As those who have read my past ramblings know, corporate worship is a very important subject to me...primarily because of the horrendous chicanery that passes as 'worship' in many Evangelical circles. I can confidently say for a multitude of reasons, when it comes to corporate worship, Evangelicals just don't 'get it.' Before I get too far on my rant, let me emphatically place the blame only partially on our parishioners and primarily on those like me in ministry and/or leadership positions...in our desire for relevance, seeker friendliness, or (less nobly) packed 'auditoriums,' we have largely abandoned 2000 years of a highly-developed Christian theology of worship and substituted a whitewash of pathetic, 'purpose-driven' drivel. As a result, most Evangelical Christians clearly have no idea what happens when we assemble together for 'worship.'
How do I know? For one, look how we commonly dress for worship.
Now, before you totally object and start spamming me with a bunch of livid comments, hear me out a bit. My contention here is that how we dress for worship says volumes about what we think is actually happening during worship. Now I realize that contemporary American society is pretty casual when it comes to dress. With the exception of bankers, job hunters, certain areas of corporate society, and the military, we love our 'business casual,' 'casual Fridays,' and laid-back Gen X dress codes that copycat Google or some other left coast company...and I'm totally fine with that. I love that I don't have to wear a tie at NASA like everybody did back in the 60s. Believe me!
Even in the midst of our largely casual corporate society, however, there are still times to dress up. Anybody ever interview for a new job in a ragged hoodie and flip-flops? Doubtful. Ever go to a meeting with your boss or boss's boss in jeans and an untucked Hollister t-shirt? Yeah, right. As laid-back as we are today, no one would even begin to suggest that either of these scenarios is proper or acceptable, but just last week at church I saw folks dressed exactly like this. (Oh, by the way, I'm not just picking on 'youth,' I'm totally convinced that this whole business is learned behavior. I look at how many of the parents dress and can't blame their kids...but I digress.)
Anyway, if it is not okay to dress über casual when I go see my boss, how in the world can we as Evangelicals think nothing of it when gathering together to meet corporately with the very God of the universe? "God don't care what you wear, God just cares that you're there," one of the older folks in a previous church used to say to razz me for wearing a tie on Sunday mornings. Well...maybe...but I'm inclined to think that the God we worship today is the same God who commanded Moses to take off his shoes in his presence, who brought Isaiah to his knees in recognition of his own sinfulness, and in front of whom even John describes the seraphim as shielding their faces because of his holiness. Actually, I have no reason to think otherwise, even for a second, that our great God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--whom we worship each Sunday is any other than the one to whom we owe "acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire" (Heb 12.28b-29, ESV). To be blunt, this God is one and the same, even today.
Do we really believe that corporate worship is the divine meeting of God and man? If so, why do we treat it so casually in many more ways than merely our dress? Do we truly believe that corporate worship is our response to an invitation by the King of the Universe to appear with the heavenly host and our brothers and sisters in Christ before his throne? If so, why do we take it more lightly than we do when we have audience with our supervisors at work? Does putting on our 'Sunday best' necessarily provide a litmus test that we are worshiping in 'Spirit and truth'? Of course not, but showing up dressed for the beach certainly suggests that we're more concerned with our juvenile American society than we are with showing respect and reverence to our Lord.
Believe me, I love flip-flops and Hawaiian shirts, but when it comes to worship, I'm responding to a very special invitation to meet with God...I've got audience with the King! And in this time that is unique among all the hours of the week, I shall choose to show him just how thankful I am for this time by attention to the littlest things like the clothes I wear.