How should a preacher dress in the pulpit?

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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Bob,

One's person "reverance" is another person's "being overly fancy." One person's "decently and in order" is another person's "stuffy and formal."

Last year I had a highland Dani evangelist bring a white shirt and tie and dress shoes to preach in a hut tied together with vines. I think the message that it communicated was that the local people could never serve god appropriately because they didn't possess the threads to do so. (p.s. - I made sure I wore shorts and no shoes, like the other 99% of the people.)
 

Constantlyreforming

Puritan Board Sophomore
at what point do you do what your convictions are, and ignore the jealousy and conversation of the congregation regarding what you wear? There will always be someone there to critique it. If they think you are wearing too nice of a suit, then they need to deal with God regarding jealousy/judgmental issues. If they see you as being too casual, then they need to also deal with judgmental issues. The problem is with those who have issue, not with the clothing worn, in all likelihood.
 

rbcbob

Puritan Board Graduate
Trevor,
Could you explain yourself a bit? I hope you are not saying that there can be no possibility of a regional church recognizing that someone in their midst has dressed in a manner that, by it's local, regional or national customs, is suited more for a casual gathering in a friend's home rather than for the worship of God?
Are we shut up to subjectivism and relativism?*

Bob Brown*

Sent from my iPhone
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
When I preached in Hawaii, I was told NOT to wear a tie since "only lawyers and undertakers wear ties here."

Well, and this guy too, who was all business:

View attachment 2152



Seriously, I think in the West this question is in large part due to a broader cultural change. Formerly, it seems that people, whether converted or not, expected church to be different and dressed accordingly. (The "Worship Wars" are a related issue i.e. to what degree should worship music reflect cultural trends and whether or not it should be noticeably different.) But dressing up was much more common for all kinds of activities, even including going to sporting events like football and baseball games. 30-40 years ago in most places no one would have dared show up to a college class in pajamas and flip-flops. Some time prior to that, what would be considered semi-formal attire today would have probably been required attire in college classes.

I'm thinking that "dressing up" to go to most churches lasted longer than it did in other contexts except for certain business professions, where it continues to this day. Today, with regard to worship in particular, that kind of idea, right or wrong, drives many people away. Thus was born unchurched Harry and Mary a number of years ago. I disagree with many of the "seeker sensitive" ideas, but we shouldn't give the impression that you have to "clean yourself up" to come to church, which often is interpreted by the unconverted as being a much deeper idea than what clothes to wear.

"Big steeple" churches are about the only churches today, even in the "Bible Belt," where I would expect to see most of the congregation dressed up and are probably about the only churches where I would wear a coat and tie as a visitor. In many other churches if you come in dressed like that, they think you must be a guest preacher. I see a lot of pastors wearing polo type golf shirts these days.

On a related note, I was surprised and even somewhat dismayed to see a church featured on the New Orleans TV news a few months ago that touted that wearing ties, etc. wasn't necessary, as if that was a big news story. Dressing up for church not necessary in 2011? Really? Really? :wow: There are actually churches where ties and suits are not required? There are churches where the preacher doesn't wear a suit or gown or other priestly or churchy garb? Who knew? :wow: Perhaps many of the uptown hipsters who that church targets really don't know. I suppose it's possible that someone who hasn't been to church in 25 years or more might not know. But from the looks of it the congregation is made up of a lot of people under 40 and under (many much younger) and the pastor may not be much older than 30. How many people in that demographic are really under the impression that you have to dress up to go to church? I'm not out to slam the network with which this church is affiliated but am genuinely interested to know if there are a lot of people under 35 or so who really think it's revolutionary for a church to have casual attire and a rock band.

We want to avoid formalism, but we also should be on the lookout for a faddish and slavish deference to the current hot trends, as some here have also noted.
 
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Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
T. David Gordon makes the point in Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns that a former student of his, who preferred dressing down when it came to Lord's Day worship, did not give a second thought to dressing formally on his wedding day. We tend to watch our attire for events that are important to us.
 

raekwon

Puritan Board Junior
T. David Gordon makes the point in Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns that a former student of his, who preferred dressing down when it came to Lord's Day worship, did not give a second thought to dressing formally on his wedding day. We tend to watch our attire for events that are important to us.

I wouldn't necessarily correlate that to the importance of the event.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Trevor,
Could you explain yourself a bit? I hope you are not saying that there can be no possibility of a regional church recognizing that someone in their midst has dressed in a manner that, by it's local, regional or national customs, is suited more for a casual gathering in a friend's home rather than for the worship of God?
Are we shut up to subjectivism and relativism?*

Bob Brown*

Sent from my iPhone

Being attentive to cultural appropriateness does not mean we have wholly abandoned ourselves to subjectivity and relativism.

