Updated: Jun 10, 2022
I have been under the weather for a few days so I thought to reprint one of the more popular posts from the past.
As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, Galatians 6:12.
Back in the 1970s I was stationed just outside of Athens Greece. I had an inordinate amount of time on my hands and one of things that I liked to do was to hang out in bars that catered to British oil workers. Those workers would typically spend a couple of months in Saudi Arabia and then come to Athens for a week or two to blow their money. Those bars that catered to them were like stepping into the British Isles in their foods, drinks and entertainment.
Darts was the big attraction. There was always a couple of dart games going on at once. Most people at the bar kept an eye on the games and even those who didn't look like they were paying attention would murmur with approval when a particularly critical shot was made. What initially fascinated me was the darts themselves. These men were proud of their darts.
When a man got ready to play, he would bring out a box with custom darts in it. If a man was new to the pub, the women would crowd around to see the man's darts . Often he would explain how that he had had these darts specially balanced and weighted. He would take them out of their customized box with its cushioned insets for each dart and carefully balance them in his throwing hand. I was in awe of this for my first few visits until I made a discovery. These men weren't very good at throwing darts.
I had been throwing darts for most of my life. At home and on Air Force bases we used the standard cork dart boards and plastic darts with screw on metal tips. The plastic body of the darts and their fins were usually bent or otherwise bedraggled. On my next trip to one of the pubs I took a handful of these plastic darts and got into the game.
I don't want people to get the impression that I won every game. I didn't. There were men there who were as easily as good as I was and even better. What I can say is that with my nasty little plastic darts I was just as competitive as they were with their weighted sets in their ornate little carrying cases and on which they had spent huge sums. These men were offended to have me play. It took the wind out of their sails to have a Yank reach into his blue jeans pockets and pull out a few plastic darts which were bent askew and watch him bend them back to get ready to play. To them, the glory of their darts meant more than the accuracy of their throws.
In the last 40 years my pursuits have been more liking to God. I pastor a church, I preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I teach the word of God and I write to defend the integrity of the King James Bible. From time to time, I go to conferences or camp meetings haunted by my brethren in the ministry. In my first years among such men, they intimidated me. One of the things that all had in common was their impeccable three piece suits with their dazzlingly shined shoes. The more important a preacher was esteemed to be, the sharper and more costly were his suit and shoes.
Working in a rolling mill and warehouse every day, trying to keep groceries on the table for my wife and growing family, studying the word of God and attending church on a regular basis made buying any such suit of clothing pretty well out of my reach. I would oft times attend some conference or meeting and see where some other young preacher had crossed that threshold and launched himself into the big leagues with a newly acquired suit and shoes. Then I made a discovery. These men weren't really that good at preaching.
I have primarily lived in three places for any extended period of time since I have been saved. I have lived in South Carolina, Vermont and New York. I can go to each of those places and find men and women whose lives are irrevocably changed because I preached the word of God to them. They are not merely people who responded to an altar call, but are people who never miss church, have lives that honor the Lord Jesus Christ, and who freely acknowledge that until such time as they met me, they had no intention of ever being converted.
I mostly accomplished this wearing a nice pair of Walmart khakis, a threadbare white shirt and a tie that was often as not twisted backwards or over my shoulder. My mentor and former pastor Billy Randall used to tell me that he could out-preach the average fundamentalist if he was wearing a bikini. That is not to say that I was always the best preacher in the room. I was not. What I am saying is that most of those men disguised their utter lack of power with God by dressing like peacocks.
In my first few years among them, I would often stand transfixed as such men would repeat carefully crafted sermons replete with choreographed hand movements and facial expressions. If I ever heard them preach the same thing again, they would wipe their brow at the exact same moment and utter the exact same exclamations. The audience would lift score cards like Olympic judges. They weren't cards with numbers on them but instead were understood nods and gestures that indicated how high on the pecking scale of acceptability that particular preacher was.
There was not enough power in such preaching to keep a backslid baptist from cussing for more than two minutes after he had listened. I was used to a higher standard. We were forced to learn to preach on the streets. The head of one of the first street preaching teams to which I was assigned was a Black Army drill sergeant who would lead us to a Black pool hall in Camden, South Carolina, stick his head in the door and yell, "We're about to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ out here. If you're not some kind of a yellow belly, get out here and listen."
