Christian Living

Why I Don’t Dress Up for Church Anymore

May My Clothes Never Keep a Visitor from Encountering God

My parents, especially my mom, taught me to dress up for church. That’s what people did when I was a kid, and I didn’t question it—even though I’m still looking for a biblical command to do so.

Never mind that I’m sure my parents spent money they couldn’t afford to spend so I could look my best.

Dress Up for Church

Into adulthood, I faithfully followed this practice, even more so when I ushered. One Sunday, wearing my best suit and a fashionable silk tie, I stood at my station with bulletins in hand and my most inviting smile beaming from my face.

In walked a visitor. This was good news. We didn’t have many of them. College-aged, his casual attire consisted of torn jeans, wrinkled t-shirt, and tennis shoes. He carried a wide smile. I instantly liked him. We made eye contact.

When he saw a friendly face, his smile brightened, and he walked toward me with intention.

Then he glanced down, scanning what I was wearing. Taking in my three-piece suit and freshly polished black leather shoes, his pace slowed. He looked left and then right. Seeing no one else dressed like him, he made an abrupt U-turn and left.

I should have followed him and assured him that he didn’t have to dress up for church, that clothes didn’t matter. Instead, I took no action, feeling duty-bound to remain at my post.

Indeed, had I abandoned my assignment to talk to him, surely someone would have complained that I was shirking my duty. In that instance, continuing to do my job as usher seemed the right thing to do. But it wasn’t.

Though it may have been the right thing for the people of the church who expected someone to greet them, hand them a bulletin, and seat them, it was the wrong thing to do for a visitor who panicked and left.

I still regret my decision. It haunts me to this day.

Don’t Dress Up for Church

That was the last Sunday I dressed up for church.

If my clothes challenge conventions, I prefer offending those inside my community, not those outside it.

May my clothes never be an obstacle for a church visitor feeling comfortable or faith seeker from encountering God. I never again wore a suit to church—ever.

Though for a while I condescended to wear a tie for special occasions, I soon dismissed neckwear as well. This helped better ensure that my appearance would never be a barrier to visitors and unchurched folk.

Now, when I dress up for church, it’s pulling on a new pair of jeans. Usually I don’t even bother to do that.

I worship God by what I wear on Sunday morning. He doesn’t want me to dress up for church. He wants me to worship him. And one way to do that is being approachable for visitors.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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3 replies on “Why I Don’t Dress Up for Church Anymore”

My husband and I were saved in a casual, California church. A year later, we were back home in New Jersey looking for a non-denominational church. We arrived at a new church in shorts and t-shirts, only to be met by men in suits and women in dresses. We panicked and drove away. The following Sunday we went back, dressed in our Sunday best. We laugh about it today, because we still attend that church more than 20 years’ later. We also still laugh about what it must have looked like as the ushers waved and yelled to us to come back from their stations at the front door.

Lynn, I love this story! I salute you for going back the next week. (My guy didn’t.)

Though we can laugh at it now, the panic over not fitting in is all too real.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

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