Does it matter how the preacher dresses?

(I posted a paragraph on Facebook calling for pastors to dress “to inspire confidence”–and not look like they’d been out hitchhiking all night. It’s important to note that I did not say he should wear the uniform of the previous generation–a coat and tie–but merely to “dress one step in front of most of the men in the church,” whatever that means.  Twenty-four hours later, we had 245 comments. Clearly, people have strong feelings about this.)

“If I see you standing at the pulpit wearing a suit and a tie, I’m out of there.”

I smiled at that.  The fellow who said it is so dead-set on making sure the church does not put too much emphasis on appearance that he…well, puts too much emphasis on appearance.

As I write, the television set in this motel room is running the results of last night’s Iowa caucuses.  At some point I noticed something about the men candidates for nomination for president.

All were wearing suits and white shirts and ties.


Watch any newscast. The anchormen are wearing suits and ties.

How come?

This cannot be accidental.  It cannot be because they are stuck in a rut.  Nor can it be because they are trying to flaunt their wealth or impress the world.

These people never do anything–repeat, never do anything!–without good cause.

So, why do the candidates and the anchor people dress up when they go to work?

We will pause here while you consider your answer.

At the same time, drop in on the typical church and you may be stunned to see that the fellow who looks like a hitchhiker just in from a day on the highway turns out to be the preacher.  His jeans need pressing and the t-shirt he’s wearing looks like he has worn it all day.  His shoes? Sneakers with lots of miles on them.

Some in the congregation actually take pride in the sloppiness of the preacher’s attire.  They say the object is to make the outsider comfortable on entering the Lord’s House.  They say the preacher is making a statement against the overemphasis of the previous generation on externals, on “dressing up” for church.

Now, if you want to incite a holy reaction against your hypocrisy and superficiality, say something about how the preacher is dressed.  (You’re not even saying he should wear a coat and tie, but only that he should “dress up a little.” Watch the reaction to your simple suggestion.)

The comments will include:

–That’s why I don’t go to church any more, the emphasis on clothing!

–God doesn’t look on the outward appearance!

–A suit and tie would turn off the people we’re trying to reach!

–My jeans cost more than my grandpa’s entire outfit.

–Only the heart matters.

–We want outsiders to feel welcome here.

This “tempest in a teacup,” I suggest, is ridiculous.  We may as well be championing the outsiders’ lack of musical taste and installing heavy metal music lest we turn them off.  Oh, wait, we’re already doing that.

At one point, the call for pastors to “dress down” was well-intentioned, I will grant.

Rick Warren (with his Hawaiian shirts–remember those?) is probably as much to blame as anyone.

Because I am white-headed and in my 70s, I have no right to speak about such a thing.  Right?

There was a time–in the Jurassic past, I suppose–when the seniors among us were assumed to know a little and were given respect when they voiced their opinion.  Those days are a distant memory. This generation automatically dismisses the point of view of anyone older than their parents.

My last pastorate was from 1990 to 2004.  To show how completely things have changed in one decade, it was my practice to give up the necktie during August.  One month of the year, I did not wear a necktie.  At night.

Yep.  I wore a tie on Sunday morning every Sunday. But for the evening services one month of the year, we shucked our ties.

These days, the tieless preacher is the norm.  (In my itinerant ministry–what some might call “retirement”–host pastors usually send word ahead of time that no one wears ties. And frankly, I’m not unhappy about  that.  And that, I guarantee, is going to make some think I’m contradicting myself here!)

From the beginning the casual look in the pulpit was a reaction against the emphasis on fashionable clothing, as people donned persona for Sunday church different from who we were during the week.  As I say, the change was well-intentioned.

But that trend has run its course in my judgment. In fact, it has flat run in the ditch.

I see preachers entering the pulpit wearing t-shirts that stretch to cover their paunch.  I wonder if they have any idea how ridiculous they look?

Anyone who knows the first thing about me is aware that I am completely committed to encouraging pastors.  (That was one of three vows I made to God during a difficult time in my minister over 25 years ago. I vowed to live simply, give generously, and encourage God’s shepherds.)

Not long ago, a young pastor friend where I was preaching confided in me that he would be open to moving to another church if the Lord so led.  That’s when I made a suggestion.  “The way you dress in the pulpit fits right in with your congregation,” I told him.  “But a pastor search committee is going to want a little more professionalism than what you are showing. If I were you, I’d dial it up a notch.”  He took that counsel in the manner in which it was given, and has since thanked me for it.

