Shortly after the inauguration of our new President, I heard an interview with Andrew Card, upset about the less stringent dress code that Obama would have in the oval office. He explained that a more formal dress code contributed to a sense of honor for the President of the United States.

And yet the same day, I received an invitation in the mail to a local Church. “Come as you are” was their mantra. Implying of course that you don’t have to dress nicely to come. Not that any other Churches in the area have a written dress code, but maybe other churches have a higher sense of reverence for the corporate worship of God, the creator of the universe, and the one who has provided our only hope for salvation.

It is customary in the public schools to send a note home requesting that children come to school on standardized testing days, dressed up. Studies have shown that when the kids come dressed nicely, they take the test more seriously, and therefore score higher.

And yet , how we dress at church is more evidence of how the radical informality of our culture that has crept into the church. The fact that Church is more about ‘me’, what I get out of it, that I am comfortable, and much less about the Worship of our Lord and Savior. What so many churches have lost is a reverence for the worship of our God, and this is just one small evidence.

Just something to think about. . .

Update from Shane:  Sorry to barge in on Coleen’s post, but some of you who subscribe to this blog may read it with RSS readers that do not show the author.  I’m sure you will be relieved to learn that no I do not wear dresses :).  Just a reminder that while I am the primary contributor to Caffeinated Thoughts we are a multi-contributor blog.  So if a post seems like something I wouldn’t write, make sure you go to post and look at the byline because perhaps I didn’t.

Coleen, I appreciate the amount of discussion this topic brought.  Thanks!

2nd Update: Linked over at A Sweet Fragrance.

46 comments
  1. Coleen:

    Welcome to CT; look forward to reading you!

    I must admit, I go both ways on this one. When in the corporate world, I often thought dressing up was a way to focus outwardly on others, not inwardly. It was a way to be perceived as successful by others.

    Yet, I read Scripture, passages about washing the outside of the cup, passages about white washed tombs and I get the sense that Jesus was teaching to what is inside us. Passages that say God looks at our hearts, not our words and sense that an insincere outward appearance never fools our sovereign God.

    So, I go back and forth and I do not really know. My current and former pastors are both informal dressers and are very godly men and good teachers of the Word. It does not seem to affect their heart or their tongues in preaching His gospel.

    So, I go back and forth. But thanks, this was a thought provoking post!

  2. I see your point, and I can certainly can agree with Andrew Card's argument about the Presidential office. While I personally dress up, though not a suit, for church. I don't think I would expect that to be a standard. I think there needs to be a “come as you are” feel.

    I guess there are plenty of barriers to the gospel, and I don't want the issue of dress to be one of those.

    Besides, standard of dress is really determined by culture don't you think?

  3. I'm going to have to disagree with you on this one.

    If dressing up is an act of worship for you, then by all means, do it. Worship and honor God in that way.

    I would discourage, though, assigning ill-motives to those (of us) who don't. God can be worshiped by people wearing blue jeans, neckties, sweatshirts, or tuxedos. The question is what is the teaching of this congregation and pastor.

    My greatest hesitation is that nowhere in the Bible are we told that God wants us to wear our best clothes or groom nicely, or any such thing. It's all a man-made standard, so I'd be very hesitant to apply it to anyone else.

  4. I really appreciate your post about dress. I have always worn a dress/skirt to church and can't bring myself to wear anything else when I am there. It is a way for me to honor the Lord. It used to really upset me when women and girls came to church in pants (and even jeans). I don't let it bother me anymore, because it is between them and God. But, I often think, if I wouldn't wear this outfit out to a nice dinner, I shouldn't wear it to church.

  5. If you could bring some scripture to the table about outward appearance being needed for worship then I would consider your standpoint.

    But for me, the outward appearance is something the world judges more often and not God. I live in LA and it's all about what you wear and how much money you have etc. Now, in our church, it's almost a complete opposite. The pastor wears blue jeans, a button down shirt and casual suit jacket. And there isn't an unwritten dress code like what you're suggesting. This church used to be a church of 100-200 and within the last 5 years this church has not only over quadrupled in size but also has become a beacon in the area for love and ministry

    (and I want to let those out there know as well, there was NO change in leadership! So for a church to grow, you don't need some crazy dynamic pastor, you just need love and ministry).

