Preaching - Lesson 23

Dress and Style

In this lesson, you will explore the significance of dress and style in preaching, and how they contribute to effective communication of the message. You will learn about the importance of first impressions, congregation expectations, and the cultural context in determining appropriate attire for preaching. The lesson also delves into various aspects of style, such as voice and tone, gestures and body language, eye contact, and the use of visual aids. By integrating dress and style, you will be able to adapt to your audience and setting, balance authenticity and appropriateness, and ensure clarity and focus in your preaching.

Bryan Chapell
Lesson 23
Watching Now
Dress and Style

I. Importance of Dress and Style in Preaching

A. First Impressions

B. Congregation Expectations

C. Cultural Context

II. Appropriate Dress for Preaching

A. Formal Attire

B. Semi-formal Attire

C. Casual Attire

D. Personal Style

III. Style in Preaching

A. Voice and Tone

B. Gestures and Body Language

C. Eye Contact

D. Visual Aids

IV. Integrating Dress and Style for Effective Preaching

A. Adaptation to Audience and Setting

B. Balancing Authenticity and Appropriateness

C. Ensuring Clarity and Focus

  • Gain insights into effective preaching principles, covering history, essential components, styles, and techniques, and learn how to prepare and deliver impactful sermons.
  • Gain valuable insights on sermon construction, learn techniques for effective preaching, and understand the importance of continuous improvement for delivering impactful messages.
  • Through this lesson, you gain valuable insights into the process of text selection and interpretation for preaching, as well as learning practical techniques for delivering engaging and relevant sermons.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into the process of creating a sermon, from text selection to delivery, emphasizing textual analysis and message relevance.
  • Through this lesson, you gain the skills to craft clear, engaging, and memorable sermons by mastering the principles of effective outlining and arrangement in preaching.
  • Through this lesson, you learn to craft effective propositions and main points, enhancing your preaching clarity and impact.
  • By exploring homiletical outlines, you'll learn to effectively develop and structure sermons, understand various outline types, and apply engaging presentation techniques for impactful preaching.
  • In this lesson, you gain insights into crafting engaging introductions for sermons, exploring their importance, characteristics, types, and the process of creating a compelling introduction that effectively connects to the message.
  • Through this lesson, you learn the importance of exposition in preaching, how to develop an expository sermon, and the role of the preacher for effective communication.
  • This lesson teaches you to create captivating sermon introductions using anecdotes, questions, and facts, guiding you through research, structuring, and presentation to maximize audience engagement and improve your overall sermon impact.
  • In order to understand the basic subdivisions of your sermon in expository development, it is important to it is helpful to see what the specific members of your sermon's body looks like in standard development.

  • By completing this lesson, you learn to effectively prepare and deliver sermons while focusing on personal growth, continuous improvement, and dependence on God.
  • Learn to effectively classify and develop sermons into topical, textual, and expository types, enhancing your preaching skills and audience connection.
  • In this lesson, you learn the significance of explanation in preaching and strategies to craft and deliver effective explanatory sermons while evaluating their effectiveness for continuous improvement.
  • By incorporating illustrations into your preaching, you engage listeners, clarify complex ideas, and enhance memory retention while learning effective guidelines to utilize various types of illustrations.
  • Explore this lesson to learn how to effectively use illustrations in sermons by isolating events or experiences, refining principles, and connecting with your audience through human interest accounts.
  • Through this lesson, you learn to effectively use illustrations in preaching to engage listeners, clarify concepts, and draw from various sources, while maintaining relevance, variety, and ethical considerations.
  • Gain insight into the importance of application in preaching, as well as principles and methods for effective application, to create impactful and relevant sermons that resonate with your audience.
  • Through this lesson, you learn to effectively apply biblical teachings to modern life, considering various approaches, overcoming challenges, and utilizing practical tips for context-sensitive and culturally aware application.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insights into crafting effective transitions in preaching and utilizing the dialogical method for increased audience engagement and message clarity.
  • Gain insight into various sermon presentation methods, their advantages and disadvantages, and learn to choose the right method and improve your preaching skills.
  • Through this lesson, you enhance your preaching skills by mastering vocal techniques and purposeful gestures, ensuring a connection with the audience while continually improving your delivery.
  • Learn the significance of dress and style in preaching and how to balance authenticity, appropriateness, and clarity to effectively communicate your message to your audience.
  • You learn to effectively repurpose old sermons, gaining insight into updating them for relevance, enhancing delivery, and managing time efficiently.
  • By studying this lesson, you gain insight into the crucial connection between the Word and Spirit in preaching and learn to balance them for effective and authentic sermons.
  • Through this lesson, you learn how to apply a Christ-centered, redemptive-historical approach to preaching, addressing common criticisms and enhancing your sermons.
  • Through this lesson, you learn to compose powerful redemptive messages that highlight Christ's work and connect biblical themes to modern audiences.
  • Through this lesson, you gain an understanding of redemptive principles in preaching, learning to identify them in Scripture and effectively apply them to your sermons while navigating potential challenges.
  • By exploring the importance of genre in biblical interpretation and applying redemptive interpretation to various biblical genres, you will gain knowledge and insight into the historical and literary context, redemptive themes and patterns, and contemporary application of different types of genres in the Bible.


