Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Should Pastors Wear Special Clothing? Part 2

Third, when someone does something other than what everyone else is doing there is some kind of an effect. If most people wear their hats with the bills pointing forward, and someone comes along wearing his sideways, he comes off looking like a doofus. But if the person wearing his hat sideways is someone everyone admires and respects, it suddenly becomes stylish to wear it that way. Then when people who don’t carry that initial weight wear their hats sideways, everyone thinks they too have that kind of status, whether they really do or not. When pastors wear clothing that separates them out from the rest of the church—collars, robes, etc.—because of their position in the church, it points to them as being “different” in everyone’s eyes. There is no way it can’t. That’s the nature of how people think. When the pastor points to himself by how he dresses, it automatically says something about who he is and the office he holds. I must say that in my, old guy, opinion I have to think at least twice when I see someone wearing a collar or robe. My first thought is that this guy is a Roman Catholic priest, I need to witness to him. Then my second thought is that he looks very effeminate in that getup and I need to give him counsel. My third thought is, oh wait, I know that guy and he’s neither of those things. Huh.

Someone said that wearing a robe tells the people that their pastor isn’t just their friend and brother speaking to them, he is a representative of God. But the Bible tells us that we are all ambassadors for Jesus (2 Cor. 5:20). When the pastor points at himself, by wearing special clothing, he tells everyone that either he’s a special Christian, the rest are inferior Christians, or perhaps both. Jesus became one of us, including dressing like us, because we needed to have someone with us who could feel our pain, and enter into our suffering. The pastor should be that kind of man. His character, not his clothing should be what leads the flock from inside the flock, not as if he is something special. Wearing special clothing separates the pastor from the rest of the flock in an unhealthy way. I can’t imagine Jesus wearing special clothing so we would know who he was or to know he was special.

One fellow said that the pastor has a special calling from the Lord and thus should wear clerical garb so that everyone will know and remember that fact. But this is a completely unbiblical understanding of what it means to be a pastor. His is a special calling, for sure. But so is being a carpenter, or plumber, or accountant. If God has called someone to a particular task, his is a holy calling. He should not wear clothing that draws attention to himself as if it were somehow a higher or more noble calling.

Fourth, there is an argument that says that the pastor plays a special role in the worship service and thus should wear something special to mark this role. At the same time people should not think more highly of the person, but of the office. I would contend that both of these ideas are antithetical or not needed in the church. First, the pastor does play a special role in the worship service, but his clothing is not what should mark him out as the obvious leader. I believe his character and life are his only necessary signs of leadership in the church. He is the one who invites the congregation to the throne room of God not because he is somehow more special than the rest, but because they recognize that he is their earthly leader and they love and follow him. It isn’t his clothing that qualifies him, but his person. Second, wearing special clothing does elevate the man in the eyes of those who can’t or don’t dress like that. It is unavoidable. As we used to say in the Navy, you salute the uniform, not the man. But ask every four-year-old in the church how that works and they will tell you that the man is special because he wears that robe. It is unavoidable.

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