My wife, two of our daughters, and I travel to Europe in two weeks. Today I read an evangelical tweet that mentioned a church in London, called Gracelife, so I clicked on the website and of the very few words on its front page are these two sentences:
We're content-driven in our choice of songs, and choose a range of music that allows us to express our worship joyfully and respectfully as 21st Century worshippers. There is no particular dress code, and children are very welcome in the service.Unmitigated musical style and dress stand as essential information at Gracelife, an ideology elevated to a sacramental status in evangelical churches today.
Usually you will see similar language in a section churches title, What To Expect. When I searched that phrase with "Baptist" and "dress," I got 379,000 results. The top site on the first page included, What Should I Wear? "There is not a strict dress code at Grace Baptist Church for our members or guests." Next: "We invite you to come as you are!" Third: "There is not a dress code at Pacific Baptist Church for members or guests." After that: "At Stockton Baptist Church we don't have a dress code."
If you replace "dress" with "dress code," you still get 117,000 results. That many church web pages use the words "dress code" in their materials. I haven't looked, but I don't think it is likely that any of those 117,000 say they have a dress code. I'm not going to try, but I don't think I'll find one.
I've got two main points I want to confront regarding the no dress code mantra repeated on numerous contemporary church websites.
UNCOVERING UNBIBLICAL PHILOSOPHY OF MINISTRY
Speaking in general of evangelism and discipleship, the highlight of no dress code uncovers an unbiblical philosophy of ministry. You've heard, "Nothing is sacred anymore." Church very often isn't sacred either. Church is supposed to be about God. It can be treated as sacred by how someone dresses in a gathering to worship God.
I think we should assume that the dress information on these websites targets unbelievers, attempting to attract them or lure them with something they would prefer about church, that the path really is strewn with roses. The Jews seek after signs and the Greeks after wisdom. Churches aren't to adapt their methods to signs and wisdom. They are to depend on God, which is to depend on the truth. Love is in the truth. The change is supernatural. It doesn't make sense. It's approached by faith. The problem isn't intellect; it's rebellion. The truth isn't the enemy of biblical evangelism.
Methods depending on human means glorify man. It's not tolerable for believers, since the point of the church is to glorify Christ. Christ isn't welcoming people into comfort. All of these offers that clash with the biblical message won't help someone to receive a biblical message. They are a form of bait and switch. Unless someone is changing the gospel, the message of the gospel isn't congruent with comfort.
Pragmatic church growth methodology baits with comfort and then switches to surrender. It makes salvation about you, like a form of therapy, hoping to later see it become about God. It must start with God and then keep going about God.
Jesus put deny self, take up your cross, and count the cost up front. The road is a narrow road. You don't encourage salvation by offering present comfort.
God is seeking for true worshipers. Worship is sacrifice. Sacrifice gives something up. What you want becomes what God wants, not what you want. Redemption isn't redeeming the outcome of your desires, but redeeming your desires. Since worship is giving something up, an understanding of worship isn't aided by turning it into what you get.
Comforts of the flesh tend toward the flesh. You can't and won't flesh people into the kingdom. Paul calls it carnal weaponry.
Receiving God must be receiving the God, the one and only God. Receiving God isn't receiving a god that is attractive to us. People should expect dress that honors God. God is of the highest value. He shouldn't be lowered in men's estimation as a means of attraction. God saves us not by diminishing Himself, but by elevating us. Men are elevated by having God be of the highest value.
SCRIPTURE TEACHES ABOUT DRESS, SO IT CONTAINS A DRESS CODE
Genesis 3 and several times hence, including with some great detail in the New Testament, teach about dress. It matters. Church is about conforming to God. Unbelievers shouldn't be given the impression that church is about conforming to men. Churches shouldn't be ashamed of the truth. If dress means something, which scripture says it does, the world should be told the truth about dress. It's not acceptable to misrepresent dress to attract unbelievers.
When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, He wasn't saying, your worship doesn't matter. Blowing through four husbands and shacking up with a fifth was confronted, not avoided because a marriage code would turn her off. Jesus confronted her with boundaries of God's law. A right relationship with God doesn't start with concessions to the flesh, as if this is a negotiation. There is nothing to apologize for. God has something to say about dress. We're happy with everything He says, and you should be too. If you're not, that's on you, not on God, and you should be ashamed of yourself.
Christianity shouldn't present a Christianity the world will like. It should present Christianity. It's all good. True Christians aren't ashamed or embarrassed about any of it. Christians should like Christianity and not be unwelcome to any of it. It's all good.
True Christians also understand meaning. They know what dress means. Very often, the world knows what dress means too. Exhibiting a lack of discernment or wisdom about dress doesn't speak better of Christianity.
Love is in the truth. We are not loving unbelievers by masking the truth. Love isn't offering something other than the truth. Love isn't allowing for unbiblical behavior as a means of showing unbelievers how generous believers can be.
Christianity isn't picking and choosing what people will follow and what they won't. It's changing man into the image of God. It's not just purifying hearts, but cleansing hands. The church is the church and it shouldn't be presented otherwise.