Friday, September 15, 2006

More on What to Wear

Thanks for all the great discussion on yesterday’s post on clothing. All the comments got me thinking about some things that I thought significant enough to add in another post. So here it goes…

Because the discussion about what to wear in the corporate worship gathering is multi-faceted, I began wondering if I could establish a few basic principles that would narrow the discussion down to some clear Biblical parameters. Some of you may think I am making this more complicated than necessary but what can I say, I love my lists! Please note that I share this list fully aware that the Bible has not “specifically” mandated what to wear in the church gathering; however, I do believe there are some Biblical principles that may be helpful in this discussion.

1. MODESTY (1 Timothy 2:9)
Christians should dress in a way that maintains a healthy level of modesty. Though this is relevant in any circumstance, it is crucial when leading others in corporate worship because we are not to distract people from the glory of God and the message of the gospel. It’s one thing to say “everyone looked great” it’s another to say “I couldn’t keep my eyes of that alto!”
2. GENERAL NEATNESS (Proverbs 26:14-16)
Whether we dress casually or formally we should not be sloppy. Ripped jeans and wrinkled shirts communicate slothfulness and can be a distraction to people.
3. CONTEXT (1 Corinthians 9:22)
If we have a specific target or demographic we are trying to reach we should dress in a way that makes us relatable to their cultural context. A noted problem with this may be that the identity of our culture may be too eclectic to easily specify.
4. WEAKER CONSCIENCE (1 Corinthians 8)
Though something we wear may be permissible, it may not be beneficial. An extreme example would be for me to lead worship at our Saturday service in gym shorts. There is no Biblical command against wearing gym shorts, but a lot of people in the congregation would likely be offended or in the very least distracted by my choice of clothing. Though this was an extreme example, we need to be sensitive to the reality that what we wear could become a stumbling block for others.
5. AUTHORITY (Romans 13:1)
Sometimes we must dress a certain way because those in authority request it of us. I presently dress quite casual in our Saturday services and a bit more formal in our Sunday services. This is because a few years ago, in a meeting with an elder, it was requested that those in front not wear jeans on Sunday and I agreed to honor the request (which was confirmed by the Senior Pastor). Consequently, those who lead downstage presently adhere to a more formal dress code on Sundays.
One of the big talking points that came up from numerous people in the previous posts commentary was that we need to just “be authentic” with who we are and what we’re comfortable wearing. Certainly this is a credible point and an acceptable consideration; I just couldn’t find a passage that addressed it specifically.

In a recent discussion on this issue someone shared with me that young people may be starting to dress more formally in church. Though I haven’t seen any hard evidence supporting this, my attitude is the following: If dressing a certain way will eliminate barriers for people to hear and experience God in the context of loving community, then just tell me what to wear and I’ll do it. If that means a suit and tie, then I’ll wear a suit and tie. I just want to do whatever necessary to make the message of Christ more relevant and credible to our community.


Anonymous said...

The discussion yesterday was facinating. All this over jeans, tee shirts and such. *shakes head* This is why some schools have uniforms, so there is no question as to what is appropriate or acceptable. Common sense should rule here. If you have to ask youself "is this is ok to wear on stage for a church service?", perhaps it is not. Sometimes just tucking in your shirt and adding a belt makes a big difference. As far as attire for pastors during the week; if you meet with a lot of people who don't know you during your work day, put your best foot forward. First impressions are huge. If you spend your day crawling around the stage and moving things, jeans are practical. My point is there is no pat answer, use common sense. And I don't buy the generational thing. Being 50ish, I feel more comfortable in jeans and a tee shirt, and if I am really honest, I would rather wear sweat pants and a tee shirt. I am all about comfort. I don't think I can remember the last time I wore hose and heels. I like the idea of it, but that is about as far as it goes. JBoats

scooterpastor said...

Hey JBoats, let me clarify something. With the generational thing I did not mean to infer that people of all generations can't dress all different ways. I am refering more to worship leaders my age who get the funky jazz glasses, spike their hair, and grow a jazz patch because that is the fashionable worship look. My thing is dress relevantly, but don't cross the line trying to look like someone you are not. I hope that makes my point more clear. Sorry about that.

Jim C said...

I think we are still missing the point... It seems people are getting bent out of shape again by thinking there ought to be some minimal dress code - but again that is by the opinion of a person or one age/cultural groups standards (be it the suit and tie camp or the jeans and shirt camp)... who gets to make the standard? Because I guarantee it will differ depending on the person you ask.

To say "this is what should be acceptable and its just common sense" means "this is what I consider to be appropriate and everyone else should follow suit."

I think a more appropriate response is "Be Biblical and beyond that, you have liberty to not look like me" - again going both ways (I wouldn't mandate someone to wear jeans any more than I would wish to be mandated to wear slacks.

It really does work both ways, friends. First impressions ARE everything - so what about the first impression to the people who aren't comfortable around "suits"?

What about the first impression that says "this is who I really am and the church I attend/lead allows me to be me within the boundaries set forth in the Bible"?

Some people, pastors included, may choose to have their first impression be one that shows they aren't maybe as "stiff" as what might appear if they are in suit and tie all the time.

If we use this logic, then we ought to be dressed to the hilt at all times because we never know when someone is watching or might approach us for a first impression.

We really can't remove culture from the church - its impossible. That is our audience. Those are Christ's followers - all shapes and sizes.

Jesus certainly wasn't about making sure everyone *looked* like Him - He wanted people to follow Him.

I mean this with all due respect to all parties and opinions involved.

The bottom line is that this really shouldn't be an issue, for if it is - we are seeking the wrong thing in church.