I will admit that finding a young pastor who is open to a suggestion about these things is refreshing.

The time has come to reverse the trend.

I urge preachers to turn up the dial a notch, to dress a little better than the sloppy hitchhiking model they’ve been giving the Lord’s people.

Some say, “Teens are turned off by overdressed preachers.”  My responses are several:

–No one is suggesting you “over dress.”  Just dial it up a notch. (In many cases, I suggest starched dress shirts–not necessarily white–and slacks or khakis, sometimes with a sport coat.)

–Since when do preachers alter their approach to suit the juveniles in the congregation?

–Since when do we let the unchurched or the immature set the direction for anything in the church?  (Answer: We do when we are lost and directionless ourselves.)

–It’s time for the preachers to look and act like the adults in the room. Quit following the kids and start showing them proper respect for the Lord’s house, the Lord’s service, and the worship of the Lord.

Honestly, most teens are not “turned off” by the preacher wearing a coat and tie.  What they will think–and you may not be able to handle this–is that he is the adult in the room.

The problem, of course, is with the preachers.

As it often does, this comes down to the preacher.

Many preacher tend to be followers, not leaders.  They make decisions out of fear and not faith.  Once they learn someone is criticizing them for preaching on tithing, that’s the last they’ll mention that subject for a year.  Hearing that someone is unhappy over his haircut or facial hair, the typical preacher will let it grow out or shave it off.

No one likes criticism, granted. No pastor enjoys hearing that he was the subject of discussion around a family’s dinner table.

No pastor who makes decisions from fear of criticism has a right to stand in God’s pulpit on Sunday.

“Be strong and of good courage.”

If clothes do not matter, why such a violent reaction to someone suggesting the preacher and worship leaders ought to dress up and not down?

A few years ago, one of the start-up cut-rate airlines had their cabin crew dressed in short pants and polo shirts. They made a lot of jokes and played games with the passengers.  They thought people wanted that.  They were wrong. What passengers in those death-defying pressurized aluminum tubes rocketing through the stratosphere want from the crew is competency and professionalism.

We do not want airline pilots wearing jeans and pullovers and sneakers.  We like seeing them in their uniforms. It inspires confidence.

Inspiring confidence.

That’s what it’s all about. It’s why television networks require their male anchors to wear suits, white shirts, and ties.  Even sportscasters wear suits and ties.  Mike Carico and John Gruden do their Monday night games dressed better than 90 percent of the preachers in the land, all with a goal of inspiring confidence.

It’s why the presidential candidates are wearing suits and white shirts and ties.  (Sure, they will occasionally don khakis and polos for a quick bite at a Laconia, New Hampshire café. But before the day is out, they’re back in the uniform for a rally somewhere.  Inspiring confidence.)

At the New Orleans airport, I picked up a denominational leader who was to address our annual gathering that night.  It was a hot day and yet he was decked out in a suit and tie. I said, “Dr. Gary Frost, why are you wearing a suit? That has to be hot!” He laughed and said, “When the crew is looking for someone to upgrade to first class, they pick me.”  It happens quite a bit, he said.

Inspiring confidence.

Argue with it all you want. The truth is what it is.


I thought readers might be interested in a few comments from the Facebook discussion.

From Michael:  “Here is my follow up thought for this. Why is a t-shirt and jeans good enough for Sunday morning preaching but not for preaching a funeral? If the deceased was OK with your attire on Sundays, certainly they would not mind that same attire as you preach their funeral. But I’ve never attended a funeral where the hip young pastor wasn’t wearing a suit.”

From Todd: “I have noticed that if I lead a meeting in a suit and I lead a meeting in khakis and a button up dress shirt, there is a qualitative difference between the two meetings. Whether it is psychological or whether it’s fair is irrelevant. It’s real, and sometimes guiding a church requires one to do things in a certain way regardless if it is the manner at which I would choose to do it. Just as I didn’t choose to be “called by God,” I don’t always get to choose how I follow Him!”

From Jeremy: “I pastor a very contemporary church, and started dressing up more about 6 or 7 weeks ago. I looked at myself on camera and felt I looked sloppy. Interestingly, two doctors have joined in the last few weeks. I don’t know if there is a correlation, but anecdotally, I think wealthier people are more comfortable with a more sharply dressed pastor. I don’t wear a tie, but wear slacks and a nice sweater or crisp shirt.


72 thoughts on “Does it matter how the preacher dresses?