    The leadership truly ministers to their congregation. Now I know what some might be thinking now, “should we be coming to church for our personal needs or to worship God?” The answer should be yes to both. Our need for fellowship and our need/duty to worship the God that gave his life for us.

  6. I agree with you on this topic. I think it shows respect to be dressed nicely and if nicely for one person means clean jeans and a clean t-shirt, so be it. For me it means more than that and I do like to put on my best before God, as my mother put it when I was a kid. However, between the last two deeply cold winters and my new “status” (HA!) as junior high Sunday school teacher, I find myself wearing jeans a lot this winter. It's the first time in my life I have dressed this way on Sundays and it still seems strange, but …um…comfy.

  7. compassionate conservatism should include those of us that can't afford to keep our shoes spiffy. I'm ok with the suit and tie bit… I even like to wear it. but nice shoes last about a week for me

  8. I think dressing up and giving God our best when we come together in corporate worship is the least we can do. It is about setting the time apart and reverence. I have always worn a dress regardless of the churches casual atmosphere and expect my children to wear their best, too.

    A biblical inference could be during the days of the Temple in order to go into the presence of the Holy One at the Temple you had to go through a mikvah (baptism). You had to be clean. God is not my pal. I don't care for the casual nature that so many of the faith have taken in regard to Him. It is a reflection of the lack of respect our culture gives toward authority. There is a reason no man can see God and live. Yes, He wants to have a relationship with us that does not mean we treat Him with the same regard we do a buddy. He is a the King of kings, Lord of lords. How would you dress for a visit to the White House or to meet Queen Elizabeth?

  9. thought about this years ago. one pastor reqeusted that everyone dress as if attending a wedding. he saw the gathering and celebration of a service to be an equally joy-filled event.

  10. I appreciate all of your comments. I knew there would be disagreements. I expected as much.

    Please know that this is not specifically about what exactly you wear to Church, but rather the casual attitude that I have seen so often about the worship of God. I previously attended a church in a poor neighborhood. Even those people have a nicer outfit to wear.

    The casual way that we dress is only one aspect in the modern church that dictates the seriousness in which we take the worship of God. I am not legalistic in what ought to be worn, but rather passionate about our attitude in worship.

  11. Hey Coleen! If there is anybody you would like to reply directly to, you can select the reply button underneath – they'll get an e-mail notification (provided they gave a valid e-mail).

    Great discussion prompting topic for your first post.

    I totally agree with you regarding being “passionate about our attitude in worship.”

  12. I'd agree about being passionate in worship.

    I'd love for you to see my church on a Sunday morning. Yes, we're dressed casually (mostly). But there are people who are genuinely and awesomely on fire for God.

  13. I respectfully see this a different way. I see the requirement to dress up as a barrier that prevents people from coming to church, people that Jesus died for and accepts just as they are. I myself feel like I'm wearing a costume to please other people, not God, when I dress up. To be more comfortable is not disrespectful, and it helps me to reach out to others more than if I'm worried about how I stand and how I sit. I think clothes are something people care about much more than God cares about. I remember being in pain over situations in my life, when a man at church told me I should wear a dress. I thought, of all the things that man could have said to me to encourage me in the Lord and be of help to me as a visitor, that was not it.

  14. The thing is … Jesus is supposed to have covered all of the needs of the old Temple-era ceremony. He even tore the veil from the Holy of Holies with His death. I'm not sure that that applies.

  15. I can't respond to each and every one of you that disagree with me. I hope that you will read the comment that I posted earlier. Since many of you do not know me, and therefore do not know from where my passions comes, it will be hard for you to understand. I will have to get to that later.
    But once again, this is not about a 'dress code.'

    I found a quote from C.S. Lews' Screwtape Letters very interesting.

    “At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls.”

  16. Robin you are right that God cares about your heart far more than your outward appearance. I'm sorry you had that experience at church. Coleen has said in the comments that this is really more about our passion for worship than it is about the clothes we wear.

