coat tie

Should We Dress For Church Like We’re Meeting With the President?

Steve Hafler debunks that old saying.

I’ve often heard the argument that a person should dress for church like they’re meeting with the president. Perhaps you’ve heard a similar argument — that a pastor ought to wear a coat and tie on Sunday because NFL commentators still wear classy suits on Sunday (they wear them on Monday and Thursday too). This argument is used by well-intentioned people, many of whom are rightfully sensitive to a drastically changing culture. However, as I consider this particular argument I come up short when trying to connect the logical and cultural leaps with theological bridges.

Here are five reasons why the meeting with the president argument fails to persuade:

Frequency: How many meetings can the average person expect to have with the president? Perhaps a single five-minute appearance? Certainly that person does not expect to be granted several hours each week. Normal people would never leave a meeting after an official introduction and handshake and post on social media that they’ve become close friends with the president.

Purpose: Why would a person choose to wear a suit or formal dress to meet with the president? Because it’s:

  • an official meeting,
  • with a person who bears the highest human title in the country,
  • who occupies an office of far-reaching influence and power,
  • who meets with guests/strangers in a setting of high-level government, and
  • they desire to make a good impression (something we never need to do with God).

Reality: There is a kernel of truth that surfaces when comparing a meeting with the president to our ‘Sunday’s best’ for God. The disturbing reality of this parallel is what it actually does reflect — a sterile meeting with a stranger and the complete absence of any real relationship and transparency. This illustration exposes the nominal Christian’s relationship to God — distant, infrequent, formal, absent of any true affection, and void of any real relationship apart from an official appointment on Sunday morning. I wonder if those who use this argument wear their ‘Sunday’s best’ when they meet with God through His word on Monday morning or Thursday evening? It leaves me wondering who they are really dressing up for? Perhaps it’s a high view of the corporate gathering, or possibly it’s a disconnect stemming from a false dichotomy

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