Acceptable Attire

I was walking between gates at the Memphis airport the other day, when I overheard a fascinating discussion going on behind me. Two executives were discussing the transition of their companies to a more casual dress code. One obviously was a bit uncomfortable with the change, as he ” came from a background where, when you go to the office, you wear a white shirt and tie.” The other shared that, early on, he had feared that a more casual approach to attire might result in a less professional attitude in the workplace, and possibly even compromise the end product (whatever it was). Both had been counseled by their consultants that they needed to adopt the new “corporate casual” standard if they were to attract the right kind of entry-level executives to their companies in the future. They decided that, “for the good of the company,” they would adapt… even if it meant pushing their own comfort zone.

One of the men told about the difficulty of their transition. At first, some of the upper level executives came in wearing sport coats and “informal ties” (isn’t that a contradiction in terms?). These leaders actually had to be instructed on exactly what was meant by “casual.” They were then charged with setting that example, and passing the definition down through the ranks. Some found it a difficult transition, because there was a much broader definition of “acceptable attire” than under the old “white shirt and tie” system. Some just weren’t comfortable with having to make those decisions, which makes me wonder how well they do with the real business decisions.

Both men agreed that adopting the casual attire model had been a positive move, once they got past the initial implementation. One cited an increase in productivity, fueled by a new sense of “team spirit” and creativity that seemed to accompany the more relaxed atmosphere.

As the two men turned to head down a different concourse, I finally turned to look, and couldn’t help but notice that they both were wearing identical khaki Dockers and almost identical open-collar shirts. It seemed almost as if they had switched from a rigid, starched white shirt and tie standard to a corporate casual look that was equally restrictive.

But, at least they weren’t wearing ties.

I can understand the struggle that they had with these transitions in their office environments. The older we are, the harder it is to accept these kind of paradigm shifts. Something within us has been “programmed” to believe that we’re just supposed to “do it this way,” and it’s hard to break out of that mold.

It’s even harder when the shift is happening in your church.

Some people were just prenatally programmed with the belief that a man can only properly worship God while wearing a suit—or at minimum, a sport coat and tie. It’s a real challenge to that way of thinking when some young Seminary graduate comes along and starts talking about reaching our unchurched society, and the need to adopt some new ways of thinking and doing if we’re going to reach that goal. Our natural tendency is to resist the change. We tend to hold a “church is for me, and this is what I want” stance and fight for our God-given right to be stuffy and formal. Then, when the discussion turns to changes in musical and worship styles, the battle lines are drawn, and the games begin.

Form, style, and individual taste are just that—individual. It really doesn’t matter if you make your “joyful noise” with a pipe organ or with an electric guitar. What matters is that you are praising God with all of your heart, mind, spirit, and being. It doesn’t matter if you wear a $500 suit, or old blue jeans and a t-shirt. What really matters is whether or not you are truly worshiping God with all that you are.

If you prefer to wear a suit and tie, fine and dandy. Personally, I prefer to stick to the “Dockers and open collars” look. Wear your jeans and cowboy boots for all I care, as long as your nakedness is properly covered. Whatever you wear, worship God. That’s what we’re here to do!

It is this writer’s humble opinion that God couldn’t care less what style of clothing you wear to church. While my position isn’t always popular with everyone, I believe that it is scripturally sound. After all, in John 4:24 Jesus Himself said, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus never said “In spirit and suits.”

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