Hipster | Image by Ceclia Sánchez Sánchez via Flickr (Sánchez)

The problem with immodest pastors

This is a guest post from my dear friend and occasional colleague, Katelyn Beaty.

A response to pastor Jarrid Wilson’s recent blog post “The Problem with Christian Cleavage,” whose title was later changed to “The Importance of Dressing Modestly.” (Update: the post appears to have been removed altogether.You can see photos of the original post here.)

Hipster | Image by Ceclia Sánchez Sánchez via Flickr (Sánchez)

Hipster | Image by Ceclia Sánchez Sánchez via Flickr (Sánchez)

I have something to say to all the pastors out there, especially the next-generation and youth pastors. Now what I’m about to say is not going to be popular. But in a world where we’re constantly bombarded by lust—specifically, the lust to buy more clothing and coiffed haircuts and “experiences” to curate an impressive image for our fans on social media—this is definitely something that needs to be said. Leaders of the church should be different from the world, shouldn’t they?

I’m a this-generation daughter, editor, and soon-to-be book author who greatly yearns for our leaders to mature in their identity in Christ. I hope the leaders of the church—rooted in a history and tradition that transcends hashtaggable Wednesday night events—comes to realize that their worth isn’t found in their fedora and bleached undercut. But I can’t help realizing how many pastors still choose to wear immodest articles of clothing without realizing the harm it can have on the people looking up to them. By immodest, I mean the insatiable desire to draw attention to your resemblance to the drummer of Vampire Weekend. I’m not saying these pastors are doing it on purpose. But I am saying it affects the people around them whether they know it or not.

I truly care for the young men and women tasked with leading our churches. And my hope is to help them find their worth in Christ, and not succumb to what ads for Urban Outfitters’ new line of moto jackets portray as right.

I encourage pastors to ask themselves whether not what they are wearing—such as a deep V-neck with JESUS SAVES, BRO scrolled in white ink across their chest—might make their brother or sister stumble, and question if it may represent the bride of Christ in a way contrary to what is true. The truth is, we don’t need to see you leaning up against that brick wall in your jean jacket and ironic Keds. I don’t want adolescent guys and girls thinking this is the way they need to present themselves in order to achieve a significant “ministry platform.” I care about the future of our youth, and my heart breaks for those who think they must look a certain way in order to be noticed. Some of these pastors are just clearly begging for attention, and they need to help fellow Christians in their struggles with lust (for that sweet, sweet Vespa).


The reality is that humans are lustful creatures, and I’d rather pastors be noticed for what’s in their heart—or better yet, in the heart of Jesus—instead of what manicured slice of life they are showing in Instagram’s Valencia filter.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Macklemore, or a hip pastor? | Photo by NRK P3 via Flickr (http://bit.ly/1C7YBfC)

Macklemore, or a hip pastor? | Photo by NRK P3 via Flickr (http://bit.ly/1C7YBfC)

I don’t expect all pastors to know where I’m coming from! I’m not telling all pastors how to dress. I’m strictly talking to those who are called to lead other Christ-followers into maturity, simplicity, humility, and a renunciation of developing status and image in the name of ministry. Why? Because pastors are held to a higher standard than the rest of the world, and we should yearn to live a life that is above reproach in all things. This includes our wardrobe. And our pictures of our smoking-hot wives.

I wish more pastors would understand their duty to break free from what culture calls normal. We must raise the bar for righteous living and paint a new standard—one that isn’t telling the next generation of Christians that they need to have Macklemore’s haircut in order to get noticed in this world. The teenage girls–and teenage guys, and kind of every other Christian, I suppose—of our nation depend on it.

Katelyn Beaty is print managing editor of Christianity Today magazine and tweets @KatelynBeaty.