Scott - Are you making fun of my soul patch? I am a worship leader your age ;) hahaha

scooterpastor said...

Jim. If next time I see you, you are wearing a tight Abercrombie & Fitch tshirt with ripped jeans, spiked hair, and rectangular glasses, then I'll say get real man!!!

Jim. I hear you on the be yourself thing, but the other element is you need to know your audience. A few years aog I made an appearance in court to testify for someone. In that setting I dressed up formally because I knew the judge would take me more seriously if I looked appropriate according to his/her standards. I agree being yourself is important, but knowing your audience is also important.

Anonymous said...

Very Interesting - I didn't get on your blog 'til today. Alot of it is generational, but take the dress into the work place - When I taught the teachers (female) were usually in heels (most to be taller than the students) and in dresses or skirts or nice pants. Jeans were not acceptable as split skirts, gauchoes, etc. Men were in dress pants and a variety of shirts - no tee shirts even by the P.E. staff. The only ones who wore ties were the administration. The difference in the way teachers (and others in the working forces) dress today is that the students have followed suit, dressing down, and now do not respect the teachers or others in authority or their elders in the way they did then.
Do I repect myself when I dress a certain way so that others will respect me and my contributions to the world be it verbal or nonverbal?
I have always looked at it as what kind of image we are setting forth for our kids - both spiritually and physically (appearance wise).

I confess that I do still were a lot of dresses & skirts when I am home because you never know when someone will stop by to view my wares. Even at art shows I am "dressed up" (no jeans) because the way people think, you put the care and quality into your product that you display in how you look.
I find it very interesting that some of the people who are insisting on the jean and tee shirt thing are the same ones that shunned Blackie when he was here because of the way he looked and yet he fit right in with the rest!
Enough said. Rita

John Carlson said...

I hear you on that Scott, but also, we're not worshiping before a judge and jury! (well, God is the ultimate judge, so I guess you could say that.)

One thought - If we're all "leading" others in worship, how does what we wear play a role in what we're leading them to? What does what we wear show who we are, or who/what we're following by what we wear?

I think in the end, for me, wear what you want with biblical reason and common sense, until enough people complain enough that it clearly is an issue. (which I don't think is happening.) If it's one person in leadership, I can't say that I can agree with that. I respect the desire to follow and submit to leadership. I think you do as you say, and submit - yet, if the desires for certain dress are clearly going against the grain of what we feel convicted of in this situation, you also make that known too and that it would appear that leadership is out of touch with our congregation, the heart of worship, the look, feel, and vibe of what we're trying to communicate and be. I do think there may be some of this happening in small pockets. However again, I don't know that I've heard of major issues or arrows coming our way in all this. Maybe you have. I haven't. With all that's been going on with this post, we may be making WAY more out of this than need be. I don't want to scare some people off.

OK - I'm running out to buy square glasses, some spike hair gel, a guitar that plays 3 chords, and I've shaved a little fur off the cat for a jazz patch to glue on.

- John C

John Carlson said...


I would propose that one can wear stylish nice jeans with the right shirt, vest, blouse, accessories, etc., and look VERY dressed up. (Ever live in Texas? :-)

Eee gads . . . now I'm sound like those five guys from that "Queer Eye For the Straight Guy" show now!!!

(PS - everyone may not know who Blackie is.)

scooterpastor said...

John. Please know I am not proposing we dress up in church because we dress up in court. I am just saying we must always consider the context. If we minister to a motorcycle gang, we might be better off wearing a harley shirt, if we minister at 24-7 we wear a tshirt. Context is only one small part of the issue. I am just saying we can't throw that out.

Jim C said...


I agree with what you are saying... but also keep in mind that in court you are there to impress the judge and jury - its part of your job - to appear to be MORE than you might actually be and impress confidence and power to the "audience".

In church, my job is not to impress or to look or feel powerful... its to worship and learn.

Yes, we have to know our audience... but we have to know all of our audience. To me, speaking in particular about Parkview - a church that uses multimedia movies, mood lighting, varied stage heights/platforms - it seems that the presentation is already decidedly aimed at a progressive and "hip" crowd - be they young or old. The organ has been sold - the hymn books are not called out at every singing opportunity...

It seems misplaced to think of more formal attire in that type of atmosphere - in my opinion of course.

You have an audience of very young and "modern" people combined with older, professional people... the audience is extremely varied. So does that mean we should wear jeans AND a sports coat and tie? :) haha

I agree with Rita - jeans and a nice shirt can look dressed up. You won't see me in tennis shoes and ripped jeans or a shirt that says the latest catch phrase or something on it... the square glasses and spiked hair I can't promise :) I actually dye my hair - not because I'm trying to be someone I'm not, but more so because I have fun with it.

My church has dealt with the same thing, from a much smaller congregation of much wider age groups... which of course intensifies the problem. I have to admit that I get a little uneasy when I see this popping up (especially in light of my newfound friendships at Parkview).

What my church wound up doing was actually having different praise teams in an attempt to please everyone. Every group is totally different. Different style, different people making up the groups. Different thoughts on praise music or worship in general. I'll say first hand that I don't believe it to be a good solution.

I just can't help buy go back to they "why is this even an issue?" frame of mind.

If the church chooses to be relevant in presentation, then there certainly should be relevance in dress... Or better yet, embrace the diversity and understand that there isn't a magic formula for being a worship leader or church leader or a member of a congregation... after all - we all know our TRUE audience, right? God.

scooterpastor said...

FYI: I updated my description under context. I think the generational comment only clouded the issue.