  1. Joe:

    My three teenage grandsons (who have to wear dress shoes, dress pants, dress shirt and tie on their High School hockey game days) consider adults who dress ‘down’ to the teeny-bopper style as acting childishly. They expect adults to act, and dress, as adults whether that be their school teachers or their pastor.

    I am not sure where pastors got the idea that dressing for the beach was proper attire for the church gathering. Surely it not too much to expect that pastors adopt, at least, a ‘business casual’ dress code.

    • You shouldn’t have to look around and try to figure out who is the preacher. He should be in the suit, white shirt and tie. If you were going for an interview for a job, you probably would dress up. You can do that for Church.

  2. As a physician of the old order, I still wear a white coat and tie to work every day. Several years ago I considered shedding the tie and coat for a short sleeve polo like so many have done. My wife said no. “your patients won’t like it. There needs to be a barrier, something to set you apart from them, to make you look less like the guy off the street. I’m a gynecologist.

      • Amen, Jennifer Torke. In searching for sermons on places like youtube, I always bypass sermon videos of preachers who dress bummy! It’s a distraction and takes away from what may have been a message worth hearing in the message presented by any of the raggedly dressed, bummy-looking pastors or preachers I regularly see on youtube and other web sites or on the Christian TV shows.

        I don’t see anything at all wrong with looking decent in the pulpits. The way some preachers, minister, pastors dress, they look worse than hippies and rock stars; and ow long does it take to shave and put on decent looking clothing? People will dress up for job interviews, etc., but they don’t seem to care or to think that when they stand in a pulpit, representing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that they ought to look decent and presentable instead of being a distraction. I feel it’s a form of rebellion to come into God’s pulpit looking nasty, trifling, bummy and raggedly. Show some respect for God’s house.

        By the way, to the author of this article, Pastor Joe McKeever, the tithe you referred to, is an Old Testament Law. We are not under the Law but under grace and Paul has directed us to give as we have prospered, which in some instances will be more than 10%. The 10% tithe in the Old Testament was not money anyway, and was given ONLY to the Levites and not to New Testament pastors in the Church that Christ built before He ascended back to His Heavenly throne.

        I’m retired now, but when I was working, I was able to very gladly give much more than a mere 10%. If I’d stuck to the “letter of the Law,” and given merely 10% then my gifts would’ve ended being far less than what I always did give, because God had prospered me to be blessed to very cheerfully give more than a mere 10%.

      • I completely agree. We who are a Rev., Min.,. Elders etc. Should represent by example. Why is it that a Judge, a Fireman, a Policeman, a Pharmacist, a surgeon etc. are all recognized by their attire with no discussion or debate. But when it comes to serving the Lord who we ‘SAY’ is Head of our lives. There is debate.this should not be. “DRESS FOR THE LORD”!!!

        • Today pastors wear caps while preaching and don’t even remove them in prayer. They can’t teach respect God for they don’t.

  3. God GAVE us His best, His only Son in that He placed apon Himself our sins and endured God’s wrath that we deserved. He suffered, bled and died on the cross and rose again the third day. Faith alone in Christ alone. John 3:16. Yes, God gave us His best….does He not deserve our best? Yes, God is concerned with what is in our heart when we come together on the Lord’s Day. This is where mine is.

  4. I wear a coat and tie on Sunday mornings because I’m going to Worship the
    Lord of the Universe! I suppose you could call it respect for Him. Would you
    dress like you were on the way to a dog fight if you were going to a funeral?

  5. I had a conversation about this a year ago. I pointed out that there are some restaurants and other places where you cannot get in without a suit and tie. It isn’t to show off wealth or status. It’s because it creates an ambiance of dignity and respect and yes, relaxation. If bars, nightclubs and cruise ships and other places can demand this is it expecting too much for the church to volunteer a modicum of civility once in a while?
    Having said that look at some old movies and news reels. I am certainly glad that we don’t wear suits, ties and hats to sporting events and nearly every public function or at meals at home.

  6. The thing I don’t understand is that we are to be a light for the world….. To me, this means being different…. To strive to be something that draws people to God. Trying to look like the world does not achieve this.
    On another note, would you go to dinner with the queen dressed as you do to go to church? So why would she be held in a higher regard than God Almighty?
    I don’t dress to impress anyone at my church. I dress out of respect of my God. I know he sees me everyday, but when we are gathered with the purpose of worshipping Him we should dress and act in a way that honors Him.

  7. If the dressed down pastors were invited to the White House to meet the president I assure you they would dress in the best suit, tie, shirt and shoes out of respect to meet the person holding the highest office in the land. When we meet for worship we are in the presence of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords therefore we should have more respect for that meeting than the president of the United States.

