Ummmm? What to Wear?

closetWow!  Talk about a topic that really turns heads.  In fact, it’s one of the most contentious issues in the church and those who claim to have insider understanding of the subject are the most outspoken when it comes to their beliefs.  The topic of how we dress for worship can be a heated one but one that we should study nonetheless.

Years ago, my grandfather passed down to me a suit coat that belonged to him.  The very first time I wore that coat and searched into the pocket, I found the ticket stub to a Seattle Mariners baseball game.  I found it fascinating that my grandfather would dress so formally to such a casual event, but then he was born in 1919 and grew up in an entirely different era.  People just don’t dress as nice anymore and it’s trickled over into our church worship services.  Or so I thought.

The idea of dressing formally for worship is not necessarily a biblical practice.  In fact, it became more popular in the 19th and 20th centuries as more and more people found themselves with the disposable incomes for such luxuries as nice clothing.  The Christians of the early church would typically wear the clothing of their day and likewise, we should wear clothing today that God would deem appropriate and modest.

Of course the primary reason we worship in the first place is show honor and reverence towards God.  We are there to please and bring glory to Him as our utmost priority.  With that being said, there should be a significant respect for the worship assembly and the manner with which we dress is part of that respect.  Problems arise when Christians attempt to bind their personal preferences and traditions on others and teach their views as biblical doctrine even though they are not.  We cannot allow our strongly-held beliefs to become issues of salvation strictly because we find it important (Matthew 15:1-9).  And yet, it would be improper to treat our worship assembly too casually.  If we deem it right to appropriately dress for other special occasions, shouldn’t we give great thought as to how we present ourselves to God?

So how should we dress?  First, we should remember that God looks at our heart during worship.  If you spent countless hours primping and dressing in order to draw attention to yourself, God is fully aware of where your heart lies that Lord’s day.  Likewise, if you purposely dress casually or immodestly in order to gain attention or ruffle the feathers of your conservative brethren, your attitude may need to change as well.  We cannot have an attitude of “I don’t care what others think” when we worship corporately.  If it doesn’t build up or encourage others, we shouldn’t be doing it (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).  We go to the church building not only to worship God but also to meet with our church family and their souls should be just as important as our own.

Finally, we should be concerned with how we are viewed by the world around us.  Do we give the impression of a quiet spirit yearning to seek God first or does our clothing say, “It’s all about me!”?  Does our exterior attire display a respect for our bodies as the temple of God, or does our clothing show a flippant disregard towards our creator and give a look of ostentatious extravagance?

In the end, if you wear a suit and tie to worship or jeans and a t-shirt, I have no place to judge.  And contrary to some strongly-held opinions, God will not judge either.  He only asks that we worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24)  and that we clothe ourselves with Jesus (Romans 13:14).  I will personally be respectful and reverent about what I choose to wear to worship but I will also not place judgment on other people’s choice of attire.  There are far more important things to do for God’s kingdom anyway than be the chief of the fashion police.




9 thoughts on “Ummmm? What to Wear?

    1. Joe Butler

      I agree. We should be at least considerate of the culture present but also ask ourselves if the culture of attire we create is keeping people from knowing God. Some are turned away because they don’t look like the rest of the crowd and therefore we never have the opportunity to reach them. I have been a member at several congregations over my lifetime and visited many others while out of town and I’ve noticed that at most, people are far more critical of what people wear than they should be.

  1. About 20 years ago, I was speaking in an agricultural area in the Southern U.S. I referred to how attitudes to clothing in worship have changed through the years and mentioned that the congregation I attended as a child and teen had changed, When I was young all men, boys, and teens wore a coat and tie (or a leizure suit in the ’70’s) – especially if they were leading or serving in worship. Now that has changed.

    An older lady raised in that rural area told me after worship that when she was young men wore their newest overalls and a clean white shirt.

    Made me think.

    1. Joe Butler

      Absolutely. Different traditions have been created over time that help us feel comfortable but sometimes those traditions, especially in dress, keep some from having a chance at knowing God. I was saddened to hear that a Christian brother and friend of mine was denied an opportunity to serve the Lord’s supper at a previous church he attended until he wore a shirt and tie. I can’t believe that God would want us to deny the opportunity for someone to serve him because of how he dresses. I personally will wear a suit or shirt and tie for Sunday morning and then wear jeans and a t-shirt for the evening service. I’ve preached from the pulpit in both choices of attire and never once thought that it took away from my ability to serve God if I didn’t dress a certain way. I’m definitely not suggesting that we change God’s word to accommodate cultural changes, but in order to bring as many to Christ as possible, we should be open to the fact that they may not look or dress like us.

  2. I think that guys still have it way easier than girls on the matter of what to wear – men haven’t half the limitations that women have to put up with their wardrobe and the rules surrounding it. I’ll never forget my cousin telling me about the time that she was berated by a church elder for wearing a t-shirt and shorts and sandals to church in the middle of a heat wave, she had brought a friend who had never before been to church with her that Sunday and dressed to match so that her friend wouldn’t feel out of place. The elder accused her of immodesty, but she wasn’t dressed that way; her clothes were appropriate.

    1. Joe Butler

      I’m so saddened to hear that. That guest will probably never visit that congregation again and may never even give God a second glance after such treatment. I can understand why so many are turned off by “religion” because, as you said in your comment, it’s filled with rules and legalism. When we really get to know God for who he is, there’s no way that we would make such a big deal about how people dress. I’m still adamant that we should present ourselves to God in the best way possible, but that begins with the heart first. If our heart isn’t right, no matter of fancy clothing can make up for it.

  3. Light Ministry Blog

    Some good points in this one, Joe. I believe as you that to be modestly dressed for worship of the Lord in Spirit and truth is the important thing. I’d just like to see more people going to church on Sundays!


    1. Joe Butler

      I would too. Attending worship doesn’t seem as important these days even to faithful Christians. My wife and I were recently discussing how when we have some sort of fellowship activity, the same people are the only ones who ever show up. We try to schedule more ways for the family to get together but I guess you can’t make people make time for one another since they are so busy with their own lives.

      1. Light Ministry Blog

        I tell you Joe, those churches who have tried “New Trend” services with rock music and such are finding out they don’t draw those younger people. I don’t know what God’s plan is concerning all this, but it sure seems the number of people attending worship services is always dwindling….

        Thanks for your comment, Joe!


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