Wednesday, February 18, 2009

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service

Have you ever heard the phrase “wearing your Sunday best”. I’m sure you have.
I can remember a time in my life when everyone did just that, got dressed up for Sunday.I’m not sure who started that tradition, but I’m pretty sure it was a woman who wanted to show off her new hat.

I read a blog today in which someone was talking about the dress code for the choir at their church.It reminded me of a few encounters I’ve had with church and what people wear. So I thought I might share some…

1.) When I was young, my mother and sisters always wore dresses to church, both AM & PM services. I remember it being a big deal when some of the youth girls started wearing pants on Sunday nights. It didn’t take long for everyone to get used to this idea and the adult ladies started doing the same.
2.) When I was in high school we had an issue with some of the girls dressing inappropriately to church., I’m not talking about dresses vs. pants. I’m talking about tight pants, tight shirts, etc. That was bad enough, but to make it worse, these girls didn’t fit into the clothes they were trying to wear. The words “muffin top” and “midriff bearing shirt” should never be mixed. It all came to a head when our pastor, preached on the topic and said from the pulpit “now some of you young ladies are trying to put 10 lbs of meat in a 5lb bag.” It was a great moment.
3.) My family was involved in starting a new church in the early 90’s. We were the only “contemporary church” in our area. None of the guys wore coats and ties, few of the ladies wore dresses. I enjoyed not being pressured to dress up to lead worship, but felt like a child when I was told by my pastor to at least tuck in my shirt.
4.) When I was singing in a band with some friends, we were invited to sing at a small country church. We brought some friends that worked with us at the YMCA. Coming straight from work, they were wearing shorts. When we arrived we were shocked by 2 signs. One outside the church beside the door. “It is expected that all ladies entering God’s house be dressed appropriately in a dress.” There was another sign on the pulpit “Authorized King James Version Only”. Lets just say that was not a fun night.
5.) Not long after joining at Westwood I was asked to fill in on praise team one Sunday. It was also explained to me that all praise team members must follow the dress code. (skirts or dresses for ladies, suits & ties for guys.) I didn’t own a suit at the time, so I had to go and spend over $200 just to be able to sing on praise team that Sunday. I abolished the dress code immediately upon asking to be interim worship leader.
6.) I typically wear a coat and tie on Sunday mornings to church. I started doing so in the beginning just to help the transition from the previous leader to me. No need to stir things up right at the beginning. I began to notice that on the Sundays that I didn’t wear a suit one of our senior adult ladies would come up to me with a big sweet smile and say ”You sure did look nice last week in that suit.” Maybe she really thought I looked good the previous week. But after she’d done that every time I wouldn’t wear a suit, I knew she was trying to make a point.

Clearly this is an important topic for some. But for me it really doesn’t matter. Someone once asked me “Wouldn’t you dress up if you knew the President was coming”. My answer “Probably”. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that I don’t know the president. It might take a suit for me to make a good impression on him. But I know God. And he knows me. He knows me better than anyone. Am I going to impress him by putting on a tie. I don’t think so. There’s nothing I can do with my wardrobe to impress him. What I wear only is an issue to me and the people who see me. I guess the real question is how much do I care about what the other people at church think. Could my lack of a tie cause someone to not be able to worship? I hope not. If so I think the issue is theirs, not mine.

So what’s the point in all this… am I going to change my wardrobe. Maybe a little. But not too much. I can’t afford to go out a buy a bunch of new clothes. But, I don’t like ties. I’m not comfortable in them. I wear them for the congregation, not for me. So for those of you from Westwood, you may see less of them on me. But I’ll probably keep wearing coats most of the time. For one reason… I’ve come to appreciate the fact that if you’re wearing a coat you don’t have to iron your whole shirt.
Who knows, maybe one day I’ll even leave my shirt untucked.


  1. If you're not going to wear a tie, then you'll need to iron your Saturday Night Fever collars.

  2. I'll admit, those shirts are made ot be worn with ties. But rather than ironing the collars down, I'll probably just undo one more button and buy me a gold chain.

  3. I think that you know what I think. I was able to come in from the very beginning and not tuck my shirt in. People are shocked when I want to wear a tie (and sometimes I do like to pretty up a bit). I can't imagine that how I dress matters even a little bit. Think about it. The original dress code was naked. We only started wearing clothes when we started caring. I'll make a deal with you. You start untucking and I'll start untucking. Wait a minute...

  4. Wow! What a radical ideal, being comfortable at Church. Who would have thought that we should be comfortable and wear what we want when we are worshiping with our family. Next thing you know the Student Minister will be wearing jeans and flip flops. We have to be careful though, the kids might think we are hip and we definitely don’t want that. Great post Shawn. I love the fact that we can be comfortable when we worship and focus our attention on Jesus and not our appearance. This is just one of many issues people have with the Church today. Just like the Pharisees, the “Religious Church” has come up with all kinds of rules that really have nothing to do with worshiping our Father and have really kept people from getting to know Jesus. One of my favorite Pastors, Mark Driscoll only wears T-shirts and Jeans, but is one of the most respected Pastors in the country. He also has some good teaching on the difference between the Gospel and Religion. I know we have a good mix of folks in Westwood, and a lot of them are “Old School” but I think change is good and I like were we are heading. Keep up the good work; you, Joseph and our other leaders are doing a great job!

  5. Come as you are. That's my philosophy. If somebody gets convicted enough to change the way they dress more power to them! But, I think a big part of the reason outsiders have with the church is the fact that they don't feel they fit the cookie cutter christian model. Untucking your shirt may even help your witness. Haaaa good post =)