Six Thoughts about Proper Pastoral Attire for Worship Services

July 13, 2015

I never expected to write an article on this topic, and I’m still not certain I should. But I’ve received sufficient questions from readers of the blog and listeners of the podcast to indicate I should tackle the issue.

Allow me three caveats before I go further. First, this post is about high-level issues of attire, not the specifics of fashion and dress. I am not qualified to write about the latter. I once tried to subscribe to GQ and was rejected as unqualified. Second, though I am writing about pastors, much of the content could be applied to other church staff. Third, I am only writing to males. I am not about to delve into issues about female attire.

With those caveats, I must disclose a clear bias of mine. I do not like neckties. They are too similar to a hanging noose for my comfort. With those issues cleared, let’s look at six thoughts about pastoral attire.

  1. Understand the demographic context. Most churches in South Florida and Southern California have different expectations about dress than some churches in Mississippi and Alabama. Find out how other pastors dress in the community. Find out how the men in your own congregation dress for worship services.
  2. Understand the church’s expectations. The expectations of churches in the same community typically vary. Because I speak all over the nation, my assistant always asks my host about the expectations of my attire. I would never want the way I dress to be a distraction or stumbling block.
  3. Understand changes in fashion. I have been fascinated to observe the changes toward a more informal dress in many churches. When I became a member of my church ten years ago, about 90 percent of the men attending wore ties. Now I suspect the number is below 10 percent. Such changes may be a signal to you as a pastor that you can dress a bit more informally.
  4. Lead change gradually. The pastor’s attire in a worship service can be a sacred cow for some church members. Don’t let the way you dress become a major divisive issue. For example, if you notice a more informal trend for dress in your church, you may want to move from wearing a tie all the time to leaving the tie off in the summer months. Gradual change can be better tolerated than radical and sudden change.
  5. Don’t put your preferences ahead of your love for others. The biblical principle of the stumbling block (See 1 Corinthians 8) means that we put our own rights on the backburner for consideration of others. It is not a sin to dress without a tie and coat, but it can be a problem for others. The matter becomes sin when our own preferences become our idol.
  6. Understand your members’ emotional attachment to certain forms of attire. I knew a pastor who was called to serve an established church in the South. Previous pastors had all worn suits and ties in the worship services. On his first Sunday, he wore jeans, an untucked shirt, and sandals. He had the shortest tenure of any pastor in the history of the church.

I welcome your input on this issue. Ladies, feel free to share about female attire for church staff as well. You are far more qualified than I to broach that topic.

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  • Michael Gates says on

    Christian Dress – John the Baptist dressed simple (Matthew 3:4) . Jesus dressed well. He wore a seamless garment that even the Romans considered worth gambling for, in order to obtain it in one piece (John 19:23). Historian Josephus wrote that the Jewish High Priest wore a special garment that was seamless. Exodus 28:39 calls the High Priest garment a “coat of fine linen”. Jesus is our High Priest (Hebrews 6:20) and it seems he dressed the part. Jesus and John the Baptist supported and spoke well of each other. Simple or fine attire is acceptable. Those in the church who dress simple and those who dress well, need to be loving and be supportive of one another. Those who dress well should greet and speak lovingly with those who, for whatever reason dress simpler and make them feel accepted. When a person dressed well comes to a group who are all dressed simpler, those dressed simpler should greet and speak lovingly with the one dressed well and make them to feel accepted. See each other as Jesus and John saw each other. The example is there to follow. The Bible stresses modesty, which speaks to covering skin and clothes not being too tight, as to appear “sexy” (1 Timothy 2:9). Dirty, smelly, and too revealing clothes should be addressed with a person at an appropriate time in the appropriate loving and scriptural manner. Salvation may need to come an individual before the need for modest attire can be seen. Churches should hear sermons to prepare them for those coming dressed simple, dressed well and dressed immodest long before a problem occurs in that area. So few, including many who wrote here, have not really studied what scripture has to show us on the issue.

