Whatever Happened to Sunday Best?

I must be getting old. (Did I just say that?!) I still stand in front of my closet wondering what to wear to church. Yet I feel conflicted by – tradition. I truly enjoy the variety I see each Sunday. I don’t go to church to impress others with my clothes. I’m going to worship God.

So my appeal today isn’t to look good for looking good’s sake. I think we should dress with purpose and honor, suited to the occasion. Is church special? Should it rank as high as a date night with hubby? Or serving as a juror? Or going to work in a bank or store?

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The tradition of dressing up for church began to die about twenty-five years ago when pastors of mainstream churches, desiring to connect with John Doe in the pew, traded in their clerical robes for jacket and tie. Eventually a white shirt with no tie led to a golf shirt with khakis. Now our pastors sport a golf shirt with jeans – or a simple t-shirt. Their progression, or regression, whichever way you see it, coincided with the massive trend toward more informal places of worship – gyms, school auditoriums, and pavilions in parks. This informality paved a path for all of us to dress down for church.

But whatever happened to “Sunday Best?”

Let’s look at both sides of the issue. On the side of going casual, we help those who aren’t sure about the Bible (or church or God) feel more comfortable. In his letter to the churches, James spoke against personal pride and even a hint of discriminating against the poor. Youth pastors just want their teens to show up; and taking them any way they come to church is a good thing. Families with children do well to get their brood out the door, much less all dressed up; so by welcoming them in relaxed attire we keep the priority where it should be. On worship.

On the other side, church (ie. the building, whether a gym or classroom or living room), represents a hallowed atmosphere, a Divine Presence. Historically, a silent hush divided the space between the outside world and the pews or folding chairs. Music filled the rafters with awesome devotion for Someone bigger than any mere space.

So as a larger body of believers, why do we regularly dress down for corporate worship, and dress up for a wedding or funeral or job interview?

Maybe the “biggerness” of God actually led us to want to stand more honest and real before Him. Great-looking people all lined up in a row, dressed in “Sunday Best,” may present an “appearance” of all being well. And don’t we want to seem A-okay? No, we want to BE A-okay. Though we live messy, struggling, imperfect lives, on Sunday we could dress up to show that He is our only hope for being A-okay. Our dress could show honor toward Him.

Whatever Happened To Sunday's Best

I choose to celebrate the variety. Maybe there’s no such thing as “Sunday Best” anymore. While you may come to church in your most comfortable clothes, I may continue my Sunday routine in front of the closet door. I don’t want you to compliment my outfit, though. I just want to feel, well, normal in my skirt and blouse– not somehow out of place. As soon as I get home, the shoes will fly across the room and my cute little toes will dive into my jeans and flip flops.

But for awhile, I dressed up to show the world that church (and honor of my Lord) ranks high enough on my priority list to pause and think about what to wear.

4 thoughts on “Whatever Happened to Sunday Best?”

  1. Let me clarify that I dress up to go to the building where we gather together to worship and hear God’s message spoken by Bible believing Christian. Not everyone is able to dress up. Some people in our building have to wash in a dirty river,that is if there is water in the river. Then they walk for miles on a dusty road, most of them have no shoes, and maybe two sets of cloths. But when they are worshipping it is the most beautiful sound you will ever hear. No there are no electrical band instruments, drums they though and flutes. And when they receive Bibles in their own language they have feast and they dress up in the most colorful clothing they make from the grasses and berries that grow in their regions. The men in their loin cloth and the women in bare breasted. I know the Lord does not look at the outward appearance but at the heart.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. Absolutely, the Lord looks at the heart. The heart shines through many things – by looking and doing our best.

      I would be honored to worship with folks who are tired, dusty, and poor in worldly goods, who hunger for the Word with all their heart and cherish time worshipping God. Seeing another culture without the common conveniences we take for granted must be life-changing! In a way I envy you, though there must be real challenges living among indigenous peoples.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. We here in middle-class America cannot imagine not having a Bible in our language. What a thrill to part of putting Bibles into the hands of hungry souls. In such a scenario, appearance is only about the radiance on faces!

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