  17. Concerning the Temple of the Lord- It is written in scripture time and again that Mount Moriah is where the Lord placed His name Forever. In Ezekiel the Word tells us the Messiah/Prince will be doing the work of the High Priest. The Prince is of Judah not a Levite. Ez 46:12″When the prince provides a freewill offering, a burnt offering, or peace offerings as a freewill offering to the LORD, the gate facing east shall be opened for him And he shall provide his burnt offering and his peace offerings as he does on the sabbath day. Then he shall go out, and the gate shall be shut after he goes out.

    13″And you shall provide a lamb a year old without blemish for a burnt offering to the LORD daily; morning by morning you shall provide it.

    14″Also you shall provide a grain offering with it morning by morning, a sixth of an ephah and a third of a hin of oil to moisten the fine flour, a grain offering to the LORD continually by a perpetual ordinance.

    15″Thus they shall provide the lamb, the grain offering and the oil, morning by morning, for a continual burnt offering.”
    In the book of Acts the early Believers were continually worshipping in the Temple. The offerings were about worship. If, the Temple were still standing today Christians would be participating in this worship, as long as it were permitted by the Jewish nation. We would understand the real significance of the sacrifices. I believe the Christian Church is truly ignorant about the true nature of the significance of the Temple and the offerings because we have not lived in a Temple era. It has been lost to us and not because of Jesus replacing them. The offerings were never efficacious for sin. They were a way so real people in real time could enter into the real physical presence of God while still living in their earth-bound-sin bodies.

  18. I was thinking while I washed my dishes… that maybe it is like how we emphasize different qualities of God at different times or maybe because of our diferent temperaments. Yes, God is holy and enormous and powerful and awesome. He speaks, and things happen. We are sinful and utterly at His mercy. But then there is the daddy side of God, the intimate side where he says we can come and have supper with Him and tell him all about it, leaving nothing out. God is worthy of our reverence, but I would not want to only know that side of God. It would be too lonely. I see dress like that. I see suits as stiff and formal and unapproachable, but you see them as showing honor to God. My emphasis is to bring in the lost who first need to feel His love. I'd rather see flannel and t-shirts, because I can be myself, and so can they.

  19. Instructing Wormood on methods for corrupting a man's prayer:

    “One of their poets, Coleridge, has recorded that he did not pray `with moving lips and bended knees' but merely `composed his spirit to love' and indulged a `sense of supplication.' That is EXACTLY the sort of prayer we want; and since it bears a superficial resemblance to the prayer of silence, as practiced by those who are far advanced in the Enemy's service, clever and lazy `patients' can be taken in by it for quite a long time.

    “At the very LEAST, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls.

    “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things OUT. “

  20. Hi IndyJane,

    They met in the Temple Courts for worship and teaching, Acts says nothing about the early Christians still participating in sacrifices. You are saying their praise and worship is the sacrifice right?

    Hebrews 9 seems to discount that.

  21. We should give our all to God in worship, but the wearing of 'nice' clothing on Sunday doesn't have anything to do with respect or disrespect of God. It's a stigma that was made a long time ago and has been handed down in tradition and method that we NEED to wear nice clothes on Sunday or somehow we are being disobedient. This is a cultural ideal, NOT a spiritual ideal. If you can find me a direct scripture passage that deals with this then we can talk, but until then I'm sticking with the notion that the first church in ACTs probably didn't have dress code issues and they worshiped God with their whole hearts. I prefer to be the same person I am on Sunday as I am during the week.

    Now I do believe that there is a respect issue haunting us today and I firmly believe that it stems more from parenting issues as well as other cultural issues when raising our children. But does not directly link to our clothes on Sunday.

    I know this discussion might have gotten a little far from where it was intended, but it's good to see the stretch of where people are coming from on this.

  22. OK, OK. A couple of ruminations from the cheap seats:

    1. I read CT from the top, down. So, I thought Shane was the one wearing a dress to church and I was reconsidering ever posting here again. Then, I thought my brother here needed more prayer than the national debt, so I stayed… then found out there's a sister in here plying her craft. Imagine my relief?!

    2. Colleen, welcome to Shane's world in here. You'll do just fine.

    3. I'm with Andy, and my man Wickle, a bit here. One on hand, I think many people suit up for church as a way to keep up with the Joneses. Church has become social hour in the land of good and evil and for folk to think just because your suit jacket looks more like a trenchcoat, you are suddenly sanctimonious is almost sacrilege. (How's that for alliteration?)

