Wearing Your Faith: The Value of Christian Clothing
It sounds so obvious to say, but one of the best ways to create life-changing encounters with people is to let them know you’re a Christian.
I walked into first period on the first day of school, very confident. I had mastered freshman year, and I was prepared for a good sophomore year. That morning, I had purposefully picked out my wardrobe to define me, so I could make an accurate first impression of my values and style. Plus, looking good on your first day is just what people do! Since it was chilly that September morning, and I had to walk to school, I opted for a red Christian-themed sweatshirt to add a little protection from the swift West Coast winds.
I had no idea what to expect from my English teacher or her class, first period, day one. Obviously, I sauntered in cool, casual-like, with my signature confident smile. First impressions are everything! But I quickly realized the smirk made me look borderline arrogant, so I walked into the classroom without it—like a normal human.
After examining the seating chart flashed onto the Smart Board with last year’s embarrassing school picture, I located where I needed to sit. On my way to the seat, I had my first proper conversation with the teacher.
“What does your sweatshirt say?” she asked.
I used my index finger and thumb, on both hands, to pull my sweatshirt taunt, so the text was easily viewable. Looking down, I read the words upside down. The word “DEPENDANT” in big white letters, stuck out. I read it out loud to her. In much smaller print underneath the big word, I followed with “In Christ.”
My 40-something year-old teacher finally understood. Though at first, she completely missed the message. “When I saw “DEPENDENT,” she said, “I thought it meant that you were dependent on drugs.”
Drugs? Her interpretation of my Christian sweatshirt caught me off guard “Nope. I don’t take drugs. Not at all. Nope.” Anyway, my teacher knew from that point on, I valued Christ. Not drugs, but Jesus Christ. Definitely not drugs.
The best Christian conversation starter I’ve ever had is not a pamphlet or a free bible or an invitation of a church event. One of the greatest ways I’ve found to start a meaningful conversation is when someone else begins it by commenting on your clothes. Clothes create connections and community. That’s why so many companies, ministries, brands, and causes throw their logo or some handy information on a t-shirt—because people like to read what’s written on your cotton-billboard. And when you have a shirt with a funny comic, or a clever saying, or large words that cynically pronounce you just need coffee in your life to be happy, you can rise the ranks of popularity or at least appear more interesting. Some things written on shirts aren’t even very entertaining—but you’ll still get someone to stop you and ask what your shirt says. Case in point: the eye-rolling, once-popular-in-middle-school shirt that just says “This is my funny t-shirt.”
When people looked at my personal collection of Christ-approved clothing, conversations started that probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
“What’s that ministry about?”
“Is that what church you go to?”
“Good bible verse.”
“You think that Jesus is our Savior?”
“I like what it says on your shirt.”
“Are you a Christian?”
“What’s that mean?”
“You’re a heavy drinker?”
Okay, I once had this bright red t-shirt that in big letters had HEAVY DRINKER sprawled across the front. In small print were the words John 7:37. On the back it explained why it proclaimed the person wearing the shirt a “heavy drinker.” The back quoted Jesus in John 7:37, saying, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.” In one of my stranger Christian shirt experiences, In the cafeteria my freshman year, the vice principal gave me a really strange look and asked for an explanation on this shirt. Even when I showed him the back, he still looked confused. But hey, it gets noticed and it gets a conversation rolling!
All those brands and groups which you can find advertised on shirts, sweatshirts, drawstring bags, and baseball caps, all realize that clothing is a great way to get people to see your product or brand. For this reason, some groups will give out shirts free, knowing you’ll wear it around and be a walking billboard for them. My alma mater has given me plenty of free gear because they want me to show off my school. In the same way, we can advertise who Christ is and what we are all about. Truly, this method is the literal meaning of “putting on Christ.” Mere earthly materials, like clothes, can influence people to Christ if you allow it!
If you agree with Paul in Romans 1:16, then Christian gear is just another proclamation of the things you hold dear. Romans 1:16 (NIV) says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” Christian products can be a way to identify ourselves, like wearing a shirt with our favorite sports team logo. People know what we stand for, who we are, and how we’re going to live. And just maybe, they’ll ask us about it.
By Jake Doberenz