  • Joe DeKock says on

    This very topic has been on my heart lately. I am not a pastor, but I have a family member who is a pastor. I have been in a few different styles of churches my entire life, and have attended regularly since I was a little boy. I grew up in a very conservative Christian family that spans generations.

    The reason that this has been on my heart is that I notice so many young millennial pastors that are dressing as “hipsters” (for a lack of a better term). They have the trendy haircuts, wear the skinny jeans with italian boots, have the long beards, 50’s style patterned shirts buttoned all the way up to their necks, and now I am seeing more and more heavily tattooed arms and necks! I will avoid the topic of tattoo’s here as that can be a whole separate theological debate.

    What gets me is that this is definitely different than even 10 years ago. Just 5-10 years ago for a pastor or church leader to be wearing jeans from the pulpit was a big deal and only “allowed” maybe during an evening service, or special event service like a church picnic or outdoor service. Fast forward 5 years later and a majority of the pastors at our church look like they are straight out of The Village in Manhattan! However, the teachings from these same pastors are astounding and divine messages from God, and they are changing lives and growing churches! So they cannot be ignored.

    Like the original poster wrote here, i believe strongly in 1 Corinthians 8. This chapter always to me extends to the highly debated alcohol topic Christians face. I also agree that it is text Paul wrote that is relevant to not just eating or drinking, but lifestyle living. So appearance is included.

    So, is it wrong to dress like a hipster? No. Should a pastor be mindful when he is at a pulpit or leading worship of his dress? Yes, I believe God’s word tells us that in more places than just 1 Corinthians 8. Paul wrote to Timothy, the Corinth, and Titus on how to set apart Church from the world to make it relevant in the world for the great commission. This is why I believe how leaders dress is important. This is why I believe how we worship is important.

    1 Corinthians 13:11 says: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me”. There is a maturity that needs to take place as a Christian, and that includes taking Paul’s ordained word from God on order for the church seriously. If our church leaders all dress like Hipsters or whatever the latest trend is, we are allowing the world into God’s house instead of keeping it separated from the world.

    • I think we should be careful when we start adding things to the scripture that scripture doesn’t say. And really, we are seeing it through eyes of “tradition” rather than scriptural authority. Jesus went into the temple and preached — he talked about those who went into the temple (tax collector and pharisee) and the only comment made about dress is Matthew 23:5. I wouldn’t make a theological dress out of that passage but IMO, you could make that into a principle as easily as some are using other scriptures.

      Culture changes and our dress (i.e. ties and coats in church) were as much of the culture change in America as it is adopting today’s culture of dress. It wasn’t an issue 100 years ago because people didn’t own that many choices in clothing.

      We go to church on Sundays and when my wife and I took a trip to Hawaii, we went to the beach for worship and to a regular service. I just wanted to see what it was like. I was impressed with the people that the pastor had gotten to go to this beach worship service. There were a few tourists like us but there were some others that I don’t think would have ever gone into a regular church — at least not at that point in their lives. The pastor wasn’t wearing a coat and tie for the beach service but wore one for the “traditional” service — not because he thought it was necessary to preach the Word of God but because he wanted to minister to the people in his congregation. I currently wear a coat and tie on Sunday morning — I’m cool with doing it because, right now, it’s the culture of our church. I have been in other churches where that wasn’t the culture and it certainly didn’t match up with who we were trying to reach.

      Bottom line, for me, is this: if Jesus, and the Bible, doesn’t teach it, then it’s not important enough to put it before the gospel (Paul in 1 Corinthians 9). The only time Paul talks about dress is when the church embraces one and neglects the other because of they way their are dressed (and their wealth). 100 years from now, I think what is acceptable in worship may look totally different to us — but I think the gospel is more important than the way people are dressed. When our traditions become more important that the gospel, we are valuing the wrong thing — and we should be asking ourselves if that’s the reason why most churches are not growing or reaching their community for Christ.

      What are we doing to reach others with the gospel of Christ?

      What are we not willing to do to reach others with the gospel of Christ?

      If taking off my coat and tie helps me reach people with the gospel of Christ, the coat and tie goes. Anything that doesn’t reject the Word of God and the principles in it is exactly what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 9. Gospel should always be greater than our traditions!

