It occurred to me the other day that I wear different styles of clothing to church based upon my expectation of the service. When I first accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior ten years ago, I began attending church in a t-shirt and jeans because they were all that I owned. I found that I could engage more completely in worship because I had no expectations of being viewed by other people as cool or attractive. I was able to leave my self image at home and participate with total focus.
As I should have expected, that reality did not last very long. I inevitably gained more clothing through birthday gifts and sheer necessity, and Sunday morning church became an opportunity to attract the opposite sex. Honestly, if one is to look for a partner, there is no better place to look than one’s own church or university (as applicable). But the simple truth is that the moment I dressed in nice clothes for church, I knew I would get more attention from people. I expected more attention. I could no longer worship at the front of the sanctuary because I was sure that I was being watched and I worried too much how I looked – if my hair was in place, my shirt tucked nicely and unwrinkled, etc. Even after marriage, self image wasn’t automatically thrown out the window.
Image consciousness morphs a little to make sense (hence the soccer mom image in the nice SUV). We no longer try to send out the message to the opposite sex that we are both available and desirable, but there is still something within us that wants our peers to know we are living a good life. We want their respect for our lifestyle choices and even their admiration for our tastes in fashion, architecture, art, decor, and music. The question remains: What is your primary purpose for attending services? Is it to mingle? Is it to walk the runway? Is it to worship?
There will always be exceptions to every rule. While this is true, most people will always be self conscious in public if they spend too much time and attention preparing their clothes, hair, makeup, etc. No one wants to spend a lot of time getting ready only to have their hair flop over or stick up, or to have their shirt bunch up at the sides. We want what we took the time to make right to stay right. Unfortunately, that means we often are too distracted to participate in corporate worship. How can we really focus on the majesty of God when Guy X or Girl Z two rows back may be wondering why we chose this outfit? I’ve found that for me personally, it’s best to go au naturale… No, not without clothes. I just go to church wearing the same normal clothes I wear each day.
It may be a little boring, but I don’t dress on Sunday to entertain. I need that corporate time in worship. I don’t have time to waste on what other people think of me, and the best way to avoid that problem is dress in such a way as to guarantee I won’t draw attention.