Thursdays With Spurgeon—Judging By First Appearances

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

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Judging By First Appearances 

     A good horse cannot be a bad color, and a really good preacher can wear what he likes, and none will care much about it; but though you cannot know wine by the barrel, a good appearance is a letter of recommendation even to a plowman. Wise men neither fall in love or take a dislike at first sight, but still the first impression is always a great thing even with them; and as to those weaker brethren who are not wise, a good appearance is half the battle.

     What is a good appearance? Well, it’s not being pompous and starchy and making oneself high and mighty among the people, for proud looks lose hearts, and gentle words win them. … When a man is as proud as a peacock, all strut and show, he needs converting himself before he sets up to preach to others. The preacher who measures himself by his mirror may please a few silly girls, but neither God nor man will long put up with him. The man who owes his greatness to his tailor will find that needle and thread cannot long hold a fool in a pulpit. …  

     At the same time, the preacher should endeavor, according to his means, to dress himself respectably; and, as to neatness, he should be without spot, for kings should not have dirty footmen to wait at their table, and they who teach godliness should practice cleanliness. … A worn coat is no discredit, but the poorest may be neat, and the men should be scholars rather than teachers till they are so.

From John Ploughman’s Talks of Plain Advice For Plain People

Like it or not, people do form first impressions on external appearances, and all leaders (and especially pastors) would do well to measure these words from Charles Spurgeon. 

I think Spurgeon is talking about honesty here. I need to be honest with who I am, while at the same time being honest about the office that I hold. I’m not playing dress-up, but I also need to be aware that I am representing the King of kings so an appropriate dress and lifestyle are required. 

I also need to be honest that people are forming first impressions the moment they see me, but also that I cannot try to dress or act in a way to please or attract people. 

I remember meeting a group of “seasoned saints” who all showed up at our church one morning. When I engaged them in conversation, they told me that their new pastor appeared to be too young for their style. They formed an opinion about him before ever giving him a chance. I told them that I knew their pastor and that I liked him a lot. I directed them to return to their home church and give their best support to their pastor for at least six months before they made any decisions. Thankfully, during that time they got to know this pastor and remained in that church with him. 

I am in the position I am in because God placed me there. I am working to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I don’t want my appearance to get in the way of people hearing the message. I don’t want to try to be someone I’m not. I need to remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s direction in how I should dress, talk, and live. If my conscience is clear before God, then I won’t have to pay attention to the opinions of others.

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