  • Ron Keener says on

    All you pastors who need a guide to dressing like a 16 year old should go to

  • Very well said but I wonder if you would even allow Jesus on your stage. Or what about John the Baptist. Want to tell God that He didn’t make John the Baptist acceptable in his dress?

    We ought to glorify God in our dress every single day but more in our attitude. Worship is 24/7.

    There is much judgement going on about how individuals believe everyone should dress according to their standards. Standards that are based more on tradition than they are about scripture (okay, there are a few week scriptures thrown in to support their tradition).

    So why is Sunday morning more important than Sunday night? Or Wednesday?

    There are churches with pastors who aren’t wearing suits, who aren’t compromising the gospel, who are reaching many for Christ and discipling believers. That should be the bottom line of all of us – not judging or trying to disqualify them because they don’t dress to your standards.

    As long as they are doing those things, I will let God judge them and focus on doing the same!

    • michael woods says on

      Such judgmental conclusions. I don’t recall anyone saying anything about a suit. The statement was “your best”. I believe Jesus and John wore their best. If it’s all you have then it is indeed your best. It seems to me there are a lot of folks looking for a fight, assuming “facts not stated”, jumping to conclusions, and, basically, talking about things they know nothing about. It really perplexes me the fear and anxiety the word “best” creates. Some think doing, wearing, being your best is some kind of sin. I wonder if these folks study to show themselves approved. That would be tantamount to “doing your best”. No one has equated not wearing a suit with not preaching Gospel even though I’ve heard suits and non- suits preaching something other than complete gospel. Preaching half-truths which is nothing less than a complete lie. Come on folks, lets tell the truth and be honest. Stand up and declare, “I don’t want to present my best”! Me? I judge no man. I just present convictions. These convictions are a result of study and prayer. To change these convictions I’ll need to see the scripture – and the book of Hezekiah doesn’t count. Let’s love one another. You do, wear, be less than your best for Jesus and I will do, be, wear my best for Jesus. Why? I love Him! You love Him, Follow Him, obey Him in all things and hear His “well done” in that day.

      • intereting that you think your using the word best promotes fear. It doesn’t for me as I doubt it does for anyone else.

        I also notice that you continually ignore the fact that we are to give our best all the time rather than just on Sunday. See that is why people are rejecting these attitudes – not because they don’t live God and do their best for Him but they don’t like all the trappings that you make from religion.

        When are we to stop giving our best? According to your constant insistence, we should wear our best when mowing the yard! I believe God deserves our best all the time – not just one Sundays. I don’t wear anything ever that I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing in the presence of my Heavenly Father. But I wear jeans at times – and I still give God the worship of my entire life.

        Wear whatever you want in worship and I will do the same. And I know God honors my worship no matter what Inam wearing!

      • Jim Watson says on

        God seems to be far more concerned with giving the best of ourselves, not what we wear. Shepherds were not even considered clean in Israel. They lived with the sheep. Care to share the scriptural reference that says that shepherds were to wear their best? I’d even suggest that you can find places in the Bible where the leaders tore their garments and times when they wore sackcloth and ashes. Since those attires were pleasing to God, I have to wonder just how YOU define a person’s “best”.

        I don’t have to make snide comments about fictional books of the Bible. I read what is in the Bible. But, I read it all and don’t attempt to create a religion out of selected passages. Would you care to share why you chose to ignore all of those passages in the Bible while you were concluding that we need to dress our best?

  • When the pastor looks like he rolled out of a haystack, and the “worship Team” is dressed for American Idol or America Has Talent, we the “church” have a problem. In more than one church I’ve seen women up on the stage wearing low cut, thigh- high dresses , skin-tight leggings and men that look worse than someone doing Saturday yard work. We expect the world to see something different about the church without actually being different. In an attempt to woo the world, we have forgotten the main purpose of the church is to “feed the sheep”- not mimic the world’s values and think that the church is primarily a come-as-you are evangelical tent meeting. It’s pretty hard to pay attention to anything someone is saying or singing when you are thoroughly distracted. As for the pastor perhaps if he thought of himself as the God -ordained shepherd of us sheep, he may consider dressing to fit the role. When was the last time you saw a judge without his robes? It is a symbol of his legal authority. I’m sure he could just as easily sentence someone to jail in shorts and flip flops, but he doesn’t. Is representing the Lord less worthy?

