flip flops (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Burning Question: Can we make wearing t-shirts, shorts, flip flops, and jeans the norm in church wear?
I have to admit . . . I love this question! Probably in part because I really don’t like wearing a coat and tie if I don’t have to! I actually addressed this question in a fun way in a message titled “From Me to We” during our Burning Questions sermon series recently (hear it here, beginning at the 3:40 mark in the message). I was surprised when someone turned in another Burning Questions card, commenting on my comments to the original card (confused yet?). Long story short, this topic struck a chord!
I love the phrase “norm in church wear”. Never have really seen a church wear catalog anywhere and have never seen a report from the Commission on Church Wear and Appropriate Worship Attire. So, I may be operating from a bit of a disadvantage here.
In all seriousness, though, this is a real issue for some today in churches across America. They feel that God deserves our best and that our best should be demonstrated in how we dress when we attend services each week. I certainly do not disagree that God deserves our best and feel that many of us as believers could offer far more in our service to God than we actually do. However when one begins to treat as an expectation, if not an unspoken requirement, that we walk into a church service each week dressed to the max, it seems to be more legalism than it does excellence. I have had conversations with people who feel that they don’t have what they need to be dressed well for church . . . I tell them that it really doesn’t matter, just come on. I have met many people, in a variety of settings, who would stand out like a neon sign because they would be dressed in a less than “worthy” manner if they showed up at church . . . doesn’t matter (or at least it shouldn’t matter), so come on anyway.
“Oh, but what about the priests in the Old Testament?! God was very specific about their attire, so we have to be mindful to dress our best also”, some would say. One small problem . . . we are not Old Testament priests and we do not live in Old Testament days. To assume God’s demands upon the priestly attire in the Old Testament are to be treated as prescriptive for a 21st century generation as they attend church makes little sense. I am not saying that the Old Testament is useless and anyone who knows me knows that I consider it as God’s inerrant Word. Just saying that it is a huge leap to assume God was prescribing appropriate worship attire for today’s church attenders when he laid out the wardrobe for the priests of the nation of Israel!
So what is God concerned about regarding this issue? Here are a couple of principles to consider:
1. God is concerned far more about one’s heart than one’s dress. Just like your grandma taught you, what’s on the inside is more important than what’s on the outside. Check out 1 Peter 3:3-4 or Romans 12:1-2 to see this principle supported in Scripture.
2. God is concerned about holiness more than flashiness. I doubt God is impressed by my new Easter outfit regardless of how much I paid to show my best to Him. But I do get a sense that when one has a genuine desire to honor God through a life of integrity and holiness, this is what God is looking for. Link Isaiah 29:13-14 and 1 Peter 1:15-16 to see this applied in Scripture. Obedience has always meant more to God than sacrifice . . . anyone can sacrifice but only those fully devoted to Him will consistently obey Him (1 Samuel 15:22-23).
3. God desires no obstacles to reaching those separated from Himself. Yes, the church is for believers. But we have to understand that on any given Sunday, there are many in attendance at churches across the country who do not know Jesus. It just happens, and thankfully so. Doesn’t it just make sense that when they come, they get to rub shoulders with people just like them . . . dressed like any other comfortable person? The only difference is that hopefully those on the “inside” have authentic walks with Christ that others would desire for themselves.
You may completely disagree with me, and that is fine. It would be as legalistic for me to force my view on you as it would be for you to expect me to wear my coat and tie each Sunday! May we simply keep the main things the main thing.
So bring it on . . . flip flops, t-shirts, shorts, and the like! Just a couple of words of caution. Be sure your attire does not outright dishonor God or cause another person to stumble or struggle with temptation. And remember that no matter how you dress, come with a heart to engage with the One who gave Himself for you on the cross.
(By the way, if it really is a matter of giving God our best, why do we not wear tuxedos and evening gowns each Sunday?!) OK . . . I’m done!
See you Sunday!