A View from the Pew: Dressing for Success … in Worship

Lance's Easter suit

Lance’s Easter suit

It is news to no one that church culture has shifted radically in recent years in most every area, from worship style to attendance.

One such cultural move is toward more casual fashion choices by church goers. Only the most traditional of us pew sitters insist on wearing “Sunday clothes” anymore, and even in the most traditional of congregations, there’s not much heartburn over the disappearance of suits and ties or skirts and dresses.

This change is most noticeable on Easter Sunday, which was once the height of the church fashion scene. New hats, neckties, suits and shoes made their debut in people’s wardrobes on Easter. I even remember wearing boutonnieres with colorful plaid suits as a child in the heyday of 70s fashion.

This question is already settled for most folks, but I think it’s worth asking from time to time: Does it matter what you wear to church?

I will readily confess that I’m more of a traditionalist. I’m in a coat and tie every Sunday, and my wife still goes to the trouble of getting our three boys new matching outfits for Easter, although I think the motivation is for a complementary look to our annual Easter family portrait outside the church more than a desire to be dressed up for worship.

Still, I’m not really concerned about enforcing our family’s wardrobe preferences on the rest of the church-going population. I would rather see someone in church than not, no matter what they are wearing.

I’ve even become accustomed to the ubiquitous flip-flop as an acceptable footwear option on Sunday mornings. Not for me, of course, but men and women alike now seem to be comfortable showing their toes under the pews.

To me, the more important question about dressing up or down for church goes back to last month’s post about preparation. Is the corporate worship of God worth a few minutes of your time to think about it in advance? I think the Apostle Paul might say it this way: “All modest clothing is lawful, but not all attire is beneficial.”

If wearing a dress or suit and tie helps you worship, you should dress that way. If you are able to come into the presence of God to make an offering of worship in ripped jeans and flip-flops, then so be it. There is this cultural emphasis on authenticity that sometimes goes overboard, but if you are of the “Just as I am” mentality, I won’t judge.

What I have come to appreciate about my church is the diversity. What you wear isn’t an issue. The full spectrum of fashion choices are represented each week, and there isn’t an arms race to see who is wearing the most expensive suits or the trendiest of women’s fashions. We are a group of believers who come together from all walks of life for the shared purpose of worshipping God.

So whether you were in a three-piece suit with a boutonniere on Sunday, a dress and high heels, khakis and a polo or button-up, my hope is that you at least thought about it.

Being a disciple of Jesus means making intentional choices, even small, simple ones.

Lance Wallace_for_webLance Wallace is a Baptist layperson who works as Director of Communications for the Georgia Tech Research Institute. He previously served as Director of Communications with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Lance blogs at newsouthessays.com.

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  1. Sharon Wallace says

    I thought you looked very cute and stylish in your plaid suit. Since your grandmother owned a florist, we always had flowers.