  • michael woods says on

    I do serve a King. I also serve a Father. But ultimately. I serve an Awesome God. I dress my best for God, creator of me, author of my salvation, giver of anything I have that’s worth having, and my keeper. He deserves my best in everything.

    • Ben Campbell says on

      By your best, do you mean trying to tell other people how they must dress? Or, by your best, do you mean making dress an idol? As I read the comments, yours stuck out. And, I couldn’t help the voice in my head that kept saying, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men” and “for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased”.

      • michael woods says on

        Since when is dressing, doing, being, your best sin and unacceptable to Jesus? Must be in the book of Hezekiah. I can’t find it in the other 66. Perhaps you should stop listening to the voice in your head and listen to the voice of God. I didn’t mention what I wore , you judgemental rascal, I said I wore my best. No one is more important in my life than Jesus so He gets my best. Always has, always will. It may not be much, but it is my best. How about you? Does Jesus get your best in all things?

      • Ben Campbell says on

        The question remains about what constitutes your “best”. Your “best” depends more on the circumstances in which God places you than it depends on what is hanging in your closet. Your “best” would be the clothes of the servant you are called to be, not the clothes horse or fashion plate that you can afford to be. Dressing, doing, being, your best is sin and unacceptable to Jesus when He calls you to dress, do, or be something else.
        Sometimes, sackcloth and ashes are the correct attire. God, not man, makes the decision. And, His ways are not our ways. Sometimes, we need to get over ourselves to get out of the Lord’s way so that the kingdom can be advanced.
        We can look pretty on our own time.

      • Romans 14:
        This issue is not an essential. It’s a non-essential. We as the body of Christ need to grow in this area….Its a personal conviction a matter of conscience between an individual and God. We need to stop judging our brothers/sisters in Christ about these matters of conscience. ..If someone feels they’re honoring the Lord by wearing the best suit they own to church that’s great. If someone else feels they honor God by wearing jeans and a T-shirt then that’s great as well. They both give thanks to the Lord and He is pleased with them. Personal conviction a matter of conscience. Whether one dresses their absolute best or casually they are not wrong whichever way they choose to dress as long as they can do it in faith…Our job isn’t to judge in these matters but to not purposely put a stumbling block in the path of a brother/sister in the Lord which could cause them to violate their conscience in the matters of the non-essentials of the faith. Blessings

  • Beverly Tavares says on

    I feel that our entire society is breaking down regarding manners, common decency and public behavior. Kids in school dress like tramps and behave in ways that would have been shocking 50 years ago. I was hoping that the church would hold on to a little tradition in order to slow the slide. Psychologists tell us that the way we dress does affect the way we think. The church is no exception. I’ll never believe money has anything to do with it. It’s all about being lazy and not caring what anybody else thinks. Being a distraction in church is the Devil’s device. We have lost the wonder of His holiness.

  • But you continue to fail to realize that your own convictions are making you judgemental in this area – it’s not about grace, it’s grace plus dressing up. Giving of your best, in your eyes means wearing your best even though you don’t find that in Hebrew or Greek. And it’s never “this is my opinion or conviction” – no, and to strive to back up your opinion, you throw in your knowledge of Greek and Hebrew – I believe there are some tremendous theologians who are also tremendous Greek and Hebrews scholars that aren’t wearing suits on Sunday. It’s legalism and quoting a number of verses about love doesn’t change that. A judge can lecture all day about grace before handing out the worst sentence ever. People don’t walk away seeing grace. When you tell someone what they own isn’t good enough to worship God (which is exactly what you are doing when you establish a fund so people can wear nice clothes to be acceptable – not in God’s eyes – but yours).

    It’s okay for this to be your convictions but trying to manipulate scriptures to make it others convictions is wrong.

