The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Friday, June 21, 2013

Why Pastors Shouldn't Preach In Jeans (Especially Skinny Jeans)


By: Thomas F. Booher


I can't think of a better way to get labeled a legalist than to title a post like this. Hopefully by the end you will not see this as legalism and will see this as what it is- my attempt at describing what I believe is proper ecclesiology as defined by God in Scripture.

So then, what is church? What does Scripture say we should be doing and not doing on Sunday mornings? That's what I want to explore.

The Bible says to gather together in Christ's name; to teach, encourage, and admonish one another; to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in our hearts to God (Heb. 10:24-25; Mat. 18:20; Col. 3:16). There are to be deacons (Acts 6:1-6) and elders (Ti. 1:5) in the church who act as overseers, and in the case of elders, are the shepherds of the flock who teach the word and rebuke with authority (Ti. 1:9).  God must call one to be a pastor/elder (Eph. 4:11). As such those who are called by God to preach the word are held to a higher standard (Jas. 3:1), and those who are younger and are not elders are to submit to their ministers (Heb. 13:7; 1 Pet. 5:5). Clearly then, there is a structure and substance that God expects from His people when they come together to worship. All things are to be done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40).

The tendency of many who are reformed, especially Presbyterians, seems to be to stifle any and all emotion and enthusiasm in the church service. I don't believe that is right or healthy whatsoever. Scripture speaks of making a joyful noise to the Lord, of singing and dancing in worship using instruments like clashing cymbals (Ps. 100:1; 150). I believe this means that expressing exuberance for God in worship is more than acceptable, but that doesn't mean we should start mosh pitting. Again, all things are to be done decently and in order. Nor do I think worship should be something that leads to distraction or a show of individualism. When the church body comes together to worship, it is corporate worship. We sing as one voice of God, one bride, not a bunch of individuals. We represent the elect of God, not ourselves primarily. Churches geared toward "seekers" and entertainment will necessarily become more individualistic as they seek (ironically enough) to use aesthetics and the ambiance of worship as a drawing card for those who need to be enticed to come to church or "try Jesus."

But Scripture makes it clear that this is not fitting for corporate worship. I do not think this means that we cannot use electric guitars, drums, and the like. On the contrary, when I think of a joyful noise and loud, clashing cymbals, that's where my mind generally goes. The question becomes why we are choosing to use the instruments that we do use in worship. Do we use drums and guitars to look cool and relevant? Then we are missing the point of worship. Do we use organs and harps and flutes and cellos to look and sound sophisticated? We miss the mark again. What then is the goal of worship?

The goal of worship and singing praises to God is to be God-centered, God focused, not me-focused. This goes for the whole service on the Lord's day, including the preaching. Church is a foretaste of communion with God and the saints in glory, with its focus on the worshiping of God. As such, we aren't coming so much to catch up with our friends or have some private religious experience with God as we are to reflect on the majesty of God, of who He is and what He has done. As soon as we do that, I think we will begin to see how silly it is for a pastor to wear jeans while he is preaching. Since the pastor represents Christ to us, exercises authority and wields the sword as a minister ordained by God, he misrepresents God and His majesty when he dresses casually. Is it possible for a pastor to wear jeans and not misrepresent God? I would think so, but not without much difficulty in this culture. It would be akin to the President of the United States wearing jeans and a t-shirt at his inauguration. I suppose there would be a scenario where this would be proper and fitting, but it's hard for me to think of one. Or consider when students graduate, whether it's from K-5 or college, it's done in robes. There is a certain special attire for such a momentous occasion. It wouldn't be fitting to wear jeans.

Likewise, for a minister to wear jeans is not fitting. It's out of place. Those wearing jeans, in this culture, usually aren't doing so to represent authority, majesty, or worthiness. They usually do so to represent nothing; which is to say there is nothing special about a man or woman wearing jeans. It is the casual attire of this nation. But God is special. God is not just another Joe. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and His spokesman out to dress in a way befitting of Him.

This of course goes for the whole church service. A pastor wearing jeans does so because He sees God and the purpose of church differently, and likely quite differently, from the way a suit and/or robe wearing pastor sees God and the purpose of church. This is no small matter. Is church meant to lift us to the heavenlies, or make us think of Starbucks? When you think of Christ, does your mind go to something that's a lot like you, or a lot like something beyond you, something greater than you?

If worship and the church service is to lift us to the heavenlies and the glory and majesty of God, then how can skinny jean wearing pastors reflect this? How can a rock concert atmosphere make us think lofty thoughts of God and Jesus Christ? Conversely, how can a man in a robe droning on without emotion and a funeral atmosphere make us think God is worth praising? Neither reveal to us who God is, and both make God look like something He is not, which is grave sin and even idolatry.

You cannot create uniformity in a worship service. God allows for a variety of instruments and new songs, but He also says all things must be done decently in order. The music and the message are both to be focused on God and His Son Jesus Christ, on who He is and what He has done. He is not like us, and the God-Man has done for us what we could not do for ourselves, namely reflect God perfectly and take on all of our imperfections, bearing our wrath for being so unlike God. Because of this, our worship and preaching must flesh out His otherness, for again, He is not like us and we are not like Him. He is holy, He is greater than us, He is the object of our affection and worship. He is our Lord and Savior, Redeemer and Friend. He is our King. And He is worthy of all the praise, honor, and admiration. He is glorious.