Casual-ness in dress may communicate a lack of respect in some cases, just as over-dressing may communicate an overly-external faith and a "putting on airs" - which is much more of a possibility where I am located.

The very same action may, in fact, communicate very different values depending on the place and culture where it happens.

Aside from a few general principles in Scripture, I see little said about a preacher's garments. Where God yells; we, too, ought to yell. But where God whispers, we shouldn't be too vocal.

Here is an illustration of how different churches may, with good intentions, advocate totally diametrically opposed actions, in the name of upholding good values:

ILLUSTRATION
Within the same month, I visited two different churches on my furlough back to the USA about 2 years ago. Both churches were calvinistic and baptistic.

The first church was an RB church in NJ. Outside of the sanctuary there was a very visible sign urging complete silence once inside the sanctuary., The pastor commented on how reverent the people were because they filed in as quiet as mice. After the service, too, they filed out very quietly. During the sermon, there was complete silence.

Several weeks before this occasion, I had gone to Rockdale Community Church in Conyers, Georgia. It was loud and raucous prior to the start of church. People were laughing and kids were playing and it took the whole first verse of the first song until things settled. The elder there remarked about just how great it was that the people were so loud and so happy to see each other, "Look..they are so happy to fellowship that they could just do it all day, isn't it a joyous thing when the saints gather."

Both churches were advocating good values.

But they interpreted the Pre-Start-of-Church noise levels drastically different.
 

J. Dean

Puritan Board Junior
Your context & culture will determine the answer.

If I am preaching in an established church with a pulpit I wear a suit or a sport coat & tie, depending on where they are located. In some I wear I wear a clergy shirt & suit.

@ my church plant I wear jeans & a collared shirt, never with a tie.

The key point is that how you dress should never distract people from your message. You can do that by being too casual, or too formal.
+10

You don't need to be formally dressed in every single occasion, carte blanche, but it does need to be appropriate.
 

raekwon

Puritan Board Junior
I wouldn't necessarily correlate that to the importance of the event.

How so?

Using the earlier example of a state dinner w/ the President of the US and the Queen of the Commonwealth Realms... any preacher here would dress "better" (ie: more formally) if they were to attend such an event than they would for Lord's Day worship, but I'd be surprised (shocked, even) if anyone would say that the state dinner is somehow "more important" than corporate worship.

I just keep going back to this: a pastor's clothing should be modest, clean, well-fitting, and culturally appropriate.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
I wouldn't necessarily correlate that to the importance of the event.

How so?

Using the earlier example of a state dinner w/ the President of the US and the Queen of the Commonwealth Realms... any preacher here would dress "better" (ie: more formally) if they were to attend such an event than they would for Lord's Day worship, but I'd be surprised (shocked, even) if anyone would say that the state dinner is somehow "more important" than corporate worship.

I just keep going back to this: a pastor's clothing should be modest, clean, well-fitting, and culturally appropriate.

I think Gordon's point (and If I recall correctly the student agreed with him) is that if something is important to you, you tend to demonstrate that in the way that your dress. I don't think it's that far removed from what you've said, except that there would be disagreement about what is "culturally appropriate" perhaps. Different settings and events have different expectations.

For me, I don't personally like robes, I wear a suit and tie (and sometimes 3-piece suit) on the Lord's Day morning service (though I sometimes shed the coat in the summer when it gets too warm), and I wear a shirt and slacks (often without tie, but sometimes with a sport coat) on evening services. But then again, it's not all about me and my personal preferences. If someone objected to me not wearing a tie on Sunday evenings, I would likely reconsider.
 

Kevin

Puritan Board Doctor
here ( eastern canada) everyone dresses very casual. The mayor of our city never wears a jacket or a tie, bankers wear jackets with no tie, and lawyers wear robes.

People "dress up" by wearing new jeans & a shirt with a collar. Any such shirt that is not plaid is called a "dress shirt".

The only ministers that wear gowns on a regular basis are the most liberal ones.

People still like to see clergy shirts or gowns at weddings since that is the one time people still dress up.

Ironically I wore a clergy shirt @ a wedding recently & was shocked at how many people (including strangers) commented on my appearance. Now, I am an overweight middle aged guy, that is losing his hair & frankly that hasn't happened in a few years. Even a couple of teens asked me if I would wear it to church.