    • michael woods says on

      When God told the priest what to wear in service, it was the best. The command for the first fruits is the best. Malachi in chapter 1 warned about giving less than the best to God. I can’t find any scripture where that changed. Where did God say less than the best for Him was acceptable? If you desire to give God less than your best, have at it. I will give God the best I have. Will you try to discourage that of me or anyone? Are we hypocrites to sing ” give of your best to the Master”?

      • So if the Old Testament hasn’t changed, your a hypocrite for not wearing the ascribed robe, ephod, etc.

        The Bible says we are to make a lifestyle of givin of our best and you have paraphrased that into what we wear on Sunday. Sunday was never mentioned – do you wear your best all the time or just when you deem it necessary to properly worship God. It doesn’t mention one day a week and you certainly can’t believe that we are to obey all the law of the Old Testament that wasn’t specifically revoked by Jeaus and the NT (note it doesn’t say anything about what the people are to wear, does it? If Jesus would have cared about this, it would be addresses onthe NT.

        You are making a very particular personal conviction into sin for everyone and I can’t agree but I am done. Your not going to change my mind based on your persona opinion and that’s exactly what you are spouting.

      • The Old Testament is part of the Bible. In addition to other things, the Bible tells us what is important to God. At the same time, we must be careful to make sure that we read it objectively without reading our own personal prejudices.

        Let us take the example you chose: wearing the ascribed robe, ephod, etc.

        The first thing you need to consider is the location of the passage in the Bible. You can then look at the surrounding verses and chapters to make sure that you are not reading something into the passage that is not there.

        Context also calls for you to ask certain questions:
        1. What specifically was said?
        2. To whom was it said?
        3. About whom was it said?
        4. Why was it said?
        5. Were there modifications (e.g. expiration dates)?

        There are other questions, of course, depending on the passage. But, ripping a passage out of the Bible and ignoring its context generally leads a person to a flawed conclusion about its meaning.

        So, does whatever passage you have in mind really fit the topic at hand?

      • michael woods says on

        Where do you invent all this from? Sin? we’re talking about dress for presenting ourselves to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. You dress as you please. I choose to dress my best. You serve as you want to. I choose to serve my best. You be as slack, mediocre, or whatever as you desire. I choose to dress, serve, preform to my very best, to give Him my first fruits, not the crumbs or leftovers. You give as you please. Now have a good as life as you as you can. Really, the bottom line is believe the Word or twist the Word. I must wonder why all the need to do less than the best?

      • Michael,

        You continue to cherry pick your rebuttals and your scripture.

        I present myself to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords every minute of every day and you obviously only do it once a week on Sunday.

        So much for “not judging anyone and loving everyone,” huh?

        I am done with this conversation. You have failed to show me any verse that tells me that God desires for His people to dress up or down. Worship is a daily life lived for Christ – striving to be like Him – so rather than argue with you any further about your personal rules and regulations – I will go try and actually make a difference in someone’s life.

        I started posting more but erased it – this argument is certainly not pleasing to Christ and so I am out.


      • michael woods says on

        I thought I was discussing with intelligent people proper dress in preaching. I stated – and will not change – it should be your very best. If you wouldn’t wear it to dine with the governor don’t wear it to church. My, the judgemental accusations. I never said anything about suits etc. I said your best! Obviously, there are people opposed to their best for Jesus. Either that or people who simply don’t understand plain english , or are just hateful , picking a fight. The very accusations you direct to me, you seem to be guilty of. Folks, again I say, Give Your best to and for Jesus. The world would be better, your church would be better, and you would be better!!

      • Jim Watson says on

        If my father were governor, I would dress comfortably to dine with him. If the governor were my brother, I would dress comfortably to dine with him. To do otherwise would be based on pride (his or mine). To do otherwise would be an indication that our relationship was not a personal one. And, if I had a personal relationship with the governor, he would dress comfortably as well.
        So, my question would be this: Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus, or are you just putting on airs?

      • michael woods says on

        My relationship with Jesus is real and permanent! How about yours? If the governor was my father, brother, cousin, uncle or whatever I would dress in my best for the office sake and not to embarrass them – and I would be quite comfortable knowing it was my best. For Jesus, always my best. How about you?