It should be clear, then, that a pastor in jeans undermines who Christ is and what He has done. No man evokes thoughts or images of glory, honor, and admiration by wearing jeans, and that is why pastors shouldn't preach in jeans. Our God is greater.  


 

6 comments:

  1. While I can appreciate where you are coming from and I believe you are speaking graciously and with a balanced view from scripture, I find that the implication of jeans being worn by pastors whilst preaching taking majesty away from God in some way, is a little narrow minded. For many cultures jeans would be strange to be worn in a place of office. I know that in African countries they almost always wear suits to preach in. However in the west jeans are now an expensive commodity that are people's "best togs". I believe that if you are dressing up to preach or attend church and that consists of wearing jeans then the heart attitude has been to dress in such a way that reflects a persons inward thoughts toward God; that is wearing the best clothes you have, whether it be a suit, jeans or a poncho!
    I truly can see where you are coming from but I believe that pastors will indeed be wearing jeans and still have a heart that is bringing glory and majesty to God.
    Thank you for you post.
    In Christ, Jacob

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  2. Jacob, I certainly agree that pastors who preach in jeans can and often do have hearts that wish to please and honor God. While I know people are spending more and more on clothes, including jeans, I wouldn't agree that jeans are people's "best clothing." Further, my emphasis is on the pastor wearing jeans, not the congregation. If we regularly saw businessman and high officials wearing jeans as their official garb, I could buy that jeans have become our culture's best clothing. What I usually see is company's allowing their employees to wear jeans on "dress down days."

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    1. I agree that the clothing of the pastor should be the best. Sadly though this gives people outside the church an image that there is a uniform or a standard of dress to go into a church. While the pastor is not openly saying that, his influence depicts that this is the case. Only this week did I hear of a family who were invited to church but said they could not come because they did not have smart enough clothes. Again I understand that this is the congregation, but if they look up to the pastor for leadership and teaching then surely a more approachable and casual, while remaining reverent, sense of dress is more apt.
      Coming again to the idea that it is whilst preaching; Jesus would have been wearing everyday clothes whilst preaching and teaching. In Luke 9:3 Jesus tells His disciples not to take an extra garment of clothing with them. If we look to Jesus as the model and source for our worship and also preaching of the gospel then surely this would be in a way that is approachable and the norm for the society that we live in, namely our dress should be casual, even for preaching. Now I would not say that it was strictly wrong to wear a suit or jeans or even t shirts and flip flops but I believe that the gospel message needs to be raw, untainted by format and not made to fit our desired model. If suits are a hindrance to people being able to come to church or approach a pastor then surely the pastor should remove these boundaries?

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  3. Do not allow what seems good to you to be spoken of as evil. For God's kingdom does not consist of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy produced by the Holy Spirit. For the person who serves the Messiah in this way is pleasing to God and approved by people. Therefore, let's keep on pursuing those things that bring peace and that lead to building up one another. Do not destroy God's action for the sake of food. Everything is clean, but it is wrong to make another person stumble because of what you eat. The right thing to do is to avoid eating meat, drinking wine, or doing anything else that makes your brother stumble, upset, or weak. As for the faith you do have, have it as your own conviction before God. How blessed is the person who has no reason to condemn himself because of what he approves! But the person who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not act in faith; and anything that is not done in faith is sin. (Rom 14:16-23 ISV)

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  4. Nobody should wear skinny jeans. But jeans in general, there's nothing wrong with them. Especially if you leave your shirt untucked. Amen.

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  5. I have personally gone back and forth on this issue, but as I read this post this morning, I was reminded of a vision I received many years ago now. I received the vision while praying for the Lord to renew my mind from all the junk I'd put in it related to a very long term addiction to pornography, which began when I was about 14 years old. In this vision, I was walking with Jesus....I was on His right hand side, and He was dressed in peasant cloths. We were walking towards the gates of hell, black iron gates with one demon standing guard at the right hand gate, and one of the left hand gate. Attached to the gates was a tall black iron fence which encircled a large area, and inside this area where piles of dismembered body parts...mostly arms and legs. The Lord stopped about 20 or 30 feet from the gates, reached into the pocket of his peasant robe, and pulled out a silver colored key, which was in the shape and texture of a wooden cross, and it was covered in His blood and He put it in my right hand. He handed me this key, and I knew He wanted me to take the key, put it in the lock, open the gates of hell, retrieve the body parts, and take them back to the people the enemy had stolen them from.

    The interpretation of this vision has many layers, but for the sake of this discussion, let's look at how Jesus was dressed. He was dressed in peasant cloths...a loose fitting somewhat yellowed and brown from age robe. Let's remember here how Jesus came into this world. Though He was, is, and will always remain a King...He came, born of rather humble means parents...who couldn't even afford the larger required sacrifice at His dedication, but instead brought the poor man's sacrifice....which was a pair of doves or pigeons. During His life....He ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners, and when He celebrated the Passover with His disciples just prior to His crucifixion, he took of his outer rob and dressed Himself in a towel....as a Humble servant, and proceeded to wash the animal poop and other road dirt off His disciples feet....even the feet of Judas, who had already planned to betray him for 30 pieces of silver. Then...when He went through the events of the scourging and crucifixion...his own clothes were stripped from Him, and he went threw the streets and to His death for our sins naked!

    So I ask you, do you have a problem with Jesus wearing peasant clothes when He was preaching? Then why do you have a problem with men of God preaching in less then the best of the best of modern day clothing?

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