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How Should A Pastor Dress?

“Do not look on his appearance or the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

This seems to be a difficult concept for Christians in the church to understand. Recently, over at Pulpit and Pen, there was an article written by the “News Division” (although is this really news or an opinion piece?) that discussed how pastors should dress. In this article, Mr. Division (“The name’s Division… News Division”) used a picture of Carl Lentz, pastor of Hillsong Church NYC, with his family in order to insult his “unmanly” clothing style.

Apparently, he’s wearing a red Ralph Lauren hoodie with sweatpants that come down to just below his knees, and what appears to be red Nike running shoes. Apparently, in Mr. Division’s world of camouflage, hunting rifles and boots, Pastor Lentz’s garb does not fit the mold of what a pastor should be wearing with his family in front of what appears to be their home. One commenter in the Facebook group Pulpit Bunker claimed that Lentz was giving off a “very homosexual vibe there.”

Side Note: Out of all the things to critique Carl Lentz on (i.e. homosexuality, abortion, sin, false gospel, prosperity gospel, etc.), is how he dresses at home with his family really what we need to be focused on?

Anyway, the article continues by posting several pics of prominent pastors who do not fit Mr. Division’s authorized pastoral garb.

Here’s the thing. Many, if not all, of these men (and women) have some serious theological issues that need to be dealt with. The least of my concerns are with how they dress.

Mr. Division uses Exodus 28 and 39 as examples of why pastors should dress in what I can only assume are suits and ties. Now, these passages are dealing with priestly garb, which includes a plate made of pure gold with engravings, sashes and caps. If he wants to use this as an example of how to dress, might I suggest leading the way with these types of accessories?

Another example given was Numbers 15:38, which talks about the people of Israel making “tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner.” The claim is that this proves that God wants us to be set apart in our dress. Does this mean we should all wear suits and ties, which is also the garb of sleazy car salesmen and compromised politicians?

Now, if you do wear a suit and tie to church, I have no problem with that. In fact, every now and then I like rocking one of my famed Disney ties with a suit. But to hold everyone to that standard I believe is legalistic and extra-biblical.

1 Timothy 2:9-10 discusses how women are to dress modestly, not drawing attention to themselves with gold, pearls or costly attire, but to be adorned with good works. Now, the case could be made that pastors who spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on suits would be going against what this passage is actually saying… i.e. “costly attire.” I’m not judging anyone for wearing suits, even if they are expensive. But don’t throw that verse out there if you aren’t taking literally what it is actually saying.

Yet again, in 1 Peter 3:3-5, Peter is referring to drawing attention to yourself with fancy, expensive accessories. He’s not referring to wearing everyday clothes.

Mr. Division (I gotta say, this pen name is really fitting) closes the article with the following:

“Assuming that the way these pastors dress may not technically be sinful (if that’s your position), perhaps we could agree that it’s not helpful. It comes across, frankly, as a desperate attempt to look cool. They look like a 9th grader at an under-18 nightclub. If they don’t have a lack of respect for the pulpit, they certainly look like it. If you’re going to wear jeans you have to pry off with a shoe horn and draw all over your arms, perhaps those Geneva Gowns aren’t a bad idea after all.”

Do I have a problem with pastors trying to be cool? Yes. But what is cool? That is in the eyes of the beholder. It may be TD Jakes rocking one of his, presumably, extremely expensive suits with a silk pocket square. It may be JD “News Division” Hall wearing camouflage from head to toe taking a selfie with a handgun. It may be Mark Driscoll wearing a Mickey Mouse Shirt and suit jacket. It may even be Carl Lentz preaching with a tank top. It may even be the pastor wearing khakis and a Hawaiian print shirt.

Here’s the deal, 1 Samuel tells us, “Do not look on his appearance… For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

In fact, Jesus was the perfect example of that. He was a homeless man, probably sleeping under the stars, without a washer and dryer. I’m assuming that his robes were dirty and not perfectly washed, pressed and ironed. He probably had a beard similar to Jeff Durbin, with whom Mr. Division referred to as hipster.

Instead of worrying about what pastors are wearing in the pulpit, let’s focus on what they are preaching from the pulpit. As I stated on Twitter earlier today, “I would gladly listen to a pastor who wears skinny jeans, a tank top, is tattooed from head to toe & has a hipster beard who preaches from God's Word & is theologically sound than listen to a pastor who wears a suit and tie, is clean shaven & no tattoos & compromises God's Word.”

In fact, one of the best preachers whom I’ve sat under was a man who had tattoos, piercings and wore shorts to church every Sunday. But he preached from the Word of God faithfully, chapter by chapter. Each week he preached an entire chapter of the Bible. And he didn’t time his sermons… they lasted until he was done. He could be done in a half hour, or he could be done in an hour and 45 minutes. It just depended on the chapter. But we all sat there paying attention to the Word of God being preached.

One final point: I wonder what the pastors in Biblical times wore to church on Sundays. As many of them were in underground churches, hiding from authorities, I wonder if they wore their "Sunday best", or if they were everyday clothes so as not to stand out and draw attention to themselves. Just a thought.

Might I give you a recommendation? Pay more attention to the content of a pastor’s character and the content of their sermons (and maybe even their Twitter accounts) than on the clothes that they wear. Who knows? Maybe Jesus wouldn’t fit your idea of what a “Man of God” should wear.