      • Jim Watson says on

        I do not put on a show for those with whom I have a close, personal, and permanent relationship. I don’t need to do so. We are more concerned about who the person is and how the person is doing than how the person dresses. How about you?

        And, of course, there are times when wearing your best suit to the worship service is inappropriate. There are even times when wearing your best suit serves as a barrier to building relationships with others (especially if your behavior is not of the same high standard). For instance, what would a non-believer think of a person wearing his very best suit who suggests that other pastors are not “intelligent people”? They seem to be much more interested in a pastor that acts like a Christian than one that just dresses like one.

        So, do you really think that the condition of your clothes should outweigh the condition of your behavior? Reading through your comments makes it appear that you value form over substance. The problem with that is that people generally see through the outer layer.

      • Ron Keener says on

        I didn’t get to read the original blog that stirred up this hornet’s nest, but I can imagine what it said from the responses/comments to it. I write because I also wrote an editorial on the topic of pastors’ attire on the platform when I was editor [2005-13] of “Church Executive” magazine when living in the Phoenix area. I wrote then about shirt tails being out, wearing flip flops instead of shoes, and other non-traditional dress from the usual tie and coat. And wow, did I get letters to the editor–the most ever received on any other topic. Sure hit a hot button. Nothing is going to change on this theme, so why waste the time on it?

      • michael woods says on

        Me thinks thou doth protest too much. You throw in things I never said as if I did and that is most offensive. There is never a time to do or be less than your best. Why would anyone want to be or do less than their best for the Master. And after 45 years of ministry, I’ve never had doing or being my best present any sort of barrier. Sad you seem to have had such experiences. Well you continue with less than the best and I will continue with my best. So long!

      • Jim Watson says on

        It is not I who have been protesting. I merely stated how one person (me) would act with a person with whom I have a close, personal, and permanent relationship. YOU, on the other hand, want to dictate how another person needs to act.
        It does give me pause to see a Christian (who states that he has 45 years of ministry) lacking the ability to either articulate or demonstrate the meaning of grace while, at the same time, giving every indication that he has never truly encountered our risen Lord outside of books. It does concern me that someone who has apparently been representing Jesus to others seems so much more concerned about how a person looks on the outside than the state of the person within. And, I wonder how much of your ministry was spent with sinners outside of the building.

        You said, “You throw in things I never said as if I did and that is most offensive.” I would suggest that I have done no such thing. If I did so, I wish that you would show it so that I may apologize for any such transgression. It is not now (nor has it ever been) my intention to misrepresent you. But, at the same time, it is not my intention to allow you to misrepresent what the Bible teaches.

      • It’s interesting that this discussion goes on and on without resolution! I think one responder is correct that there is no resolution. But has anyone talked about the women? Wouldn’t it be inappropriate for a woman to wear suggestive clothing to worship? Worshippers should dress modestly and appropriately. For me, modesty is not an issue, but appropriateness is. I’m an aging baby-boomer and I wear a suit on Sundays and at funerals and weddings. I can’t imagine wearing a tee-shirt of jeans or going barefoot to lead worship, unless I’m in the baptistery.

