A friend asked me recently what my opinion was about “how to dress for church.” I’ve been giving it a lot of thought on how to answer her, but I haven’t really come up with any solid answers. So I thought I might ask for your help and opinion today on this subject.
I grew up with three sets of clothes: the play clothes, school clothes and church clothes. And you better not have been playing around in the yard with your church clothes on or you were in big trouble. I was raised believing that when we went to church on Sunday mornings, we wore our Sunday best. My “church clothes” were by far the nicest clothes I owned. I also still vividly remember my hand-me-down, avocado green leisure suit I wore for years as a pre-teen. And I can still recall a time when women only wore dresses and men always wore a suit and a tie to church.
These days things have changed in dress, some for the good and some for the not-so-good. Gone are the days of everyone wearing their Sunday best to church every week, but thankfully so are the days that you had to wear a suit and tie to be allowed to wait on the table during the Lord’s Supper. Now it’s not uncommon to see people in Hawaiian shirts, Bermuda shorts, baseball caps and flip-flops. My friend Mike says, “The older generation is a lot more formal just because they were raised that way and it was the teaching at the time. You dress your best for God when you go to worship,” he said. “Generally, the younger generation is much more casual. The younger generation has gotten more interested in what they look like on the inside, and they consider that more important.” Which group is right? Probably both, as long as you don’t look down on the other because they choose to either dress up or dress down.
I’ve always thought it’s important to honor God by wearing our nicest clothes on Sunday, but recently I asked a new lady who had been coming to church if she was enjoying coming. She said she was but what made her so uncomfortable was that she didn’t have any nice clothes like everyone else. I tried hard to explain to her that it doesn’t matter what you wear as long as you’re here. But as I explained those things to her the thought kept going through my head, “Does this mean that if we dress up, we might make people who can’t buy clothes feel unwelcome?” Nothing would be worse than making someone feel unwelcome because their clothes aren’t nice enough. So I think there has to be a balance.
I personally cannot find any scripture that spoke directly to how one should dress for public worship. In fact, the only clear New Testament reference to dress is found in James 2. Though the point of that passage is how the saints treated one who did not have ‘proper’ dress, not what he might wear to church.
A few thoughts on how to dress…
- There should never be a dress code at church that says you must be dressed up to attend, worship or serve. Clothes are not what God is interested in, it’s the heart. You should feel free to come as you are.
- At the same time, we must make sure our clothes are respectful and modest. A Budweiser shirt, a dirty wife-beater undershirt, a halter top or see-through clothing would not really be appropriate, unless it’s the only thing you own. The problem with this type of clothing is it might cause others to draw their attention to you and not God.
- I guess the best advice I can find is where Paul urges us to “dress up for church” everyday with the best clothes possible: compassion, humility, forgiveness, and love (Colossians 3:12-14).
So what are your thoughts on dressing up or dressing down for church services? I’d love to know.