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.

Thursday, December 09, 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?



Blogger Adam D Jones said...

I must advise caution. I've been in churches where poor people felt uncomfortable at the level of attire because they could not match the nicer clothes of the members. I believe in creating an egalitarian environment where no one will be left out because they cannot afford a suit.

2:56 PM  
Blogger The Wittenberg Door said...

Greetings, Adam. My thesis is that we should consider how we present ourselves when we are coming to worship. If I understand you correctly, you think we ought not take such a consideration because someone might feel bad if his cloths are not as nice as someone else’s. If this is the case, then we truly have a difference of opinion: I believe that God’s glory is paramount, while you believe men’s feelings are.

I’m curious as to how this works in your church. Do you have a rags requirement? Must all your congregants come dressed as paupers so that no one feels bad? Does that extend to the cars people drive to church? Or must everyone walk because of those who can’t afford a car?

Seriously, though, Adam, I doubt that you believe any of the above. My point is only to show the pitfalls of the position you put forth. 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.”

Adam, I bet you would not meet the president in shorts and flip flops; that you don’t go to funerals in an old Motley Crue tee shirt and torn jeans; and that you wouldn’t even consider wearing an old bathrobe to a wedding. If, however, you do, 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, 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 typically unites them is that they are wearing something that is a step-above their personal casual attire.

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 taking the time to leave the comment.


10:35 AM  
Blogger P.D. Nelson said...

Shawn: How does your comment to Adam compares to what James teaches in James 2:1-9? I have a missionary friend who started a church in La Paz Mexico one of his biggest concerns there was the dissimilarity of the members monetary status and how he could bring the two groups together. Now it is without a doubt that the poor members came in clothes that were as clean as they could manage but compared to the members of the wealthier class they were rags. According to James to treat these people less because of their clothes is to break the law. What would you do to bring together these two dissimilar groups?

7:46 PM  
Blogger Adam D Jones said...

Shawn. Your response is not very well thought-out.

When I go to church, I am no more in God's presence than when I am in the shower. I will honor God by wearing clothes that are most suited for ministering to my peers. If people leave the church because they cannot dress nicely, then God is not glorified and our clothes are doing Him any honors.

1:08 PM  
Blogger The Wittenberg Door said...

Hello, P.D. My suggestion has nothing to do with James 2. James 2 condemns treating the rich with deference at worship as sinful, which it certainly is. My recommendation is that we as individual Christians consider the gravity of the event and dress accordingly.

In your illustration you mention that the poor come in the clothes that as clean as they can manage. That’s exactly what I’m talking about: if all you have is rags, wear your clean ones. If the rich are looking down on them because of their rags, then they, the rich, should be confronted with their sin.

Thanks for the question, P.D.


Adam, claiming that my response isn’t well thought-out doesn’t prove that it is. If you think that I’m wrong, tell my why. Don’t simply dismiss my argument by claiming that it isn’t well thought-out.

You’re right that both in the shower and in the pew you are in the presence of God. What seems obvious to me is that they are two different sorts of situations that call for different attire—the shower calling for nudity and the worship service calling for clothing. Or do you attend church in the buff?

I must be honest, Adam; I’m really at a loss in understanding what you’re saying. I haven’t much cash to spend on clothing, so most of what I have is bought at Costco. So when I go to church tomorrow, there will be scores of men dressed nicer that I. Are you suggesting that I would be justified in refusing to worship God because of this? Is Heb. 10:25 nullified because the guy next to me is in a suit and I’m only wearing an inexpensive collared shirt and tie? And as I asked you last time, does your church enforce a “rags” requirement?

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am from Puerto Rico.In the last year i pray for someone of the PCA denomination start a reformed Church in Puerto Rico.A friend of mine tell me the Briarwood presbyterian church of Alabama is in the process to plant a church in a home.My family go to that church for some time.It was very informal but we think is because we are in a house but later the formality comes.I was wrong.We moved to a new place but the informatity stay with us.The pastor is in casual attire always,the church do not celebrate The Reformation Day but celebrate halloween in the pastor house.The reformed distintives is not present in the preaching etc.Is a very lovely church with good people but all this is not good example for my little girl.In the halloween issue i have big problems in my house with her because for that.I spoke all this with the pastor for he do not listen.Yesterday Another missionary tell me this is common in the new churches in the PCA.I am tired and with sadness today i stay in my house and i and my familiy do not come back.Pray for me.

1:44 AM  
Blogger The Wittenberg Door said...

Rafael, your story breaks my heart. I certainly will pray for you, your daughter, and for the mission work there. Don’t lose heart, brother. All you can control is your own actions and those of your household. For the others, try to find contentment in being an example and by speaking the truth in love. Remain faithful, for our Savior will always remain so. May the Lord bless you and your family as you serve him.


9:02 AM  

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