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.
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.May my clothes never be an obstacle for a church visitor feeling comfortable or faith seeker from encountering God. Click To Tweet
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 spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God 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.