Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Nothing Screams Competence Like a Neck Tattoo

The last time I went to the doctor’s office, I noticed how old and stodgy they all were dressed. Nearly all of them wore ties and I didn’t see any of them without coats. The nurses and receptionists all looked relaxed and comfy in their cartoon character scrubs. But the doctors were dressed… professionally.

A few months ago, my wife and I decided to take advantage of the low interest rates and refinance our home. The mortgage specialist from the bank was impeccably dressed. He was well-groomed, wearing both a sport coat and a tie. Even the tellers were dressed… professionally.

Back when I had time to do the research and no children in college, I found investing our extra money to be stimulating and fun. Now that we need that money for little things like food, gas and tuition, we decided my hobby was best left to people who actually knew what they were doing. So we went to a place that specializes in investments. The investment broker we visited was an older gentleman, well-coiffed and dressed to the nines. His cologne and cufflinks only accentuated the fact that he was dressed… professionally.

I realize the way people dress has nothing to do with their actual qualifications. A white coat does nothing more for my healthcare than cufflinks do for my money. But for some reason, we instinctively associate a person’s dress with their professionalism and competence. In other words, most of us probably wouldn’t entrust our life’s savings to a man sporting a faux-hawk and a soul patch. Graphic T-shirts and checkered Vans are authoritative for a good latte—not necessarily a gallbladder laparoscopy.

Since there is such a natural tendency to associate professionalism, competence and aptitude with the way a person is dressed, why do so many people feel they have to dress like a hipster before they can preach the Word? When people desire the answers to eternal questions, are they more inclined to trust a person dressed like someone who occupies Wall Street or who actually works there?

Don’t misunderstand me—I’m not saying that everyone who preaches and teaches the Bible should dress like Al Mohler. How preachers dress is largely cultural. While I am not saying that preachers and Bible teachers have to live in a coat and tie and wear wing-tipped footie PJs, neither do they have to don a hipster costume to try and become relevant. People are looking more for competence than relevance.

The whole world is relevant—people don’t need any more relevance. Instead, they need someone who will competently show them the Gospel. People need someone who can transcend relevance and lead them to Christ—the One who can save them from their futally relevant existence.

Bankers, brokers, doctors and a host of other professionals realize they don't have to be hip to be heard. Why do so many preachers and teachers of God’s Word fail to realize that?

1 Corinthians 1:27-29


  • James Boyd says:
    January 10, 2012 at 5:37 PM

    Just as bankers and brokers dress to be heard, maybe hip preachers dress that way thinking it will remove an obstacle to them being heard. The audiences expectations is what would dictate here. If we expect a professional to dress the part, we would not trust one who dresses "hipster." Yet I'm not sure I would trust a lifeguard dressed in anything other than a swimsuit. If my banker dresses in Armani, it is to convince me that he is good at handling money. How should a preacher dress to communicate to the listener that he is good at handling the Bible?

  • Jim Drake says:
    January 11, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    I think the subject of dress and appearance lends itself more to questions than to authoritative answers. All too often, discussions devolve before anything valuable can be gained. The point is--does the way pastors and teachers dress convey more than just cultural relevance to the ones who sit under our teaching?

    A man in a $500 suit conveys a certain message to a room full of farmers in bib overalls--probably not a good one. But would it be effective or simply condescending for the speaker (who has never turned dirt in his life), to don a flannel shirt and ratty jeans? Maybe more appropriate would be for him to dress in a way that isn't fake, but is true to himself in a non-pretentious way. That would seem to open the door of communication.

    To sum it up I would say--dress with the listener in mind without artificially attempting to become the listener.

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