Dr. Bryan Chapell explores the unifying principle of grace that binds all Scripture together. He outlines and demonstrates the principles and practice of sermon-crafting and delivery to illuminate the message of grace in each passage, and to submit it to God's Spirit for the transformation of lives through preaching.

Dr. Chapell is making these recorded lectures available for you to access at no charge on BiblicalTraining.org. However, there is no personal interaction with Dr. Chapell in this format. The assignments and activities described are for classes that he teaches in person. We left the descriptions in for your benefit, but we do not offer personal or group interaction to participate in these activities. You can, however, sign up for his new preaching classes at BryanChapell.com/courses.

Dr. Chapell is helped in this course by Zachary W. Eswine, Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program (BSW, Ball State University; MDiv, Covenant Theological Seminary; PhD, Regent University). Dr. Eswine served as senior pastor of Grace Church of the Western Reserve in Hudson, Ohio, for six years before joining Covenant Seminary's faculty in 2001. He has served as a campus minister with the Navigators, as a church youth director, and as a chaplain-evangelist in retirement facilities. Since arriving at the Seminary, Dr. Eswine has also served as interim pastor for Tates Creek Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Kentucky, as advisory pastor for the Chinese Gospel Church of St. Louis, and as interim pastor for Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in St. Louis. He has taught New Testament in Ukraine and served as a short-term missionary in the Caribbean. Dr. Eswine is a gifted preacher and has authored the book Kindled Fire: How the Methods of C. H. Spurgeon Can Help Your Preaching and numerous articles on homiletics. In addition, as an accomplished musician and songwriter, he has recorded three collections of original songs.

Philosophy and Goals of the Course

1. "Prep and Del" is an introduction to the basics of sermon construction and delivery. This is not primarily a course on the theology of preaching, but rather is a practical introduction to the tools, structures, and concepts that help preachers learn to put a sermon together. 

2. Because this course is introductory, certain standards of sermon construction are taught that I hope you will consider "foundational" rather than universal. There is not only one "right way" to preach. However, mastering the methods of this course will help you develop the tools needed for many kinds of future sermons. Students from many backgrounds and preaching traditions have found these tools helpful even as they prepare for other styles in the future. Other methods and styles will be taught and encouraged in future semesters.

3. In Dr. Chapell's seminary class, you would be asked to present some short oral assignments to the class in order to: a) begin integrating the information presented in lectures; b) begin honing your preaching skills; c) and, remove some of the intimidation of your first preaching experience next semester.

(At this time, we do not provide personal interaction to evaluate your progress. We included the suggested assignments and activities to give you direction as you apply the principles you are learning to your own sermon preparation and delivery.)

Recommended Books

Christ-Centered Preaching (text only) 2nd(Second) edition by B. Chapell

Christ-Centered Preaching (text only) 2nd(Second) edition by B. Chapell

Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon [Hardcover]Bryan Chapell (Author)

Christ-Centered Preaching (text only) 2nd(Second) edition by B. Chapell
Christ-Centered Sermons: Models of Redemptive Preaching

Christ-Centered Sermons: Models of Redemptive Preaching

Highly regarded preacher and teacher Bryan Chapell shows readers how he has prepared expository sermons according to the principles he developed in his bestselling...

