Thursday, April 17, 2008

My Philosophy of Dressing and Grooming Standards for Christian Ministry

A rebellious and arrogant young pastor I know resigned from his church a few years ago, took several families with him, and started a new “fellowship.” What was his reason for splitting the church? It wasn’t about doctrine. It wasn’t about immorality in leadership. It was about a necktie. The deacons and pastor asked him to wear a tie on the platform on Sunday mornings in corporate worship. He offered some lamebrain, disrespectful retorts like, I ain’t wearin’ no ties,” and “Show me in the Bible where it says I have to wear a tie.”

There is no argument about it; a person’s attire, his grooming, and his personal appearance all contribute to his own personal image. But we do not exist in our own little worlds. The way Christians dress impacts the public image of Christianity in general. For those who are employees in churches or other Christian ministries, it is reasonable to willingly submit to the dressing and grooming expectations of leadership because the general image and attitude of the whole ministry is reflected by its employees.

Although styles in fashion and grooming change and taste is subjective, the goal for establishing principles and guidelines regarding personal appearance in a ministry is to present an overall image that shows respect for God, that is appropriate, modest in taste and style, and relatable and inoffensive to the majority of the members or the Christian community.

Some who will argue that they should not be judged by outward appearances, often quote, “Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart.” The misapplication of that verse as a defense is a foolish, and ignorant argument for several reasons.

First, it is sloppy hermeneutics. That verse was never intended to provide biblical justification for any fool’s deliberate disrespect, obnoxious offensiveness, or self-uglification.

Second, it is a poor interpretation from a grammatical point of view. The construction of the sentence is similar to a mathematical equation. In an equation, everything on one side of the equal sign is equal to everything on the other. The order of an equation can be reversed without changing, damaging, or affecting the outcome. So, 2+2=4 just as 4=2+2. In the construction of the sentence, the word “but” affectively creates a grammatical equation. So, without damaging the integrity of the sentence, it could be stated thus, “God looks on the heart, BUT man looks on the outward appearance.” While it is true that God sees the heart, man has no other resources for discernment but the outward appearance. And even though we cannot know the heart of a man, we can discern volumes about his respect for others, his attitude toward authority, or sense of morality by the way he dresses.

Third, there should be no contradiction or discrepancy between what a man appears to be on the outside and what he is on the inside.

Fourth, just in case the first three points are missed or rejected, there are clear commands from Scripture on the subject in addition to the one above. God has spoken so there can be no mistaking His prohibitions and expectations for His children in regard to markings, mutilations, piercings, adornments and what is appropriate and acceptable attire as pertains to men and women.

Christian ministries (including this home for the elderly) must be careful regarding fashions or styles that are considered extreme. On this point, it is important to note that one size does not fit all and that rules may not necessarily be applicable in all cases. For example, a female receptionist may wear a dress but a maintenance man cannot. I have an older female employee with blue tinted hair who is very relatable to our elderly residents. But a young teenage boy who shows up for work sporting a new, blue spiked Mohawk is not relatable anywhere in a Christian home for the elderly and will be sent home. Any of my employees who may be considering experimenting with fads or extreme changes in personal appearance are encouraged to first discuss their plans with their supervisors.

An ideal dress and grooming policy should be respectful of the ministry’s objectives yet, unrestrictive and flexible enough to allow for freedom, variety, personal preference and comfort. However, the Apostle Paul warns us to be careful with our liberty that we do not offend a weaker brother (1 Cor. 8:9).

For those who lack discernment or cannot make right decisions concerning dress or style, the ministry’s leadership should insist on the right to define what the appropriate and acceptable biblical standards will be.

“I (would that you) dress modestly, with decency and propriety…, appropriate for (those) who profess to worship God.” 1 Tim. 2:9 (paraphrased by me.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is absolutely true that nowhere in the Bible does is say we have to wear a tie to church. However, it does make it clear that we are not to "come just as we are to worship." When Jacob took his household to worship, he commanded them to "put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments." Dressing up for corporate worship is a show of respect for the God of the universe. The young pastor who split the church over a necktie is a fool.