      • Jim Watson says on

        To me, the discussion is not about what I should or should not wear. It has become a discussion about whether or not any person should dictate what should be worn by another. I would suggest to you that there are times when your best suit might not be your best choice in leading worship.
        For a person who is leading worship solely from the confines of a church that is filled with people just like the pastor, his best suit might be the best choice. But, assuming that the church is filled with such people might not be the best choice.
        If you leave the cozy confines of your church building and actually get out among the people in your community, you might find that your best suit is not your best choice. In fact, it can be your worst choice. Wearing your best suit to lead worship among people who have no shoes in the dead of winter makes you look as though you have no empathy (both to them and to other Christians ministering there). It makes you look arrogant and affluent. And, it leads those in need to conclude that your ministry is all about you bettering your own position. Whether you intend to give that impression or not is really not important. You leave them with the impression that YOU think you are better than they are.
        If you are ministering to combat troops, wearing your best suit instead of a uniform of your branch of service is a terrible choice. Ministering to first responders as their chaplain in your “Sunday best” makes you look completely out of touch with what they are experiencing.
        So, if you want to wear your best suit, go ahead. Leave whatever impression you like. God won’t be impressed if you look your best to yourself while you turn people away from Him or His truth. He doesn’t want you to look your best. In fact, many times you are far more effective with the unsaved if you don’t. Who wants to listen to the gospel from a person who has it all together? They just don’t believe that you can possibly understand just how bad their life is, how terrible their decisions have been, and how impossible it would be for God to love them.
        There is a lot of truth in the statement that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much they care. And, your suit may only impress those who are already saved, already like you, and already under the grace of our Lord. But, is that why we are really here? Is the lesson that we teach supposed to be that we are better than everyone else (like our clothes would indicate)? Or, are we to be real people dressed in real clothes to which the people we are trying to reach can relate?
        Who are we really dressing for? God is not impressed by what we wear. All of our righteousnesses (including how we dress) are as filthy rags. I would suggest that how we dress is much more a matter of pride than it is honoring God. God is honored by who we are and what we do, not how we look. Looks can be deceiving (as is evidenced by some of the horrendous actions of some very well-dressed “ministers”).
        Matthew 6 is worth a review if you really want to understand What jesus said about people doing things to impress others. What we do for God, we are to do in secret. Even how we dress should not be a concern of ours (verses 28-31). Sometimes, it seems that we so strain on a gnat that we forget what our commission really is. We forget what our commandments really are.
        And, we end up having discussions like this over trivial matters because we allow our pride to blind us to further study. We try to defend indefensible positions. “I want to exercise my freedom given to me by the grace of God by wearing my best suit because I believe it is how I can honor God best” becomes “EVERYONE should wear their best suit or they are not honoring God”. Do we really want to teach others that grace is only available to people who are JUST LIKE US? I pray not. But, sometimes, it certainly seems that way.

  • michael woods says on

    You’re coming into the presence of God Himself – wear your best. Will you wear to a wedding or funeral or a dinner with the governor what you wore to church to present yourself before Jesus?

    • Wait, aren’t we always in the presence of Jesus Himself? So should we always wear a coat and tie?

      IMO, if Jesus had really cared one way or the other about this issue, He would have addressed it. This is a tradition that has been made spiritual rather than a Biblical issue. I was in a town where there was a particular church you didn’t go to if you didn’t have the right suit or dress and they actually told people when they didn’t.

      The Samaritan woman asked Jesus about the trappings of worship (where, when, how, what to wear) but Jesus made it about the heart. I believe we should do the same.

      • MICHAEL WOODS says on


      • So screaming (i.e. typing in all caps) is your best? I have one suit that is better than my other suits, so I should wear that every Sunday?

        And just a question? So if someone doesn’t wear their very best, it means they don’t love Jesus?

        I agree that we should always please Jesus but God certainly didn’t tell us how to dress. You take a principle and make your interpretation a commandment. One that can make those who don’t own nice clothes very uncomfortable to be in your presence if they don’t or can’t match up to your qualifications of proper attire. Jesus broke lots of religious rules in His day – I truly believe He would break yours too.

      • michael woods says on

        Obviously you’re looking to fight with such a judgemental attitude. Did it not occur to you that maybe I’m not a good typist and the cap locks button down by mistake and didn’t realize it? I guess not because you began with an accusation not a question of determining the truth. Friend, you’re going to do what you want to do regardless of what I, anyone else, or the Bible has to say. You know, I’m sure, the priest were told what to wear in service and it was the best. You want to fight, find someone else. By the way, I don’t “scream” at anyone and don’t allow anyone to scream at me. Be kind, loving and exhibit the Christian spirit. It is after all, a sign of salvation. [1John 3:14]

      • Absolutely agree and that’s why I don’t judge people based on what they wear to worship.

        Sorry you aren’t a good typist, but it is interesting that your first post was in small caps and your second all in caps. And since it was fairly lengthy, it was as easy for you to notice while you were typing as it was for me to read and correction should have been fairly easy.

