Sunday, September 03, 2006

Dressing Up for Church

This slipped past me last week. I don't know how I failed to tag it as Best of the Methodist Blogosphere. Gerry Charlotte Phelps told the story of meeting a man who was too ashamed of his poverty to go to church:

It really made me think. About how, when I was growing up, church actually was like a fashion show. About how that would make people feel who couldn't keep up with that. Our family couldn't have kept up, except we sewed really well and managed to look at least OK without having much money. But - is that what church is all about? About competing as to who can display the most wealth? About out-doing each other in fashion? Even if it makes others feel ashamed about how they dress?


So this morning, I decided never to dress up to go to my church again. I want everyone to feel welcome there. And I want them to come. As Christians, our mission in life is to help people come to Christ, then to become mature Christians. For that, going to a church is important.

That man this morning seemed to want to go to church. He might have really needed a church today too. But I suspect that some of us who unthinkingly dressed better might have needed it even more! Personally, I'm convicted. We need to deliberately "dress down" more when we go to church. God forbid that we would make anyone feel unwelcome in His church simply because of clothing. It is a very small "sacrifice," when you think about it.


Brian Russell said...

I think that this is an important issue, but one that will take time to work itself out.

In our community of faith, Awaken Orlando, I have never worn anything other than blue jeans. I routine preach in a tee short and flip flops -- this is obviously quite contextual to Central Florida.

What is interesting about this however is that we have 10-15 homeless men and women who worship with us regularly. Our "dressed down" ethos eliminates the socio-economics lines that might divide our congregation.

Our core value "Mission is the reason the church exists" is crucial in establishing "dressed down" as a contextual expression of our community.

Keith Taylor said...

About 12 or 13 years ago, I was single, and I was working in a town in north Alabama. I started going to one of the larger, traditional Methodist Churches in town. I had gone several weeks when one Sunday, in late August, and I went to church wearing dress pants, a longsleeve shirt, and a tie, but since it was close to 100 degrees, I didn't wear a jacket that day. I went in the sanctuary and sat down.

Now you would think that a group of United Methodist Christians would be happy that a single guy in his mid-20's was coming to church on Sunday morning instead of being hung over from a night of partying and debauchery. But I was asked by a member of the congregation who obviously knew I was a visitor, "Where is your coat?"

I was so embarrased that I could hardly wait for the service to be over. I left that Methodist Church and NEVER returned. I cringed every time I drove past that church. In fact, I still drive past it occassionally and I still get a knot in my stomach if I have to go past there. And I am a United Methodist Christian. God Forbid if a real infadel ever wandered in that place!

Henry Neufeld said...

Let me add my horror story . . .

My younger stepson was in treatment for cancer, at the end of nearly a year of chemotherapy, with no hair and the physique of a concentration camp survivor. He was 13 years old. We managed to arrange for him to visit his older brother, a professional baseball player (minor leagues), a very special event for him. I won't say where this was to protect the guilty.

Our older son diligently took his little brother to the nearest United Methodist Church on Sunday during the visit. Little brother was wearing a baseball cap covering his bald head. The church pastor walked over before the service, addressed the younger brother and said, "You'd take your cap off at a baseball game, so you can do it in God's house as well."

Believe me, neither of them ever went back to that church again.

As Christians we really need to watch what we do that might drive people away. The gospel will offend some people, and it should. But make sure it's the gospel that's offending, and not just our own bad attitudes and rudeness.

Susie said...

I have always thought it appropriate to dress nicely out of respect for God's house and for other church attendees. By "dress nicely," I do NOT mean your most expensive outfit (necessarily) or your most formal outfit (necessarily), but a clean, decent (this was a little tough during punk wannabe teen years), and respectable getup. If you wear your best, most appropriate attire, God knows. And you know.

You should show respect for the church and those you are worshipping with. Others should also show respect for the church and those they are worshipping with.