Back in the day (and still somewhat today), the Methodists were concerned with how they dressed. I remember growing up in more of a traditional church and the issue tended to be that I didn’t look nice enough to go to church and it was never an issue that I looked too good to go to church. Yet for whatever reason, it appears that overdressing was a problem in the Bible, just as it was for the Methodists of old—so much so, that there had to be rules as to what members could wear to their meetings. Basically they shouldn’t be dressing up so much that they brought a lot of attention to themselves. This was the wrong motive.
It appears that we have totally ditched this rule in our churches today. If pastors speak up at all about our attire, it’s that we’re wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt and that we don’t look good enough to be in the house of the Lord. Such a comment may seem well intended at first, but it really doesn’t look that good for the homeless man who walked into your service and needs Jesus more than anyone. I imagine he would feel incredibly awkward if he had walked into a traditional service today, especially as everyone’s eyes would gravitate right towards him.
However, despite this awkwardness, I don’t feel that anyone really pushes the boundary too much in our churches today. It is true that people still like to dress up when they come to church, but I doubt that it’s very distracting to anyone considering how culturally accepted it has been for most people’s lives. But should we find that the poor are very affected by our manner of dress, we should consider dressing down to accommodate them. The church should be a place of acceptance, and the last thing that should anger anyone should be the clothes that we are wearing.
I feel that I have challenged the manner of dressing-down quite a bit in my life. When I left my position as worship leader at my previous church, they gave me a going away present. It was a large picture frame with sandals inside of it, which all of the students at the church had signed for me. If there was one thing at that church I was known for outside of worship leading, it was the fact that I almost always led worship bare-footed. It made a more significant impact than I expected. It seemed to show freedom and carelessness about dress.
And when I recently did a service without shoes at a church, I had one man come up to me and share a story. He had grown up with those who rarely had the money to afford shoes. Now that he had seen me not wearing them (even though I easily could have) he was inspired. Who would have thought that even the clothes (or lack thereof) that I wore to church could make an impact on someone’s life?