        I love 1 John 3:18 – “let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

        As for my judge mental attitude, I apologize if you felt I was judging you. I know I felt like you were judgement all of Joe who you responded to originally. I should
        Have let it lie – for that I will apologize and get the log of my eye.

      • michael woods says on

        Friend, I haven’t judged anyone. I stated things based on my many years of theology without conviction to the contrary from the Master. Hebrew and greek make many things so very clear to me. In my years in the pastorate, there have been people in $500 suits and college students in holy jeans and tennis shoes in the service. But they were all wearing their best, doing their best and being their best. Is that not what Jesus demands? Loving in deed? Myself and our people realized the problem was a lack of funds so we supplied the fund with no strings attached – they purchased clothes. They didn’t want to appear that way, but not only was it their best it was their only. Now, stop being judgemental, stop reading into statements things that aren’t there, take scripture in context, love Jesus with all you are and lead folk to know Jesus as Saviour. Praying diligently for you in His love.

      • How can one show more respect to Jesus? “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15)

        And what are the greatest commandments? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:35-40)

        If you personally feel that wearing a full suit is an important act for you that brings you personally closer to God, then by all means do it. Every Christian has their own way of approaching God, and yours is no less valid than anyone else’s. The problem the “dress-down” crowd has is only with those that cast judgment on others based on dress. First take the log out of your own eye before removing the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:5)

  • Can’t wait for the day when the Lord addresses the silliness of ‘the coat and tie’ argument. Oh wait! He did…in the book of James. Point is..anyone who even ‘thinks’ that a suit and tie is somehow ‘better’ than what I’m wearing, has just looked down their nose at me. What’s the next argument? Your car is dirty and you actually drove it to church??(actually, I do remember someone making that point yrs. ago believe it or not). Phew! It’s OK we’ve let proper discipleship dwindle down to nothing over the years, but by George, we’ll keep that suit and tie argument at the forefront ! I guess that’s because we have to have seminars and lessons on why people get turned off to church. My humble recommendation for the quagmire would be… more Tozer and pay less attention to the Joseph A.Bank suit commercials. You’ll glean more of what really counts. At age 67 such things as the suit and tie joke went out the door for me a long time ago. There’s bigger fish to catch.. and in case no ones noticed the latest church stats…..we ain’t catchin’ em!

  • Jeremy Butler says on

    My wife and I are missionaries in Asia. What people wear here is totally dependent on how much money they make and the weather. What if I went to a poor congregation and my best was way above what anyone in the congregation had and made them feel like they were not serving God properly? Also I have worked bi-vocationally and for several years after seminary did not have much money. I could only afford one suit. No one offered to help. Maybe if congregations want this then they should help new pastors who cannot afford suits to get at least 2 or maybe 3 suits. It is just a suggestion that would make your pastor feel great. Actually no matter if your church is casual or not, get your pastor a suit if he cannot afford it so that he can perform weddings and funerals. Again just a suggestion.
    Jeremy Butler

  • Aunt Bootsie says on

    One of my most beloved pastors of all time seemed to struggle with the issue of dress when he led the effort in our smallish (about 150-200 attending) church to establish a second Sunday morning service with a contemporary style of worship. In the early, traditional service, he wore his customary dark suit and tie. For the second service, our dear pastor kept the coat or donned a sport coat, removed his tie and unfastened his first collar button. I always wondered whether that was his idea of a transition to casual preaching attire or simply as casual as he dared considering the deacons he inherited. At that time, we had a micromanaging group of deacons almost literally breathing down his neck. These men attended the traditional early service but also stayed for the second, casual service (to “support the outreach”) and in the dark suits, ties and starched shirts, they stood near the door with their wives in dressy suits and jewelry to greet people coming to a service advertised as “Come as you are — Casual dress welcomed!” This continued for the rest of this wonderful young pastor’s brief tenure. Sadly, Mr. Rainer, the church is now down to a few elderly members and may very well be one of those dying churches about which you wrote a book.

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