Stop Dressing So Tacky For Church

If the Rev. John DeBonville could preach a sermon to lift the souls of churchgoers across America, his message would be simple: Stop dressing so tacky for church.

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But there’s a danger in making people too comfortable in their clothes on Sunday morning, says Constance M. Cherry, an international lecturer on worship and a hymn writer.

Some churches have embraced a business-oriented “the customer is always right” approach to worship that places individual comfort at the center of Sunday service, says Cherry, author of“Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services.”

“Many young people and boomers judge the value of worship service based on personal satisfaction,” Cherry says. “If I get to wear flip-flops to Wal-Mart, then I get to wear flip-flops to church. If I get to carry coffee to work, I get to carry coffee to church. They’re being told that come as you are means that God wants you to be comfortable.”

What the Bible says

The Bible says that’s not true – people had to prepare themselves internally and externally for worship.

In the Old Testament, Jewish people didn’t just “come as they are” to the temple in Jerusalem. They had to undergo purification rituals and bathe in pools before they could enter the temple, says Cherry, who is also a professor of worship at Indiana Wesleyan University.

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Both Old and New Testaments suggest that people should not approach God in a casual manner, Cherry says. Psalms 24 urges the faithful to “ascend the hill of the Lord …with clean hands and pure hearts.”

When Jesus taught in the synagogues, he also observed the rules and decorum of being in God’s house, Cherry says.

Cherry isn’t calling for a restoration of first-century cultural norms, such as women covering their hair in worship, or a rigid dress code. She says churches should meet people where they are, and make even the poorest person feel welcome.

She just says that preparation for worship should give less thought to people and more thought to the divine.

“There should be some sort of approach to God that will include certain steps to honor the God that is not our buddy but fully The Other,” she says.

Others back up Cherry’s call to keep the Sabbath special. Dressing up really makes a difference on Sunday, they say.

“It puts you in a different mindset,” says Tiffany Adams, a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who grew up wearing jeans in church. “It actually sets the Sabbath apart from every other day.”

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