Christ-Centered Sermons: Models of Redemptive Preaching

Dr. Bryan Chapell
Dress and Style
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:00] This recording is provided courtesy of Covenant Theological Seminary. We're going to talk about style in Lecture 19. So obviously, we got to go real fast now, guys. But let me let me tell you my quick story here. When I was pastoring a small rural church while I was in seminary, one of the motions that a man who was an elder made in a session meeting was nobody in our community. None of the young men beyond high school wears a coat and tie. I mean, basically they buy a sport coat for their high school graduation with a tie, and that's the last time either is put on until, of course, a funeral somewhere down the road that they have to get formal for. So he said, you know, we're all coming with coats and ties, which means all young men in our community feel uncomfortable when they come to our church. So I make a motion that none of the elders in this church will wear a tie and coat to church anymore. All right. Now, another story. Another church I went to some years later and I was actually working on my washing machine one Saturday morning, all greasy and messed up, Found out it didn't have a tool that I needed. Went over to one of my elders homes, knocked on the door. He opened the door and he looked at me and he said. What are you doing? Visiting me. Looking like that. I said, I'm not visiting you. I'm just borrowing a tool. Now, listen, one of the elders in a church I serve said we are too formal. We need to dress down. Another elder said with a different concern. In this community, you are not formal enough. You need to dress up who was right.

[00:01:45] Trick question, right? They were probably both right. What were they doing? They were aware of the task and they were aware of the people and they were trying to make prudential judgment for the sake of the gospel, both concerning the sacredness of the task and the necessity of connecting with the people. As we talk about dress and style, that's what we're going to be trying to remember. If you think of the goal for this lesson, it's to understand how messages can be delivered with greater effectiveness by considering how the preacher can identify with his congregation in dress and delivery. Probably there's no better scripture for this than us considering seriously First Corinthians nine, though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone. To win as many as possible, whose rights with Paul primarily concerned about. The rights of people to hear the gospel and the right of the spirit to minister to them. Now for that sake, he was willing to put his own rights secondary for us in this culture. The great difficulty. We began to talk about things like style and how we dress is we typically think only in terms of my rights instead of to whom are my ministry and what will be most effective for their sex and the sake of the gospel. As we think about styles of dressing, the watchword is appropriate, and it's appropriate for this appropriate to honor the task and identify with the people, to honor the task and identify the people. Now, there is there is an obvious and forever tension in those two things. To honor the task and to identify with the people. So what we're trying to do is to say we want to present ourselves appropriately for the situation.

[00:03:50] Tell me into this. What do we have to consider? I'm thinking, how am I going to dress so as to communicate the word effectively in the. What do I have to take into account? Okay. What I have to think about the people, Aaron. What I have to consider. Okay. How are they going to interpret the way that I am looking? What are they going to use to make that interpretation? Well, they're gonna look at my clothes. What in their context are they going to be using for? What's their lens? Okay. Age. Generation is going to be one thing that will be they will use to interpret what else? Societal societal context in which they are. That can be their socio economic level. It can be the region of the country. It can be their nationality. It can be the demographics on the spectrum. All kinds of things going to it could be their own history of what do they expect of men of God to look like and to represent themselves. Now, are all these societal standards good? No, not necessarily. Are they all bad? Not necessarily. So we have to be making judgments that are pastoral for the sake of them and the gospel, not for the sake of. But I've had this coach since I was in high school and I like it. It's not our rights that are being defended. It's their rights that we're being concerned about. I will tell you, for us, most of the time, the decisions that we make about dress and style, we know they are appropriate when they disappear. When it's not an issue. I typically know that my choices are inappropriate when how I'm dressing becomes an issue. Now, is it possible that I might want it to be an issue that I think the societal standards are inappropriate and I want to challenge them? Yes, that could very well happen.

[00:05:49] But if that is not my intent, it is not my intent to challenge the societal norm, then I should be aware of what some of the societal norms are. Or else I'm just kind of creating barriers I don't intend. Remember, Paul said, I want to put in a stumbling block in the way of the gospel. So if you're not trying to cause you may want people to question what they're doing. Remember the elder who said, I want us to stop wearing coat and ties? We are becoming a barrier to young men coming into our church. I don't want to put a stumbling block, said. I want to take off our ties. On the other hand, another elder said, If you don't dress appropriately in my community, people won't hear you. And he was aware of that stumbling block. So having put all those hopefully parameters in place, can we talk quickly about some of the things to be aware of as we think about presenting ourselves as a testimony to others in what we're doing? We are trying to avoid what is either uncaring or unkempt. We are trying to avoid what is uncaring or unkempt. Can we do this quickly without too much offending one another? Tell me what the major issues will always be. They will be hair. Glare and costs. Those will be the issues, hair glare and costs. What would be the issues of hair? How long it is on your head and where it is on your face. I'm sorry. It's just this culture. Now you say. But Jesus had a beard. Well, I probably. Probably some of you been salesmen in this culture. Have you been responsible for making a living by doing sales, Michael? What did they tell you about your facial hair? Well, they would say do not have it.

