Monday, September 10, 2007

Communications 101: Clothing Does NOT Make the Man (or Woman)

"Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” – Matthew 25:44-45

Our society places an inordinate emphasis upon attractiveness, attire, and economic prosperity. Studies have shown that men who wear business suits are perceived as more attractive than men in casual attire. Nice for the secular world, but I wonder if Jesus would approve?

Some people bemoan that people dress more casually for church. My response is: since fewer and fewer people are even bothering to come to church, we should welcome folks with open arms, no matter how they are dressed.

I think we have to be very careful with the first impressions we give our visitors: we only get one chance at a first impression. If we betray our thoughts with a glance at manner of dress, an earring on a man, or a body piercing – we may give ourselves away. We are to welcome everyone, regardless of manner of dress.

This story from “One Tip on How Not to Welcome a Church Visitor” makes a good point:
One of our first time visitors had only been in America for three days. She had never ever been in a church on the globe. Her shorts redefined “mini-shorts.” The curves of her butt cheeks were visible. Her shorts were so tight her thong was visible. Her choice of plunge cut and tight fitting blouse was what we see outside of the nightclubs across the street from our residence in Panama. Instead of being welcomed, she was practically shunned. People didn't approach her, or talk with her (I did, which is how I found out about her story). They stared, stealing secret glances, and trying not to get caught. Let's just say it was a socially awkward morning. Five years later, that visitor is still remembered by the men – only because they remember how much skin they saw. They didn’t see the immigrant searching for God. – from the blog Evangelism Coach, June 12, 2007

The author leaves us with some very good questions. Be honest when you answer:

• How does your church react to visitors who dress or look differently than you?
• Can you still engage visitors in conversation when you can’t stop looking at their nose piercing?
• Do you secretly stare at their interesting haircut or choice of hair color?
• How do you react to twenty something in ripped blue jeans?
• Do you secretly wonder if the foreign visitor is legal?

Remember: communications is more than just talking. Our body language and facial expressions tell as much about ourselves as our words. How do we welcome the stranger - or even those known to us who dress or look differently? Do we welcome them as we would Jesus?

Jesus had long hair and didn't wear underwear, by the way.