Men and their whores would pile out of the door. Our drill sergeant would usually start. He would walk around and put the bible under each person's nose. He would speak frankly about their sin and the love of God. Quite often the police would be called and the very drunks and whores of the pool hall would defend us. Crowds of both blacks and whites would assemble and we could preach as long as we kept their interest.
You might wonder how much good that did. Go to the Dominican Republic and visit any one of the 5 churches that Missionary Darren Truel has established in the mountains, or visit his medical clinic. Ask the people there if the 17 year old boy from a broken home who used to come out to the streets to hear us preach has made much of an impact on their lives. I was used to preaching that had power.
The Apostle Paul was to say; But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power, 1st Corinthians 4:19. I wonder what the Apostle Paul would think of the puffed up dandies that dominate the elites of Fundamentalist preachers today. Keep in mind, I know a couple of outstanding preachers who dress to the high standards of fundamentalists but also preach to the high standards of God. They are few and very far in between.
I don't want anyone to think that I am advocating dressing down. If a king of England was to have come to a group of Welsh miners, they would not have been able to dress to his standards. What they could do was to put on their Sunday best and you can be sure that they did. My converts are known for dressing up for the house of God. Their personal dress standards are higher than the average and yet I very rarely ever mention it. Instead, I stress who their God is and they dress appropriately.
I refuse to institute dress standards in my church. To me that would be like forcing everyone to paint themselves white so nobody looked like they have measles. I can tell a lot by how a person dresses. I have ladies in my church (and I mean ladies) who can barely hide their tattoos when they wear dresses. Their first attempts at dressing ladylike were often awkward and straight off the shelves of thrift stores. As they sat under convicting preaching, they developed a desire to look like ladies. That didn't come from me lecturing them or setting standards.
In my own home neither my daughter or wife ever wore pants. My daughter has married into such a home whereas my sons have not. That was our personal conviction and we have always begged our church members to establish their own standards. My personal converts tend to adopt my standards. I am not angry with people who have different convictions than mine, I am angry with church members who have no convictions. The single most godly woman in my church wears pants from time to time. That would not fly in my home, but I would rather have that woman praying for me than ten women who dress to my standards but live bitter resentful lives as I so often see.
I know a few men who it is just in their nature to dress to high and impeccable standards. I have no problem with such men. At no time have they ever struck me as phony. Their homes, their cars, their lives and their preaching reflect a personal desire for perfection. For me to criticize them would be for me to expose how unable I am to ever live such a life. My wife once gave me an anniversary card that pretty well summed up my life. As a couple sat in a restaurant and gazed into each other's eyes, the man's tie was draped in his soup bowl.
If you spent a week with me, you would see that reflected in just about every aspect of my life. What is truly marvelous is that the Lord uses my preaching. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, 1st Corinthians 1:27. In many ways I embody that verse. I am convinced though, that if I decided to dress down I would grieve the Spirit of God.
It is coming into vogue among many of the brethren to stop wearing ties. The Neo-Evangelicals have been there for years. I personally think that is a mistake. It's a cultural thing. In our culture a tie is still symbolic of authority in survey after survey. When I stand in the pulpit, I speak with the authority of God himself because I am preaching his word. I often tell my people that the day that God no longer attends my preaching with power, is the day I need to hang up my spurs. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake, 1st Thessalonians 1:5.
A few rules of thumb:
1. A man who dresses better than his wife should be avoided.
2. A man who thinks that slovenliness is acceptable to God needs a spiritual check up.
3. Men preach dress standards to impress their peers, not to help their congregations. They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them, Galatians 4:17.
4. True holiness in a life will change dress standards. Peer pressure or pressure from the pulpit creates hypocrites.
5. If a person's dress standards do not bring them joy and a sense of well being, they are mistaken standards.
6. The Holy Ghost is in a person just as much in church as at home. A dress standard should reflect that. I don't wear a tie and long pants in the shower so I realize that every situation needs to be adapted to the person, his environment and his God.
7. I would rather have a choir of women in their skivvies than to have one hypocritical church member who dresses for outward glory or legal obligation, but whose family and friends find intolerable.
8. An examination of the portraits of preachers of old will show that God-anointed preachers had haircuts that reflected the military standards of their day.