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

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dcbii's picture

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DavidO wrote:

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

Hardly.  I wasn't kidding above when I also said appropriate.  The way I interpret the various scriptures on this point is that I don't want to draw excess attention to *myself* with my dress.  I quite happily change my dress habits depending on the congregation I'm worshipping with (within reason, of course).  If people generally dress up, I do too.  If they generally don't, I don't either.  I'm not trying to make a statement, and I'm not dead set on my own convenience.

However, I will point out that "beautiful" clothing generally costs more.  That's not an absolute, of course.  However, again, if I would be worshipping with a group of people who dress plainly, I try to keep "flashy" to a minimum and stay with reserved.  I generally let my wife handle the "beautiful" end of things, but very nice men's clothing will also stick out, unless you are with a group of people where that is the norm.  We should also never let the lack of beautiful clothing affect how we treat those who come to our places of worship.

I'm not convinced that much of our effort and money should go into "trying to look beautiful for God."  The sacrifices he desires from us are a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  I am old enough, however, to lament (just a little) that many churches today could indeed use some touches to make them more places of glory and majesty, so they look like they are set apart to God, and not simply places of function.  I also still wear a suit on Sundays, since that doesn't stand out in our congregation, but I don't think that my dressing up is impressing God in any way, and I'm certainly not bent out of shape about or unwelcoming to people who don't dress up to come to church.  I think that's reasonably true to the spirit of what James is saying.

On a personal front, I would love if churches had enough resources to both have fantastic outreach and missions support while still allowing majestic sanctuaries in which we could worship.  That doesn't appear to be what God is requiring from his true worshipers, though, and he hasn't given most of us Solomon's resources, or even anything remotely resembling that.  We are now in the time where true worship of God is not only at Jerusalem, but we worship God in spirit and in truth.  Of course, that doesn't prevent beautiful dress or nice places of worship, but I don't believe that's where we should put much of our focus either.

Dave Barnhart

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Kirk Mellen wrote:

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.

Kirk,

This is a false analogy. The NT believer is the temple of God, not the building in which the church meets. If you want an apples to apples analogy, you would have to talk about actually adorning the NT temple, you and I. While we are at it, you may also remember that God never commanded construction of the temple, only the animal skin tent. David wanted to build the temple and devised the plans for the project. Even in the OT, the real focus was the heart rather than the meeting place. I think you hit the nail on the head in your final sentence when you turn our attention to attitude in worship. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Bert Perry's picture

It is worth noting, if we bring up the Temple as an example of how to doll things up, that all of Israel--really a poor nation with the exception of a few years with Solomon if I'm reading my history correctly--was commanded to come up to the Tabernacle/Temple three times a year.  So we have there the exhibit of people wearing rough woolen garments leading animals coming to a temple cloaked in gold and cedar.  Worth contemplating, no?

And the point that we are the Temple is well taken--and that given that the Church was in its early years significantly comprised of slaves, it stands to reason that James was not  making an idle rhetorical point when he drew the picture of a man coming to the assembly in vile raiment.  I would guess that the early church looked a lot more like the Dogpatch of Lil' Abner than we might guess today.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

Here's a question: Have you ever personally confronted someone about their inappropriate dress in church? I don't mean "gave a sermon about modesty" ... but ONE on ONE?

I was a pastor for 16 years .... never did! 

If you have, tell us about it! (Be specific like "Bill never wore a suit", or "Fred wore blue jeans" ... et cetera. 

 

 

Bert Perry's picture

Not modesty alone, but I did have a case in youth group where a young lady decided to wear short shorts and a tight shirt and then slouch despite repeated requests not to.  Took it before the pastor and deacons multiple times, and as far as I know, the young lady is wearing exactly the same thing she was before, adjusted for the weather.  I remember being struck that some of the deacons were using what I'd have considered a fairly legalistic approach to the matter.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

I know of a case where a man wore overalls to church. I know why: he is rather rotund and the overalls are comfortable for him. His pastor took him aside and told him that overalls were not appropriate dress for church. 

I think the pastor was right and that he handled this well (the church is not out in "farm country"). I heard about it from his wife. 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Jim wrote:

I know of a case where a man wore overalls to church. I know why: he is rather rotund and the overalls are comfortable for him. His pastor took him aside and told him that overalls were not appropriate dress for church. 

I think the pastor was right and that he handled this well (the church is not out in "farm country"). I heard about it from his wife. 

Jim, I think this is the crux of the conversation. Why would you say the pastor was right to tell him this?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Kirk Mellen's picture

"This is a false analogy. The NT believer is the temple of God, not the building in which the church meets. If you want an apples to apples analogy, you would have to talk about actually adorning the NT temple, you and I. While we are at it, you may also remember that God never commanded construction of the temple, only the animal skin tent. David wanted to build the temple and devised the plans for the project. Even in the OT, the real focus was the heart rather than the meeting place. I think you hit the nail on the head in your final sentence when you turn our attention to attitude in worship."

Chip, not trying to argue or even implying that this O.T. tabernacle is perfectly analogous to our present N.T. worship practices, but to play along I would say ...

