Church Clothes Scare People

Church leadership these days are going to extremes in an effort to be non-offensive to outsiders and more specifically to make non-christians feel more comfortable at church…a place that might otherwise make them feel UNcomfortable.

Unfortunately, many young Pastors of modern churches go about this in a way that subverts the word of God and mixes in so much psycho-babble/emotional advice for living that many people leave unsure if they’ve just attended a church service or a psychological self-help seminar.

There is, however, a trend making headlines in the Christian church scene that wants to have the best of both worlds; non-offensiveness while boldly proclaiming the gospel.  Take this Pastor for instance…

Ron Williams: Pastor of a baptist Church, the GYM, in Sanford, Fla., put it this way,

“I think all the trappings of traditional religion can make it difficult for people to start coming,” he said. “You can invite someone, and they will say, ‘I don’t have any clothes to wear to church.’ ”

As for The Gym- just as the name implies, Williams’ congregation meets in a gym- Pastor Ron, throws off his Sunday best and instead wears jeans every service, as does his congregation who also sports casual attire in the name of visitor comfortability.

The Pastor of Mars Hill, though not always, sometimes takes this approach as well.  Seen here, preaching to his congregation in a T-shirt.

Mark Driscoll, Sporting Mickey Mouse

Honestly, I do understand where the Pastor Rons out there are coming from and I agree. I have personally invited people to church before and their excuse was, “well, I may not have anything nice enough to wear to go to church this Sunday.”

Nice enough? When did the church start saying, “you’d better have on a suit or expensive dress if you’re going to come into the Lord’s house today!”

When did funeral attire become a prerequisite before entering a living house of God?

This is obviously a misconception that, through the years,well meaning and misguided people have proliferated by simply wanting to look nice for church; wear their “best” for God, or Martha wanting to wear that new hat she purchased from the local boutique that will simply look “gorge” with that new necklace her husband got her for valentines day.

The great news is, I have never been to a church where the Pastor stopped by, looked at me as if he had just witnessed the holocaust and said, “thats what you wore to church today?”

Nevertheless, I have visited churches before with friends who have gone as far as to offer me some of their own clothes since mine were not “church appropriate.”  I definitely was not rockin’ any profane graphic Tee’s or even flip flops (which I think Jesus wore a form of.)  Nope, just plain ol’ denim jeans.  There are even Christian universities around today that enforce a strict dress code of no denim on campus.  I never realized that our very souls are at stake when one slides into denim.  Perhaps I’ve missed the passage in scripture that says “he that wears denim shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

A verse on this comes to mind…

1 Peter 3:4
“but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

This of course, being instruction given to wives who have an unregenerate husband, and how to draw them into a relationship with God by their own holy conduct rather than just looking gorge. verse 2 says, “when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”

Not that there is anything wrong with looking good, but what will change a man’s heart… Good looking clothes and fine jewelry? Or the holy conduct of a woman, whose heart is so hidden in Christ, that the man has to go through God to get to her?

The church is the same. Conducting ourselves in a holy way; a life that expresses we are living out the gospel, will change hearts that come through the door. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Live it.

“Imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit…” This is PRECIOUS in God’s sight.
What if the church showed this kind of love to all visitors?  Not only visitors but, what about the body? Talk about a church that people would want to be a part of.

Turning back a bit here, to Church Attire… the pastor usually sets the highest standard of dress any given Sunday and therefore, if the pastor wears a suit, you will most likely see other men in suits, but I’m willing to wager most will be in a shirt and tie or maybe a sweater vest.

In many churches I have attended in the last 15 years, it seems as if majority of congregations, or at least members and regular attendees, always dress one to two steps below the Pastor.

For example:
Pastor:                                             Member:
Suit                                                   Shirt/Tie
Khakis                                                Jeans
Jeans                                            Ripped Jeans
Ripped Jeans                                     Shorts

You get the picture.


