Evangelicalism rarely displays its desire to be relevant and attract the masses, regardless of credal statements to the contrary, with its longing to find the next great thing that “works,” that gets the crowd. A few years ago, some decided it was time to “diversify” their worship “services” (events?) by having services according to style of music and order of worship. Out of that arose the now common-place offerings of a contemporary service and a traditional service in many churches. One mega-church took the idea to its logical conclusion by offering several services at the same time on its campus with a different style of music in each venue to satisfy different tastes. The pastor preached to all the gatherings via telecast.
The now latest and greatest idea seems to be for the pastor to dress like “everyman.” Neckties and suits are out; untucked shirts and jeans are in. I viewed a video the other day of an immensely popular pastor in the now-required (if you’re going to be “cool”) untucked shirt and jeans. Taking it another step in the “cool” direction, the pastor’s jeans looked as though he had worn them for several days.
Someone will doubtlessly protest the drift of this post. “Clothes don’t matter. Why does a minister need to wear a suit? Neckties are just dumb.” To be fair, I’m no great fan of neckties! However, if clothes do not matter, why is the new fashion of the day untucked shirts and jeans? It seems that clothes do matter to those wanting to be cool.
I contend that what pastors wear to worship does matter, and the appeal should not be the appearance of “cool.” Worship is serious business. Believers have gathered in the presence of Almighty God. The atmosphere is not kick back in the recliner and let’s hang out.
Would the pastor decked out in his untucked shirt and well-worn jeans wear the same clothing to an invitation to the Oval Office? Why do television news anchors wear coats and ties when relaying the news of the day? Clothing implies the degree of seriousness with which one undertakes certain duties.
Does an evangelical minister have to wear a coat and tie? In our culture, such attire indicates a degree of the importance of the task at hand. In other cultures, one would “dress up” differently. And even in our own culture, though I may not insist on a coat and tie, I think when we come for corporate worship, we should wear our best, especially those conducting worship.
I realize that my viewpoint is not the popular one and will be misconstrued. To be clear, I’m not saying that an evangelical minister who wears a coat and tie will be more serious about worship and preach a more orthodox sermon than his untucked shirt/jeans wearing counterpart. Some of the “cool” guys are preaching some really good, expository sermons. Wearing proper clothing does not ensure that one worships “in spirit and in truth,” and wearing jeans does not mean that one is not worshiping rightly.
What I am saying is that our never-satisfied quest to be deemed relevant and appealing to the masses undermines the business about which we gather–the worship of the thrice-holy, sovereign God. I think I’ll skip this fad.