BTW the pictures of me & my wife dancing with me wearing the clergy shirt are hilarious!
 

Joseph Scibbe

Puritan Board Junior
Would you look foolish and out of place in tight jeans and a hoodie at a State dinner with the president and the queen of England?

So, I assume you wear a tuxedo to church every week?

Brother, if you would be so kind as to first answer my question, I will most eagerly address yours.


Yes, I would look out of place at a state dinner hosted by the President.

Thanks, Joseph. And as you may have suspected I am drawing attention to the correlation between the dignity and majesty of Our Lord, His house, and His service which call for an attire corresponding to the occasion. Also, as per my first post in this thread, our particular culture informs us as to what attire in our generation conveys the due respect and reverence we have when assembled before our Majestic King.

Such attire will vary from Boston to Lusaka, from Singapore to Sydney, from Islamabad to Kiev. But every culture recognizes within its own setting when there is a particularly solemn and dignified assembly and how its people reflect that in their attire.

Sadly there are many in our generation who have lost the sense of reverence for the sacred assembly of the Lord's people in the Lord's house on the Lord's day. That casual attitude is reflected in the clothing selected for worship in God's House.

Mal. 1:6 " A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, 'In what way have we despised Your name?' 7 "You offer defiled food on My altar. But say, 'In what way have we defiled You?' By saying, 'The table of the LORD is contemptible.' 8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?" Says the LORD of hosts. 9 "But now entreat God's favor, That He may be gracious to us. While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably?" Says the LORD of hosts. 10 "Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you," Says the LORD of hosts, "Nor will I accept an offering from your hands. 11 For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations," Says the LORD of hosts

Following your logic, one must buy the most expensive suit in the world for it to be truly worthy of coming before the King. You are making a false and non-biblical assumption that dress=seriousness about worship. Paul specifically tells women (I think the principle can apply to men as well) to not let their "adorning be external". The worship of Gods people is in spirit and truth and not concerned with style of dress. If someone is that bothered by someone else dress in a church then I say the issue lies with the offended not the offender. I believe that modesty is a standard to be upheld but to say that one should wear a certain style of dress is a bad idea. If taken too far Jesus might have said to us "These people honor me with their dress but their hearts are far from me" or God said "The multitude of your suits--what are they to me?" says the LORD. "I have more than enough of sweaters, of khaki pants and the suits and ties you wear...; I have no pleasure...". (Please don't take this to say that I am speaking for God, just making example)
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Sadly there are many in our generation who have lost the sense of reverence for the sacred assembly of the Lord's people in the Lord's house on the Lord's day. That casual attitude is reflected in the clothing selected for worship in God's House.

Interestingly, one hundred years ago, this might have been used as an argument against the wearing of suits to church.
 

rbcbob

Puritan Board Graduate
Sadly there are many in our generation who have lost the sense of reverence for the sacred assembly of the Lord's people in the Lord's house on the Lord's day. That casual attitude is reflected in the clothing selected for worship in God's House.

Interestingly, one hundred years ago, this might have been used as an argument against the wearing of suits to church.

That may, or may not, be the case. Can you document that assertion? And even if that proves historically true, it in no way alters the lamentable situation today. If, as you say, the wearing of a suit to worship service in 1911 would have reflected a casual attitude in the worshipers approach to the Living God then it should stand to reason that there would have been a manner of dress in 1911 which would have indicated a sober, humble approach to His worship.
 

Joseph Scibbe

Puritan Board Junior
Sadly there are many in our generation who have lost the sense of reverence for the sacred assembly of the Lord's people in the Lord's house on the Lord's day. That casual attitude is reflected in the clothing selected for worship in God's House.

Interestingly, one hundred years ago, this might have been used as an argument against the wearing of suits to church.

That may, or may not, be the case. Can you document that assertion? And even if that proves historically true, it in no way alters the lamentable situation today. If, as you say, the wearing of a suit to worship service in 1911 would have reflected a casual attitude in the worshipers approach to the Living God then it should stand to reason that there would have been a manner of dress in 1911 which would have indicated a sober, humble approach to His worship.

Is there any Biblical assertion that what you wear correlates to you "reverence" to worship?
 

raekwon

Puritan Board Junior
The correlation between the wearing of a suit and the reverence one has for Lord's Day worship seems (to me) roughly analogous to the correlation between physical circumcision and circumcision of the heart.
 
