f The Wittenberg Door: Dressing for Worship

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dressing for Worship

I often wonder if people (myself included) would dress the way they dress at church were they meeting the President of the United States (of course there was those girls with the flip flops). Do we really realize the gravity of this event? Do we take a moment to consider that upon the announcement of the call to worship that a solemn occasion is ensuing? Indeed, this is no ordinary gathering. We, as the Living God’s people, are presenting ourselves to our King—to worship Him and to hear from Him through the preaching of His word.

I’ve tried to impress upon my children the gravity of the event—because it’s not a casual affair, we should dress accordingly. (I think of Moses taking off his shoes because the ground upon which he was standing was holy.)

For example, I wear shorts, filp flops, and a tee shirt to lounge on the beach. It’s a casual affair so casual attire is called for. If I had an audience with the President of the United States a coat and tie would be in order. Because of the gravity of the event, it would be flippant and disrespectful to wear beach cloths. How much more care should we take when gathering to worship our Savior?

A matter of conscience, though, to be sure, but, perhaps we would all do better to give a little more thought to our dress when entering the house of the Lord.

At the Wheat and Chaff blog, Pastor Matt Powell of Providence Reformed Chapel in Colorado reflects upon this topic:

But there is another spirit that one sees all too frequently in our society, and that is the spirit that says, "God doesn't care what I look like, so I can come to church dressed as slovenly as I want." "Sunday best" was an expression that had more meaning in our culture just a few years ago than it does now, for it used to be taken for granted that you should dress up in your nicest clothes to come to church. Why is that? Did people truly think that God would value them more highly for wearing a jacket and tie or a nice dress? Or perhaps people used to know something about church that has been well-nigh lost to the church today?



Blogger James Gregory said...

I've been reading your blog for about a week now, and I have posted links on my blog that direct my few readers here. Nice blog.

In regards to the "Sunday best" mentality, I have a few thoughts I would like to offer.

"Sunday best" was a direct reflection of how affluence and Victorian Morality crept into the American church. Considering that the Bible never talks of dressing nicely, why should "Sunday best" be the ideal? "Sunday best" excludes a lot of people. Not everyone can afford to where some of those nice clothes, so when they come to a church wehre "Sunday best" is the standard, they feel out of place, excluded, and perhaps even looked down upon. Maybe "Sunday best" is along the lines of the rich man who is given the good seat in the house in the Epistle of James?

I would not have a problem with people wanting to wear their best for worship; I would have a problem with making it the standard.

What are your thoughts in response?

10:57 AM  
Blogger Jay Mumper said...

Who are you dressing for? Is God impressed by fine clothes? By expecting others to "dress up" you are thinking like a Pharisee, judging other people's hearts by there outward appearance. Remember God looks at the heart. If you approach worship in fine clothes and an arrogant heart, God will turn you away. If you approach God in rags and a sincere, open heart, your clothes are of no consequence.

You cite Moses removing his shoes - whom do you think he was honoring? He was honoring his own tradition of how to show respect that he knew from his culture. God did not require it - he just pointed out that Moses had entered his "place" by telling him he was on Holy ground.

11:23 AM  
Blogger James Gregory said...

Jay, I don't think WD's post was arguing that God is impressed by our clothes. Rather, I think he is arguing for dressing to shape a proper mentality for going to worship.

The question is, what are we offering up to God when we go to worship? Is it a mentality? Is it clothes? Or is it a word or song? Or is it out deeds? Our time?

11:56 AM  
Blogger Jay Mumper said...

I don't disagree with you, but the WD article talks about using clothes in response to the "gravity of the event". I would say we should be stressing the attitude, the demeanor, the sense of importance of being in God's presence in the heart.

I guess what it comes down to is if you dress up when you think something is important (and not because you *think* you need to dress up), it's dress up for church. But to tell someone (especially children who may not understand what it means) that dressing up is how they should express their understanding of the "gravity of the event" or even suggesting that they don't appreciate that gravity because they don't express their seriousness with fine clothing is just wrong.

It's one of those things that may be good for some people, but can go badly wrong for others. I'd rather say "come as you are" and work to touch the heart...

12:11 PM  
Blogger The Wittenberg Door said...

Greetings, James and Jay. As I mentioned in my post, I believe this to be a matter of conscience, although Jay seems to disagree (i.e., that I’m “wrong” to teach my kids that there is an appropriate way to dress for church).

I mentioned those girls wearing flip flops to meet the president because it seems to me that that was disrespectful—it displayed a flippant attitude during a serious event. Gathering with God’s people to hear from Him through His minister is an event of even more gravity than meeting the president. Therefore, flip flops would be inappropriate, or any other such display of flippancy.

Now if these girls had no other footwear but flip flops then flip flops would be fine since it’s due to poverty not flippancy. (Dressing up, so to speak, would be by wearing the flip flops instead of going bare footed.)

People dress up for dinner; dress up for the opera; and dress up to meet the president; but dress down to meet with our great God and King? Seems like things are out of whack to me.

Thanks for leaving your thoughts (and your kind words, James).

12:26 PM  

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