Why Do I Wear a Coat and Tie?

In this short video, Steven Lawson explains why it's his personal preference to wear a coat and tie whenever he preaches. 

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Larry Nelson's picture

Quote from the video: "I want to present myself as one who is going into the presence of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords." 

O.K., if that's the mindset one has in terms of attire, then why stop at wearing a mere business suit?

In the hierachy of men's wear, a business suit is no greater than third in order of formality:


1st: White Tie

2nd: Black Tie

3rd: Business Suit


Example: When welcoming Queen Elizabeth II to the White House, President George W. Bush wore White Tie: 



Bert Perry's picture

James 2:2.  I own suit & tie (#3 on Larry's list at best), wear it from time to time, but I simply find it hard to reconcile a recommendation or requirement for suit & tie (or sportcoat & tie more often, #4 at best) with the reality that (a) the necktie was about 1500 years in the future when Christ walked the earth and (b) a plurality/majority of early church members were slaves who had not that much choice in their attire.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

John E.'s picture

According to the video, the only clothing options when going to church are a suit and tie or looking like you just got back from a pajama party, just fell out of bed, or you just cleaned out your garage.

Also, if your clothing reflects that "nothing else takes precedence over the worship of God" what do the brothers who wear a suit and tie to work wear to church? A tuxedo? Powdered wigs? A cravat?   

Bert Perry's picture

Does that mean we'll be dancing in church, Larry?  :^)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry Nelson's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Does that mean we'll be dancing in church, Larry?  :^)

but if someone of Fred Astaire's abilities happens to visit some Sunday, then sure, why not!  Of course, we'd have to tie it somehow to a sermon on 2 Samuel 6:14.....   Smile

TylerR's picture


To be fair, Lawson admitted several times that this is his own personal preference! Speaking for myself, my default has always to wear a coat and tie. I have forgone the coat on hotter days. However, yesterday I ditched the tie in favor of a coat. It was nice. I wear ties Monday - Friday, and I think I may start not wearing ties on Sunday. No doubt, this is the beginning of the end for me, the slippery slope to ruin.

In the Pacific Northwest, I think I'm in the minority with my dress on Sundays; most pastors wear a collared shirt and slacks, and call it a day.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Steve Davis's picture

As Tyler noted, Lawson does express this as a preference although I think his comparisons of an unmade bed or like he was working in a garage are exaggerated. All things beng equal I'd rather someone well-dressed then enter the pulpit haphazardly. I'm not a fan of shorts, t-shirts, gold chains, baseball caps or man buns in the pulpit (or man buns anytime). I'd say shorts and sandals but Jesus wore sandals :-) Preaching in a camp setting would be more casual, some conferences as well. Here in Philly I wear a collared shirt, Our Dominican elder often wears a suit. Our Kenyan and Cameroonian elders tend to dress up more. If I preach out I ask but am prepared to dress down if needed. When we lived in Romania I always wore a tie and jacket. When I visited China - never  wore a tie. When I teach in Africa, no tie for classes and an African-style shirt on Sunday or tie. So I have no criticism with tie and jacket as long as it's a preference (and no color-coordinated handkerchief in pocket) and think we all do well to consider our context and culture. Normally I wear a suit to weddings and funerals or as needed (thankfully not often).


Bert Perry's picture

In my view, you have a hint that it's not just a preference when (as John E. and Steve note) he starts to use perjorative language about other options, things like working in the garage or a pajama party.  Moreover, to use the picture of "what would you wear to meet the King of Kings?", not only do we have abundant Biblical evidence stating that rags are A-OK in the King of Kings' mind, but it's also worth noting that real kings quite often make a point of meeting with people who have absolutely no chance of matching their finery.  

I want to take the speaker at face value, but I simply have contrary evidence in this case.  Plus, the next video that came up was "why I use a fountain pen".  Now I admit that I also love fountain pens, but I cannot shake the suspicion that a lot of this has to do with the old notion that one wants to appear like someone who is white collar and not blue collar.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

I sat under a guy like this for over a decade. I heard talks on "Why I always tie my tie in a four-in-hand knot", "Why I carry my wallet in the side pocket of my pants", "What I always use a Cross pen", and "Why I only use a hand-cut switch to spank my kids." These personal choices of his always carried the subliminal message "and you should too!". His inner circle all followed his example. 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

dgszweda's picture

Larry Nelson wrote:

Quote from the video: "I want to present myself as one who is going into the presence of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords." 

I think there are a lot of valid reasons to dress up on Sunday, but this is probably not one of them.  First, Christ made it very clear that it was not the outside that counts, but the inside that counts.  Second, the thought that I can do something on my own to make me more presentable before God, doesn't jive with what we see in Scripture.  Isaiah was not purified before God because of his own actions.  We don't come into the presence of God on a Sunday morning because of something that we can give God, or because of something God needs from us.  I would not have personally used this as a reason to justify wearing a certain outfit at church.  

WallyMorris's picture

One post about this clothing issue (church, pastors, BJU) and that's all: A lot of sloppy thinking and exegesis going on. Where does the Bible say that the "outside" is not important? Haven't seen any verse like that. Christ told the Pharisees to clean the inside and the outside will get clean. Never said the outside not important. Christ said BOTH should be clean. Samuel told Saul that God looks on the heart. Sure. But Saul's actions (outside) revealed his heart. Religious ritual without right/Godly heart is worthless. Isaiah made the same point in ch1. If the outside is not important, then why the detailed instructions for the tabernacle/temple construction and clothng of priests? BOTH the clothing and heart are important. Some have bought into the either/or argument about heart and clothing. Sloppy thinking.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN


John E.'s picture

Speaking of either/or, the suit and tie "preferred" crowd frequently casts the discussion in extremes, as the video posted does. Note the "fell out of bed, pajama party, cleaned out the garage" language accompanied by the moral tone of superiority. 

I affirm that our "outside" matters, too. What I reject is the assertion that a suit and tie are best. I also reject the claim that jeans and a flannel shirt (my clothing of choice) = sloppy and inadequate for the worship of our Creator. There is literally no objective standard that supports either of those claims. Pressuring men and boys to wear a suit and a tie to church runs the risk of elevating man's law to the level of God's law. I think there's a word for that.