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rbcbob

Puritan Board Graduate
Sadly there are many in our generation who have lost the sense of reverence for the sacred assembly of the Lord's people in the Lord's house on the Lord's day. That casual attitude is reflected in the clothing selected for worship in God's House.

Interestingly, one hundred years ago, this might have been used as an argument against the wearing of suits to church.

That may, or may not, be the case. Can you document that assertion? And even if that proves historically true, it in no way alters the lamentable situation today. If, as you say, the wearing of a suit to worship service in 1911 would have reflected a casual attitude in the worshipers approach to the Living God then it should stand to reason that there would have been a manner of dress in 1911 which would have indicated a sober, humble approach to His worship.

Is there any Biblical assertion that what you wear correlates to you "reverence" to worship?

What one puts on, assuming that there was any conscious choosing involved, is one indicator of your assessment of where you are going and what is appropriate for the occasion. If you reverence the Lord to Whose house you are going then it will be reflected in your selection of attire.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
That may, or may not, be the case. Can you document that assertion?

In 1911, the suit was loungewear, the working man's dress on his day off. For formal business, the frock coat was worn or (for less formal business) the morning coat. A suit was primarily for relaxing in the country or (if you were working-class) a rebellion against the formality of the upper classes.

The result was that in churches primarily attended by the upper classes, morning dress was worn, whereas in a working-class parish, suits would have been the norm.
 

Robert Truelove

Puritan Board Sophomore
I believe this is something to be determined both by culture and general equity from the Scriptures as it applies to the function of the minister.

Speaking generally..

We make deliberate decisions when we dress for the ball park, a funeral, or a wedding. Actually, we are fairly deliberate about how we dress for just about anything we leave our house to attend. Why is it that in the area of what we wear to church, all cultural issues get thrown out the window and we act like jeans and a tee-shirt isn't saying something about how we view the service?

When we dress in a casual fashion, what we are saying (wherever we may be) is that the whatever we are attending does not warrant the respect of formal dress. This is a cultural issue but it is nonetheless a reality. Since these things are as they are, what do you want to say by what you choose to wear to church?
 

Constantlyreforming

Puritan Board Sophomore
I think Rae’s comments about being “culturally appropriate” has its points. Clean, well-fitting, all good points. I do think that if one has good clothes you wear what good clothes you have. If you have not as good clothes, you wear the best you have. Not to impress anyone, but to bring to worship that best of you. Obviously, this all comes back to being a matter of the heart, but our heart works out into our actions, and may take away from what we are trying for.

Here’s a for-instance. I was 15 years old and attending Chain of Lakes Community Bible Church in Antioch, Illinois. There was a certain someone I was trying to “impress” there, who of course was of the opposite sex. So, I would wear my coolest clothes in order to impress her. Fail.
I failed Christ in my purpose for getting dressed in going to church, and I also failed miserably in wooing the lovely creature.

I think it all does fall to our motives, but we also must take scripture into consideration. If it was a good thing for the priests and people of Israel to prepare themselves with certain clothing/appearance before worship, even though this law has changed, it seems to me to be a good practice. Not to wear clothes that are fancy to fit in, but to bring to God a body clothed with the best of what He has given us. Usually, that takes preparation, more-so than throwing on a t-shirt and shorts with sandles.

Shine shoes, tie a tie, iron pants, clean shaven (if that is normally what you consider the “best of you”. Why should we not present ourselves in our best, when we do so for our spouse, employer, family, or someone’s death? If it is culturally appropriate to wear certain attire to certain important events, then surely the worship of Christ is deserving of our best as well? Just another preparation we can make to come to Christ prepared, rather than scattered and in shambles.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
When we dress in a casual fashion, what we are saying (wherever we may be) is that the whatever we are attending does not warrant the respect of formal dress.

Not necessarily. I know some to whom this kind of dress says "pretentious" and "snobby." I have a very good friend who doesn't even own a sport jacket because he finds them restrictive and uncomfortable (how we became friends is a mystery to many).

I think Rae’s comments about being “culturally appropriate” has its points. Clean, well-fitting, all good points. I do think that if one has good clothes you wear what good clothes you have. If you have not as good clothes, you wear the best you have. Not to impress anyone, but to bring to worship that best of you. Obviously, this all comes back to being a matter of the heart, but our heart works out into our actions, and may take away from what we are trying for.

