Worldly Worship

A big church in Oregon, USA has recently published a set of guidelines for the benefit of its ‘worship teams’, singers and musicians who stand on the church’s stage and lead the large congregation in worship.

The guidelines include:

• We want the worship team to look the best they can! Remember that the way we look is of utmost importance. We are the first thing the congregation sees. People do judge by appearance. We never get a second chance to make that first impression. Please be sure that your style and clothing bring honour and glory to God, isn’t excessive and doesn’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself.

• Dress is to be smart casual. This means nice pants or dressy jeans with blouses or sweaters, and/or jackets for women and nice collared dress shirts for men. Tennis Shoes, sneakers, flip flops, and shoes with white soles are not allowed.

• Hair must be washed, nicely groomed and kept neat and clean; no sloppy hairdos or excessively wild styles that draw undue attention.

• No excessive piercings, or visible tattoos.

• Ladies, put your make-up on before you get to church. If wearing a skirt, nylons are suggested. No tight shirts, low cut shirts or tummy’s showing. All skirts must be below the knee.

• No excessive colognes or perfumes.

• Bodies must be clean and use of effective deodorant is essential to positive interpersonal relationships.

• Remember also that breath mints are available in the bookstore. Please use them! No gum during services.

• No Excessive weight. Weight is something that many people have to deal with. Make sure that you are taking care of your temple, exercising and eating properly.

There are some principles here with which I agree. People leading worship should be smart and not wearing clothes which would be distracting. Excessive perfume is indeed as unpleasant as much-needed-but-sadly-absent deodorant. Yet there is something about these guidelines which trouble me. In fact the publicity around them has persuaded the church to remove them from its website.

‘Worship Teams’ are becoming increasingly worldly. They resemble pop groups, including in their ranks attractive boys and girls wearing the latest styles, singing whilst facing the congregation. The lights are dimmed, but the stage is well illuminated. The sound system is such that the professional singers and musicians drown out any congregational singing. It becomes a show, a performance. The Christian in the auditorium passively sings along, unheard and unnoticed.

This church though has gone further. People who are too large cannot lead worship there. Ladies may of course wear makeup to increase their physical attractiveness, so long as they apply it in private. This would not, after all, look professional.

If I want to see pop stars and bright young things singing into microphones, I’ll go to a proper concert. When I worship God, I don’t care about the size of others’ bodies nor whether their jeans are ‘dressy’ enough. Do we really worship in spirit and in truth, or are we just expressing worldly values dressed-up in a veneer of holiness?

The above image is taken from the Wikipedia page on Christian worship, and is licensed for sharing and distribution.