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Question 10:

I have noticed you have begun to wear a jacket and tie every Sunday. Is this permanent, and why the change from before?

This question is a generic form of an inquiry I have received several times over the last few months. Recently, I had the privilege of being on the radio and this question came up there also. You can listen to my answer and you can read the article that we discussed during the radio show - it contains some helpful thoughts.

First, let's answer this biblically by pointing out that there is almost nothing in the Bible that is specific when it comes to the dress of the preacher. We would be safe to assume that the culturally normative dress of the day would have been the same dress of Jesus, and subsequently the apostles, and so there is very little said about this topic.

We do know that the Bible teaches clearly that we are to dress with modesty. Peter, although speaking to women, says in 1 Peter 3, "Do not let your adorning be external..." A good way of understanding the biblical guidance on modesty is that we shouldn't dress in a way that unnecessarily causes attention to be brought to ourselves. This could be through ostentatious clothing, this could be through jewelry and other forms of outward adornment, and this could be through dressing provocatively. (You would think that last one wouldn't apply to male pastors, but unfortunately, this is 2016 and you just can't believe things going on today.)

All that to say, the way to summarize the biblical teaching for the dress of preachers is to dress in such a way that will keep others from stumbling, and to dress so that the the focus is on the message of the cross and not on the person speaking. If your clothes cause someone to be distracted, then you have missed the point.

With all of that in mind, we can then consider the practical implications to how we answer this question. And, as with most things, this is where the conflict within our culture rises to the surface.

Pastors today typically go by the rule: I want to dress to connect with the people I am speaking to. There are a few issues with this concept. First, using that as the standard, we could end up preaching in shorts and T-shirts. The Word of God could be preached by someone in shorts and a T-shirt, but to think that what everyone else wears makes you connect with them puts an undue amount of emphasis on approval of the people, and it also misses a second point. That is, by dressing in the same way as everyone else, the preacher is placing no emphasis on the importance of the role of elder and pastor. This lies in stark contrast to what we read in scripture, which is that the Bible, and the gospel, should be the ultimate standard for both the preacher and his message, and that the office of elder and pastor is one that Paul calls, "A noble task." (1 Tim 3) Much of what you see on stages in churches today reflects the opposite of nobility and respect.

A better way to look at how a preacher dresses, I believe, is to ask, "Does the preacher dress in such a way to show reverence to the position he holds, the message he preaches, and the people he preaches to?" Wearing jeans and an un-tucked shirt might seem to make the setting more casual, but it also might give the impression that the responsibility of preaching is casual, which it is not. Dressing down to connect with those who are against a suit-and-tie-preacher might indicate that the opinions of the people are more important than the message.

Finally, let me share why I, personally, made this change. At the end of 2015, we developed and designed a new website for the church. One of the pages on our site is a Frequently Asked Questions page, designed for those who might be curious about who we are. One of the questions we answer is, "What should I wear?" The old answer was, "Wear whatever you are comfortable in." Unfortunately, today, if you go to a grocery store or the park, what people are comfortable wearing would not be a good place to start when it comes to what to wear to church, nor is it honoring to God in the sense of adornment and modesty.

Our new answer to the question now says, "While we want you to feel at ease when gathering with us, we request that you dress modestly and appropriately to honor the Lord with reverence and to show respect for His church." As we developed this new answer, I found myself reflecting inwardly about it. I began to ask myself, "Am I doing those things?" At the same time, we began the endeavor of having video during our services, both to live stream in The Spot, as well as make available online. These two things caused me to analyze my attire on Sunday mornings, and make the change to a jacket and tie each week.

My desire is not to dress in a way that is overdone, but instead I want to dress in a way that shows proper respect for the position I hold in the church, respect for the message I am privileged to preach, and respect for all of you, those who graciously gather each week at WEBC for worship. And, if my preaching is going to be on the internet, I want to show the same respect for those things to any who might view that sermon elsewhere.

So, for me, jacket and tie it is. And I moved that way because I want to show respect to God, to his word, and to all of you.

Thank you to everyone who has asked this question in the last few weeks. You all contributed to this week's Ask Pastor Jayson in your own way. And, as always, if you have a question, please send it my way.

Because of Christ,
Pastor Jayson

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