Less Formal = More Authentic? Come On, YRR! Put on Your Suit and Tie!

JT-Suit-and-Tie-630x626Is Christianity minus the “suit and tie” more authentic than it’s formal forebear?  As sermons are proliferated online, we are slowly becoming more familiar with the pastor who preaches sans pulpit with plaid shirt un-tucked and a pair of skinny jeans.  This slouched approach to church gatherings reveals itself further in the relaxed liturgies (or non-existent liturgies) of many of our newer churches.  The appeal is that this approach is more authentic…we don’t “dress up in our Sunday best” anymore because that is inauthentic and fake.  Is this true?  Does Less Formal = More Authentic?

I understand that as you read this article some of what I say will be like bamboo shoots under the finger nails, but hear me out.  Yes, it is true that Christianity of the mid-1900s was as much about playing hide and seek from one another as it was about authenticity–or honesty, if we want to use biblical terminology, and I do.  However, our generation of pastors and new churches have reacted against the wrong problem.  The problem was not the way the people dressed.  The problem was their deceptive and proud hearts.  Does a suit make a person less honest?  Does a tie make a person less vulnerable?  Can you be just as deceptive and proud in a hoodie as in a blazer?

There is a misconception that churches whose members show up to corporate worship in jeans, tees, and sneaks are somehow closer to what the New Testament portrays than churches who prefer to worship together in suits and ties.  Additionally, those who believe that less liturgy means better church are disagreeing with Christians across more than 1800 years and 1 Corinthians 14:26.

Here is what I believe is happening: We are pretending that lack of discipline is next to godliness.  Christianity does happen “organically”, but it also requires persistent self-discipline (1 Cor. 9:27; Titus 1:8).  In fact, the writer of Hebrews encourages us to persevere in areas that require discipline because they will lead us toward peace in righteousness (Hebrews 12:11).  We have bought into the deadly “Let Go, and Let God” approach to Christianity.

But you protest: “We are becoming all things to all people, so that by all means we might win some!” (1 Cor. 9:22).  All right.  I’ll bite.  The question is: “What if the people you are seeking to reach wear suits and ties?”

I was at the South Carolina Annual Prayer Breakfast this past Wednesday.  When you attend any event held in a hotel ballroom at which The Honorable Nikki Haley Governor of the State of South Carolina will be present, best assumption is that everyone will be in suit and tie.  However, when I sat down at my table, I noticed two tables adjacent to us that stuck out like a sore thumb.  After some inquiry, I learned that at these two tables sat the campus pastors from a large growing church in SC…and they were all dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, Chad.  This is so judgmental.”  Hold on, now.  Here was what they communicated to me: “We know Christianity better than you, and we don’t care about honoring our Governor, senators, or congressmen.”  They honestly looked like someone had reserved a table for some kids from the local youth group.   These men have been set aside for the ministry of the gospel, but their appearance told the other 400 people in the room that they would rather be somewhere else.

I don’t buy the fact that less formal = more honest, nor do I buy the fact that more formal = more honest.  However, I do believe that “becoming all things to all people” means that we are willing to wear a suit and tie when it is appropriate.

Call me a sellout.  Call me judgmental.  Whatever you say, we all need to do some growing up, and act like grownups.

P.S.–I have to thank Coach Lyle from Grove City College for helping me learn what it means to wear a suit like a man.

(photo credit)

Published by Chad C. Ashby

Instructor of Literature, Math, and Theology at Greenville Classical Academy Greenville, SC

6 thoughts on “Less Formal = More Authentic? Come On, YRR! Put on Your Suit and Tie!

  1. The more casual folk may find these formal events to be the perfect opportunity to follow Christ’s beatitudes. Perhaps someone will need use of their coat and they will be quick to also offer their tie.

  2. You knocking me for preaching in a hoodie last week? Lol just kidding..I totally get what you are saying. And we are pendulum people…when a generation swings too far one way we push back and swing the other way too far! I def agree with all you said about authenticity and becoming all things to all people! Authenticity does not come from a shirt, it comes from the heart! Just one perspective I’d like to drop you’re way though…I think some of our suit and tie church culture has communicated the wrong thing about church. We give God our Sunday best and not our Mon-Sat best. In other words, the church is the building we meet at on Sundays..its the place we do church because its the place we dress up for…its also the place we act Godly. Its kind of like Mr. Rogers! He would put on his Mr. Rogers clothes at the start of the show to let you know there is a separation between reality and Mr rogers land! Jesus tore down the curtain of sacred and secular! There is no longer 2 worlds…just one! The church happens at the building, and at the women’s crisis pregnancy center! I know that you know this…I’m just saying I think sometimes our suit and tie church culture can unintentionally communicate the wrong thing! Now dressing appropriately for the event or people that you are trying to reach for God, that is right on!

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Eddie! I guess the point I am trying to make is that hoodie is nothing, suit is nothing, Christ is everything. Those who glorify casual church as though it was the ‘be all, end all’ are falling into the same pit as those who believe dressed up christianity is best. Becoming all things to all people means we use our freedom to wear a suit or a hoodie, whichever is most appropriate for the occasion, so that by these means our clothing will never place a stumbling block in the way of the gospel. You’ve seen how I dress for Intersection on Sunday night, but I wear something totally different on Sunday morning with my church…its all for the gospel’s sake! Love you, brother!

  3. Indeed, representatives and ambassadors of the Ruler of the Universe should not look like chumps to the rest of the world.

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