How should I dress for Church?

We have a serious credibility problem when people dress inappropriately for Christian fellowship. 

“Where is he going with this?” you’re asking. Stay with me. You might be surprised.

This is an urgently needed message for the Church.

A failure to wear the right clothing could significantly damage the reputation of your Church. It might even cause people to question the authenticity of the gospel.

(After reading this, if you encounter people who are not dressed properly for Church, please encourage them to change)

But wait!  

Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I am not suggesting that we judge others based on outward appearances! And it may be that the people in traditional Church clothes are the least appropriately dressed for Christian fellowship. We know that those who opposed Jesus’ earthly ministry were the best dressed of society.

The ultimate issue is not really physical clothing at all. But let’s at least review what we know from Scripture before looking at the dress code itself.

What does Scripture emphasize? 

  • 1 Timothy 2:9 – “And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes.” (NLT)

  • 1 Peter 3:3-4 – “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (NIV) 

Against favoritism based on fine clothing.

  • James 2:2-4 – “…suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?” 

What is the acceptable dress code for the Church?

The importance of this question cannot be overemphasized. We must be dressed in a way consistent with true Christian community or the plausibility and authenticity of our witness to the gospel will be compromised.

Here is the dress code appropriate to the gospel:

  • Colossians 3:12-14 – “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Questions for deeper reflection

  1. How does the description of “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved” lead to the clothing of “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”? Is there a deeper identity issue for those inappropriately dressed?
  2. What piece of clothing is missing from your wardrobe? (Compassion? Kindness? Humility? Gentleness? or Patience?)
  3. Does Colossians 3:12-14 describe the clothing of the poor in spirit who inherit the Kingdom of Heaven? (Matthew 5:3)

Action points

  1. Share this with your leadership team and your entire Church.
  2. Emphasize this attire as necessary to gospel-centered community.
  3. Study Philippians 2:1-11 in light of this truth (practicing the mind of Christ in community).

Steve Cornell 

See also: Subversive Gospel Communities

This entry was posted in Christianity, Church, Church Leadership, Church membership, Emerging Leaders, Gospel, Gospel-centered. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to How should I dress for Church?

  1. Thanks so much for this entry. Absolutely right on target and refreshing.

  2. Kathy says:

    I visited a church once. A lady greeter at the door informed me “ladies don’t wear pants in this church”. I asked her where the restroom was….I told her I would take them off but I sure hoped ladies wore underwear in that church. She was agast and I obviously never went back there again.

  3. Judy van der Meulen says:

    The inappropriate attire that doesn’t work is kneeling at the altar with low rise pants on…enough said!

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