Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Dress code in worship

Question - does your church have a 'dress code' for those involved in worship?

Maybe it's a North American thing, but on looking around the web for info, courses, conferences etc recently I have come across quite a few churches - all in the US - where there is a dress code for being involved in the worship (and sometimes even for attending). This kind of thing is very rare in the UK -  thankfully!

My question is whether this isn't just religion in disguise? I sort of understand the need for levels of decorum in the public place and the increased need for this if you are being broadcasted. But I seriously struggle with the idea of having to have a dress code for worship or being on stage. I think it's outrageous to be honest.

What is the motivation behind it? Is it to look respectable? Is it to look good or professional? Is it to project a certain kind of image? Is it about a corporate look? Is it to look good on camera etc? To a small extent I can understand this, but only slightly. The whole thing sounds a bit too much like control and religion. There's very little direction or even guidance on this kind of thing in the Bible, except Paul's comments towards an out of control Corinthian church. So where does this come from if not the Bible?

Maybe it's a North American cultural thing or a legacy of church when it was all about being smart on a Sunday. But even that has a religious inheritance, even if we Brits are highly responsible for this. (I struggle when I see churches birthed from UK missionaries in places like Africa, where the church dress code and style resembles the UK church that birthed it. Instead we need to encourage and empower the local church to be who God's made them to be, and never to copy others!) Wearing 'Sunday best' is fine if that's what you want to do, but don't force your beliefs on others. We talk about being fully committed to Christ and about living 24/7 as a Christian, but once a week we dress up in clothes we never wear - just to attend church.. If its cultural, no problem. But if it's a rule, big problem!

The dress codes I've read include only wearing dark coloured jeans, having to wear shirts or polo shirts, not wearing anything with any logo on it. Presumably some of these rules are made for middle-class people who have the time and money to buy these kinds of clothes...? It just doesn't seem to be what God intended church to be. I can't picture Jesus building a church that had dress codes and other kinds of codes - he called a bunch of smelly fishermen as his first disciples for goodness sake!! Can you imagine Paul or Peter (just out of prison perhaps) being turned back at the church door for wearing the wrong clothes...?!

The trouble with rules is that you always have to add more when something happens... So if the rule is to wear a shirt, what if someone has one without a collar - do you then have a new rule the shirt must have a collar? Or what if someone wears a bright yellow shirt - do you then need a new rule that the colours must be low-key or pastel shades? Or if (as is the case with one church) there are no hats allowed under any circumstances, what if someone has a scalp condition? This is what happened to the Pharisees - they started creating new rules when the current rules weren't enough. There is a huge danger of doing this in all our churches in many ways...

Ultimately, if we are filled with the Holy Spirit and want to honour Jesus, we wouldn't do things that dishonour God. This needs to be our guideline. Yes, sometimes we need to help people, but to have stringent guidelines is just wrong. What about saying, 'as Spirit-filled believers who love God and each other, let's honour God in what we say, do and wear'... It's strange how middle schools and high schools in the States have no uniform, yet so many churches do (often in a hidden way). We may as well all wear choir robes!

I've seen churches where musicians are wearing suits and ties (often in boiling hot places). It's ridiculous. They wear casual clothes all week, wear casual clothes when they play and practice, when they're at home, when they play music in other venues. But on Sundays, they have to wear a suit. I can understand a uniform at work (just about!) but especially in the business world. But I personally would really struggle to play wearing clothes I'd been told to wear as I would feel like a clone! We don't use our freedom in Christ to do what we want, but we do have freedom. Being told what to wear is not freedom. I don't even see it as submission as it has no Scriptural basis or practical sense! (I even saw a strict dress code for students on a course...)

I really think this is one area where North America can learn from people across the globe. It's only in rich countries where this kind of thing is even an issue. In countries where people have to hide themselves and meet underground, they focus on real issues - like the Bible, prayer and faith. In many other places, people don't always have 'Sunday best' or other clothes (though they often make a real effort) because of poverty. Telling people what to wear in church is almost indicative of church life where priorities have got completely out of sync with the true Christian life and faith. (Come to think of it, why am I even blogging about this?!)

Let's focus on what really matters - seek God and his Kingdom, be filled with the Holy Spirit. These other things are immaterial and will follow from putting God first anyway.

Any thoughts anyone??


  1. No dress code at the churches I play. I mean you can't show up looking like a disaster but regular jeans and a half way decent shirt are fine. I've even worn sandals at one of the churches I play.

  2. True! Yep, no dress code at our church either. Can't see the need to dress up on a Sunday and look different to the person you are. Makes no difference to worship - just look at Bethel Church - amazing Spirit filled, God-honouring worship and a relaxed dress code. Agree on not looking like a disaster too!!


No abuse or swearing or spam to other blogs cheers...