A High Compliment
It’s not unusual for folks to stop by after our worship services on Sunday and to give me a thumbs-up or say “great sermon,” or some other form of compliment. But this week, I received an unusually high compliment from a senior adult lady in our church. I love this dear sister in Christ and most weeks she stops by for a hug and asks me if I’m behaving myself and if I’m treating my wife with the love and respect she deserves. It’s great to have people like this in my life. But this week her compliment and exhortation rose to a new level. Her exact words, “You know, I’ve gotten so used to seeing you not in a tie, that if you ever wore one now, it just wouldn’t look right.”
And there it is. Something I’ve been working on for four years. This dear sister probably had no idea what her words meant to me. You see, from day one as the pastor of Grand, I have made the conscious decision to not wear a tie. It’s not that I have anything against ties in and of themselves. Yes, they’re not the most comfortable things to wear, but in general, I grew up wearing ties so I don’t really mind wearing one that much if it is necessary. In fact, at one time, I had quite a tie collection and even today I still wear ties when I conduct a wedding or funeral.
For me, the issue has always been one of “relation.” As a pastor it is critical that I do everything I can to relate to the people I preach to and pastor and to the people to whom we reach out.
FACT: Our culture (even in church) has become more casual in the last 20 years.
FACT: Men, in general, HATE ties.
FACT: Many men own very few ties.
FACT: Most men today don’t even own a suit (which were made to be worn with ties)
FACT: Ties are expensive (and the economy is not that great).
FACT: Men are one of the hardest demographics to reach today.
When a man visits my church the chances are they will not be wearing a tie. First impressions count. I may only get this one shot with him. I work ALL week long pouring over my Bible, my notes, and praying; working up just the right words that I believe God would have me share in the form of a 30 minute sermon. I don’t want what I wear to be a turn-off. I don’t want to present myself as “up there” or “lofty” in any human sense. Given our culture today, I believe that if I were to stand up in a suit and tie (something that most men don’t even own), I will have built a relational barrier between myself and the hearer before I even say one word. This can’t happen. The message is too important. When a man looks at me on Sunday morning, I want him to think, “That’s someone I could sit down and eat a burger with.” When was the last time you ate a burger while wearing a tie? Get my point?
As a pastor, my goal is not to just preach a great sermon, but to build a relationship, something that will hopefully spill over into Monday-Friday.
At Grand, we have tried hard to push ONE rule when it comes to dress on Sunday mornings: Wear what YOU are comfortable wearing. And so on a typical Sunday morning you’ll see men wearing suits and ties, slacks and sweaters, jeans and knit shirts, Nun-Bush, Nike, etc.
My goal is not to offend anyone. BUT if I had to choose between offending someone who thinks I should wear a tie versus someone who likes the fact that I don’t wear a tie, I would choose the former. The chances are that the tie wearer is already a Christian (all be it an immature one if he is offended over such a thing) and I’d rather offend a Christian over not wearing a tie than turn-off a non-Christian because I do.
After all, it’s man that looks on the outward appearance. God looks at the heart.
And I felt like yesterday I received a compliment that went to the heart of the matter.
PS – this blog post is not intended in any way to be a slam toward any pastor who wears a tie on Sundays when he preaches. What I have written here applies to me…each pastor or church member must wrestle (or not) with this issue on their own.