Do Churches Practice What They Preach?

Many Southern church websites say "Come as you are." 

Yet, when you get there, you see the pastor in a suit (though nowadays usually not with a tie). Those on stage and in the congregation are in business casual attire.

Some are a little more lax. In them, men often wear jeans and not many women wear dresses. Instead, the common attire for women is a dressy outfit - slacks and a really nice shirt.

In my experience, it's rare in most traditional churches, at least in my area of the country, to see women in jeans on Sunday mornings - and I have yet to see a female on stage dressed that casually.

This has been a big deal to me since I was a teenager. I had a friend whose parents didn't attend church. My friend started coming with one of our mutual friends.

She wasn't so poor to the extent she didn't have food or housing, but her clothing options were limited, especially concerning dresses. In fact, she owned only two dresses.

This was almost 40 years ago. Then it was rare to see a woman in slacks at church, much less jeans. 

My friend was embarrassed about not having socially acceptable clothing options for Sunday mornings, so she would attend no more than twice a month. She felt she had to space out wearing her two dresses so others wouldn't notice that she only had two.

I decided then to never go to church in anything but jeans. 

As I entered into early adulthood, I went to a different church, one that was a lot more casual. This was one of the few churches at the time where some women wore jeans. 

The standards changed each Easter. Everyone dressed up on Easter, usually wearing brand-new dresses or suits. 

...except for me. 

I still chose to wear jeans. In my first year attending that church, one of my friends asked if they were at least new. I had to laugh because they were. However, I didn't wear them because they were new; it was a coincidence.

This position was probably a major factor that kept me from serving on the worship team at another church. After I joined that church, I emailed the worship pastor and asked several questions about their music ministry. 

I had noticed that no matter what the congregation wore in this some-men-wear-jeans-but-no-women-do church, those on stage dressed up.

So, my main question concerned whether I could wear jeans if part of the worship team or the choir (where men wore jeans, but women didn't).

He responded quickly and thoroughly to my other questions but didn't address the question about jeans, totally silent about the issue.

I didn't become part of the worship team.

There are several popular arguments about this issue. Even though I don't agree, I can still understand why dressing up is still popular. As the world becomes more casual, some enjoy dressing up and church is one of the few places it's still accepted.

Plus, I assume they can afford it.

But what about those like my childhood friend? How can a church advertise that you can "come as you are" but then look down on those who do? 

Even if they aren't judging, it's nerve-wracking to look different in a new place, especially if it's not by choice but by economics.

When I was young and started on this quest, I often heard the argument: "Don't we want to wear our best when we go into God's house?"

I have sooooo much to say about that, but I'll try to keep it brief.

#1 - God's house isn't a building. It's a person who has accepted Christ.

#2 - Why would God, of Whom scripture says that He doesn't look at the outward parts of man, care what we wear?

#3 - What if "our best" is nice jeans and a T-shirt? What if "our best" is torn jeans (from age, not fashion) and a scraggly shirt?

In summary, I feel strongly that continuing to emphasize what a person wears and how they look at church simply perpetuates the idea that the physical and material aspects of someone are more important than the spiritual - who a person really is.

This thought is the basis of most stigmas... and the church is one place where it should be different.


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