The very question, “What should you wear to church?” can elicit some pretty fired-up reactions. One reaction is expected—who are you to tell me what to wear to church?! Or another: it’s not clothes; its the heart that matters! In our western culture. for whatever reasons, the subject of clothing (or the lack thereof) is a hot-button topic.
A recent Christianity Today article touched off the conversation again, spawning essay-length comments and a burst of excitement among Christian bloggers. Towards the end, the writer assented, “Readers will be relieved that I have no dress code to propose.”
Relief, maybe, but wouldn’t life be much easier if we all wore uniforms to church? Or had one set of clothes (like many of the people in the third world)?
No, we’re not going to pick up where the Christianity Today author left off, and tell you what to wear to church. You have to decide that. Here are a few thoughts that may help.
- Even what we wear has to do with our worship. Romans 12:1 makes the point that our bodies are instruments of worship. It logically follows that what we put on our bodies has something to do with our worship, too. This should, to some degree, register in our minds as we stand staring into our closet each morning.
- The Bible has only so much to say about clothing. Surely, the answer to such “what should we wear” questions can be found in the Bible. Ah, but like many things in life, there’s not a “chapter and verse for that.” True, there are references in the Bible discussing modesty, appearance, testimony, etc., but, frankly, it is not going to solve your blue-jeans-and-t-shirt vs. suit-and-tie dilemma.
- Think about your fellow worshippers. Clothing is a form of communication. It says something (especially if you have words printed on your clothing). In some churches, you would get a lot of weird looks if you walked in wearing jeans and a t-shirt. On the other hand, there are many churches where the guy in the suit and tie is the serious oddball. One is not wrong and one is not right. Furthermore, regardless of what someone wears or looks like, we should always be welcoming. Always. Keep in mind, of course, that being intentionally and insistently distracting could be a problem.
- What you wear says something, but not everything. Even though our attire communicates something, it is dangerous to import a whole bunch of meaning into a pair of blue jeans. Seriously. There are those who try to pull out the “denim = demon” argument, or make the case for the slovenly nature of jeans. Thinking that you’ve got a read on someone’s heart based on what they are wearing is risky at best, and judgmental at worst. When you factor in issues as complex as culture, background, country, age, the temperature outside, socioeconomic status, etc., you come up with a set of factors that is way more complex than clothing equals heart: done.
- Culture is context, and context is important. Any quality Bible student will tell you that context is really important when studying the Scripture. Context is equally important when applying that Scripture to our culture. What worked for Apostle Paul when he was church planting in Laodica isn’t going to work for Pastor Pedro church planting in intercity L.A. The same thing goes for clothes. Think about your clothes in your context—not in the context of the 1950s. Not in the context of the church in intercity LA (unless, of course, you go to church in intercity LA). Not in the context of a church in Cairo. Read the Bible. Then your context. Your church. Your clothes.
When the Apostle Paul got up each morning to preach each morning, I’m sure he struggled with this same thing you do. What robe should I wear this morning?! The light-colored one, or, uh, the…the…other light-colored one? Actually, he probably did think about it, and the Scripture contains what he thought. This is God’s Word on the subject:
To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:22-23)
It’s fine and good to think long and hard about what you wear. But we must admit that there are other important things to think about and act upon. Put on some appropriate clothes, and let’s keep the main things the main things.