  8. I was a missionary overseas. Another missionary came not long after I arrived, and after language study, this fellow began reaching into gang members in a large city noted for their gangs. He took a couple to church. They were rejected by the pastor because they didn’t wear a tie. Then to another church. same thing. Missionary is called on the carpet for doing such things. Missionary resigns. True story. I took the missionary and his family to the airport for their departure.
    Story # 2
    When in seminary in the ’70s (SBC), I learned some shocking stats (to me). 48% of church members don’t attend regularly or at all. Only 4 % are actively involved in leadership activities. In the early ’80s Stats changed to 47%. In 2002, I learned of these stats again from a supervisor while on the mission field. It was then at 45% and 3%. What these stats mean is that the church in its format and dress code and organizational structure and formalities kept away more people than attended. Lets keep up our dress code and drive those that don’t think like us away before they learn how to behave. A friend taught me this: We ask new people to who come to church to:
    Behave, then
    Believe, then
    When it should be:
    Belong, then
    Believe, then
    We drive them away before they understand. But I understand that. I am a product of the suit and tie. I must defend the way I was raised even if it means others are driven away. This has nothing to do with morality, except unless we call “pushing people into hell” a moral thing. The emphasis is on the wrong thing for the sake of our “upbringing” that has little to do with conversion.

    • I’m talking about the pastor stepping it up a notch, my brother, and you think this brings down the entire evangelism enterprise? C’mon, man.

      • We are missing a whole generation, (millennial, and more.) The stepping up of the pastor is a personal choice but the influence and outward statements have ramifications that greatly affect lostness.

        If our purpose is kingdom growth for His purpose, and if we had to give up our very lives for Him (and some of our M’s have), is the dressing up that important? If removing a tie removes a barrier to win more and make more disciples, is it worth it? How far are we willing to change some things without sacrificing truth and obedience for the sake of the lost? Even if it means just one more into the kingdom. Which is more important? How important is a single soul? The price of a tie? This is not said in anger, but in reality of the fight we are in – in this world for His Kingdom and our Lord. This is not a “job” but a calling.

        • That’s the very reason I’m suggesting it, Hank—to increase the pastor’s effectiveness. It has nothing to do with neckties and suits. I wish everyone would stay on subject. I feel like I’m urging people to eat healthily and so many are responding, “Yes, but I know a guy who choked to death on an apple.” Therefore, health food is dangerous. Sheesh.

          • My experience of working with gang members and working in juvenile camps and in prison, I was often asked, why wasn’t I wearing a suit and tie. They for the most part thought I should if I was there representing God. Sometimes I wonder why some preachers feel they have to conform to every whim of the world such a wearing Levi’s with knees shredded and spiked and bleached tipped hair.I believe its about their own midlfe crisis , not just trying to reach a younger generation.

        • When Judges stop wearing their robes, people will stop respecting them. I went to a new Baptist Church and I even mentioned to the preacher that I loved his suit, white shirt and tie. That’s just me – when I was young, there were 4 preachers in my family. They all dressed in suits, white shirts and tie except one – she just happened to be a woman. God called her to preach and she did.

  9. We recently starting going to a church that the pastor wears a suit, and personally my attention and dress have both improved. Personally, I tend to focus more on the Lord when I take the time to dress like I’m going somewhere important.

  10. Thought provoking article, but what is missing is Jesus’ example. Isa 53:2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. (KJV)
    We have no account of Jesus wearing any more than just everyday clothes. I agree that we owe God our best, but it is not a Biblical concept to believe that, that includes our clothing, jewelry, hats, etc.
    It is our culture to dress up for occasions, weddings and funerals. Politicians do it to make themselves look impressive and separate themselves from the people who they represent. That does not sound like a Jesus style approach anymore than wearing ratty looking clothes in an attempt to look cool.

    • Since we’re talking about one thing and one thing only, Rev. Stukenborg–how the minister dresses in order to inspire the confidence of his hearers–we have not said one word about preachers needing to wear suits and ties. It all depends on the situation.

  11. Our church makes newcomers welcome in whatever state they are. They are given a sense of belonging…then believing (salvation) is next..then teaching them the Word. After awhile you see a change in behavior, one of which is how they dress. Keep in mind, all decisions they make are a product of a change in their hearts personally through the Word. Hank Lee said the same. I also like Joni and Rebecca’s comments. When we attend church we are in God’s house. I believe we should look our best when we are in the presence of God, giving Him our utmost respect. By the way, our preacher and most men, but not all, wear suits and ties.

