DOES IT MATTER TO GOD WHAT WE WEAR TO CHURCH?

At the outset of this blog, let me say that those who know me closely often remark that I am such an "old man" in my demeanor and in my way of thinking and reasoning. Some say that I come across as being older than my age because I have such a great measure of wisdom. I'm not quite so sure of that, but I do know this: I am thankful for whatever I am. God, in His grace and mercy, has seen fit to use me as a vessel to preach His word. I only pray that at the end of the journey, I will prove to be faithful to this most sacred and lofty task He has entrusted to me. To borrow from the Apostle Paul, I say, "I am what I am by the grace of God."

If I had to render a description of myself, I would say that I am conventional in my theological views, and balanced in my approach to worship. I have a sincere romance for the traditional style of worship, i.e. that style of worship I experienced as a child growing up in church, but I am by no means resistant to the contemporary style of worship and music, providing it is Scripturally sound. In fact, there are some traditional pieces of what we term "Gospel music" that I feel are inappropriate for worship because they are not Scripturally sound. But I have no qualms with praise teams, praise dancers, drama nor drill teams. My only expectation, in regards to all of these, is that they are executed in such a manner whereby people see Christ and exalt Him, and not focus solely on those of us who are mere vessels.

I have been in the preaching ministry now for more than half of my life; twenty-five years to be exact, with twenty-one of those years invested in pastoral ministry. And of course, I have witnessed some dramatic shifts and swift transitions in the preaching, worship, and music styles of the church. The way we "do church" has changed dramatically in the span of time that I've been in ministry. Some of the changes I think have been beneficial for the life of the church, and then there are other changes that I view as being detrimental to the health of the church. In fact, some changes even oppose the very Christian faith which the New Testament Church is to embrace, guard, and perpetuate through evangelism. But I want to use this blog to address one change in particular that I have noticed in the church, and that is the manner in which many said-to-be Christians dress now when they attend worship.

Right away, some readers will dismiss this blog, and consider it backwards and petty. Such persons subscribe to the common notion that "God doesn't care about what a person has on; it's not about your outward appearance, but about your heart. God wants you to come as you are." But if you are a person of reason, and if you accept the possibility that sometimes one can sincerely believe a matter to be true, but be misguided in their perception of what is true, I ask you to give me a fair and honest hearing.

Obviously, my proposition here is that when one attends the public worship, they should wear clothing that is appropriate for worship. More bluntly, we should dress UP when we come before the Lord rather than dress DOWN.

In support of this, I offer for your consideration several points of Scripture which plainly teach that God is concerned with our outward appearance as well as with the state of our heart.

The very first time in Scripture where we learn that God cares about what kind of clothes we wear in His presence occurs in the dawn of human existence. Genesis 3:21 says, "Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and CLOTHED them." Adam and Eve were not naked. To cover their sense of shame and embarrassment after their act of sin, they made clothes for themselves---"they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings" (Gen. 3:7c). However, their self-fashioned clothes did not meet God's approval. So God Himself opened up a tailoring shop right there in Eden, and designed clothing for them that suited His standards and taste.

Clearly, what Adam and Eve wore mattered enough to God for Him to make them some clothes that were appropriate in His presence. Their clothing and fashion was not a trivial and insignificant matter in the sight of God. God here teaches us a vital lesson at the very outset of humanity. If we would find acceptance in His presence, we must meet come before Him in the manner that pleases Him. God is sovereign and holy, and when we rightly reverence Him, we do not come before Him anyway we please. God is not only interested in the state of our attitude, or heart (the inner man) but even the state of our appearance(the outer man).

The second point I want to lift for your consideration is in Exodus 28 where God gives specific details for the holy vestments (clothes) Aaron, the priest, was to wear when he went before God to minister in the sanctuary. Verse 2 says, "And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for GLORY and for BEAUTY."

Our God, throughout Scripture, reveals Himself to be One who loves BEAUTY. Everything God made has beauty---not only in form but also in design and purpose. Not only does He love beauty, but He loves decency and order. Creation reflects this. Thus, the basis of Paul's admonition to the church in Corinth: "Let all things be done DECENTLY and IN ORDER" (1 Cor. 14:40).

Aaron's garments were distinguished. They were for "BEAUTY and GLORY." When he went before God to minister, God wanted him DRESSED UP, not DRESSED DOWN. In this, he showed deep reverence and respect for both the PLACE of GOD and the PERSON of GOD. If he did not go before God DRESSED UP in the garments of beauty and holiness, the consequence was death (Ex. 28:43). God was serious about the clothes they wore to church, if you will, that He would kill them for not wearing the proper garments.

God designated a dress code for the Old Testament priests. Today, all believers are priests before God. "But you are a chosen generation, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). As royal priests in the service of the King, we should desire to come before Him in the beauty of holiness. "Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" (Psalm 29:2). The phrase "in the beauty of holiness" means "in holy attire," "in the vestments of the sanctuary," or "in the beautiful robes of the priesthood." True holiness is of the soul, to be sure, but what is true on the inside should be reflected on the outside.

