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What Will I Wear To Church On Sunday?

August 29, 2010

From my youth, I remember a neighbor who said she would never attend church until she could wear pants without being criticized or made to feel guilty because she would not wear a dress.  I was only a child when I heard her talking about this, and I remember pausing for a moment to think, “Wonder why she can’t wear pants?”

When I attended church as a child, I wore a dress. In fact, every woman that I knew that went to church always wore dresses to church.  When I was saved at the age of 17, I remember going shopping to buy a few dresses just to wear to church.  On a rare occasion, I did wear pants to church but it was usually on a Wednesday night or for a “laid back Sunday evening service”, and certainly never on Sunday morning. 

As I got older, the practice became more acceptable to wear pants to church on Sunday evenings, which soon started becoming more acceptable on Sunday morning (especially in cold weather).  And in most recent years, I’ve seen folks come to church looking like they just rolled out of bed and still had on their sleep pants or put on the shorts they wore to the movie on Saturday night.

As I have been involved in practical means of “communicating God” and after studying it rather extensively over the past decade, it seems through our dogma to make sure we don’t offend anyone or exclude anyone (like my neighbor of long ago), many church websites proudly declare that there is “no dress code here” … just “come as you are.”

Nevertheless, even in this pseudo “hands-off” approach to “what to wear to church on Sunday” — legalism still rears its ugly head … both passively and aggressively. 

A few weeks ago in church, I was happily engaged in the worship service and suddenly realized that I was continuously distracted by the wardrobe of some of the choir members.  It was a diverse group of people, representing various ages, stages and fashion styles.  But in this appreciation of diversity, my mind could not dismiss that one of the choir members was dressed in short shorts and tennis shoes.  Immediately I said, “Devil, get thee behind me.  I will not be distracted by your prodding.”

But … clearly this young woman’s dress was a distraction to me, and I had to wonder if it was distracting to others.  It was a snowball effect on my reasoning!

The next week, the service began again … very upbeat, very joyful … and as the choir came out, there was a woman in the front, wearing skinny jeans with holes all the way down the front.  Again, I said, “DEVIL … you have no place here!  Get thee behind me!”

As the music played and choir joined their voices to lead the rest of the congregation in praise and worship of our Savior, I asked God to forgive me of even letting someone’s clothes be a distraction from Him.  I recalled from years’ past when I was part of a musical presentation that involved “creative movement.”  Each member of the group poured their hearts and energies into the “presentation.”  They each wore khaki pants and a t-shirt … (all just alike). Afterwards, my heart was broken to hear someone say, “I could not even begin to worship because the pants on one of the women were too tight in the front area … and that’s all I could concentrate on.”

I certainly do NOT want to be like that woman.  I don’t want to be a person who judges another by their clothing.  Afterall, I know that my wardrobe lacks a lot compared to others.  Some things are too big, and some things are too small … and some things just don’t hang like they should or used to. 

Then … last week, at church … another scenario began and the choir came out to lead us all in worship and praise to our Savior — and this week, they are all adorned in robes.  Everyone, even in their diverse ages, stages and fashion-statements, looks just alike.  And I thought  —- “Thank you, Lord!  Nothing to distract this week — the Devil is out of here!”

I was singing and praising God … eager to express my worship and hear the Word of God delivered — BUT, that was not the case for others.  I looked around to see sour looks and scowls on faces … in in the midst of all the joyful noise. Come to find out, the choir robes (having been previously announced) were distracting to some. 

So, in pondering this over the past week, I have been perplexed by the question, “What shall I wear to church on Sunday?”

And in thinking on this, I was reminded of something Pastor Bob Bell said to me years ago.  Paraphrased in certain spots … it’s like this :

Church is not about making a fashion statement.  You come to church to worship God, and be equipped to go out in to the marketplace to serve Him and lead others to Him.  What you wear is of little importance to God … BUT …


BUT, what you wear to church is a reflection of your attitude toward God and your worship of Him.

If you are dressing to please the crowd and gain their acceptance… “what does that attitude have to do with God?”

