One of the topics in the church that leaders rarely address is modesty. It’s awkward. You can be accused of legalism. People can be offended. It can seem politically incorrect.
But that doesn’t mean it should never be addressed or that there’s not a gracious way to do it. Ideally, those who participate in a public platform on Sundays should be aware that people learn not only from what they say but also from what they wear. (I did another post on what we wear when we worship here.)
Certain things are clear. We aren’t to treat people differently based on what people wear (James 2:1-5). That means we don’t look down self-righteously at those who dress differently than we do. Both men and women are to dress modestly, preferring others over themselves (Phil. 2:3-4). We aren’t to do anything that would make someone else stumble (Rom. 15:1-2). Specifically, women should wear “respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control.” (1 Tim. 2:9)
A wise leader spells out expectations up front, before someone ever joins a music team. But over time, we can drift. Little by little, people start to wear things that raise questions or distract others.
Not too long ago, a leader sent me an e-mail he had sent to his team about this issue. I thought it was a great example of clear, gracious, and biblical leadership. Here’s what he said (slightly edited). Feel free to use it to start conversations on your own team.
In the last year, we’ve had a few questions from members of the church about what some of the worship team wears on Sundays. This e-mail is to bring you into the conversation and also to ask for your help.
Let me start by first making sure that you know how grateful I am for the ways that you serve. You sing wonderfully, and more importantly, you serve humbly and joyfully with an eye toward magnifying Jesus. It is a pleasure to do it with you!
It seems that what’s in the stores and in the media has become more and more form-fitting over the last few years. I don’t track these things carefully, but it seems like stuff is a little tighter on the body than it used to be. Although one wonders how that trend can infinitely continue!
A few church members shared some concerns with me very humbly and graciously. One parent said he is training his girls how to think biblically about clothing (specifically about how tight their pants are), but felt like sometimes pants of vocalists were tighter than he’d encourage his daughters to wear. Another couple said that the tightness of clothing was sometimes tempting for the husband during corporate worship.
I don’t believe that any of you are intentionally trying to cause temptation or distraction. And I don’t think that these comments represent everyone. But they’re a healthy reminder that we need to be aware and alert about making our clothing choices wisely.
My wife mentioned to me that it seemed like women in general are often conscious of how much skin is showing (neck lines, skirt length, etc.) but may not always be as conscious that things being really tight-fitting can be just as much a temptation for guys as actual skin showing. I thought was a helpful distinction, and as a guy, would agree.
As a whole church, we don’t enforce a dress code or talk about specifics often, because we want to direct ladies primarily toward the heart issues rather than a specific application. As a worship team, though, we do need to get more specific, because what we do is seen by the entire church and serves as a model, whether we intend it to or not.
Our goal in clothing is pretty simple: don’t tempt others, but instead do what is beautiful, simple, and will help us point others toward the beauty and greatness of God. Peter speaks to wives in this way: “Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (1 Peter 3:3-4) He’s not saying we shouldn’t look nice. If we look bad, that’s not helpful, either! Instead, we want to dress in a way that communicates that it’s not all about how we look, that we care about what helps or hurts others, and that lets people join us wholeheartedly when we sing to them about following Jesus.
So this e-mail is just to stir you up again, by way of reminder, to be vigilant and alert about what you choose to wear on Sundays. Sometimes, what’s in style is tempting for others, and as trends change from year to year, we just want to continue to be thinking critically about what might not serve others. It’s not an easy job!
I don’t want anyone to feel condemned. I’m not assuming anyone has had wrong motives. But if you’re experiencing any Spirit-induced conviction, confess your wrong, bring it to the cross, and remind yourself of our perfect Savior who was sacrificed for your sin! As we think about the topic of modesty, we want the effect to be repentance (if needed) but then primarily a joy and faith to do what will serve others and help build the church.
If you have any thoughts or response, please feel free to contact my wife or speak to another woman you respect on the team. Let’s seek to ask questions humbly of others that are close to us (either a spouse or another female friend who is honest and wise about these things).
I’m grateful to God for you all. May he continue to confirm, strengthen, and establish you as you continue to grow into all that the gospel of Jesus means for us!