[00:07:40] Why in this culture? Beards communicate. I don't mean this, but I mean, it's just the way this culture is. It It communicates counter culture of some way. I'm trying to be rebellious. I'm trying to look older than I am. I don't like dealing with people. And so I'm reacting negatively to what our societal norms. Now, mustaches are different. I think sales in this community, typically we're talking Midwest standards and people typically will accept mustaches, beards they are less accepting of. Listen, guys, don't cut off your beards. I don't. It's an academic community. Nobody cares here. But you might think about it when you're out looking for a job in a small Midwestern town, you might think about it. Now you might say, well, that's unfair. And that's that's an unreasonable societal norm. I'll agree with you. And maybe after a few years, you can convince them of that. Okay, enough. You make choices, right? And you just become aware where society is. Length of hair. You know? Well, how long is long? You know, I don't know. But it obviously, it's something that people are concerned about in this culture. Tell me about glare. Here I'm talking about, you know, the paisley dinner jacket that you wear into the pulpit. Fever. What in the world? Tell me the norms again, I'm not trying to formalize this or make it normal, but just tell me what people expect in this culture. They have to be somewhat regionally aware here. If you are north of the Florida line and you are east of the Rockies, tell me what people normally expect for the preacher to wear. If you're not a Gen-X church, what do people normally expect the preacher to wear? If you are north of Florida and you are east of the Rockies, that coat and tie more than coat and tie, somebody said suit.

[00:09:36] And the answer is suit, at least on a Sunday morning formal, you know. And the expectation is it will be it will not be what I'm wearing today. It will not be a sports jacket and slacks. It would be a suit and tie. Tell me the color of the suit. I'm sorry. Just the know the norms and then vary when you need to. What's the color of the suit? Aaron says it's dark. It is dark. And of course, the tie does not have Looney Tunes on it. You know, it's not. It's not that. Unless, of course, you are the children's minister or the youth pastor. And then, of course, everything goes. Now we're teasing about it. But did you mean to make an issue of it or did you not? Now, there are times I will tell you when we need to make an issue of it. I respect the elder who said I want us to stop wearing ties. You know, now he still wants the preacher to wear a tie. But anyway, the rest of the elders not to because he knew in his community for the preacher not to wear a tie would be to cut his respect. Now, on the other hand, with all the genetics and emerging church minister, those preachers typically wear ties. Obviously not. They're trying to connect to another aspect of society that is not so churched and doesn't have those expectations. So here now, there is the identification with people that moves a different way. Now, what are other things, an ID to go down into a poor community and where $1,000 suit may be a problem? Okay. On the other hand, to go to an affluent community and wear the suit that your mom got you while you were in high school may be a problem, too.

[00:11:16] So what is appropriate now, you might say, But the affluent people need not to judge people by their clothes. And the people who are in urban communities may not need to judge persons according to what? I recognize all that. Were you trying to make an issue? Great. If you're trying to make an issue and correct biblically, people's ideas power to you. But if you're just stepping on landmines that you don't know about and don't intend best to adjust so that it's not an issue, if you didn't mean to make it an issue. Things like, again, communities in which I was raised and still I just do it all the time. When I go into churches, I don't know. I always know to button my coat when I don't button my coat in many communities is not saying informal, it's showing lack of respect. So if I don't button my coat, I know in many communities I go to there will be people who'll be mad at me after the service, not for anything I said, but simply because I did not show respect. It'd be like wearing a hat in the church in many communities. You would know not to do that. Now, you may say, who cares? Well, you know, I know it's not something in the Bible, but we know people are not going to hear us if we wear a hat into a formal worship setting. In some communities, the same will be true about buttoning coats and things like that. I'm going to move very quickly now. Okay. We're talking about appropriateness. The last thing I mentioned about cost is not only cost of suits, but expensive jewelry. And of course, where your rings are these days, you know, not just on your hands, but in your ears or your nose or whatever eyebrows.

