A friend of my regularly ministers in the Philippines. As he showed me photos of a recent ministry trip there, I commented about a shirt he was wearing in a couple of the pictures. The front is a pretty fancy design. It’s just one solid color but royal looking. I’m not even sure what to call it. It’s sort of combination of embroidery and smocking (see picture). Anyway, he said that, in the Philippines, wearing a shirt like that is the cultural equivalent of wearing a tie. He often wears that type of shirt there because he doesn’t like wearing a tie. (I can so relate!)
That got me thinking about the things we think are important in church. Some churches where I’ve ministered are insistent about wearing a suit and tie. For others, such attire would be totally and completely out of place. Much more casual would be far more appropriate.
Yet the whole idea of ties, or no ties, or fancy shirts are not scriptural issues. They’re just preferences. Nothing more. Nothing less.
My concern is that, in the American church, many people are more focused on preferences than on Scripture. We are much more apt to separate as a result of disagreements over style of dress, having or not having Sunday School classes, type of music, sermon length, church decor, etc., than we are about issues of doctrine.
Let me be clear. I have opinions – even strong opinions – about every one of the issues I just mentioned. But, at the same time, I realize they are not worth separating over. If you think they are, I have some good advice for you: take a deep breath and get over it. Guarding your preferences is not really that important.
After you heed the advice above, go buy yourself a tie or a fancy shirt or a pair of blue jeans and help others to get past their preferences … and focus on scriptural issues.
So, so true. I once ministered at a church and I didn’t wear a tie. One of the old time members came up to me one Sunday and said “Don’t you respect the position?” At first I wasn’t sure what he was talking about, then I realized I didn’t dress according to his standards. I said “Sure I do, but if I wear a tie, who would that be for, God, or you?”