What should I Wear to Church?

 I once visited a church in Australia. I was the only one not wearing a dark suit, and I felt very conspicuous. So what should we wear to attend public worship?

Some observations regarding clothing:

  • Clothing is a result of the Fall but is instituted by God to cover our shame and express our personality and function.
  • The Pharisees looked godly, but were not. A man in a dark suit carrying a big Bible could well be Satan dressed as an angel of light. The scruffy man could well be an angel, taken unawares.
  • Some like to wear a suit on Sunday to mark the sense of occasion and show God how important they feel meeting with Him truly is. Others, like myself, wear a suit to work every morning, and often feel most comfortable on the Lord’s Day not dressed for work. We must not judge other people in this way- their hearts are known to God.
  • Preachers who dress too casually will often be a stumbling block to their hearers who feel disappointed they ‘didn’t make a bigger effort’. Likewise, a speaker bedecked in a pinstripe may erect barriers between himself and his listeners if he’s addressing the Friday night youth group.
  • I do not like clerical dress- dog collars, black gowns, surplices, flowing robes. They are relics from the past that indicate a special priestly class, such as was abolished, or rather enlarged, at Calvary. Nevertheless, a man in a clerical collar is offering a witness by just walking down the street; he may also find it easier visiting the sick in hospital than his plainer brethren.
  • Our choice of clothes should reflect our personalities and not the latest fashions. We are slaves of Christ not the cat walk. Nevertheless, some believers assume that old fashioned clothes are somehow a badge of holiness. They’re not. In fact they confirm the stereotype of Christians as being stuck in the past and being out of touch. I have a puritan outfit in my wardrobe from my days in the Sealed Knot. It would have been perfectly respectable to wear my black doublet and white hose in 1640, but not any more.

Some Biblical wisdom:

Deuteronomy 22:5 ESV “A woman shall not wear a man's garment, nor shall a man put on a woman's cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.

Dress is meant to be different for the sexes. Whereas some say women should not wear trousers, I would argue that men and women should not wear that which their society deems to other-gender-specific. For example, men didn’t wear trousers in the first-century, but garments more resembling today’s female clothes. Basically, if your society thinks you’re dressing as a woman (and you’re a man), don’t. Men and women are of equal value, but they are different.

1 Timothy 2:9-10 ESV  Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

These women are being told not to be ostentatious in their dress. Their wealth should be found in their good works, not their ear lobes or necks. Wearing clothes that are obviously expensive should be avoided. One might therefore advise against wearing branded clothing which presumably cost more than it needed to.

Luke 12:33-34 ESV  Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

If we judge ourselves by what we wear, we are not seeing how God sees us. Notwithstanding the point below, clothes are just cloth coverings that keep us warm.

Isaiah 61:10 ESV I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Clothes can be beautiful pictures of our relationship with God.

My Advice regarding clothing:

1)      Our clothing should be plain and not conspicuous. It should not distract anybody from the preacher, the Lord’s Supper or the gospel. Garish colours or outlandish styles should be avoided.

2)      Similarly, rows of black and grey-clad Christians is seldom a welcoming site, especially when their facial expressions match the drabness of the clothing, which they often do.

3)      Our clothes should be smart enough to show respect for the activity in question (worship) but not so smart that a visitor wearing more casual garb would feel uncomfortable.

4)      Clothes should actually cover us. I do not suggest the Islamic body covering, but women and men should both consider whether their bare arms and legs (and other anatomical regions?) displayed may be a stumbling block for someone else in the fellowship, perhaps someone they may never before have considered in that light.

5)      No political or other symbols should be worn. I would never wear my Union Flag tie to church nor wear my Red Lancashire Rose pin badge lest they have people pondering political and social issues rather than spiritual truth.

6)      Should we consider where our clothes are made? Is a plain suit made in a sweat shop in Bangladesh really more appropriate than a t-shirt made by fairly-paid staff?


Matthew 6:31-33:

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.