1. If we want to see our bodies as the only tabernacle for God on earth, (not sure I want to agree with that sentiment entirely), then perhaps it pertains more to the thrust of the original article.  If my body is actually the tabernacle of God how should I clothe that tabernacle to accurately reflect the God which I say lives within.

2. The tabernacle itself was far more than animal skins.  Internally it was fine linen of scarlet, blue and purple beautifully woven with gold, embossed or embroidered with golden cherubim throughout.  This was stretched over a framework of hardwood completely covered in gold, which stood in foundational pillars made of silver.  The internal furnishings were all hard wood covered in gold or pure gold themselves.  Conservative scholars tell us that the measurements of the gold, silver, and brass given to construct this tabernacle amounted to roughly 1 ton of gold, 4 tons of silver, and 2/12 tons of brass.  All given by a people who had spent the last 400 years as Egyptian slaves and who now wandered in the wilderness as nomads.

3. This was all instructed by God for a people who would never see the inside!  Only the priests were ever allowed inside the tabernacle proper!  It stood as a symbol of God's presence among the nation and it probably was aimed at representing the throne room of heaven.

Again, I am not saying this O.T. practice is God's plan for us in the N.T. age, but it does make me stop and ask myself: "What should be the mindset of those who say they are gathering to worship their God?  What really is worship in this regard (is not worship = worth-ship).  What should a place constructed for the very purpose of worshipping such a God look like?  Where would I go in the Scriptures to find out?  Does it even matter to God?  Should it matter to me?"

I don't pretend to have the answers but I think we take it all too lightly and just assume that God could care less about such things.  And I personally  have a hard time accepting this in light of God's own expectations for His O.T. nation so clearly articulated in His Word.  Spending time in Exodus has certainly got me thinking along these lines.

Matthew J's picture

Just a thought. Contextually, is it good exegesis to extrapolate from "the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit" in the NT application for diet, dress, exercise, smoking, etc when the clear and obvious context that the NT writers use this analogy for (mostly Paul in Corinthians, right?) references sexual immorality and that possibly connected with idolatry? Is this not often (and we all are guilty of this at times) starting with a premise "You should wear nice clothes to church" and then finding a passage that will support our premise by application "Aha, the body is the temple of the HOly Spirit, there you go, proves my point"? or another example off topic, "Eating GMOs are bad for you...Oh yes, the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and you don't want to put GMO's in God's temple." Or another example "Smoking is bad for your health and your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit." or "Don't put tattoos on the temple of the Holy Spirit." My point is that when we start distancing a text from its context, even in application, we find ourselves in danger of stepping outside the bounds of Scripture inadvertently and whether we agree with a premise or not, we must be careful with the text!

On topic of the OP, Maybe it is simpler. I agree after studying Leviticus fairly carefully, God does indeed care about details in approaching him. Most of those details are fulfilled in Christ, yet God still does care about how we worship and gather together. We ought to be thinking people, and maybe put it principlely rather than legally. "Don't be casual when you come before a Holy God." Casual in your words, casual in your thoughts, casual in your relationships, casual in your cleanliness, casual in your prayers, casual in your attendance, casual in your singing and musical selection, casual in your giving, casual in your dressing, casual in your preaching, etc... And then trust the Spirit of God in his people to apply that principle as they understand it, knowing that God owns the heart and the body. 

Steve Newman's picture

The next most theologically conservative in town (compared to our church) makes it a point to tell people to dress "casual" to church. Isn't this just as much of an issue as to encourage people to dress up?

Ron Bean's picture

Welcome to our church. Some of our lady members wear dresses so that female visitors in dresses won't feel out of place. Other lady members wear slacks for the same reason. Some of our male members wear a tie with a jacket; others dress casually. Their motive is the same as the ladies. So far we haven't had anyone show up in loin cloths or swimsuits. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Greg Linscott's picture

The thread title references what one would wear when meeting the President. Well, how do people dress when they meet the president at a political rally? If they would run into him on a White House tour? If you hear he's going to visit your school? I mean, you might do your best to look presentable, but most people aren't putting their child in a suit and tie if the POTUS is coming to his school. For that matter, it's actually getting pretty hard to find ties for boys other than Easter time in a lot of clothing stores.

I think there is more about church culture and tradition on this issue than we care to admit- and I do wear a coat and tie every Sunday. The reality is people do "dress up" in different ways than they used to 20-30 years ago. Look at what people who work in banks wear. Look what people wear when they go out to a nice dinner. We don't generally go to church in tuxedos and formal gowns, if we were trying to make a case to "wear our best for God."

I think this is an issue that is okay whatever you decide. Just don't be a distraction, personally, and don't look down at others for their choices, either. Other than that, there are bigger things to get worked up about.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Larry Nelson's picture

Greg Linscott wrote:

We don't generally go to church in tuxedos and formal gowns, if we were trying to make a case to "wear our best for God."

I wore a tuxedo to church once, in my young(er) and dumb(er) days.  I was in a wedding party on a Saturday, and didn't have to return it to the rental place until Monday.  Got some odd looks.  Apparently one can be too dressed up for church.....

 

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