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.

Monday, May 31, 2010

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?



OpenID reallyrobins said...

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matt 6:21)

While I can see your fellow parishioners being impressed with you dressed to the nines, I cannot see God being the same. First of all, God made us naked - sin clothed us. Secondly, God looks at your heart, not your outward appearance. If it were the other way around, I am sure the Pharisees would have been "shoe-ins" for heaven.

If you are not giving God your best every day, I cannot imagine what you wear to church will make much difference.

I'm just sayin'...

6:49 PM  
Blogger Jay Mumper said...

Wait, you posted on this same topic LAST MAY. And I commented opposing the idea then. Are you hoping to prevail in the argument by just repeating it? It's still wrong.
Physical appearances are meaningless in the eyes of God. Now if you want to argue that there may be some value in appearance to other humans who observe Christians, there may be some human rationale. But I would argue that an appropriate rationale would be to dress like the people you want to reach out to, not how you want them to appear. But again, God does not care you you dress. He only cares about what is in your heart.

7:11 PM  
Blogger Gregg said...

I missed the post last May apparently, but I will weigh in now for what it is worth.

It is true, God does look at the heart when men look at the outside appearance.

It is equally true that in most cases the outside clearly demonstrates what is in the inside.

I think it is ridicoulous, baseless, irrelevant and meaninging to hold to an argument so specious that says you dress to those whom you want to reach. Why do we have to dumb down and second hand store the gospel? Why can't the gospel pull people up out of the miry clay that they are in?

It is only be creating a God in our own image that we are comfortable with that allows us to be so disrespectful, so thoughtless, so crude, so defaming in our approach to God in any manner including dress, speech, and or attitude.

The world groans at the realization of God. Mountains quake, hills shake. We are told to tremble in his presence, to be in absolute awe. God is an awful, awesome God - how dare we determine for him what he cares or doesn't care about? How arrogant are we to day that God doesn't care if he is treated like a bee-bopping would be gangster on a street corner.

It is not the three piece suit vs shorts, Tee's and sandals, it is a matter of the heart. Does my attire match the fact that I am entering into the holy of holies, yes in a new way - that is through the blood of Christ rather than through the blood of bulls and goats - into the most glorious, majestic, holy, awesome being beyond imagination?

Sadly, as a manager I have sent interviewees and employees home to change becasue they were inappropriate dressed for an interview or the job, why are we so lax with the KIng of Kings, The Lord of Lords, to whom are all things, to whom all praise and honor belongs, and to whom alone is glory and honor and power due?

10:21 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Thank you for this great post! I confess that I've come full circle on this. In the early 70's women wore dresses exclusively on Sunday mornings. Our girls wore dresses and our son always had a shirt and tie - hubby wore the entire suit (all 3 pieces). Later we ended up in a "casual" church for several years -the preaching reflected the dress - for women it was tank tops and shorts or jeans on Sunday mornings.

I don't care WHAT people say about outward appearances not mattering. The truth is they are a reflection of one's attitude.

You nailed it well!

Thank you - and blessings be upon you today!

11:21 AM  
Blogger The Wittenberg Door said...

Gregg, you said it much better than I! Thanks for responding. You too, Diane.

Jay, I did post this a year ago. I’m posting it again because I think it’s an important issue. It sounds like you didn’t read my response to your comment then, so I’ll repost it here for you . . .

“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.”

4:00 PM  
Blogger Jay Mumper said...

I still have to disagree with the notion that dressing up is for anyone other than appealing to others in worship. I understand the arguments: (1) that there is merit in seeking to honor God by our attire and (2) that by your interpretation, dressing comfortably is diminishing God by being flippant.
I however stick by my argument that God is solely honored by the content of our hearts. Just as I cannot question the sincerity of your heart when you tell me you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, you cannot question the depth of my faith by the clothes I wear. Likewise, you have no standing to question whether the girls you observed were somehow diminishing God in their own hearts by wearing flip-flops. What is clear is that you feel it is your place to judge them on their outward appearance without the ability to know their hearts. Having a 17 and 14 year old myself, I am willing to bet that their attire has nothing to do with flippancy or defective hearts. The explanation is likely far simpler - they are wearing what they are comfortable wearing. And they see no need to alter their appearance to come into the presence of the God who is welcoming them with open arms. Maybe ten or fifteen years from now they will be mature enough to understand your point, but right now the fact that they are present means that they already get the important point of Christian fellowship - they show up!

If you think there is merit in teaching your children to dress for worship, you ought to be prepared for a potential backlash. I pray it does not come, but children who do not understand (or agree with) the rationale of rules are known to disobey them someday or in some way.

5:46 PM  
Blogger The Wittenberg Door said...

Jay, my concern is that we Christians view church more like going to the beach (play time) than meeting with the president (a serious occasion)—and as much as our words reflect what’s in our hearts, so too, I think, that our clothing reveals in what esteem we hold the worship of our great God and King on the Lord’s Day.

What I am proposing is that we Christians reflect upon what the worship service is (God gathering His people together to worship Him and to hear His word) and to present ourselves accordingly. Here again is my argument in summary:

“Different occasions call for different dress. You 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 you had an audience with the President of the United States you would wear a coat and tie. Because of the gravity of the event, it would be flippant and disrespectful to wear your beach cloths.”

Jay, perhaps you would meet the president in shorts and flip flops. Maybe you do go to funerals in an old Motley Crue tee shirt and torn jeans. Maybe you think wearing an old bathrobe to a wedding is just dandy. Then, as a matter of conscience, maybe you’d be okay wearing any old thing to church.

But for me (and for most people) dressing so casually would be showing disrespect to the president, to the deceased, and to the happy couple. So, since these events are less weighty than gathering for worship, how could I, as a matter of conscience, dress in such a flippant manner?

My church is a good example of how this works. Being in New Braunfels TX, deep in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, it comprises those from the city (San Antonio) and from the country. So you’ll have some men in suits, some in khakis and collard shirts, and some in jeans or overalls. But what unites them all is that they are wearing something that is a step-above their personal casual attire. For example, Steve, one of the gentlemen who wears overalls, wears his best overalls to church (and they’re always clean).

If you wear casual cloths to weddings, funerals, and to meet dignitaries, then by all means wear them to church. But if you think it would be disrespectful and flippant to dress that way to those events, then you should at least do as much when gathering to worship our Savior.

Thanks for the discussion, Jay. I’ll give you the last word (at least until next year!)

11:42 AM  

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