What else is new? It’s something I deal with quite often. Someone always has to comment about it…
“Where is your tie?”
“You are not dressed like a pastor.”
“Set an example for the youth.”
And the list goes on.
It’s something I am use to. But if I get such a hard time with this whole clothing issue, why don’t I just simply wear the suit and tie?
Years ago in the beginning of my ministry I remember talking to someone about coming to prayer meeting and she said that it was too difficult to come. By the time she got home from work and changed into “church clothes” and then drove to church she would have missed most of it. That stuck in my brain- this idea that the desire to dress “right” was more important than showing up at all. That bothered me and didn’t make sense. I told her to just come straight from work and don’t bother changing.
With a shocked face she said, “In my work clothes?!”
“I wouldn’t feel right.”
So I responded “Does God care more about you or the clothes you are wearing? Also it’s not like your work clothes are immodest.”
“You make a good point.”
“I’ll tell you what- you call me on Wednesday and you tell me what type of clothes you are wearing and I will wear the same. If you are wearing a jacket, I will wear a jacket. If you wear a hat, I will wear a hat. If you wear jeans, I will wear jeans.”
“You would really do that? You don’t have to do that.”
“I want to, because I want to show you that you can show just the way you are.”
She never bothered calling me, but she did show up. And both of us were wearing regular clothes.
From that day forward I made a determination to change the way I dressed during the week at church. I am trying to reach people. I want them to come and feel comfortable, and if I as the leader am setting the example that it’s okay to dress that way, then they will feel more comfortable as well. They may actually show up during the week instead of going home, because there wasn’t enough time to change.
That same lady became a strong leader in the church and a constant supporter.
I had already had different thoughts about clothing. I didn’t believe that dressing up was a sign of reverence. When I would do ministry in churches before graduating from college, I wouldn’t let clothing be an issue, but now that I had become an official pastor I tried dressing formally even during the week, but that encounter taught me a lesson.
This past Saturday, I was told “You need to look the part.”
Really? What part? The part that society expects a pastor to look like? I am not interested in conforming to people’s expectations. I rather please God rather than man.
“Oh you are not setting a good example. You need to set the tone as the pastor. Shouldn’t you have a higher standard?”
It’s because I want to set an example that I dress the way I do. How can I tell people to come as they are if I myself and taking off my street clothes and putting on “church attire.” If I want people to be able to come straight to church from wherever they were earlier that day, then I should be willing to do the same. If I was in the gym, earlier, then I should come to church in gym clothes. If I was in the supermarket and dressed in casual clothes, then I should come to church in casual clothes.
And have we ever asked ourselves, “Why?”
Why do we dress up for church? Don’t we believe that God is omnipresent? He saw the way you were dressed at work.
I remember as a teenager how people made such a big deal about women wearing pants in church. It was immodest. Then when we had church picnic those same ladies were wearing jeans. Did women jeans all of a sudden become immodest now that we were in the park? It’s either it is modest or immodest. My mentality is, if you can’t wear it at church, then you shouldn’t wear it in public at all. Why? Because our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Therefore, church is wherever we are. In fact, the Bible says wherever two or three are gathered there he is in the midst (Matthew 18:20). So if you have a Bible study in the library, then that’s church. If you visit someone and have a little worship, that’s church. Would you be wearing a full suit and tie in the library or in someone’s home? What happens if you want to pray with someone on the street? That’s two people gathered. Are you going to say, “I can’t pray right now, I’m not dressed reverently. Let me go home, change, then come back and we can pray.”? Absolutely not. That makes no sense.
But one would argue and say, “That’s different. Being in a church is different.”
Hold up, the early church (the one that had the outpouring of the Holy Spirit), their meetings were in homes. They only went to the temple outer court in order to evangelize people who weren’t believers in Christ yet.
What we call today “the sanctuary” isn’t actually a sanctuary. The sanctuary in the Old Testament- people were not allowed to go in their besides priests. The earthly sanctuary was done away with at the cross. That’s why we believe in the heavenly sanctuary. If we act like the supposed sanctuaries that we meet in today are actually a sanctuary it would be to deny the heavenly sanctuary, deny the sacrifice that Jesus did to abolish the earthly sanctuary, and deny that the new temple is my body and the body of Christ (which are the believers not the building).
We have to stop setting up standards that the Bible has not asked us. The Bible doesn’t mention dressing up for church.
“But shouldn’t we dress our best? If I was going to meet a king or president I wouldn’t be dressed down.”
