Most of us have done it – we’ve gotten on church websites or consulted friends to try to figure out how a church expects us to dress. I’ve heard of one church being called “The Suits Church” and others loudly assert their informality. What does Westside Reformed think?
The first thing to emphasize is that we do not impress God by what we wear. (Sadly, what’s inside of us doesn’t impress Him either, but that’s a different topic.) We can show up in a five-piece suit and be no more acceptable to God than a person dressed in jeans or shorts. Scripture does not provide us with a dress-code; therefore, to impose one is a form of Pharisaic legalism. Christians have freedom where Scripture does not speak. Neither formality nor informality are virtues in and of themselves.
This does not, however, mean that the way we dress is unimportant, though. We Americans live in a culture where we separate the body from the soul, what is physical from the immaterial. But the Scripture teaches that, though the body and soul are distinct, they are intimately related to one another. Your body affects your soul, and vice versa. Therefore, the way you prepare your body for worship has an affect upon the way you internalize God’s word.
Carry this “virtue of informality” to its logical conclusion. The most informal you can possibly be is to roll out of bed and attend church in your pajamas. I think it’s a safe assumption that anything we do in our pajamas is associated with lounging and relaxation. Wearing that to church means you’re unlikely to be fully-engaged. Church is not about relaxation and lounging but receiving from and responding to a holy God.
Does this mean we all need to wear suits and dresses to church? Absolutely not. What this means is that we need to consider how we can best prepare our bodies in order to prepare our minds and souls to receive the gospel. For some, this might mean dressing up a little or a lot. For others, who dress up all week for work, this could mean taking a rest and wearing jeans or shorts (This is the Lord’s Day, a day of rest, after all.). But for everyone, the way we dress falls into the category of wisdom. Though we all would love to have black-and-white rules, we must exercise discernment and keep our focus on our great calling and joy, receiving Christ in the preached word and in the sacraments and responding to Him with confession, prayer, and praise. The way we prepare and use our bodies should serve this great end.