By Marsha West

July 7, 2006

The church I attend once held service outdoors during the summer. Not anymore. The reason given by our pastor–with no apology–is the “inappropriate way people dress.” When it’s hot outside some people show up pretty much undressed, and I am not prone to exaggeration. Women attend services dressed in short shorts, low-cut clingy tops, or crops. In some cases skintight low-rider jeans are worn as low as they go so that permanent artwork (tattoos) etched into backs and hips can be viewed by all. Excuse my bluntness, ladies, but exposing your butt crack in church is unacceptable, even if you’re sporting a Rembrandt across your back.

“Outfits are immodest,” says Stephanie Martin, “if they create greater interest in the wearer by potential sexual partners, make members of the same sex more conscious of their physical inadequacies, and are worn to attract attention to one’s body.”

The male species does their share to attract attention, too. The younger guys show up in pants worn so low that six inches of their boxer shorts are exposed.

If that’s not bad enough, they wear t-shirts emblazoned with logos that promote everything from grunge to gangsta rap to heavy metal bands like Exodus, a group that topped the charts with Shovel Headed Kill Machine. What sort of message does this send? Is a grunge t-shirt appropriate to wear in God’s house? And don’t give me that “Come just as you are” excuse that pastors offer when you broach the subject of inappropriate church apparel. A lot of these kids come from Christian homes! Many of them profess to be Christians themselves. Will someone please tell them that we serve a holy God! Parents, are you listening?

I realize the dress code for most [corporate] churches has relaxed considerably over the last thirty years. Initially the philosophy went something like this: “It doesn’t matter how you dress; what’s important is that people come to the service.” The come as you are attitude took root because hippies wanted more than a drug-induced high; they wanted to get high on Jesus. So a number of them started attending worship services and were summarily snubbed by congregants who were put off by their grungy clothes and hair. Hence, non-denominational churches did away with any sort of dress code. The plan was to make visitors feel like they fit in. It worked!

Here’s the difference between then and now. Hippies may not have washed their hair or spit shined their sandals for church, but they showed up fully clothed.

Today’s pragmatic clergy avoid the issue of improper church attire. They steer so clear of potential controversy that even the teaching of essential Christian doctrine is avoided. Heaven forbid they should offend anyone.

The modern [incorporated] Church has been sold a bill of goods. Church leaders have been persuaded by the seeker friendly purpose driven church growth movement that in order to reach unchurched Harry and Sally the church facility should have curb appeal. First impressions are important! As John MacArthur so aptly put it, the church is designed to appeal to the seeker’s “fleshly interests.” Although the church growth movement is out of the scope of this article it’s important to understand that the immodest getups being paraded up and down the aisles of churches all across America is a result of this movement.

As I mentioned above, first impressions are important in our user-friendly churches. Thus, Christians feel they must keep up with the latest fashion trends so that seekers will feel right at home. Regrettably, sleazy stars like Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton, plus Victoria’s Secret designers set the trend for females of all age groups. Young and old alike dress like hookers instead of Quakers. Anything to win souls for Christ!

The problem with the “Christians are cool” approach is that followers of Christ aren’t supposed to be cool; they’re supposed to be holy. But few pastors preach on holiness these days. Even though we serve a holy God and are called to be holy as He is holy, the message of sin and repentance has been diluted to appeal to the “felt needs” of today’s self-absorbed audience. People want to leave the church feeling good about themselves. No one wants to hear anything “negative” anymore. “That’s what liberalism is,” says Gene Edward Veith, “changing your theology to fit whatever the culture is.”The problem is, our culture is morally bankrupt. Still, the Church bends over backwards to blend in with our hedonistic society. Is it any wonder that professing Christians find purity and righteousness passé? The fact that many churchgoers don’t care what God thinks about their character and behavior is obvious by the way they dress, the way they talk, what they watch on TV and see at the movies, the books they read, and the music they listen to.

So, is a Christian’s behavior and character important to God? Absolutely! Here are two examples of what He requires of His people:

“But fornication, [sexual related sins], and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints” (Ephesians 5:3).

“For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous and his ears are open unto their prayers:, but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (1 Peter 3:12).

How does one become righteous, you ask? Try changing your priorities. Stop worrying about what the world thinks of you and start caring about what Jesus Christ thinks of you. In other words, put aside your worldly desires and obey the One you profess to believe in.

“When I stand face to face with Jesus Christ and say, ‘I will not obey,’ He will never insist. But when I do this, I am backing away from the recreating power of His redemption. It makes no difference to God’s grace what an abomination I am, if I will only come to the light. But ‘Woe is to me’ if I refuse the light. And this is the condemnation that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.  (John 3:19-21).” ~ Oswald Chambers

© 2006 Marsha West – All Rights Reserved

Edited by DMH