Is church too casual?

To wear jeans, or to not wear jeans in church.

Is that really the question?

I’d like to think I’m a pretty casual guy, and my wardrobe tends to reflect that. I have lots of hoodies, a few pairs of jeans, and the suit section of my closest is full of clothes that my parents bought for me. Not because I can’t afford a suit jacket (although I can’t), but because they figured that their little guy needed to look presentable once and a while. I’m in my late 20s, by the way.

I work at a church with a lead pastor who gravitates towards three-piece suits. He sees the way he dresses as a form of respect — and dare I say, worship.

And you know what, I get it. Much of it comes down to conviction. Those who are from another generation have strong ideas surrounding respect for the sanctity of the Sunday morning service, for the house of God.

But many churches have recently moved away from that mindset, citing they don’t want to be legalistic about insignificant matters such as their congregants’ clothing choices.

Neither side is necessarily right, just as neither side is necessarily wrong.

This discussion has also bled into the way in which we do church. Many communities have moved toward a distinctly non-traditional feel within their services. Advocates of this style of church will say, “This is more in line with Scripture regarding the Early Church.” Those on the other side will say, “It’s a social club, more concerned with relevance to culture than the Cross.”

Traditions (on both sides of the coin) can be a good thing. They can organize our thoughts, they can keep us in line with Scripture, and most importantly, they can bring us closer to Christ.

But when we put too much weight on the way in which we do things, we run the risk of forgetting for whom we are doing these things. There must be a higher motive, here. One that transcends style and gets to the heart of why we do what we do.

There will always be those who have certain tastes. But at the very centre of this discussion, we must ask ourselves, are we united in Christ? Or has the neck tie vs. floppy hat debate fractured our community? Are we committed to building churches that revolve around the Bible, around Christ, whose members are accountable to one another and who are living out their faith authentically? Or do stylistic disputes get in the way?

Is the church becoming too casual? If by casual you mean, are many churches neglecting Jesus for lesser things, and bickering on both sides of the fence? My answer would probably be, “Sometimes, yes.”

So we fix our eyes on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

It’s simple. People will feel comfortable where they’ll feel comfortable. Our role as followers of Christ, with whomever God brings into our spheres of influence, is to point people to the saving, healing, and restoring work of Jesus. Not to rag on them for their tattoos or send them down the street to the “more conservative” church.

Are we living within the reality that our thoughts must be His thoughts? If so, the idea of casual versus formal must be thrown right out the window. Instead, we must have open arms, and communities that desire nothing else than to be God’s agents on earth.

Photo (Flickr CC) by Mars Hill Church Seattle.