  12. My son is a pastor in a protestant church and wears a clerical collar when he meets the public and a collar and robe when he preaches. He was in a meeting of fellow pastors in a restaurant where some were dressed in suits and others were casual. He was the only one in a collar. A man approached my son and began talking about his spiritual need. The man was unaware that the others were also pastors; but since he had a need, he was able to identify my son as a pastor and thought the others were mere businessmen.

    • What he was telling them was to clean yourself up and change you filthy clothes because every thing about them was unclean because of the idols.

  13. Pingback: Dressing for Church: Which Way Does One Go? |

  14. I think this is a good article and provides a reasonable recommendation to pastors. When I started a church on the West side of Los Angeles, I asked our core group (primarily 20 something hipsters) how they would like to see their pastor dress. Thier response was “dress up at least as much as if you were taking your wife out on a nice date.” One of the group was a comic and he commented that several stand-up comedy clubs require a blazer if you wear jeans to perform. He went on to say that if you looked to the “communicators of the day” (Leno, Letterman, John Stewart, etc) they dress up not down. In six years of preaching in a blazer with jeans or slacks, no one ever complained about my dress or said that it made them feel like they couldn’t come in their shorts, skinny jeans or pearl snap shirts. And on the other side, some people wore ties and my apparel didn’t put them off. It seems that there is wisdom in knowing your context, and knowing what appearance allows you to be “all things to all people that (you) may win some”. I think some pastors are so convinced that they are the embodiment of their culture/context that they may be a little myopic when it comes to laying down their own preferences to be more effective in reaching their context. A “come as you are” church culture can be fostered without church members feeling like they need to apologize or explain their pastor’s sloppiness.

  15. Thank you, Joe, for clarity in a world of fog! Yes, I am old-school and always wore a coat/tie when I preached– it brought dignity and professionalism to my leadership. I can listen to anyone who is NOT wearing coat & tie, but as you correctly observed, TV anchors wear a coat & tie. I appreciate your wise insight.

  16. I am a fellow pastor, and as he is my elder I respect Joe’s perspectives, many of which are valid and I agree with, but I have one problem with this article: If we are to be people of God’s word, where is the biblical basis for his premise? He doesn’t give us a single scripture verse to back up his position. Every church setting is different, and as pastors we are to find the cultural context that fits with the local body we are called to serve. Personally I think we have much more important things to worry about and to spend time writing articles about. One simple question puts this issue into perspective: Do lost people really care how we dress? I doubt it. We cannot worry incessantly about what people think about our image. Instead we should worry about what people think of our heart, for the Lord and for the lost. As Paul said in Galatians 1:10 (NASB), “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.”

    • Good questions. I hope Dad answers you.

      ” Do lost people really care how we dress? I doubt it. ”

      Everywhere I go everyone I meet puts a LOT of thought and effort into their appearance — even when dressing down! They aren’t slobs — they look that way on purpose! (mind boggling, I know). If people didn’t care how we dress, we would not go to so much trouble on a daily basis. They do care. All of us care.

    • Keith, I suggest that preachers dress one step above most of the men in their congregation and you want me to back that up with scripture? I’m encouraging pastors to inspire confidence in what they do, and you think I have to have a verse for that? My friend, do you have a verse telling you to brush your teeth? Then, in the absence of one, why do you do it? — I’m not talking about whether lost people care how we care dressed. And I’m not pushing suits and ties. I’m trying to bring a little common sense into a practice that has jumped the rails, and that is the casual dress of the man in the pulpit. It’s perfectly fine to disagree.

    • There is a big difference between going out into the field to reach the LOST, being all things to all men to win them… and going to church where BELIEVERS GATHER! Church is for believers and less than 10% of non believers even have the gumption to go into a church. Out of the ones that do, only 2% will get saved and remain.

      Jesus said to GO INTO ALL THE WORLD and preach the gospel. That is where the lost are. So, because we think the lost are coming to our church, we have allowed the WORLD SYSTEM to define and design how Gods people are to gather in his presence. The KINGDOM OF GOD demonstrates power, excellence and discipline!

      The world will come when we become the church of the Fathers excellence, power, signs, wonders and miracles.., as Jesus demonstrated and called us to do likewise! Then they will come and they will conform to a KINGDOM OF EXCELLENCE!

      • Wow.. well said… very scriptural… heaven on earth.. acting like the things that come from above, not of things from the earth!!

