Earring in the Preacher’s Ear

by Robert Earl Houston

I’m going to give a disclaimer right off the bat. I am unapologetically old school when it comes to ministerial training. My father in the ministry, the late Dr. A. Bernard Devers, I, of Portland, Oregon was trained by one of the best, the late Dr. C.E. Williams of Seattle, Washington.

When I came to him 35 years ago to tell him that I had been called to preach, I entered into sacred covenant with him. I literally put my life (and my preaching career) in his hands. I had to trust his judgements, decisions and even if I thought I didn’t agree with him, time would be the ultimate judge. He was not infallible, but he was correct and as a 17 years old preacher with zero experience, my job was to be that sponge to learn from and of him – both right and wrong. I became a disciple.

Having said this, there is a phenomenon that is occurring in the Black Baptist church that did not appear 35 years ago – and that is the minister with an earring. I’ve seen young preachers with them. I’ve seen young pastors with them. And not to be outdone, I’ve seen middle-aged preachers with them and even senior aged pastors with them.

I want to first say that there is no biblical command in the New Testament concerning ministers and earrings. Matter of fact, the Bible is quite clear about jewelry and females (1 Timothy 2:9, 1 Peter 3:3, 1 Timothy 2:9-10, for instance) however there is not anything spoken of regarding men and earrings because it was not custom of the day for men to wear earrings, which were normally worn by women.

However, in this day and time, because of the influence frankly of athletes, rappers, and entertainment figures, more men are wearing earrings than in any other time in history. Also, it is not unusual for a young male baby to have his ears pierced as a female would be. Culturally, things have changed.

Initially, in some communities, the thought of a man wearing an earring was supposed to represent something non-masculine. However, who will walk up to Shaquille O’Neal or Michael Jordan or Denzel Washington and hurl that charge today? It has become acceptable in our societal culture.

But what about the pulpit? Again, this writing is not about the pew, this is about those of the male gender who have been called to preach. I want to make three observations and obviously these are not directives, these are suggestions:

1.  NOT IN THE PULPIT

I’m old-fashioned on this. If you have an earring, don’t wear it in the pulpit – whether you are preaching or not. Wearing an earring doesn’t not make you “hip” or “more relevant” to those who will hear you. It will make you look more vain than anything else.

I found this nugget from the Reformed Church of God:

Also, jewelry of this type for men only appeals to VANITY. Human beings naturally want to be accepted by the world around them. But what does God say about this? “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (I John 2:15-16). Christians must come out of the world (Rev. 18:4). And people should remember them for their CHARACTER—not whether or not they bought into the latest fad.

I agree.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve moved away from the loud colored suits and into less fashionable attire. Many years ago, a minister of national renown used to hit the pulpit with huge rings on his fingers and a starburst diamond garnish to hold his tie in place. It literally was so bright under the lights that 30 years later, I remember his clothes and not one word he preached.
Truth be told, as preachers, we can get a little too worldly in our attire and too vain to where it not only is a distraction to the congregation, it’s a discouragement to preachers and pastors who may not “measure up” with you.

I have found out that a $700 pair of shoes doesn’t help you preach any better. A $1,500 suit doesn’t exegete the text better. And a huge rock in your ear may cause deafness in the pew.

Secondly, IF YOU GOT ONE, WEAR IT LATER

Paul’s discourse about “if meat offends my brother” (1 Corinthians 8:13) is applicable here. If that earring is going to cause someone to stumble (spiritually) or tune out your sermon (no matter how much whooping sauce you apply), don’t wear it.

Look, it takes all of ten seconds to remove that earring (or earrings) out of your ear (or ears) before you hit the pulpit. This is just not for those who are preaching, but for preachers on the platform or even (hang on) in the audience.

The truth is that some of our seniors just won’t understand, period. I don’t expect a “Miss Jones” (fictitious) who has been “baptist born and baptist bred” to break from everything that she knows about preaching and her expectations of preachers to all of a sudden have an epiphany about your style choices. Don’t make her work that hard, put them away.

You have every right to wear what you want to wear. But consider this – why don’t you hit the pulpit in a swimming outfit? Why don’t you come to the pulpit with a fifth of alcohol? Why don’t you just come to church naked, you won’t be on the platform?  You know the answer – because whether you sit under the lights or in the audience there is a certain decorum that is expected of those who preach the gospel.

Lastly, WEAR THEM CASUALLY.

I know, you paid for them. They were a gift. Well, then wear them away from church. Wear them at your secular job. Wear them at home. Wear them at social events. But not, my brother, at the church.

The story is told of a woman that was on her deathbed. She was blind and the doctors had informed the family that she had little time to live. She asked for the chaplain, who worked at the hospital to come in. He arrived and started to pray and prayed until the tears ran down her cheek. She asked him to come close to hear and she reached up to touch his face. Her expression changed and she said: “Oh . . . I thought that was a preacher. When is he getting here?”  Point made.

