How should a Pastor dress?

After my last article and further discussions I am forced to ask myself and interested readers: How should a Pastor dress? Is Sunday morning attire determined by any of these three or all (Generation, Community, Role)?

Please read the article before answering the poll.
(Not that it will really influence your opinion.
That is already set in your mind by your predisposed view of church, community, and role.)

I mean if everyone honestly lays down their predisposed opinions and honestly looks at these three one at a time I think we might arrive at a surprising reality.

In regards to Generation, again looking back over the whole of Christian history we find that the expected church attire varied greatly.  There were times in history when only members with financial clout could get a seat.  During many of the times of revival, great awakening, and first century, people gathered together every day, in tents, or in the field in in casual clothing.  If we look back over recent American history of church goers we find a general adherence to the concept that Sunday Morning meant putting on the “Sunday Best.”  However in this postmodern era the Sunday morning scene is again changing.  If you look out over the churches of today many elements have changed, the stone walls and stained glass has been replaced with steel siding and double pain efficient windows.  The pews have been replaced with theater seating and mug holders.  Or the opposite has taken place and people are finding comfort worshiping in homes around the coffee table, reverting to their first century roots.  In light of clothing as I have visited many churches for events and leadership training seminars I have witnessed that a general trend is a move toward the casual.  People prefer comfort over a suit and tie.  I have even noticed that weddings and funerals are slowly beginning to become more casual.  It is as if this generation is telling the world, “this is who I am, I am not here to impress you, or pretend I am something I’m not, but I will honor you with my time just the way I am.”  The one element that has seemed to carry through all of history is the importance of modesty in dress.  Here is a link to a site that has pictures of church attire through the last two millennium. Christian Apparel through the Centuries

Now what about a Communitywhat role do they play in the dress code of a local church?  Well I think this is the easiest one of the three.  If we were to take a walk through different churches in the world on a Sunday morning we would find a radical difference in what people are wearing.  Here are a few clothing options you might have to choose from.

A United Methodist Church in Ugunjia:

A Traditional Catholic community in Peru:

And I must say I found some cultural clothing that is worn in church that would be inappropriate in our context to provide a picture or link to.  Admittedly a large majority of the world has become Westernized in recent history.  (The benefits and detriments of that are another concern altogether with the loss of so many cultures)  Lets just admit that anywhere across the globe you might find a worshiping community wearing a variety of different clothing.

Role: Now here is the biggest one, and the question of the poll.  Does the role of leadership that you play make a difference in the attire that you wear.  In relation to history the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have always emphasized the priestly role as one that is “Robed with Stole” in a way to symbolize that the Priest is Robed in Christ and has taken up the Yoke of Christ.

But in the nondenominational church of today and even the major denominations we have witnessed more and more Pastor/Priests moving away from traditional Robe and Stole.  Such as Pastor Levi Lusko, (Ironic his name even promote Jeans in church) In many New Church starts the pastor can rarely be identified by his attire, instead these young pastors are trying to make the gospel relevant to the culture in which they live.  They compare this to Jesus living in his community, meeting people where they were and wearing everyday clothes, it is more of an incarnational, evangelical, emergent church model of pastoring.  It may be a radical shift in thinking and even a radical shift in the people that these pastors are trying to reach (the unchurched, rather than the people who have been in church all their lives and learned the rules of “appropriate church attire”.)

All that said, maybe the role of pastor should make a difference in the way a person dresses on Sunday morning.  But maybe it should also depend greatly on the people that they are called to share the gospel with.  So I’m really interested, please fill out the poll and share with me what you think.

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  1. #1 by James on November 10, 2010 - 10:32 am

    I am firmly in the camp of wear whatever! However, I have changed my thoughts on this while reading this article. I feel the pastor should wear robe and stole for the worship service. I do think that those who serve in other roles should wear anything that is decent as they should bring those unchurched into the worship service at their level of comfort. Pastors certainly can wear whatever outside the worship service and would encourage the congregation by doing such.

  2. #2 by Deborah on October 26, 2010 - 7:31 pm

    I totally understand where you are coming from – but in my context (as a woman pastor in a pretty traditional UM church) I prefer to wear a robe and stole. It takes away any distractions that what I (as a woman) may be wearing. I tend to believe that what one wears can be a distraction and not a leveler…but it all depends on context.

    My first appointment out of seminary I served with another woman, she considered her robe and stole to be her work clothes – and she always wore them for worship, even our more relaxed/high energy contemporary worship service. She said it helped her remember her role in the worship service – as one set apart.

    Again, this what works best for me in my context.

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