By A.B. Vines
True story–one day a couple of pastor friends of mine happen to be doing hospital visits at the same hospital. When I do hospital visits, I typically wear a clerical collar.
As we walked towards the counter, the lady at the desk simply gave me a badge and said, “Have a good day.” However, when the other pastors came to her, she immediately began asking them where they were going and who were they visiting–the typical interrogation questions you get asked when you go to the hospital.
“Why,” you might ask? My pastor friends were all casually dressed. The young lady was unaware they were pastors.
Why did I get a badge and a simple greeting while they got interrogated? Was it my dress or did I have some kind of “pastor glow?” No, it was definitely my clothing (By the way, one of those guys has changed his attire since that encounter).
I’m not trying to be controversial. I’m merely asking a question: Are we letting articles or culture dictate what we wear? I am not saying the entire church needs to dress up. But I am saying the pastor in the room should dress like an adult.
It’s amazing how we’ve let extended adolescence creep into the pulpit. Are we the only profession (or calling) that has lowered its dress standards to meet the expectations of its audience?
Think about it. Courtroom judges still wear robes, and even television networks continue to require their male anchors to wear suits, white shirts, and ties.
Also, late night talk show hosts wear suits and ties. Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon do their television shows dressed better than 90 percent of the preachers in our country. Last I checked, they are reaching the same audience we are trying to reach every Sunday and are doing a great job of reaching millions. It seems their clothing hasn’t hurt their ratings at all.
However, some are convinced we must submit to the latest poll, survey, or article governing our attire. I mean since jeans and a t-shirt are good enough for Sunday morning preaching then why not wear it for funeral service? Or, if it’s okay for God on Sunday morning, then why isn’t okay for an official city invocation or dinner at the governor’s mansion?
So, here’s my take on this dress code thing. You may not agree with me, but this is my perspective:
First of all, have a definite conviction about your role and your calling from God. Your belief about your specific ministry will help define your dress code.
For instance, if you are ministering in a rural setting your dress up maybe a nice shirt, jeans, and some boots. But if you’re in the city or a biker ministry setting, then it’s something entirely different.
Secondly, don’t choose your attire because of compulsion. I know what the latest trends are saying, but they’ve been saying that for years.
Think about Robert Schuller and the Crystal Cathedral, right in the heart of Southern California. He preached in a gray clerical robe, a shirt and tie on top of the drive-in theatre to thousands every Sunday.
Consider how the late Dr. Billy Graham was never seen without a suit and tie at his crusades, yet he reached millions for the Lord from every age group, all over the world.
My dear pastors who are getting up in age, the Bible clearly says in Proverbs 16:31: “Gray hair is a glorious crown; it is found in the ways of righteousness.”
It’s okay to get old, so get rid of the skinny jeans.
Never let the latest mega-pastor thing automatically be your thing. Unless you are convicted because of ministry and not the latest trend, don’t do it.
Finally, don’t do it for convenience, I know it’s easier to put on some jeans and Nikes and head to church. However, should you only decide based on something being casual, comfortable, and cool? Or is there more to it than that?
For instance, wouldn’t you expect to see a surgeon in some scrubs? How would you react if it was someone in jeans and sneakers, holding a scalpel, asking, “Are you ready?” No, thank you! You need a clear understanding of that person’s role and responsibility.
Or what about police officers? We expect to see them in uniform, right? The only time you won’t see them in uniform is if they are undercover or off duty.
I know what you are saying, “Yeah A.B., I want to infiltrate the culture and be accepted by the culture.” Okay, but at what cost? I would rather be a preacher who is cool, than a cool preacher any day.
Somehow, some way, they need to know you’re the preacher. What you wear matters. Give it some thought, pray about it, and consider what you are saying by what you are wearing.
DR. A.B. VINES (@DrABVines) has been the pastor of New Seasons Church in San Diego for the past 13 years and was elected first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention at the 2018 Annual Meeting. In addition, Vines currently serves as president of the California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC) and is a trustee at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He is the husband to Karen, father of four, and “PaPa” to nine.