  17. I say a hearty “Amen” to this article! Thank you, Pastor McKeever, for your good points, well stated. As to Rev. Stukenborg’s comment that “We have no account of Jesus wearing any more than just everyday clothes,” I would respectfully disagree. My Bible tells me that at Jesus’ crucifixion the Roman soldiers refused to tear His robe but instead cast lots for it because it was an expensive, seamless garment.

    • Thank you!!!
      These are personal preferences and through prayer, follow what you think God wants you to do. We let culture dictate our direction instead of His Holy Spirit. Follow God’s leading and stop criticizing the other guy.

  18. Great article, everything must be done decently and in order, said Paul the apostle. Furthermore some truths are not stated in the Bible but are simply universal and common sense truths. The dressing like teens came with apostasy. God cares about how we present ourselves and outside appearance logically matters too. That is why women are commanded to dress modestly.

  19. I really enjoyed this article. Our particular church, even though we belong to a very liberal Protestant denomination, is still fairly conservative. We’ve had a new, young minister for a couple of years and while he’s generally great, his Sunday wardrobe could be dialed up a notch. He wore a robe over his shorts, shirt, and sandals for a while, but he’s now given up the robe. We also have a pastor on a two year student placement who seems to have followed his lead. A few Sundays back, she turned up to preach in – I kid you not – cut-off jean shorts (at least the hems were rolled up) and a tank top. At the same time, she lets her toddler run wild through-out the sanctuary during the sermon. Last week, the child tried to climb onto the alter during the service and neither the pastor (nor her husband, who sits in the front row) tried to stop her. Aside from concerns the child is going to get hurt, it’s insanely distracting.

    A lot of people in the congregation take issue with these things, and they have been brought up to the minister, but nothing seems to change. With respect to the clothing, his attitude is that he dresses that way to make people feel comfortable and be welcoming. But clearly, if he were to listen to his congregation, he would find it is having the opposite effect. He also won’t pay attention to feedback unless people “name names”, considering the comments to be merely “hearsay”. I’m not sure if anyone has yet brought up the child running loose (the minister’s two kids behave almost as bad, but there are no other kids in the congregation running wild), but I feel like it’s coming soon.

    While it’s important to feel comfortable in church, I think it’s also a sign of respect – to God, to the Church, and to your congregation – to at least look like you haven’t (as my mother would put it) “been drug through a knot-hole”.

    P.S. I’m only in my early 40s.

    • I am truly amazed at this. Surely your church has an official board of some type or other. No well-organized congregation neds to resort to congregational uprisings and sniper fire to get word to the minister that he/she is out of line. Let the leaders do their job.

  20. It matters how one dresses. 24 years as an Army Chaplain, who either was dressed in a civilian suit and tie or in a dress uniform whenever I was in the pulpit or platform, or even in the congregation, and believes that “dress does matter.” It shows respect for the office and role of the preacher.” Call me judgmental, but if you show up in anything but appropriate attire, then that’s all I see and the message is lost. Let’s stop trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator and call our people to a higher standard and don’t tell me some people are to poor. My family was as poor as it gets and my dad always found a way to wear a jacket and tie for Sunday. Remember the phrase, “Go to meet’n clothes.” It’s just plan lazy and disrespectful.

  21. On some things, I am the same yesterday, today and always. I’m for a suit and tie for preachers -just as I am in favor of the King James Version of the Bible!

  22. What a man wears when he preaches in the pulpit says something about how he thinks of God and Sunday morning worship. The outside reflects the inside.

  23. Pastor Joe, I clearly understand the message that you are trying to get across. Isn’t it amazing how people are constantly taking your article out of context? Maybe they didn’t read it thoroughly. I am 34 and have pastored since I was 21. I have found that it really depends on the congregation that you pastor. I am a suit and tie guy on Sunday mornings. I normally do extremely nice jeans with a nice “pressed” collar shirt and sports coat for evening services. I actually enjoy wearing a suit and tie and have friends that believe that’s all a minister should wear when preaching. I cannot stand seeing modern day preachers in their tight muscle shirts (especially the 50+ year old pastor trying to be “relevant”) behind the pulpit. Great post here my bro!

    • Thank you, Jimmy. It’s definitely a loaded subject which some people cannot discuss dispassionately. Reminds me of the pastor who threw a picture of a starving child on the screen, and said, “And some of you don’t give a damn.” Then he said, “Some of you are more disturbed that I said ‘damn’ than that this child is going to die of starvation. — It makes his point, but he probably paid a price.