If you are dressing to please yourself … “what does that attitude have to do with God?”

If you are dressing to make a statement … political, financial, physical, emotional, or recreational … “what does that attitude have to do with God?”

We were having this discussion because there was a woman who came to church on Sunday evening, (and she was a regularly attending member), wearing a pair of pink sweat pants cut off as shorts … and were unacceptably short to even be worn in public at the Wal-mart.  The point of our conversation was not to condemn her or even at her expense … I had simply asked him how he felt about such things — if he was offended by people wearing shorts and such to church.

In Pastor Bell’s exact words, he said, “Regardless of what you have in your closet to wear … you should bring your best self to Him.”  I think he even quoted the verse about “God looking on the heart of a man and not the outward appearance.”  And in thinking on this exchange, I’m also reminded of the story of Cain and Abel, and how Cain’s offering was not acceptable to God because it was not his best.  (and that led to a whole heap of dysfunction in that family)

 But, I think Pastor Bell had great appreciation for the diversity of “family of God.” (the church) I think he understood fashion and in fact, seemed to mind his own appearance to make sure he always looked his best.   I once saw him in cut off jeans, working in his yard … and was “taken back” because it was a different Pastor Bell than I saw on Sunday or even in the office.  That tells me, he knew how to dress for a variety of occasions.

But the point of this is … in my pondering this week … goes back to scripture. When David danced before the Lord “naked” and was ridiculed by his wife, Michal … it was she who got the bitter end of the stick.

God struck her as barren.  A curse in her world!  In our world … “barren” might mean “ineffective” in our purpose or calling.  I don’t want to be barren!  I don’t want to be ineffective by any means.  I do agree with Pastor Bell, “what you wear is a reflection of your attitude … toward or about whatever you are involved in.” 

In the business world, people dress according to industry standards as well as “for success.”  They say, don’t dress for the job you have, but for the job you WANT to have.” 

When we go out on a date with friends, spouses, etc., we dress for the celebration or occasion.

When we go to job interviews, or college interviews … we dress to impress.

I was always taught in communication classes, that in order to be most effective when you are speaking, teaching, performing … you should not wear anything that could distract from your message!

I have to admit … I sometimes feel convicted that I wear the same clothes to church that I wear to work. (not all, but some)  I have worn the same clothes to church that I have worn to ballgames, and picnics.  I am ashamed that I have dressed more intently for job interviews than I have for worship of my Lord and Savior.

And worst of all, I think the most detrimental and distracting thing that I have ever worn to church on Sunday … are my feelings on my sleeves. 

WOW!  What an epiphany this week!

So … what shall I wear to church on Sunday?  I think David was exactly right!  Figuratively speaking, I think God would be most pleased if I came to worship Him … free of all distractions, naked from garments and garb that only serve to impede or deflect from the knowledge and appreciation for WHO HE IS (and certainly not who I am). 

Dear Lord … regardless of whatever covers my body tomorrow, I pray that my attitude is pure, and unabashedly prepared to worship You and only You … I look forward to dancing before You as did my kinsman, King David.  May my eyes and heart and attitude be focused solely upon You. In Jesus Name, Amen.

One Comment leave one →
  1. yilma permalink
    November 11, 2010 10:52 am

    Thanks we should give due respect to the lord, in all regards including how we appear before him & people. As you said, we dress well when we have business appointments or job interview etc to impress, created biengs. But when we come to church, why we come with a lesser level dresses? We should respect & glorify the lord more than any thing. Choir members should wear choir/robes or dresses & members should wear clean & their best dresses depending upon their status. I mean a carpenter may not be expected to wear a business tie for example and an engineer or any civil serrevant wearing a tie in his office , should also wear on sunday services. A pastor should also wear formal dresses when delivering a sermon. Otherwise the audience would be destracted. I am an engineer by profession & always wore non formal clothes on sundays just not be distinguished but it was wrong, now I wear my best clothings, includes suits, ties etc. May the lord Jesus guides us!!

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