Tuesday, December 18, 2007

ASK THE PASTOR: Does God care what I wear to church?

Does God care what I wear to church?
Although many churches have battled over the issue of clothing standards, the Bible never sets standards for what one wears to worship gatherings. Even in the Old Testament times, there were never any standards for what one wore to the Temple. Although the Old Testament contains over 600 laws, none were directed to what one wore on Sabbath. Even the principle that one should “wear one’s best” on Sunday is found nowhere in the Bible (though it may be a wonderful personal conviction).

Churches should be places that refuse to make a law where the Bible is silent. Demanding individuals to adhere to certain clothing standards is legalism. This legalism is seen even in many emergent and seeker-sensitive churches. In many such congregations people are looked down upon for wearing suits & ties. Such persons are considered hypocritical and 'stuffy'. This is just legalism with a "hipper, cooler" set of laws. The traditional church is no stranger to judgmentalism on this issue, either.

Of course, we want fellow Christians to dress modestly (which is clearly taught in the Bible, cf 1 Tim 2:9-10), and this does not mean church leaders cannot ask those participating in the service (choir, scripture readers, etc) to abide by certain standards for uniformity’s sake. But in regards to style of clothing of those who attend, we must understand that God looks only at the heart and that no individual will ever be held accountable to some man-made clothing standard.

However, it would be a huge mistake to think what we wear is unimportant. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says that everything we must do should bring glory to God. The key word there is 'everything', which includes our clothes. When getting dressed on Sunday, you should choose clothing that helps prepare your heart for worship. For some, this may be a jacket & tie (or a nice dress), for others this may be shorts or jeans. Our first and foremost consideration in clothing styles is the pleasure we bring to God.

In addition to our consideration of God, we must also consider others. In the very next verse (v. 32) Paul tells stronger believers not to cause anyone to stumble. We are to sacrifice our freedoms for the sake of those weaker in the faith. This does not mean that we submit to every personal preference of every single person at church (which would be impossible). However, it does imply that we must have a genuine love and concern for others and, when possible and within reason, we dress in a manner that does not cause needless offense.

Questions for Pastor Josh can be submitted via Email. "Ask the Pastor" is a feature in the monthly newsletter of Indian River Baptist Church. This blog republishes those Questions, along with others not selected for print publication.

1 comment:

  1. I agree. We have a pastor at our local Baptist church in Brisbane, Australia who doesn't even wear shoes when he is preaching, or while doing anything else and comes looking scruffy. Today was the first day that I saw Tim preaching, and he was without shoes. I couldn't take in what he was saying nor could I get into the song afterwards. In Australia I believe wearing shoes is a sign of respect in our culture. One doesn't go to weddings, funerals, or even out to dinner without wearing shoes on our feet, even if they are sandals. I spoke to the senior pastor about how it distracted me and disturbed me so much as I believe wearing shoes in a ministering position in church is a sign of respect. He didn't seem to agree, however I asked if he would pray about it and be willing to hear from God on the subject. He said he wasn't going to keep revisiting this. (first time I had brought it up with him). He did lead us in prayer about it but added something about being mature and something to do with acceptance. I feel the preacher was taking the attention away from God and onto himself. It is mostly a family church but there are alot of people in the 30's and 40's and older into their 70's and eighties.