Fashion Theology - Clothing used for mission and ministry


Mission-minded clothing
Before we had our own children (and shortly after we started attending our church here in Ames), Brad and I began helping with the weekly children's ministry.  Our responsibility was to teach about famous missionaries, but mostly, we just learned a lot.  It was eye opening to hear some of the missionary's stories and inspiring to see how they allowed their lives to be used to spread the gospel.  Amy Carmichael was one missionary who stood out to me in particular.  (I can't take the time to recount her whole story here, but would encourage you to google her.)

The thing that stuck with me as we studied her life, was her strategic use of clothing in evangelism.  When Amy moved from Ireland to India, she struggled to connect with a new culture of women.  After sensing that the women weren't responding to her as a foreigner, she traded in her Irish clothing for traditional Indian wear and dyed her skin dark with coffee.  When the Indian women saw her respectfully wearing the cultural dress, they soon began to listen to what she had to say about Jesus.  After this, Amy was able to from a group of women that ministered to others called, "The Starry Cluster".  She also started a fellowship that rescued children from being prostituted in temples.

Her clothes, used thoughtfully for the sake of the kingdom, were a turning point in her ability to minster to others and share the gospel.

Isn't this a beautiful picture of how clothes can be used for mission and ministry?

My friend, Sam just recently posted a picture of her necklace on Instagram - it's from the Noonday Collection.  She remarked that she likes when people ask her about her jewelry so she can tell them the backstory of the company, which has roots in faith, adoption, and providing for those in need. (mission-minded fashion choices right there, folks)

We know of another couple ministering in Chicago to refugees, and they have chosen to modify their dress at times to respect the religious and cultural preferences of those around them, removing another barrier to sharing Jesus.  In fact, any Christian in a mission field might wear clothes that fit into their vocational industry or peer group in an effort to nullify the potential distraction of their appearance.

The reverse is also possible in some scenarios.  Sometimes followers of Christ choose to dress contrary to the culture for the sake of  mission, to make a statement that they are part of a different kingdom.  At times, it might be the right thing for us to forgo a particular trend or clothing style because it doesn't reflect biblical truth or holiness.  I just saw an article about Candice Cameron Bure, who is choosing to wear modest costumes on the show, "Dancing With the Stars".  This offers her an opportunity to share her faith with others as they see her being "in but not of the world".

The point being - in all cases, our clothes can be a tool that we use intentionally.

Clothing for my mission field
This is encouraging, and I'm starting to consider my own choices of clothing and how I can make them purposeful for the sake of evangelism.  God is showing me that the culture around me matters.  I don't maintain an image so that others would consider me "fashionable" but I might do it so that clothing becomes a non-issue among my peers.  I don't forgo a trendy pair of pants simply because I can't find a shirt to pair them with, but I might decide to say no because they are immodest and don't accurately reflect my faith.

So I'm challenging myself to ask some critical questions:
  • How does my clothing reflect my faith?
  • How am I strategically using my clothing for the sake of evangelism and ministry?
  • Are there some things I should start or stop wearing that would make me a better reflection of Jesus?
In my primary mission field (specifically, my home as I minister to my husband and children) I'm realizing that this might practically mean:
  • being more conscious about modeling modesty for my sons (they are looking to mommy to see how Godly women should dress)
  • having an attitude that doesn't place so much time and value on shopping (my kiddos don't need to have a mom who's constantly shopping online or leaving to go to the mall)
  • respecting my husband by honoring his preferences in the way I dress (if he doesn't think it looks good on me...why wear it?)
  • making a daily effort to look put together for my husband (less yoga pants & messy buns - more presentable clothing)
I am still seeking to understand what this might mean for my general mission field - in "the world".

What might God be calling you to do differently?
How do you dress for your "mission field"?


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