“Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.”
This verse follows Moses seeing the burning bush and hearing God call out to him. As Moses began to approach the burning bush, God calls out, “Do not come any closer…. Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” The message of removing sandals upon the entrance of holy ground is found in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Churches in the east, especially Eastern Orthodox churches, usually have a sign posted outside the church asking for visitors to remove their shoes. Some will quote this very Bible verse in one translation or another. Churches in the west have seemed to abandon this practice. In fact, many church circles see it as disrespectful to remove one’s shoes in the church.
I am a girl of many flip-flops. I really have enough to change my flip-flops depending on my outfit (I am just too lazy to do so). I also am more likely to be found carrying my flip-flops than I am to be actually wearing them. When sitting in the pew, I always take my shoes off and move them to the side. This carries on to when I preach and or am helping lead worship in some way. I take my shoes off and either leave them behind the pulpit or under the first pew depending on where I am and the set up of the worship space.
Why do I prefer to be barefoot in church? It all goes straight back to the verse in Exodus. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” For me this is a little more literal being an avid flip-flop wearer. I choose to not wear my shoes in church because for me the church is holy ground. The church is not the only place of holy ground but it is indeed holy ground.
Do I believe that the west does it wrong because this is not a common practice? Absolutely not. I do not think there is a right or wrong practice for wearing shoes in church. What I do believe is that there are ways to make a space more guided towards God during worship, and for me, personally, I find removing my shoes to be just one way to guide my attention towards God in worship.