  24. Thank you for this article and the responses. It has been comfort to me in my recent battle. I have been attending the same Baptist Church for 20 years. About 10 years ago, a new 11 o’clock service music leader wore nasty looking sandals and ragged jeans. I ask him privately if this was some sort of agenda that he would dress such while leading from the pulpit. He pretty much blew me off. Fast forward 5 years and the whole congregation started bringing coffee, donuts, and whatever else they want to spread out during the service. Most people on the pulpit dressed down to clothes they would never wear to work. I gave up and started going to the early service where the older folks mostly attended and it was a more solemn, respectful experience and I felt right.
    Now, after 5 years of somewhat respect for the sanctuary in the service, a new leader shows up with nasty men toes hanging out with ragged jeans IN THE TRADITIONS SERVICE! I approached him to ask if this was the direction he was wanting to take the service and explained the history of what had happened. He comes back to me a couple weeks later to inform me that he met with several church leaders and their opinion was that he could wear whatever he wanted. I tried to explain the positions you presented here: it is a matter of respect, it shows those who enter the sanctuary that it is a holy place where they can seek God, etc. etc.. The result: I now must find another church where I feel like God is respected. To me that means, dress at least as you would to go to meet someone you wanted to show respect to, and treat the sanctuary as a place worthy of God- not your picnic bench.
    I was broken hearted about the situation, which happened just today. I had prayed to God that His will be my motivation and that I would not do anything based on me. The rejection I received today from my church broke my heart and made me question if I was right or wrong. Your article and your responses have reassured my heart. We DO need to be respectful of God in dress and action- particularly in His sanctuary. Thank you.

    • My heart goes out to you. Funny how these guys say their “cool” dress indicates that what we wear is not important. Then, they go bonkers when we disagree. So much for Christian charity. I’m surprised you stayed there this long; I think I’d have been looking before now.

  25. Why dress up to go to a ball, a funeral, or wedding, and look like a hobo when your preaching? I went to a baby’s dedication, and the WHOLE FAMILY was “BEAUTIFUL,” but the pastor was looking like he was just going up to the store. 🙁 Like nothing special was happening that day. The pictures I took were embaressing. So sad.

  26. Charles Haddon Spurgeon put it this way in his John Ploughmans Talks:
    ” the preacher should endeavor, according to his means, to dress himself respectably; and, as to neatness, he should be without spot, for kings should not have dirty footmen to wait at their table, and they who teach godliness should practice cleanliness…..a modest, gentle–manly appearance, in which the dress is just such as nobody could make a remark upon, seems to me to be the right sort of thing.”

  27. If a minister can dress appropriately for a bride at a wedding, shouldn’t the minister dress accordingly for the bride of Christ as well? I have wrestled with this on many occasions when attending a church where the pastor, on Sunday morning, dresses like he’s attending a cookout with T-shirt, jeans and flip flops or tennis shoes. My opinion is that, we are entering the Holy of Holies and should show respect in our attire and physical demeanor. I’m not saying suite and tie (but had rather see that in the pulpit) but at least dress with respect, authority and as a vessel worthy or presentation of our Christ. As for the congregation, wear what you want and let the Holy Spirit direct your attire. If you feel comfortable attending in shorts, then so be it. However, I can’t see a seasoned Christian not having respect for God’s sanctuary to dress less than their, dare I say it, “Sunday best”.

  28. Thank you for posting this article. Very well written. I struggle very hard with the way the pastors in our church dress. I have even considered looking for another church home because of it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think a pastor has to be in a suit and tie or even in slacks. A clean neat pair of jeans and polished boots with a tucked in dress shirt does the trick for me and I am sure it will not put anyone off. Our pastors often will show up on Sunday in faded wrinkly denim jeans, although designer jeans, and untucked flannel shirt, and maybe throw on a wrinkly sport coat, and wear ostrich boots that look like they have spent a lot of time in the field. on those days I don’t hear a word he is saying I get stuck on his appearance. I am all for people coming to worship as they are or as they can. I am old school and feel that the Leader of a business, which the church can be considered, should set the example and give the people something to strive for. Biblically the dress should not be such that distracts people, and obviously it does or this would not be a discussion. Looking neat and clean is a matter of opinion, I understand that. I always ask myself, what kind of example do we want to be for the next generation. I am as redneck as they come, and used to think blue jeans and boots should be the norm. I am 50 now and run a few businesses and realize I am a mentor and a role model, and I want the best for those around me and I hope I project that. Thank you for your insight