I don’t believe any one dress is any less or any more acceptable than the other.  Historically, folks do tend to dress appropriately, given the event or occasion, and as long as the church does not post an “appropriate dress” monitor at the front door who gives a thumbs up or thumbs down to patrons, accepting or turning away people based on appearance (which some churches have resorted to), I really do not believe the clothes we wear as a church will make or break new membership.  While some may invite friends that will show up in less clothing than you would ever prefer to see your teenaged daughter in, lest she feel the wrath of Darth Papito, as he takes her car keys away until she changes, I think for the most part, even the unbelievers know and display some sort of understanding when entering a holy place. (Acts 5:13None of the rest dared join them, but  the people held them (them being believers) in high esteem.)

We do find in scripture, a passage on conduct and dresscode…

1 Timothy 2:8-10
I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.”

What does that mean? That men can never put their hands down in church? That braided hair signifies a woman headed to hell in a handbasket that might as well emboss a Red A into her shirt? No.

This is addressing motives. When you come to church, come to worship our almighty, magnificent, awesome, marvelous Creator with fear and reverence. With hands raised high. With heart abandoned.

He’s saying, don’t come to church to be seen.  I think many of us could afford to take a step back next Sunday and examine how long we take to “get ready” for church.  I am not saying, throw away our mirrors and grab the first two mismatched socks you see in the top drawer.

My wife has more hair than I do so naturally it takes her a bit longer to get ready than it does me.  I would venture to say, though, anything past clothing, daily routine makeup, and some hair product, is probably putting a bit more into “looks” than needed.  Perhaps, if we were to forego those extra little steps in the morning beautification process, we could sleep another 45 minutes on Sunday.  Get to service on time or even early by simply skipping a few vain practices.  Better yet, still wake up two hours before service, but spend that extra time with your family.

Ultimately, what I am getting at here is, as a church, our J Crew, Abercrombie, Old Navy, American Eagle, Banana Republic Sweater Vests, ties, and Khakis are not going to make or break a newcomer choosing to return next week.  The fullness of God’s word being preached and the love, or lack thereof, from the congregation is what will help that visitor’s decision process on choosing to attend a church where they believe they will grow.  If they will be “full” at the end of service, or be left with a spiritual growling.  Where they will want to raise their kids in the way that they should go.  Where they will sacrifice their time and offer their gifts to serve God’s bride.

My check list for Sunday:

Baby: √

Diaper bag: √

Hair: √

Clothes: √

Bible: √

Cell Phone: √

Car Keys: √

Wallet: √

What do you think??  Sharp dressed congregates scare off potential new members?


2 thoughts on “Church Clothes Scare People

  1. I like to wear skirts and dresses to church, but it seems that is over dressing in the recent years. I have found the norm to be very casual and typically jeans. I don’t see anything wrong with that at all. Growing up, I attended a church where I didn’t fit in because everyone wore their “Sunday’s best” and my parents couldn’t afford to buy me nice clothes for church. I like a church that has a mixed group of attire. I can dress down in jeans or wear a nice dress and not feel out of place either way.

    One thing I don’t like seeing is inappropriate clothing choices for church. Short skirts, low cut shirts, or extremely tight fitting clothes to me is not ok for church. Maybe it is the mother in me, but I find it distracting, even as a woman, to be talking to a woman with her cleavage hanging out. I feel that If a woman wants to let it all hang out, great, but don’t do it on Sunday morning.

  2. Haha! I love your comments Sarah! I totally agree. If they’re fellow believers, then yeah, they should not want to possibly cause their brothers to stumble, married or not. I had a youth pastor once that challenged our high school girls to exchange their form fitting tank tops and halters for a bunch of their Dad’s Medium to Large T-Shirts for ONE week and see how their responses from guys changed. I think only about 2% of our ladies followed through…but the one’s that did, went on to lead a life of modesty due to one week of living out 1 Timothy 2:8-10. Thanks again Sarah!

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