Why does the Pastor wear a black robe?

Wayne C. Villarreal ~ Senior Pastor-Teacher

“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry,” ~ 1 Timothy 1:2

The Lord Jesus Christ called me to Faith Bible Presbyterian Church in February of 2008. Later that year in October He confirmed His call for me to be the pastor of the church. Then church brought me on as her fulltime minster in December. On June 14, 2009, the founding pastor, John C. Mills, officiated my ordination and installation service. What followed was an eighteen-month transition period. Pastor Mills faithfully pastored the church for just over 42 years. With his years of experience, he certainly was able to provide the much-needed wisdom and encouragement that I needed as I transitioned into my first pastorate.

I share all of this with you because it leads up to the point in time during the transition period when Pastor Mills, in passing, told me that though he has chosen not to wear the Geneva gown that was a viable option for me. At the time, as one could imagine, transiting out of more than 24 years in the commercial banking industry into my first pastorate… my mind was preoccupied with so many other things related to the ministry. So, I did not give the Geneva gown much thought.

So, having been pastoring just under 12 years without the Geneva gown, I am sure one might wonder why I have decided to begin wearing it. That is an exceptionally good question. That which follows is my answer to that especially important question.

The robe worn by the pastor is a preaching|teaching robe, which is commonly known as the Geneva gown.  While the robe/or gown is not mandated by the New Testament to be worn by the pastor, it does serve a purpose.  The robe does not serve to place the pastor above the congregation but rather to identify the pastor as the man whom God Himself has divinely called and set a part to the gospel ministry and has placed in the office of elder/or overseer of the church He has placed into his care.

The pastor’s divine calling, as God’s emissary, is to faithfully occupy his office by teaching the Word of God, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, leading the congregation in worship, and administering the sacraments of the church: Baptism and The Lord’s Supper.  To quote Jeffery J. Meyers,

“The minister officiating at the Lord’s Service ought to be dressed in a way that identifies him as the representative and spokesman of Jesus Christ” (Meyers 337).

“The purpose of the robe is to cover the man and accent his God-ordained office or calling” (Meyers 338).

I believe we can confidently say the robe identifies/or magnifies the pastor’s divine calling over and above his personal identity or choice of clothing.  Just as the clothing or uniforms worn by police officers, doctors, nurses, and judges magnifies their area of expertise/or calling over and above their person, the robe points to the office and role of Jesus Christ’s undershepherds/or ministers.

The robe deemphasizes the pastor while emphasizing what exactly he is doing during worship – faithfully fulfilling his divine calling to be the representative and spokesperson of the Lord Jesus Christ to the congregation He graciously entrusted to him.  To quote Jeffery J. Meyers once more,

“The minster who leads the worship plays a symbolic role during worship.  When he leads the congregation in prayer before God, he symbolizes Christ leading the Church in prayer before the Father.  When he reads and preaches the Word, he symbolizes Christ, the Husband, speaking to His holy Bride (which is, by the way, one of the main reasons why women cannot be pastors; they cannot publicly symbolize Christ the Husband to His Bride, the Church, 1 Cor. 11:2 – 10; 14:33 – 38; Eph. 5:22 – 33; 1 Tim. 2:11 – 15).  When the minster baptizes he symbolizes and represents Jesus who baptizes by the Holy Spirit (Mt. 3:11; Jn. 1:33; 1 Cor. 12:13).  When the pastor stands behind the Lord’s Table he serves bread and wine on behalf of Christ (Lk. 22:26 – 27; Jn. 13:15; Rev. 3:20).  Of course, we might reverse this way of speaking and say that Jesus speaks, baptizes, and serves at the table by means of His ordained ministry.  The symbolic, representative role of the pastor in corporate worship is crucial.  The pastor acts and speaks for Christ to His Church” (Meyers 339).

The minister’s clothing during worship should reinforce/or speak to his representative role before the Church.  His calling is not to be a police officer or doctor or nurse or a civil judge.  His calling is to represent the Lord Jesus Christ to the Church and when what he is wearing speaks to his ambassadorship, the congregation is reminded of the Lord’s calling upon him to serve them on His behalf each Lord’s Day.

Arriving to the conviction of the value of the Geneva gown during worship on the Lord’s Day has been a yearlong journey for me.  One of the most helpful video presentations that really helped to motivate me to seriously consider looking into the gown is done by Pastor Michael Brown.  It can be viewed here.

Works Cited

Meyers, Jeffery J. The Lord’s Service: The Grace of Covenant Renewal Worship, Moscow: Canon Press. 2003. Print.

The Holy Bible. New King James Version Reference Edition, Quentel Series, Virginia: SchuylerPublishers, 2015. Print.