    4. I agree with you though. People just seem to have this “Aw, shucks” approach to Jesus that never used to exist sans “Seeker sensitive” nation showed up. Sometimes, it shows a little respect to shave for church… face or legs, depending on who's writing the post, I suppose.

    5. To be candid, I suit up most of the week. Those wingtips hurt my corns and I use Sunday's to chill. C'est la vie. 🙂

    Peace,
    HiScrivener

  23. Hi Shane, 🙂

    Actually, no. I am saying that the early Believers were very much a part of the Temple system. Paul had a Nazarite vow. A Nazarite vow is very involved and lengthy. It also, was completely intertwined with the sacrifices. Besides, Pauls involvement in this vow, James had his own members of the Jerusalem church who were also in a Nazarite vow. This had to start in the Temple with sacrifice and conclude there.

    Also, Peter was observing the “times” of prayer. These “times” were tied to the times of sacrifice and a reg. part of their daily faith walk.

    Hebrews 9 way to deep to get into in a comment… 🙂
    …but the short of it – Heb 9 can't contradict Ezek.46. If your understanding of it seems to… It is time to dive back in.
    Perhaps, I should do a blog post on this topic for a fun and lively discussion…

  24. I know… when I was getting comments from family members I knew it was time to say something :).

    I've had people read posts before that was written by one of my other contributors, and then direct the comment to me. So I thought it was a great time for a reminder.

  25. There should be a way to overcome that issue. Perhaps, all contributors should have a signature line at the end of their posts. Does your blog platform support that auto-feature? I know a lot of them do. That would then show up in a feed.

  26. Hmmm. I really don't think what I wear to church has anything to do with my respect or reverence for our Most High God. On Sunday mornings, I may wear a skirt or slacks … but I do sometimes wear jeans. I always wear jeans and a t-shirt on Wednesday nights and sometimes on Sunday nights as well. I am not trying to impress anyone and I really don't think God cares. It's all about what is in your heart … and honestly … some people don't have the kind of money that allows them to come to church in a dress and heals or a suit.

    Just my .02 cents.

  27. This is a refreshing post. By and large, my husband and I have always attended the “come as you are” churches but I have never been able to “dress down” for church. I once wore a pair of jeans to church and was so uncomfortable, I couldn't enjoy a lick of the service.

    Unfortunately, I have always been told when this subject arises that it has solely to do with my consciousness of appearances rather than my concentration on worship! We have 3 kids, (all three have accepted Jesus and 2 have been baptized) and they occasionally will test those waters with me. While I allow the boys to wear jeans and my daughter to wear pants (no jeans for her) it has to be their newer, nicer clothing….no holes, no obnoxious tees or stains. I feel it is important to dress for the occasion and to dress as if you WANT to be in church and not at the skate park.

    Thank you for your boldness!

  28. I agree largely with your post here, HiScrivener. BUT, I think both sides are missing a large part of the real issue here and that is judging one another. Those who necessarily can “afford heels and a skirt” as noted earlier should never cast a judgment on those who can't and those who are so defensive in their stance of “wear-what-you-want-otherwise-you-are-trying-to-impress-others”, ought to recognize their strain of judgment as well.

    How about none of us look around while at church rather look up to the one we are worshiping and be comfortable how we came–skirts and jeans alike? I know that I won't be able to wear jeans to church and will teach my kids about dressing for the occasion no matter what. Just a few extra thoughts…

  29. Who are all you greedy people? I know there is a verse in the bible that pretty much says “anybody come to church no matter if you wear rags.” I NEED to find that verse again. please help

  30. josh; the scripture is there and I am looking at it. paraphrasing from memory: the bible says DO NOT look down upon the poor and those who wear rags to church but welcome them.

  31. Well, as the scriptures point out to us, God is concerned about the condition and state of our heart, not if we have jeans on, or a dress on, or shorts, etc. The churches I've attended where the manner of dress was nice dresses, etc., it always felt like a fashion competition instead of a place where we meet to worship our Mighty, Merciful, Masterful, Marvelous God

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