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.


  1. Bad mouthin religion backfired and many people are now spiritual instead
    of Biblical. Many got so focused on gay marriage and abortion they seem
    to have forgotten in 1 Corinthians 6:9-12 it lists many sins right along with
    homosexuals. Gambling,taking the Lords name in vain,jealousy,coveting,
    greed,being mean/sharp tongues,gossip,getting drunk,premarital sex are
    hardly ever get confronted today. People today seem to forget that Jesus
    said many will say to Me Lord,Lord and not enter heaven! The wine that
    Jesus made was diluted. The Bible also says don’t get drunk with wine for
    it’s debauchery so people who get drunk on wine are also wrong/go to hell.
    Bible says Repent and believe the Gospel to be saved! We all must Repent!

    The Bible/Word of God also says don’t get drunk with strong wine as well.
    Ephesians 5;18 says don’t get drunk and 1 Corinthians 6:10 says that all
    drunkards go to hell and yet many people get drunk like it’s not a big deal.
    In Luke 13 it says for all of us to Repent or perish! We all must Repent!

  2. What an embarrassing article for this pseudo author. So foolish and ignorant and not clever at all.

  3. I loved this. Satirical and funny–and, like all good satire, right on the money. Thank you for a thought-provoking read.

  4. Thanks Laura. This seems to be an epidemic these days – token tattoos, hipster glasses (even non-prescription…really?), deep vees, skinny jeans (that’s a firm no on any male over 12), hand knit toque (even in the summer…what gives?) matched with the latest iFruit gear and matching man/woman bag.

    C’mon next gen (yes, I’m of the Gen X crowd), show the relationship not the swag.

  5. As always there is a line to draw. You do not have to be chic to be relevant. Paul said he would be all things to all men. I think Paul would agree. After all he did write Corinthians. Even though, he was much harder on those under the law.

  6. I understand what you are trying to do, but this doesn’t work. There is no comparison of men’s attraction to cleavage and legs to women’s attraction for hipster chest hair.

    I get it, you hate that there is a double standard and don’t like men telling you what to do or wear, but this comparison is weak. And mocking a man who would like a little modesty in the world (or at least in his own church) is not very charitable.

  7. In other words, the writer was offended by a pastor’s article against women dressing immodestly, so she decided to respond with a tongue-in-cheek critique of hipster pastors.

    Okay, children: How about growing up and admitting each side is right about the other. Women shouldn’t dress immodestly in church and pastors in church should dress like adults, not overgrown urchins trying to imitate the cool kids.

  8. Jerry, you’re trying to talk sense to writers who still think they’re teenage girls rather than grown women.

  9. Do you even know what Paul meant with the Greek word that was translated modest?

  10. I guess I missed the satire or whatever this piece was meant to be. Didn’t Laura just have another article poking fun at the whole modesty issue? Another confused and vapid article.

  11. This satirical piece clearly misses the point of the blog that it references. I agree with Ms Beaty that pastors are called to a higher standard, and should dress in a way that represents the authority and impact they have over their congregations. This also means they should have a high view of the church, where God’s Word is exposited from a pulpit, where the members submit to the authority of the elders (who are men), and where church discipline and sacraments are practiced. You know, how the book of Titus tells us how to do church.

    It seems as if they both Ms. Beaty and Ms. Turner have an axe to grind to anyone who would dare say Christian women can and should pursue holiness in what they wear Yes, a church should not turn someone who is not a Christian away based on what they are wearing. However, inside the church, they should see a separation from the world and be drawn to how the people of God love Christ and each other.

  12. I support any piece that calls out the latest round of modesty craziness. And I also support satire as a means to do it. But I wonder if this piece actually confuses things a bit. I actually think pastors dressing like hipsters *is* a thing we should call out as a modesty and conformity issue. Perhaps if it had been written in the actual voice of a hipster pastor, maybe with Tweets from his Instagram feed with all his selfies and ridiculousness, that might have been closer.

  13. “I’m strictly talking to those who are called to lead other Christ-followers into maturity, simplicity, humility”

    Dear Ms. Turner:

    Please explain simplicity. It is definitely one virtue, I am sure that Christians are not supposed to have if wisdom is the antonym for simple. (“Making wise the simple.”)

  14. Yes, you are telling pastors how to dress. Good for you! Someone needs to say it and I am glad you did! Never be timid on a point of moral right (and don’t let people get to you by invoking “cultural differences” and all that–of course our statements are culturally situated, but morality plays out within culture.). Blessings be upon you!

  15. This guy has some serious issues. What is it with the conservative branches of all three of the Abrahamic religions that makes them want to treat women like this?

  16. Right on, Laura. Although I am an agnostic, I am a strong supporter of organized religion in general (and Christianity, in particular). This is the same issue that we are facing with middle school teachers who feel compelled to be “cool” and who seem to yearn to be popular with the children they ostensibly supervise. I think many people really want stronger, more mature guidance in their lives, rather than the new-agey, hippy-dippy, I’m-okay-you’re-okay pablum that’s all the rage these days. To get there, however, we’re going to have to overcome the notion that (i) being “judgmental” is, itself, a venal sin, and (ii) hurting another person’s feelings, by telling a spiritual truth, is a cardinal sin.

  17. Jeff Campbell-God/Jesus are very real. Read Romans 1:18-32 and there is
    a book called the Case for Christ by Lee Strobel you can check out as well.

  18. It’s called human nature! What are your ” serious issues”??

  19. No where in scripture does it say that the wine Jesus made was diluted… actually it says the opposite… it is called the finest of all wines. See for yourself. Check out the story in John 2 specifically verse 10. Why would He do anything not perfect including turning water into wine????

    John chapter 2
    The First Sign: Turning Water into Wine
    2 On the third day a wedding took place in Cana of Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and 2 Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding as well. 3 When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother told Him, “They don’t have any wine.”4 “What has this concern of yours to do with Me, woman?” Jesus asked. “My hour has not yet come.” 5 “Do whatever He tells you,” His mother told the servants. 6 Now six stone water jars had been set there for Jewish purification. Each contained 20 or 30 gallons.
    7 “Fill the jars with water,” Jesus told them. So they filled them to the brim. 8 Then He said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the chief servant.” And they did. 9 When the chief servant tasted the water (after it had become wine), he did not know where it came from—though the servants who had drawn the water knew. He called the groom 10 and told him, “Everyone sets out the fine wine first, then, after people have drunk freely, the inferior. But you have kept the fine wine until now.” 11 Jesus performed this first sign[e] in Cana of Galilee. He displayed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him

  20. Sandy-John 2:10 says the cheap wine was brought out last so the best for
    last refers to the poorer/watered down wine which was diluted. The Bible
    never says the Trinity but uses the term Godhead but Jesus is part of the
    Trinity. The wine Jesus made was also for a symbolic reason/was new wine
    and was from the fruit of the vine. The Bible says don’t get drunk on strong
    wine! Do you really think that Jesus would make strong wine if they had all
    been already drinking all day/drunk so they could get even more drunk?
    Ephesians 5:18 says don’t get drunk with wine for it’s debauchery! The
    sin is getting drunk which is why we shouldn’t drink at all because most
    who drink then get drunk plus it’s not a very good example to be drinking!
    Thank you for all of the input and for all of your feedback. God bless.

  21. Frank – this actually a wonderful parody of the ridiculously embarrassing & truly ignorant article that it is satirizing.

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