Dressing for Spiritual Leadership

Dressing  for  Spiritual Leadership in a Time of Crisis

Have you ever thought about the importance of dressing for spiritual leadership?

  • What do your spiritual leader’s wear during a worship service?
  • Do they wear robes or power suits?
  • Maybe they wear jeans and a casual shirt?
  • What is the reason behind what they wear?
  • Do they change what they typically wear in a time of crisis?
  • Should they?

Today’s verse, Joel 1:13, gives instructions on dressing for spiritual leadership in a time of crisis.

ESV  Joel 1:13 Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O ministers of the altar. Go in, pass the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God! Because grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God.

Joel is instructing the priests who minister at the altar of the LORD to put on sackcloth and lament. They are to spend the night in this attire.

What is the significance of Joel’s instructions here?

First, we need to consider what the priests typically wore when serving at the altar.

ESV  Exodus 28:4 These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. 5 They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen.

  • Linen is a cloth made of flax and noted for its strength, coolness, and luster.
  • Sackcloth is a coarse cloth of goat or camel’s hair or of flax, hemp, or cotton typically reserved for a time of mourning or penitence.

The linen is a finer highly decorated fabric designated for holy use while the sackcloth is a coarser plain fabric designated for expressing grief, sorrow, and humility.

Secondly, Leviticus 21:10-12 tells us  that once the priests have donned the holy linen garments they are prohibited from the common mourning practices of their culture or leaving the sanctuary even for a close relative.

In other words, their role as spiritual leaders for the community trumped even a great personal loss.

What reason does Joel give for these shocking instructions for the priests to cease donning their holy garments in favor of sackcloth?

The grain and drink offerings that were required by the LORD were no longer possible due to the locusts that had devastated the landscape. See Joel 1:4-9.

Joel is communicating that now is a time for the spiritual leadership to take a new approach during a time of crisis.

He is saying that this is not just a food crisis but a spiritual one.

Joel is saying that dressing for spiritual leadership in times of crisis should reflect the spiritual need.

How can we apply this to today?

In 2020 the globe has been faced with mandates for social distancing due to the spread of a new virus that health professionals are scrambling to understand how best to treat.

The restrictions of gathering in groups outside of one’s immediate household has caused challenges for places of worship. We have seen a myriad of approaches on how to handle this time of crisis.

The “dressing” of worship and ministry throughout the week changed drastically for many of us.  We have been meeting via Zoom, Facebook, and YouTube to name a few of the technologies employed.

As we begin to see gathering restrictions relaxed, worship is taking on yet another new “dressing”. Recruiting and training willing volunteers to conduct health screenings for all who choose to attend a live worship service while sporting a face mask is vastly different from holding a door open and shaking hands or hugging people as they gather in person and sit spaced apart!

More important than the outward “dressing”  though are the intentions driving why we “gather together” as believers.

NIV  Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of a doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

How we gather is not what is important for our spiritual health. Gathering, by whatever means we can, is what is essential. Why?

So we may encourage one another!

Joel understood this but needed to call the priests to take a drastic action to visually jar the community to understand the spiritual danger they and the community were facing.

Dressing for spiritual leadership in a time of crisis may look different than at other times but the driving motivation should always be to encourage one another to seek the Lord.

You may not be employed as a pastor, but you are a spiritual leader if you are a believer. Someone in your household, neighborhood, or workplace is observing how you live out your faith.

How are you dressing for spiritual leadership in this time of crisis?


Barbara Lynn

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One Reply to “Dressing for Spiritual Leadership”

  1. This lesson had an interesting perspective. George and I were just talking this past week of the clothes we are NOT wearing since stay at home directives are in place. Not only clothes but accessories and jewelry and for me, even hosiery!
    For most of our days we are in raggedy yard work attire: holes in jeans, painted spotted tees, old shirts that are worn at the collar or have small rips designating them to grub work status.
    We have heard Richard mention “seeing” congregants in their SpiderMan jammies and such, but since we began live streaming, both George and I dress for church. Easter and Mother’s Day I wore a suit and family jewelry as I have for years! George doesn’t wear a jacket or tie but he does dress up instead of down. In a sense it holds to one small particle of “normalcy” and in another, it lifts each other emotionally. I have always regarded dressing for church as a sign of respect for the Lord, his house and his followers. I see that others do not always think in that fashion and that’s ok. There is a sense in which as we work in the dirt to clean out, re-establish, remove plantings that no longer have viability or purpose, we are working in that Garden of Old, after the Fall, laboring to recover what was lost and begin anew. Thankful that on a spiritual plane, He had a plan in place to do for us what our efforts can never do.
    Thank you for providing the lesson for us!

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