[00:12:51] I will grant you there are some communities where that is very effective. When my son began to minister in a downtown arts community, he said, Dad, I got to wear a ring in my ear. I'll just tell you, I'm I'm white, blond headed and small. And if I simply look like a suburbanite, I'll not work in this community not to be able to minister. So he wanted to do that, to say, I've got to be able to identify with these people. Power to him. He knew what he was wanting to do. He knew what he wanted into minister in that community. But of course, for him to now go try to get a job in a suburban community would be difficulty in that way. Consider the drama of the communication event. Here's what I'm asking you to do To recognize everything communicates something. Everything communicates something. Let me just show you one that's fairly common. I've got to reach down to do this. Just imagine this. I said to you. We just finished the reading of the word Lord, my strength and my fortress. You are my refuge in time of distress. Now, what we want to talk about today is what did I just do? I close the Bible and put it away. Now it may be in my notes, the verses I'm going to comment on, but what did I just communicate with dispensed with the preliminaries of the Bible? And now we're going to get to the important stuff. My message. Now, I didn't mean to say that, but what I just communicated by what I did was a message. And I'm asking you just to think about everything is a message and to weigh it as you consider your responsibilities before the Lord.

[00:14:32] Those responsibilities include concerning a style of delivery. I would encourage you in this generation, particularly to develop a personal style that means, number one, do not be afraid to be self revealing. I will tell you it is a generation that virtually demands this. Two generations ago, to speak about yourself in the pulpit was anathema. Now, not to speak about yourself itself will deaden your ministry. It is the expectation you have to be. Now it is redemptive vulnerability. It is not just a terrible person. It is. You know, we all struggle with this, but God helps to identify with the struggle as you point for the hope of the gospel. It is not just saying I am a terrible person. It's redemptive vulnerability to speak as though explaining across the kitchen table. Remember that SPURGEON spoke to a thousands, though he spoke to one. If you can do that, if you can just talk to people in normal ways, they will long to hear you. Three. Speak to particular situations rather than particular people speak to particular situations rather than to particular people. Come into their lives, know them, love them. Remember the Westminster Devine's the way they said it, by your conversation and resonance with your people. Know what you should be addressing. For use lots of ways, the way of direct address we struggle with, we understand we will be helped by to identify with people is a very personal style to learn the way of direct address. By the way, that's not the royal we referring to yourself in the plural. Last week we spoke to you about, you know, you've got a mouse in your pocket When you talking about we spoke to you about, you know, sounds very arrogant as opposed to involving people.

[00:16:48] Last week we understood that though we struggle with this, God has provided help. Use conversational speech. Use conversational speech. The rules of thumb are clarity increases as sentence length decreases, clarity increases, as sentence length decreases. We cultivate a playing style by speaking in plain terms. Speaking in plain terms. I would encourage you just to look at that Second Corinthians three passage. There you see it, seeing that we have such hope. We use great plainness of speech. I love that our hope is so important. We use great plainness of speech. Listen, it is entertaining to say simple things cleverly. It is impressive to say important things in a complex way. But in his ministry to say profound things in simple ways. And by the way, it is the greater intellectual task to say profound things in simple ways. It is not hard to say profound things in complex ways, particularly using the vernacular that you have learned in seminary. The greater intellectual task is to say profound things in very simple and graspable ways. Some principles for plain speaking, I use regular words. I'm not going to do all of these right now because we're moving quickly. Remember what the Westminster larger catechism said. Number 159. We are speaking to the necessities and the capacities of the people We speak to, the necessities and the capacities of the people, not to the necessities of the people, in the capacities of the preacher. The necessity and the capacities of the people should be guiding us in our style. Ultimately, we are trying to speak naturally. Now, that doesn't mean I'm grammatically. If, you know, if people are just being jarred by the language you're using, they will not hear you. But they are not looking for a formal essay.

[00:19:11] They are looking for you to be conversational, even as you speak with authority. And that natural speak is typically what we want most these days. It is being conversationally articulate. Now, I told you we would have some fun today, and my hope was to have you think about just some aspects of delivery that a little fun and even funny at times to think about. But the reason I did that is I want you to remember this weekend we could have turned this whole course into a classroom on delivery in style. I really want you to recognize those are the lesser matters of preaching. They really are the lesser matters. What God calls you to do is to communicate well. But he says study to show yourself approved under God. A workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. That's our primary calling to recognize it's not our delivery. It is the Holy Spirit working by and with the word in people's hearts. That is the profound task to which we are called. Think about it for a minute. The angels are looking on with the departed Saints. The Holy Spirit is present and working. Christ is interceding before the Father in behalf of you and the people. And the Father himself is listening to what you are saying for the sake of his children. It is a profound task and a very good one. May God bless you in it as you for the sake of his people and his word. Preach the word. Lord bless you.