Back in the day, we didn't dare wear just anything to church! We were instructed to go before the Lord in dignity, in beauty, and glory. We wore the very best we had in our wardrobe. In fact. we had what were called "church clothes" and "church shoes." They were worn only on the Lord's Day, and maybe PICTURE DAY at school.

More than many fully recognize, what we wear says a lot about who we are. Our clothes are but a mere expression of our personality; who we really are. You can identify a thug by his clothes. You can identify a whore by her clothes. You can identify a biker by his clothes. When we come before God, others should be able to identify us as a people of faith by our clothes. When they see us, they should be able to tell that we are on our way to the house of God for worship. But even our daily dress should reflect our faith. A Christian shouldn't be caught wearing any and every thing. Some clothing ought not be worn by believers. Our clothing should always reflect modesty and decency.

God does care about what we wear to church, but also what we wear away from church. We are His people, and should not allow the world to mold us, even by its fashions (cf. Romans 12:2).

When God designated Aaron's priestly clothes, He didn't ask Aaron what he thought about, or what style and fashion he preferred. God ordered what was pleasing to Him. And we have to learn that when we come before the Lord, its not about US. We come so that God may be glorified. If glorifying Him means that we have to be inconvenienced and lay aside what suits our tastes and preferences, then so be it. He ought to be worth it since He inconvenienced Himself for us. He took off His clothes of divinity, to put on the clothes of humanity, and endured the discomfort of the cross for us. Surely, we shouldn't mind getting DRESSED UP for HIM!

The last point of Scripture I want you to consider in connection with this matter of clothing is a word in the New Testament. Mark 5:15 says, "Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and CLOTHED and in his right mind. And they were afraid." Others knew a change had occurred in the Gaderene demonic by both his behavior and his appearance. When the devil had him, he didn't care how he looked. He went through the community looking any kind of way. He went through the community stark naked with no shame. But when Jesus got a hold of him, he put on some clothes, and adhered to the law of public decency. His behavior became dignified. His change was not only an INSIDE issue, but it showed up on the OUTSIDE also.

Our young men walk the streets showing their butts and with their pants almost down to their knees because the devil got 'em. Our young ladies go around exhibiting their anatomical and fleshly treasures as they wear clothes too revealing because the devil got 'em. People come to church before the MOST HOLY GOD of heaven and earth, the SOVEREIGN LORD, the KING of KINGS wearing any and every thing, showing little or no regard and reverence for His holiness because the devil got 'em. But when the Lord gets you, you'll care about your appearance in church and out of church. He puts dignity and decency in your heart and habits. He puts you in your right mind. And when you have a right mind, you will care about what you wear before the Lord and before men.

All these incidents of Scripture serve to show clearly that it does matter to God what we wear to church, and what we wear in the public.

What is acceptable in the night club ain't acceptable in the house of the Lord.
What is acceptable in the work place ain't good enough for the house of the Lord.
What is acceptable at school ain't good enough for the house of the Lord.

When we come before the Lord in His sanctuary, we ought to DRESS UP because we're GOING UP!