I have heard that analogy made so many times. Jesus also gave the concept of dressing before a king, but his point was actually the opposite. When talking about John the Baptist, Jesus said, “what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces.” (Matthew 11:8)
Wow, Jesus makes the exact opposite point that everybody today tries to make about dressing in front of a king. Jesus pointed out the fact that people were expecting someone to dress the part. Expecting someone to be dressed up like they were in a king’s palace. But when John showed up on the scene he dressed differently than what they had expected. He had clothing made with camel’s hair and leather belt around his waist (Mark 1:6). Very different that the religious pious men of this day. You know, the ones that Jesus said wore really nice clothes to be seen by others (Matthew 23:5). They had broadened borders and long robes. Jesus was not impressed by their fancy clothes, the same way he wasn’t impressed with the clothes that Adam and Eve had made from fig leaves (Genesis 3:7). Clothing isn’t going to impress God. In fact the only reason we wear clothes is because of the curse of sin making it shameful to be naked now. The only clothing that will impress God is to be clothed with his righteousness (Job 29:14).
Jesus spoke against the fancy clothed religious people and he commended shabby looking John. This guy who looked like a homeless was called the greatest prophet (Matthew 11:11).
But what about Jesus? Shouldn’t Jesus be our example? While the Bible doesn’t go into much detail about what he wore, a book called the Desire of Ages does mention it:
"The contrast between Jesus and the high priest as they talked together was marked. The proud dignitary of the temple was clothed in rich and costly garments. Upon his head was a glittering tiara. His bearing was majestic, his hair and his long flowing beard were silvered by age. His appearance awed the beholders. Before this august personage stood the Majesty of heaven, without adornment or display. His garments were travel stained; His face was pale, and expressed a patient sadness; yet written there were dignity and benevolence that contrasted strangely with the proud, self-confident, and angry air of the high priest. Many of those who witnessed the words and deeds of Jesus in the temple from that time enshrined Him in their hearts as a prophet of God."
Desire of Ages 594
Not only was Jesus not dressed up like the other religious people, His clothes were even stained. Now Jesus had a lot of followers who could have cleaned those stains out or even donated clothes to Him. But Jesus purposely looked different than those in power. No one was impressed with Jesus’ look. Bible says “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2) Isaiah says he looked comely (KJV). What gained the respect of the people wasn’t his clothes but his words. It wasn’t the outside, it was his character. Would we today have respect for a preacher who had stains on his clothes?
Jesus was so different that the religious leaders. You better believe that Jesus was a controversial figure. But that didn’t stop Jesus.
So when people get on my case and even get rude at times, it’s nothing compared to how they treated Jesus. Both Jesus and John were dressed like the common person on the street. Isn’t that the people that we are trying to reach? But instead we are dressing up for each other. Cause lets face it, most people aren’t dressing up so that God can check out their outfit. We are dressing up for each other. We are concerned about what the brothers and sisters in church would think if we didn’t look the part. Or we want to impress somebody on the other side of the pew. Let’s not pretend that dressing up is honoring God. It may be your intention, but it’s not what God asked for. Don’t say it’s what God wants. Admit that it’s your personal preference. But don’t confuse preference for reverence. If we truly respect God then we won’t impose on his other children a dress code that he never asked of them. If you want to dress that way, then that’s okay, but lets not act like it’s a standard of the church. That’s a man-made standard. And you know what Jesus said about man-made standards? “In vain do you worship me teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:9) Stop teaching people your own rules as if it’s the will of God. If you do then your worship is in vain. That means you can dress up all nice, but if you impose upon someone else how to dress then you just wasted your time coming to church.
There are many Sabbaths I dress up. I do so, because there is no sin to dress up. Paul says (1 Corinthians 9:20-22) to the Jew I become Jew. In order to reach the religious, sometimes I dress religious. Paul also said the to those without law, as without law. (He’s not talking about the 10 commandments by the way) In others words, we have to be adaptable. So usually when I first start pastoring a church I start off dressing like them on Saturdays. But after a year I slowly start changing it up, in order to challenge their mind and to show a different way. I preach sermons talking about these things. As for during the week, I focus on discipleship. So I almost always dress down. Because if someone can’t come to church because of how a human being is dressed then that’s not the person that I want for these type of studies. During the week I want people who are serious about discipleship and won’t be distracted by trivialness.
Now that I have been pastoring in these particular churches for over 3 years I rarely wear the full suit and tie even on Sabbaths. And people get concerned, because they’re afraid that I am going to drive away people from church. As I have said a few years ago from the pulpit, “they can go, because there are plenty of other churches that will cater to their preferences. But we will be a church that will allow people to be welcomed in.” How many churches actually cater to people who want to dress-down. When Jesus drove people out of the temple a new group of people came who had a true desire for God. Never be afraid to loose people if you are doing what is right. God will take care of His church.