Heart to Heart by Esther Fenty

HOW DO I DEAL WITH WOMEN WHO DRESS TOO SEXILY FOR CHURCH?

I am head of a woman’s ministry at my church and I love serving the women – those that are part of the congregation and beyond. I organise various activities and am encouraged by the fact that many of the women, including the under 30s, participate in the ministry. Increasingly, however, I’m recognising I will have to broach the subject of modesty and clothing, as it’s now an issue I can’t avoid.   Some of the women dress immodestly; when they are new converts I don’t see it as an issue, but I’ve noted that some of the ones who should know better are dressing more sexily, ie. short skirts, low-cut tops, super tight and see-through leggings.   Also, some of the brothers have complained to me that they find how the sisters dress distracting. I’ve never had to deal with this issue before, and I know it’s a sensitive area for some, so any guidance you could give would be greatly appreciated.

Angela, London

Esther Fenty replies

The issue of dress code in church has been a sensitive one for women, especially since it appears that the men seem to be let off so lightly. Yet it is a subject that affects the whole church (both genders), as each generation of Christians struggle in the face of societal and cultural pressure to define an acceptable standard of dress.

Although this is a recurring issue, it appears that we have not learnt from past mistakes on how to address it. Women can be left feeling aggrieved or as if they are ‘unsaved’, because it is either addressed insensitively from the pulpit or on an individual basis by the well-meaning ‘wiser woman’, who does not know how to handle the subject effectively. It is not usually seen as it should be: contextually as part of the wider issue of Christian character and lifestyle.

I happen to agree with the researchers who suggest that all our behaviour is motivated by internal factors. Therefore, whenever we dress, we make a statement about something either intentionally or unintentionally. This could be our security/insecurity, attention seeking/withdrawal, keeping up with the latest fashion/dressing down, etc. Unfortunately, we can be judged or misjudged by what we wear, and it is not always possible to tell a book by its cover.

Like other women, the dress choices we make as Christian women can also reflect our theological stance; the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, or sheer ignorance of the responsibility that freedom brings or the impact of our behaviour on others. To address the subject of dress code in isolation, and only regarding women, may be counterproductive. It should be considered within the context of the whole church – across both genders. Therefore, discussion with the leadership team is essential.

A workshop (or series), which looks at the wider issues of behaviour and responsibility, might be preferable. The workshop could give participants some information, but would also allow the opportunity to have guided discussion in small groups on what the Bible says about dressing; the internal (heart) influencing the external; modesty, which varies across cultures, and what it means in the 21st century; the impact of certain styles on both men and women; beauty, image and identity, and opportunities for people to discover the styles that suit them. This would allow participants to come to an informed decision in the light of the Word of God.

I FEEL CALLED TO SING GOSPEL MUSIC

I’m a Christian and sing in my church choir, but also work as a backing singer for secular artists. I enjoy what I do: I get to travel, see the world, meet lots of interesting people and also make very good money. However, in the past few months I’ve been sensing that the Lord wants me to give up my singing career and sing gospel. I’m reluctant, as I have seen very few people make a living from doing so full-time, but yet I sense this is what the Lord wants me to do. I don’t want to be disobedient. What would you advise?

Janet, Bristol

Esther Fenty replies

Gospel-Sing

Firstly, you need to make sure that this is God’s calling on your life. You will need to make this decision as you would any other: through prayer, listening to the Holy Spirit, discussion with your church leaders and the important people in your life, etc. If you are sure that this is God’s will, then you will need to step out in faith. You cannot base your decision on what has happened to other people. You are accountable to God for your own actions. God may not have called them into full-time ministry, but He equips those whom He has called. Doors will open for you as you trust Him. The way may not always be easy, but He will never let you down.

You may have more financial security if you continue as you are doing, but you may never find fulfilment as a person, nor peace of mind by walking outside of God’s will. He has a purpose for your life and, if gospel singing is your destiny, then obey God and walk in His will. There are some famous artists, like Noel Robinson, who have made it. It might be worth thinking about seeking opportunities to talk to one of them.

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