By Michael W. Dewar (July 2021)
The issue of decency in attire addressed in this article is my no means applicable to all local churches; there are millions of believers in hundreds of churches nationwide that are proud representatives of the kingdom of God in all areas of their lives. All churches, however, can draw beneficial insights from the substance of the article, even ask the first question that follows.
Who is dressing American Christians? Many of them are practically naked these days; common decency and biblical modesty have been cast to the wind, leaving nothing to the imagination. This article is a call to church leaders to become proactive getting church folks put on back their clothes. It was Satan who caused our ancestral parents to appear butt naked in the paradise garden. God clothed them because their fig-leaf aprons were showing too much (Genesis 3:1-7, 21).
The trend setters of the garment industry have become the trend setters for the Church of Jesus Christ. Some popular designers claim to be Christians, but perhaps in name only. The problem is—the majority of designers are not driven by biblical values of decency and morally in the context of holiness. Yet, they are the trend setters dressing church folks. The church continues to conform to the culture instead of being the catalyst of transformation (Romans 12:1-2). Where are the authentic Christian designers, have they climbed into the closet while others are escaping from it? It is an issue long ignored, but now invites discussion.
Where are the pastor and preachers? The few I have seen on TV lately had jackets and pants on so tightly fitting that I had to wonder if the designer ran out of material to finish the project. But I cannot fault the designers; they design what sells. I must fault the preachers who should have known better. If preachers want to be playboys, they should try another profession. Jesus did not call preachers to look cute. An ambassador of the kingdom should dress to represent kingdom values and lifestyle. Preaching one thing and representing another is hypocrisy.
Have you been to some of these modern churches lately? Well, you better put on a pair of dark glasses. Churches have removed the modesty panels and the view from the pulpit could be revolting. People are more decently dressed attending a While House dinner than coming before the King of kings and Lord of lords to worship on Sundays. We have a value displacement problem.
The view from the congregation is equally revolting, because the modesty panel in the chancel area is also removed and choir robes are discarded as old fashion. Here you have a lethal combination of people who do not know how to dress decently, sitting on a high place with no modesty panel. No wonder so many preachers have fallen lately. In this sense, COVID may have been a blessing, closing churches, giving leaders time to reflect and regroup.
Redressing the American church in keeping with biblical values of decency is an opportunity waiting for a visionary Christian entrepreneur to exploit. Fashion for the church must have a theology in keeping with the biblical vision of decency. The days of the half-hearted fashion show peddling half-naked designs are long gone. We need serious designers with biblical values to help the church put on back its clothes. If the Bible is the inspired Word of God and the constitution of heaven for the church on earth, we should dust it off and live by it.
We cannot force the rest of the world to live by the culture of the kingdom of God, but we can present the culture of the kingdom as an alternate lifestyle to the decadent cultures of this world and hope they will be drawn by the blessed Holy Spirit to choose that lifestyle.
Redressing the Church should be an added area of Christian education. Seminaries, Bible Colleges, and divinity schools may want to include modest dressing in their Christian formation curriculum. The Bible has much to say about the attire of the people of God; apostle Peter addresses the issue of modesty one of his epistles(1Peter 3:1-7). But modesty is not limited to gender; it includes both men and women.
In redressing local churches, ministers’ wives can play a leading role, providing there is some training in fashion and the biblical values of decency. Of course, the pastor must buy into that vision if the total church is to experience a significant impact of change. The church must begin to take fashion seriously because for good or evil, it profoundly affects Christian life.