John Piper: How to Spread a Culture of Modesty in Your Church

(Photo: Passion Conference)John Piper, founder of Desiring God and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary, speaks from the book of Revelation at the Passion 2016 conference Sunday morning, January 3, 2016, in Duluth, Georgia.

Instead of setting rules regarding modest dress in your church, it is best for church leaders to cultivate a culture of modesty from the inside out, Pastor John Piper says.

Piper, the founder and a teacher at DesiringGod.org, wrote in a recent blog post that for a church leader to set up rigid rules regarding dress for their young people would be an ultimately fruitless task, as both the young people and their parents would rebel against such a hot button topic of telling someone what they can and can't wear.

Instead, it is better to slowly start a culture of modesty rooted in the gospel, beginning with church leadership and moving outward.

"Teach your people these things year-in and year-out. Expose the pride of licentious-ness and self-will, and expose the pride of externalism and formalism that has no heart in it. It doesn't see the gospel as precious," Piper writes.

The evangelical teacher goes on to say that there will slowly be "a sweet submission to Christ, a saturation with the Word of God, a humble attentiveness to the wisdom of others, a desire to grow and learn, a deep suspicion of the power of worldliness to control our habits, and a loving consideration of others when we choose what we wear."

Then, after this culture has been established, it can be backed up by the Gospel, Piper continues, including 1 Timothy 2:8–9 which reads: "I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control."

Using Scripture passages like these, church leaders can "[make] sure that everyone feels that the Bible really does care about how we dress. And it really does want us to dress in a way that is rooted in humble, joyful, Christ-exalting, other-serving, gospel faith," the theologian says.

Piper then offers three tips for cultivating this modest culture, including starting with church leadership and moving out to the general congregation, dealing with parents quietly in a sympathetic and private way, and pushing the concept that modesty is more beautiful than sexiness.

"Cultivate the joyful sense that modesty is beautiful. Renounce any mindset that modest means frumpy. From my own experience — I am just testifying as a man now who has been a teenager and a 20-year-old and a 30-year-old and a 40-year-old and a 50-year-old and a 60-year old — I can testify without any doubt that at every age of my life, my masculine life, my hungry life: Sexy dressing of women is less attractive than modest beauty," Piper writes.

"Of course, it makes the eyes turn. It makes the eyes turn, but there is a world of difference between making men's eyes turn with sexy dressing and being attractive as a beautiful or a handsome person," the teacher, who also serves as chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minnesota, says.