When I first started preaching, I received advice from women preachers who had been preaching for years. Much of that advice centered around what to wear and what not to wear.
“Wear black suits because it will make you look more professional. If you wear lots of colors people won’t take you seriously.”
“If you are going to wear earrings make sure they’re stubs and nothing too flashy.”
“Wear your hair back because it will make you look more like a man, which people will be more receptive to.”
As a woman raised in a culture that constantly comments on appearance and bodies, I was used to hearing this kind of advice. I was raised at the height of the purity movement and was raised to believe if a boy made an inappropriate comment about my body it was because I was wearing something or doing something that tempted him. I didn’t think much about these comments that were centered on my appearance and wardrobe choices.
That is until I found myself in the middle of a worship service critiquing another woman preacher’s wardrobe choice. Even as I was listening to her message, my thoughts wandered to, “She shouldn’t be wearing…” Those comments and “advice” I heard had not only impacted the way I viewed myself in the mirror before I preached and was now creeping into my reception of other women preachers. It’s when I knew I had to stop the cycle.
Being on platform bringing the word of God to the people of God can become a competition, especially at denominational gatherings or conferences, particularly when there are stipends involved. Stage presence can easily turn into stage performance. Being called can easily turn into being heard.
The best piece of advice I ever received about preaching had nothing to do with what to wear or not to wear or how to present myself.
“If you ever enter the holy desk and are not nervous, then perhaps you are speaking on behalf of yourself and not from God.”