You have more than enough opportunity to wear your earring. Enjoy the use of them, you paid for them. But, in my opinion, the male preacher of God can go a little while, from Sunday School to the Benediction of worship, without his “bling bling.”

One thing I noticed. When it’s “showtime” – Shaq doesn’t wear his; Michael didn’t wear his; and Denzel didn’t wear his (unless his character called for it).

I welcome your comments and observations.

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12 responses

  1. My God I remember we had this conversation about 20 years ago about the ear ring I walked in to the church with and because of you I got rid of it. I thought I look rather good with it on. If that was today I would wear it exactly like you just discribed its use and attire above. But I dont believe it makes a difference. Believe it are not I believe a jersey and tee shirt in the pulpit is worst than an ear ring. But thats me.

    1. You know, you’re right. We did have that conversation (I had forgotten – I couldn’t remember who I had it with).

  2. Amen Preacher…Preach!!

  3. Pastor Robert, I agree with every word that you penned. I remember at the age of 24 when I announced my call to preach, I had both ears pierced, chains and jewels for days. But it was something about the church and the upbringing that I had received Dr. Williams that willingly allowed me to take those things off and put them in the jewelry box. Later to be sold. Now I only own a select few pieces of jewelry and no earrings and my holes haven’t closed. Thank you for the insight Pastor. I enjoy your blogs.

  4. I wholeheartedly agree! We must recognize that when we are in God’s House, we are in a sacred place for a sacred purpose, and as preachers, we have been called to a sacred position. I take that to mean that there may be some things that may be somewhat excusable for those in the pews that, given the public position and platform of the preacher, would not be a suitable reflection of the sanctity of the pulpit, nor of the church for that matter.

  5. As a choir director, I always teach that people see you before they hear you, and I try to stress the importance of appearance not only in their attire but in their overall presentation. Very relevant information. Be Blessed!

  6. I must concur with you, Dr. Houston! Having started under an old school pastor and served under others. Been in the pulpit for over 30 years, and in a pastoral related capacity for more than two decades. By His grace, I will hit 43 this year! God be praised!

    Seen a whole lot that has become the “norm” in those years… much that needs to be seriously looked at as you have tackled your take on this issue. Especially your transparency about the leader who taught you. I learned that as well, there was something in us that needed to come forth and would if stayed under His direction through them! I have grown to respect and appreciate your ministerial stance, because it is backed by Him!

    The pulpit, the place of sacred seriousness has become a place of pride and production pitfalls! Thanks for your boldness! May it grow the younger brethren who have an even greater work ahead of them!

    Bless you!

  7. Love this Pastor Houston!!! Thank God for TRUTH, thanks for saying what others WON’T SAY. We have let things go too FAR in the church today especially the PULPIT. There are only 3 types of men who even wear earrings and NONE of them should be in the Pulpit with this carrying-on: Gay men (self explanatory), the Pretty Boy who wants to be the SEX SYMBOL (we all know what he’s after), and the Player (whose is no different than the Pretty Boy and his “why he wears an earring”). In my life of being saved I have seen but ONE preacher wear an earring in his ear and that was about 20 years ago but he also is the same preacher that stood in a pulpit a year an a half ago and told the people he does what he has too to “UNWIND” (now use your own sanctified imagination on that one)… At all accounts this is a perfect article.

  8. Delphene O. Morris, MSC/MFT | Reply

    Thank you for your insightful opinion in regards to the situation that has been on my mind for so long. It is imperative that the minister’s remember they are called by God to represent HIM not to be a people pleasers. The word says,” if I be lifted up I’ll draw all men unto me.’ If they would just preach the word God will add to the church, daily such as should be saved. Trying to appear hip is not the plan of God. Thank you once again.

  9. Paula Strickling-Williams | Reply

    Let the Church say, “AMEN!”

  10. Let the church say amen! Well said Pastor Houston. I couldn’t agree with you more. I just hope those that need to hear this are on the mailing list to get this post. Truer words could not have been spoken.

  11. I must agree with everything said as well. I had both ears pierced since 1996 and when I accepted the call on my life to preach the gospel I still had them. I took them off in the pulpit to not offend the church, pastor or my dad (who also was in the pulpit). But one day at work someone came up to me and said aren’t you a preacher and I kindly replied “yes” and then a gentlemen standing right next to the other one who asked the question said “I aint never seen a preacher with an earring in his ear before”. That stayed with me to the point I just got rid of them altogether. In my eyes it symbolized a life I led before I came to the Lord and hanging onto it just made me feel like I was clinging to a past life that really I wanted no more part of.

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THE WIRE

by Pastor Robert Earl Houston

H.B. Charles Jr.

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