  29. You will agree that the article here is based purely on tradition, will you not, and not from any command or mandate in the Bible? It’s interesting that the character in the article that is ridiculed ( bum-like ) perfectly describes John the Baptist, who would literally have looked like a bum ( long hair; dirty; ragged clothing; smelly ). Jesus said of John that there has never been any greater born among women. John the Baptist was literally the greatest Preacher, aside from Jesus, that has ever walked the face of the earth, and He fits the Traditionalists’ ” outcast ” mold!
    Another great Preacher, that preached that great sermon ” Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God “, that resulted in the greatest revival this country has ever seen ; the ” Great Awakening “, wore long hair. His name was Jonathan Edwards. Here is a list of people that are ” off limits ” to certain pulpits today, but were great Men of God…
    1. John The Baptist ( had long hair, and did not wear a suit and tie; probably looked like a bum )
    2. All the disciples ( they all would probably have had had long beards and mustaches ).
    3.Justin Martyr ( martyr )
    4. Polycarp ( martyr )
    5. John Huss ( martyr )
    6. William Tyndale ( translator of a pre KJV English Bible; martyr )
    7. John Wycliff ( translator of a pre KJV English Bible; martyr )
    8. The Waldensian men ( horribly persecuted and killed at the hands of Roman Catholicism).
    9. Charles Hadden Spurgeon ( had beard and sideburns, occasionally enjoyed a fine cigar )
    10. Jonathan Edwards ( Preacher of the sermon ” Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God”, and participator in the greatest revival America has ever seen; The Great Awakening )

    • There is no way to discuss this with you, so I’ll not try. We’re talking about two entirely separate things. If you think culture doesn’t matter, try speaking Swahili to your English speaking congregation. It works in Kenya, why not here?

    • You’re correct Larry! Fundy Baptists also wouldn’t allow Dwight Lyman Moody or Reuben Archer Torrey in their churches either. Both of them had full beards, which is anathema to fundy Baptists and other legalists.

      • guys, you need to be careful about tossing around such careless words. one person’s “fundy” is another person’s orthodox. I know a dozen pastors of conservative Southern Baptist churches with full beards, and as you know, the SBC ranks among the “fundies” for much of our culture.

  30. As in so many other situations you cut some slack and it plumments to the bottom. Our staff worship leader and pastor prefers to dress with shirttails untucked and jeans. We recently had a revival where the visiting pastor wore a long tailed shirt untucked, pants that had not been pressed and sported a Mohawk haircut. He was about 6’4” and with his little pot belly looked like a pregnant beanpole. This is what dressing down has done.

  31. Interesting that in the wedding parable that wearing the proper clothes was an issue. Didn’t the king love those poor sinners he invited? Or is it that we’re expected to put away our likes and wants in thanksgiving and respect for our host? Church is about coming before our Lord and King and not placating mere men. Will we be held responsible for teaching others that God is ordinary and common place rather than holy?

    • My uncle Walter was turned away from a church because he didn’t have a suit and tie. He never owned one. He grew up wearing overalls, and that particular Sunday, he bought new clothes just to go to church.The arrogant deacons who turned him away will answer to God for it. He never set foot inside a church again after that, and died lost. Those who demand folks dress up to go to church are legalists who are no different than the Pharisees whom Jesus had to contend with. Some men just can’t afford to plop down two or three hundred dollars just for a suit they will wear once or twice per week. What I’ve seen in my 62 years have been church folks look down their arrogant noses at poorer folks. It is hypocrital and condescending.

  32. There were a lot of preachers in my family going back into the late 1700’s. Most of them were old country farmers. In the 1930’s here in Tennessee, my preacher relatives didn’t dress up when they preached. They wore the same clothes behind the pulpit that they had worn earlier in the morning to go feed their livestock. It’s a sad commentary that Jesus wouldn’t be welcome in a lot of churches today unless he got a haircut and wore a three-piece suit and tie.

  33. I’m old fashion bro Joe. I will always preach in my suit and ties.
    I just believe in holding up the standard, they can believe what they will, I believe its all part of the falling away . May the Good Lord help us to hang on a little longer,to the old paths. Thanks for standing up for us pastors that do ,where the attire out of respect of the office . thanks

  34. Well said.
    It is about respecting.
    You do not have to wear a suit but we do represent a Christian that glorifies God.

  35. It’s hard to take a pastor seriously if he’s dressed like a bum. It would be just like police officers wearing shorts.

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