Ethan, I hear you, particularly as one who has invested time and effort (and far less money than should be legal) in his wardrobe, and I enjoy dressing up rather than down. However, this summer, I have come to recognize that for my home church, dressing in my preferred uniform of sports jacket and bow tie is a bit much---particularly in the summer. I would much prefer a church culture where dressing up was the norm, but that's not the place where God has me right now, so I need to dress down a bit in order to be all things to all men.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
We make deliberate decisions when we dress for the ball park, a funeral, or a wedding. Actually, we are fairly deliberate about how we dress for just about anything we leave our house to attend. Why is it that in the area of what we wear to church, all cultural issues get thrown out the window and we act like jeans and a tee-shirt isn't saying something about how we view the service?

:up:
 

Joseph Scibbe

Puritan Board Junior
First of all: The church building is not the house of God "Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands" Acts 7:48. I don't like the comments that say that people that don't "dress up" means that what I wear is simply picked out in a flippant manner. There is no correlation between the reverence in my heart toward the worship of God and the clothes I wear. If I were to wear a suit to my church and do all the exact same things with the same motivation then I really don't think God would look down and say "Finally he really wants to worship". That is legalism plain and simple.
 

rbcbob

Puritan Board Graduate
First of all: The church building is not the house of God "Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands" Acts 7:48. I don't like the comments that say that people that don't "dress up" means that what I wear is simply picked out in a flippant manner. There is no correlation between the reverence in my heart toward the worship of God and the clothes I wear. If I were to wear a suit to my church and do all the exact same things with the same motivation then I really don't think God would look down and say "Finally he really wants to worship". That is legalism plain and simple.

Joseph,

FIRST allow me to take exception to your absolute distinction between the "church building" and the "house of God". Where a congregation owns, or has the use of a building for worship it ought to be recognized that when they are assembled in said building for the worship of God they are, at that time "the house of God"(1 Peter 2:4); they are where the special presence of the Lord is among His worshipping people.

SECOND, some in this thread have fixated upon the Western culture's preference for a suit. This is to miss most of what has been carefully presented showing how every culture recognizes when someone has chosen a more casual attire over a more formal attire.

THIRD, you must not expect me to take you seriously when you say:

There is no correlation between the reverence in my heart toward the worship of God and the clothes I wear
.

If this were true then we might well find you attending in swimming trunks and flip-flops, all well intentioned and unaware that your attitude toward the worship of the Almighty was suspect.
 

Joseph Scibbe

Puritan Board Junior
First of all: The church building is not the house of God "Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands" Acts 7:48. I don't like the comments that say that people that don't "dress up" means that what I wear is simply picked out in a flippant manner. There is no correlation between the reverence in my heart toward the worship of God and the clothes I wear. If I were to wear a suit to my church and do all the exact same things with the same motivation then I really don't think God would look down and say "Finally he really wants to worship". That is legalism plain and simple.

Joseph,

FIRST allow me to take exception to your absolute distinction between the "church building" and the "house of God". Where a congregation owns, or has the use of a building for worship it ought to be recognized that when they are assembled in said building for the worship of God they are, at that time "the house of God"(1 Peter 2:4); they are where the special presence of the Lord is among His worshipping people.

SECOND, some in this thread have fixated upon the Western culture's preference for a suit. This is to miss most of what has been carefully presented showing how every culture recognizes when someone has chosen a more casual attire over a more formal attire.

THIRD, you must not expect me to take you seriously when you say:

There is no correlation between the reverence in my heart toward the worship of God and the clothes I wear
.

If this were true then we might well find you attending in swimming trunks and flip-flops, all well intentioned and unaware that your attitude toward the worship of the Almighty was suspect.

I could just as well worship in swim trunks and flip flops. Where Scripture is silent so must the church. To set a dress code outside of Scripture is sin, plain and simple.
 

Manuel

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks, Joseph. And as you may have suspected I am drawing attention to the correlation between the dignity and majesty of Our Lord, His house, and His service which call for an attire corresponding to the occasion. Also, as per my first post in this thread, our particular culture informs us as to what attire in our generation conveys the due respect and reverence we have when assembled before our Majestic King.

Such attire will vary from Boston to Lusaka, from Singapore to Sydney, from Islamabad to Kiev. But every culture recognizes within its own setting when there is a particularly solemn and dignified assembly and how its people reflect that in their attire.

Sadly there are many in our generation who have lost the sense of reverence for the sacred assembly of the Lord's people in the Lord's house on the Lord's day. That casual attitude is reflected in the clothing selected for worship in God's House.
Thanks, very well said. The modern church is taking the "God is not concerned about outward appearance" approach to the Christian life. Sadly, even reformed believers are falling into that gross misunderstanding of Scripture.
 
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