel extremely out of place. That's why I appreciate that the "dress code" (by that I mean the culture of dress, not any kind of a formal policy) here at Grace Church is so varied. I truly believe that no one would feel unwelcome simply because of the way they were dressed. (Now, should we encourage Christians who are immodestly or sloppily dressed to grow in discernment? Yes, but that is a different issue.)

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Doug Flynn's picture

it doesn't happen. My point was that I've only ever witnessed the exact opposite of what was being presented. I think, often, people take offense when there is no legitimate cause. Further, I believe, often, what they are really upset about is an unapologetic proclamation of truth, and they are uneasy being around people who are more spiritually mature. But, it's easy to focus on the externals and claim you weren't loved, welcome, etc.

Not sure what IFB-3 is. Hyles-Anderson style? If so, I wouldn't stick around in something like that long enough to care what they think about dress styles anyway. Find or start something new if that's all that's available.

Doug Flynn's picture

It's one thing to have a different style of dress and have the expectation of being welcome. It's another thing altogether to have a different style and expect to change the culture of a church so that they adopt your style and look up to you because of it.

Kirk Mellen's picture

Currently preaching through Exodus on Sunday mornings.  Was interested to consider that the priestly garments God instructed in chapter 28 were designed in the fashion in which they were for "glory and for beauty" (28:2,40 KJV).  Not saying that this necessarily has any prominent application for us in the N.T, era, although we are clearly described as being a "holy priesthood" according to 1 Peter 2, but it almost makes me smile thinking how many Christians and churches try to downplay the area of dress as if it is more spiritual if we look like we simply crawled out of bed and wandered into the auditorium.  The warnings of James in his epistle seem more aimed at denouncing pride and elitism as opposed to ridiculing those who would seek to honor God by worshipping Him with beauty and dignity.
 

Bert Perry's picture

.....if Mr. Obama goes the way of several other Illinois politicians I can think of, we could one day imitate "dressing up to see the President" by donning the garb of a prison guard.

Apropos nothing, but I did go to church with many prison workers (guards and otherwise) when I lived in Waseca, where 10% of the population is in the federal prison.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Doug Flynn's picture

Kirk Mellen wrote:

The warnings of James in his epistle seem more aimed at denouncing pride and elitism as opposed to ridiculing those who would seek to honor God by worshipping Him with beauty and dignity.
 

So true.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Kirk Mellen wrote:

Currently preaching through Exodus on Sunday mornings.  Was interested to consider that the priestly garments God instructed in chapter 28 were designed in the fashion in which they were for "glory and for beauty" (28:2,40 KJV).  Not saying that this necessarily has any prominent application for us in the N.T, era, although we are clearly described as being a "holy priesthood" according to 1 Peter 2, but it almost makes me smile thinking how many Christians and churches try to downplay the area of dress as if it is more spiritual if we look like we simply crawled out of bed and wandered into the auditorium.  The warnings of James in his epistle seem more aimed at denouncing pride and elitism as opposed to ridiculing those who would seek to honor God by worshipping Him with beauty and dignity.
 

I'll tell you what.  If we start making our church buildings look like Solomon's temple in majesty and glory, I'll happily dress in clothing appropriate for that venue.  However, as long as our church buildings are designed to be simply functional spaces, and not places of glory and beauty, I'll continue to believe that our dress should be modest, orderly, and not standing out, or attempting to show glory and beauty.

Dave Barnhart

Kirk Mellen's picture

Dave:

I'm not so sure we wouldn't honor God more with more beautiful and distinctive sanctuaries. It is hard to look at God's instructions concerning His tabernacle and the priestly attire and then also look at the Scripture's description of the New Jerusalem and come away with the impression that God is all that impressed by our multi-purpose buildings which say far more about our human desires and human expectations than they do about the God we say we are coming to worship. Exodus sure has gotten me to think more about my attitude in corporate worship.

M Leslie's picture

Kirk Mellen wrote:

Dave:

It is hard to look at God's instructions concerning His tabernacle and the priestly attire and then also look at the Scripture's description of the New Jerusalem and come away with the impression that God is all that impressed by our multi-purpose buildings...

Do you have enough gold, or are you going for the more portable tabernacle look? (Of course I'm kidding)

The reaction against "Sunday best" attire corresponds with the rebellion against empty religion, witnessed since the 60's. This is a much larger cultural issue than a suit and tie.

Side note: IFB-3 = Independent, Fundamental, Bible, Believing, Baptist

 

Kirk Mellen's picture

"Do you have enough gold, or are you going for the more portable tabernacle look? (Of course I'm kidding)"

Well, God supplied all that was needed for the Israelites when He spoiled the Egyptians on their behalf! Smile

Larry Nelson's picture

 

Bob Nutzhorn wrote:

 Second, I was making calls to a girl's home who I was told was not allowed to come to our youth group activities. I wondered why, so I called her. She had been met at the door of our church in the early 70's by a couple of leaders in the church and told that the young men she had with her needed to go away because they were dressed liked hippies. This was a young lady who had recently come to Christ who wanted her friends to come hear about Jesus.

Had they shared the gospel with "hippies," the next thing you know they might have been following the teachings of some bearded guy who wore some type of robe and sandals...........................................................oh wait, nevermind.

DavidO's picture

dcbii wrote:
However, as long as our church buildings are designed to be simply functional spaces, and not places of glory and beauty, I'll continue to believe that our dress should be modest, orderly, and not standing out, or attempting to show glory and beauty.

Do we insist that simple, modest, and orderly clothing cannot also be beautiful clothing?

 

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