What to Wear to Church?


Recently, I was asked to be the guest speaker at a larger, more contemporary church. Out of respect for each other, the pastor of that church and I jokingly discussed what I should wear. You see, he never wears a suit, while sometimes I do. His congregation has become more “contemporary,” while my congregation remains more “traditional.” So, to make me comfortable, the pastor told me whatever I wanted to wear was fine.

Therefore, I wore shorts and flip-flops… Just kidding.

The way I dress to go to church may not be the way you dress. My style may not suit your tastes, nor yours mine. But the fact of the matter is that you do wear some kind of clothing to church, correct? Well, have you ever wondered if what you wear to church is appropriate?

Some people have asked that question.

Below are some of my thoughts on the subject.

Keep It Simple

If you are planning to attend a worship service where God is supposed to be the center of attention, don’t dress like a clown! Don’t dress like you are going to a movie premiere in Hollywood, either (that could get expensive in a hurry, not to mention scare the kids).

Some cultures believe people should come to church in clothing that could damage someone’s retina. Gettin’ “fancied up” is what’s expected. But it’s this type of clothing, in many cases, that draws attention to the congregant, not Christ. My advice is to stay away from neon suits and flashing bow ties. Church clothing should be a covering, not a calling card.

Show Respect

Some people think it is totally appropriate to wear enough jewelry and feathers to keep pawn shops in business and all geese naked. Others think it is completely acceptable to look like a drunk that slept in an alley all night (no offense to the drunk). Neither shows a sense of respect. The first steals glory from God, while the second implies the place where we gather to worship is no different than anywhere else.

Think about it this way, for example. Receive an invitation to tea from Queen Elizabeth and show up looking like you just got out of bed and never took a shower. Unless you’re a bonafide rock star, security personnel may escort you to a private room to “get acquainted.” Therefore, if dignitaries of earthly kingdoms demand respect, why shouldn’t we offer it to our Heavenly King?

Just a thought.

Beware of Legalistic Standards

However, whatever you wear, don’t be too quick to judge another person’s spiritual condition by what they wear. Only God knows the heart.

Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. – Rom 14:4 KJV

Sadly, I have been around many believers who consider one style of clothing a sign of spiritual maturity, while another style a sign of spiritual waywardness.  And you know what’s funny? It doesn’t matter which side of the spiritual tracks, there’s always somebody looking at another thinking, “They’re not right with God.”

Legalism cuts both ways, dear friend. For example, I have been to churches that ridiculed any woman who wears pants, or a man who never tucks in his shirt. On the other hand, I have been in congregations that blatantly condemned all dress and tie-wearers as right-wing, self-righteous, fundamentalist nut jobs. In both cases, someone judged another’s spirituality based on outward appearances, alone. In both cases, one group’s set of standards were being used as a guide to what is mature spiritual behavior, and what is not.


Context, Context, Context

Ultimately, how you dress should be determined by the context of your community. Small, rural congregations might not feel comfortable dressing for church in the same way a metropolitan First Baptist may. Similarly, churches in depressed economies may adopt different dress codes than upwardly mobile societies. The key is to be respectful, honorable, and considerate of the holy moment at hand. Whatever fits that bill is good enough.

Just keep this principle in mind:  Grace accepts, Maturity develops, and Love constrains.

Don’t make appearances the only thing about which you’re concerned. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is far too important a message to be drowned in petty arguments about whether it is appropriate to dress up for church, or go dress-casual. Many people in the world have to worship Christ underground – literally. Dress codes are the least of their worries.

Additionally, the drug addict who needs hope and help may not have any clothes left that he hasn’t already sold to get high. The single mother of five that walks into your church may have barely enough energy to survive, much less do her hair.

Do all things to the glory of the Lord, but keep things in perspective, OK?

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism [or be legalistic]. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? – Jam 2:1-5 NIV


Filed under baptist, Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, Culture Wars, Do not judge, Independent Baptist, legalism, Southern Baptist

3 responses to “What to Wear to Church?

  1. Hadn’t thought about it lately. Most I have attended have evolved to a very casual, whatever you would wear on Saturday kind of approach it seems. Jeans, shorts, etc.

    Of course, I grew up during the put on your “Sunday go to meeting” attire. A lot has changed for sure.

    Thanks for the great insight.

  2. Great post Pastor!

    Here are my thoughts, thank you God and people who began to show me how to do things. So, when I was in my mid teens, I got into lots of trouble and so my parents decided that I needed help and so the state intervened and I went was sent to a residential school for troubled girls (this is not like Facts of Life show at all) . During that time I did not care about anything or anyone. Church was a constitutional right to me at the time. My scripture during that time of my life is 1Samuel 16:7 “7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” I used that verse to get me and get me out of things. Along with “right to attend worship” I was squarely fitting myself for a fight. Well, the only person fighting was me. So, I went from I was a rebellious teen ager some 40 plus years ago, to the next juncture in my clothes and what to wear and church.

    In my mid 20’s I attended a full out Pentecostal Holiness church. So, I went from 1 extreme to the next and decided that “God had called me to Bible College” and so I was now heading to Greensburg/Spartanburg SC. So, that has horrible results for me. I was thrown out for several reasons but having earned 26 demerits within 4 weeks of being there because I wore shorts under my required skirt added quick dismissal from the PH school and so I leave the church and so goes God for a bit. So, I am at a loss on how to love this God by this time.

    So, next adventure for God begins in the early 90’s (my late 30’s) I was partying quite a bit on the weekends and spend loads of time with my friends. One weekend a close friend of mine asked me to ask my mom if she could find a priest or pastor for my friends hospitalized dying mom. So, in walks a pastor, and a elder (which is how my mom knows this guy and church) so we started talking and I began to attend. I wore shiny tops either in gold or silver shimmers. I often times woke up from a party Saturday and went elsewhere after the night of dancing I would wake from wherever I was and head to church. I had a weekly “assignment” in preparing the communion elements and I started with banging the containers together and then I begin to ask God to help me, and I asked God to help me. Soon, I was weeping when I prepared the elements and I was no longer partying.

    I have made a few friends at this church and so on a particular 4th of July weekend I happened to win tickets for this 3 day event and so we pulled things together really quickly and a friend of mine and myself went to a 3 day camping event in Front Royal, Virginia This event is called Fishnet. It was sooo fun and it was CAMPING! So, dirty hair, smelly body and etc. My next adventure is in the trip home from Fishnet. My friend also now just as dirty says that we are not going straight home and I am like okay where we going. She says Lynchburg to see my uncle and worship in his church. Okay so of all the churches out there I am being ushered into a Sunday Morning worship service in cut off shorts, smelly dirty clothes and dirty hair and we walk into the 10 am service of Thomas Road Baptist Church (yes this is the one also known as Liberty Baptist). Of all the places to go into that dirty, smelly, and literally muddy and a lot more. But hey what the heck you only life once right? Jerry Falwell, was pleasant and my friends uncle is in the choir so. And the church was not that big. It was just a corner little church (and I remind you that was a long time ago it was in in 1992 or 93 not sure.

    There are times when I have worn shorts in church (currently I live in Phoenix and currently the temps are in the triple digits. I think the weather today was 119. So, I have worn shorts. My shorts are “judo shorts (they go 1/2 way down my calf). So, most of the time I wear a nice top and a pair of dark pants and maybe an occasional skirt. But, I do not dress to impress I do dress to be respectful.

    This is my way around to the dress code

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