Dressing in our Sunday best

Published 11:27 am Monday, May 20, 2024

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By Michael J. Brooks | Guest Columnist

It was a church conflict in my early days over something that’s a “back burner” issue now.

We had a college student helping on an interim basis with our music. One Sunday she came to church dressed casually. I asked her in the following week to dress more formally for the pulpit. She grew angry and asked what dress had to do with worship. I gently explained I believed that we represented God and needed to dress accordingly.

When I was in college our pastor, Bill Jackson, took several of us “preacher boys” to the sanctuary and showed us how to sit on the platform without slouching. He also instructed us to wear crisp white shirts and to be sure our socks were long enough. I’m not sure this kind of teaching is offered anymore!

The student was angry enough to meet with our deacon chairman. He told her she must follow the direction of the pastor or not work at our church. God bless him. I didn’t want to see conflict, and I tried to avoid it, but this issue wasn’t of my making. Most employees have job requirements, and this was one I thought was important.

I look back with regret that this young lady was incensed enough to leave us.

Today it’s common to call a music director the “worship leader,” or the “worship pastor,” and this is fine. But I tend to agree with Baptist statesman Jerry Vines who insisted in his book, “Bring Me A Minstrel,” that the pastor is the worship leader. He’s the arbiter of what’s appropriate in worship. And church leaders who support this are to be treasured.

But the train has left the station on pulpit attire.

Contemporary church leaders suggested we “dress down” to relate to people, and to counter the common excuse that “we don’t have church clothes and therefore can’t come.” So, we live in a new era.

One of my cousins was an itinerant evangelist, and he often joked at the expense of prominent deacons. He talked about how the chemical elements of the human body were actually worth very little. Then he’d say, “Look at Bro. Jones. He’s wearing a $50 tie around a nickel neck!”

This quip won’t work today because Bro. Jones doesn’t wear a tie, nor do many pastors. And I don’t know any churches fussing and fighting about pulpit wear anyway.

When people ask me what’s appropriate to wear on Sunday, I simply say the Bible exhorts modesty, but other than this, we don’t have a dress code.

I yet believe the standard is greater for pulpit leaders, but the standard isn’t represented by clothing as much as it used to be.

“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is Siluriabaptist.com.