Is Church Getting Sloppy?

You can’t love Jesus and coffee.

At least so says (implicitly) John DeBonville, pastor of the Church of the Good Shepard in Massachusetts in a recent interview with CNN.

DeBonville, and others like him, long for the days when people wear their “Sunday best” to return once again. He claims that people dress up for what they care about, from first dates to church attendance.

  • Dressing up just for Easter? – Not good enough
  • Wearing flip-flops to church? – No way.
  • Bringing coffee into worship? – Unheard of.
“It’s like some people decided to stop mowing the lawn and then decided to come to church,” says DeBonville. “No one dresses up for church anymore.”

Of the four churches I’ve served at in various roles since beginning college, two of them, through posted church signage and printed instructions in the bulletin, prohibited coffee in the worship center. The other two provide it in a coffee bar in the foyer of the worship center. At my current church we even have printed instructions in the bulletin pointing out the available complimentary coffee and encourage people to feel free to bring it into the worship center if they desire.

In the grand scheme of things, coffee really isn’t all that important but it’s very clear how the two different approaches can send two very different messages about the overall atmosphere and culture of the church.

There are potential pros and cons to both approaches:

  • A casual worship atmosphere invites people from any and all backgrounds to encounter God without added societal pressures they may not know how to or be able to afford to adhere to a more formal worship culture.
  • A more traditional/formal church culture contains people who have taken additional time and care to prepare their clothes, and hopefully their hearts, for worship. Their formal dress can be an outward sign of the inward preparation for worship.
  • Sometimes those who dress up more for church look down upon those who don’t.
  • Sometimes those who don’t dress up for church look down on those who do.
  • For centuries, Jews have gone through various cleansing rituals to prepare themselves to enter the temple for worship.
  • Jesus was a homeless, poor carpenter who met people where they were: in the market, at work, and along the way.

I currently work in a church setting where everyone preaches in jeans. I’ve also grown up in and worked in a church setting where whoever preached was expected to wear a suit and tie every week.

Last night, I asked my friends on Facebook and Twitter what they usually wore to church.

  • Answers came from Presbyterians, Baptists and non-denominational church attenders:
  • Ladies’ dress ranged from flip-flops, yoga pants, and jeans to dresses and skirts with nice tops.
  • Mens’ dress ranged from bare feet, jeans, and snapback hats to khakis, cowboy boots, and button-down shirts.

Does God care what you wear to church? Or is it all about the heart?

What do you think? Leave a comment to join the discussion.

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