How to dress in the Pulpit
Congregations notice how preachers dress. While clothing is more a factor in some congregations than others, people do notice it, so we should pay careful attention to it, too. Clothing should be neat, clean, well-fitting, coordinated, and appropriate to the audience and occasion. This means we would not wear an expensive suit, silk tie, and alligator shoes in a church where everybody else is dressed in work clothes, nor would we show up in blue jeans at an upscale, affluent church.
In an important article entitled “How to Dress for the Pulpit,” Bill Bruster points out that clothing has been important through the ages, and fashion consciousness is heightened in our generation. He cautions against wearing clothing that calls attention to itself. Advising that our manner of dress can enhance our role in the pulpit, Bruster explains that darker colors project authority while lighter colors exude warmth, intimacy, and personableness—a more supportive image. He also advises on how clothing can in some instances enhance certain physical characteristics while covering others, how to accessorize for variety and appeal, and he even deals with healthy diet and hair/beard care. The article concludes with this true story.
A few years ago a great church in a capital city invited a man to preach “in view of a call.” He preached a trial sermon in a white coat, black slacks, and white shoes. The church did not call him as pastor. One long-time member told me, “No one said anything about his sermon. They couldn’t hear it for looking at him. People voted against his appearance.” Like it or not—many vote on our appearance every week.
It may not always be fair, but it is true: people notice how we dress, so how we dress is important. We do not want to do anything to hinder the gospel.
Roy DeBrand, “The Visual in Preaching,” in Handbook of Contemporary Preaching, ed. Michael Duduit (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992), 398–399.