GOD DESERVES OUR VERY BEST...even in our appearance and dress

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Comment by Pastor T. A. Smith Sr on July 17, 2009 at 4:33pm
That's what has to happen, Luckett. We have to teach them church etiquette. There is a time and place for everything. I think our clothes also have bearing on our attitude. I think the church has become all too casual about God. perhaps that's why we wear casual clothes. But when you take the time to get dressed up for something, that suggests that I'm going somewhere special. Worship should be viewed as a special event because we are coming before a SPECIAL PERSON---Jesus Christ!
Comment by Pastor T. A. Smith Sr on July 17, 2009 at 4:27pm
We are agreed on that: we clean them up after we catch them. I think, however, that is not solely the work of God. It is a part of the discipling process. Those of us who have the pastoral responsibility are to be making disciples, not just attracting members. And I think that's the root problem in our churches. We are not really teaching people what it means to be a follower of Christ, and a member of the church. We only want to shout them and "shear" them.
Comment by Rev. Morris A. Goggins Sr. on July 17, 2009 at 4:22pm
Can't type today, it must be time t oeat? LOLOL
Comment by Rev. Morris A. Goggins Sr. on July 17, 2009 at 4:20pm
Dress for church has alwasy been involved in the African American Community. Like you we had Sunday Clothes and Sunday shoes. This generation behind us is where the problem has nested. I understand the $100 sneakers and designer jeans $100. For the most part that generations clothes they would wear on Dress down day is more than some of our clothes we wear.
I have also had dressed down day in our Church In Study Session (Formerly Sunday School.) We meet on Saturday at noon. This We have been doing for over threee years but the hip hop generation still has not caught on to it in that they have done what you mentioned happened at the place that you pastor. So the issue obviously is it is an individuals decision to make. But once we get them in the church , I believe the Good Lord as my Mama would say will clean them up. So let's continue to be fishers of men but don't change the bait (The Word Of God.)
Comment by Pastor T. A. Smith Sr on July 17, 2009 at 4:09pm
I appreciate your contribution of thought, Pastor Goggins. In my way of thinking, dressing up or wearing attire that is appropriate for the sanctuary doesn't mean one has to spend a fortune on their clothes. There are many stores that offer nice clothes at inexpensive prices. I've shopped some of them myself. I have a few suits in my closet now that are nice, and I didn'y pay over a hundred dollars for them.
I grew up in a single parent family. My mother worked two jobs to make ends meet. We were far from rich. We also depended on some welfare support. But yet my mother made sure I had clothes that were appropriate for church. Many, however, who say they can't afford dress clothes, manage to come to church in expensive gym shoes, designer jeans, and other urban wear. I don't think the issue is really one of economics, for many. It is a matter of a lack of respect for the place of worship and the exalted Christ.
Several years ago, it was brought to my attention that there were some in my community who thought that to attend our church, you had to have expensive clothes. That offended me and hurt me. I have never wanted to pastor a "stuffy" church. To address that concern, I implemented "DRESS DOWN SUNDAY" but after doing that for more than a year, and for the course of three or four entire summers, I didn't see any of those folk visit the church. I scolded my membership also. They took advantage of the convenience but didn't reach out to nobody. My point, a sinner will use any excuse available for why they don't go to church, but the real issue is a heart issue, for many.
The key point here is that we should wear clothing to church that is proper and appropriate. How much one's clothes cost is not the point. You can find nice clothes at the Salvation Army or St DePaul's (I've shopped them places too).
Comment by Rev. Morris A. Goggins Sr. on July 17, 2009 at 3:46pm
Dr. Smith you present a very good argument to your subject with great support for your thoughts. I didn't see one passage of scriptures however and that was waht Jesus had to say in Matthew 6 vs. 31-34, particularly where He says take no thought wherewithal we shall be clothed. Translation would be or what shall we wear. We should not be consumed by that.
I agree with the holiness in the dress even if it is casual.
I am also aware of how those who don't have the clothes that the majority of us wear feel when they see us going in our churches driving in our fine cars etc. They may want to come in but the don't have what we have in our line of clothing? How do we reach them when we fail to meet them where they are but yet Jesus met and meets us where we are. Is clothing impportant to Him?

I think I understand why when we go to the Conventions, we have more exhibits with $1000. suits and $400 hats, and $400.00 shoes. I can't walk on that kind of money (LOL) I have no problems with the robes I've got a few of those . But These booths are filled all week long but the streets are empty with Christians when it comes to witnessing. Is it because these clothing items are too expensive to wear out in the vineyard? (Just food for thought!)
Comment by PASTOR CHARLES E BELL JR on July 17, 2009 at 3:41pm
PASTOR SMITH AND REV LUCKETT I FULLY AGREE WE SHOULD REVERENCE IN ALL OUR DOING WE ARE SURPOSE TO BE IN THE LIKENS OF GOD AND WHEN WE DRESS WE SHOULD ASK WILL GOD BE PLEASE AM I AN EXAMPLE OF HIM . I SEE WOMEN COMING TO CHURC NOT HIDDING NOTHING THEY HAVE AND DONT KNOW OR CARE THAT THEY ARE TAKING MINDS OFF OF THE WORD AND THAT CAUSE A SIN LUST . WE SHOULD TEACH OUR YOUG WOMEN AND MAN HOW THEY SHOULD CONDUCT THE SELFS IN GOD HOUSE ,DRESS ,HUGHES,JESTER,AND THE WAY THEY SHOULD SIT IF THEY HAVE ON SHORT DRESS USE A TOWEL OR SOMETHING . WE HAVE CHARM SCHOOL TO TEACH OUR YOUNG MEMBERS AND NON MEMBERS THIS .
Comment by Pastor T. A. Smith Sr on July 17, 2009 at 3:13pm
Hancock, learning how to properly reverence God and approach Him is ever an issue with man. If it wasn't there'd be no need of preachers at all.
Comment by Eric Hancock on July 17, 2009 at 3:11pm
Is this still an issue???
Comment by Pastor T. A. Smith Sr on July 17, 2009 at 3:02pm
Great points, Luckett. We have to teach people to respect the house of God. I, too, am tolerant with people who come to church from the streets or who really don't have the means to get nice clothes. They can only do what they know. My saying is, "You can't clean fish until you catch them." But for people who have been in church for a while, some of this stuff is ridiculous and downright irreverent.
A lot of people say, "Come as you are." That's true, initially. While we should "come as we are," we shouldn't STAY as we are. There should be some growth and development taking place in our thinking and living. When we learn better, we should do better.

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