I am a Sovereign Grace Baptist preacher. And, for many years now, I have worn a preacher’s collar. I know, I know, it is not something terribly ordinary among Sovereign Grace Baptist folk. In fact, many have a knee-jerk opposition to the practice as being “too much like Rome” or “religious.” Far from any specific uniform dress for our preachers, one will typically find one of our number wearing a suit coat and necktie. So, why do I wear a collar when just about everyone else wears a necktie?
Of course, it should be unequivocally stated up front that I do not believe a preacher must wear any distinctive clothing or vestment in order to fulfill his calling. Except for the Bible’s admonitions concerning modesty and gender specific dress, there is nothing in the Scriptures mandating a certain apparel style for preachers.
Further, as a Baptist, I believe any confessing Christian man with the necessary aptitude and gifts may preach the Gospel. One need not be formally ordained in order to teach or preach in the assembly of God’s people. For centuries, Baptists have fought against the so-called “clergy-laity distinction,” decrying it as an artificial means of propping up a ruling “class” of ministers over and above the “common laity.” While Scripture teaches us that the pastorate is, in fact, the office of “overseer” (ἐπισκοπῆς), it is equally clear that we are not to “Lord over God’s Heritage, but be examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). A pastor’s position is one of humble and gentle service, not of lordship. All of God’s people enjoy equal standing before Him by and through the merits of Christ and His finished work of redemption (Galatians 3:28).
At the small southern Ohio church where I serve as pastor, you are likely to find me preaching in a collar while other brothers teach, read Scripture, and preach wearing everything from jeans and work boots, to overalls and t-shirts. Sometimes, men will even wear a necktie, though admittedly, they are few and far between!
I wear the collar not in spite of being a Sovereign Grace Baptist. I wear the collar because I choose to identify with the many Sovereign Grace preachers throughout history who wore the collar before me. Sovereign Grace Baptist preachers like Gill, Dagg, Bunyon, and Kinghorn, and Sovereign Grace Presbyterians Like Poole, Bonar, and Hawker all wore the full white scarf in their day (sometimes with large protruding white tabs), identifying them as preachers of the Gospel.
In the mid-19th century when fashion started to change and men began to wear turned down shirt collars, the full white scarf typically worn by ministers would not easily fit. It was in response to changing fashion that a Scottish Presbyterian minister named Donald Mcleod invented the removable tab collar. Many Protestant and Baptist ministers quickly adopted the new look and the rest is, quite literally, history.
Practically speaking, it has afforded some benefits as well. It readily identifies me as one of the pastors in my church assembly (which is great for visitors). Wearing the collar while on hospital visitations puts the staff at ease when I stay with a patient after regular visiting hours have passed. I’ve even had complete strangers walk up to me in public and share prayer needs or ask Bible questions! What’s more, it simplifies my wardrobe, making the purchase of expensive neckties (no one seems to have a problem with those gawdy neckties!) and dress shirts unnecessary.
Like so many Sovereign Grace preachers before me, I wear a collar. I understand that in a culture that has been in the process of becoming more and more casual in it’s standards of dress that any level of apparent formality or identification immediately looks suspect. It is my hope that after reading my thoughts on the issue, many of those apprehensions are, at minimum, put at ease.
Jason K. Boothe serves as Pastor of Horizons Baptist Church of Piketon, Ohio and Editor of Pardoning Grace Journal. For more information concerning the ministries of the church, please visit www.horizonsbaptist.org.