Kristal Kuykendall
May 02, 2017

The Story Behind T-Shirt Evangelism

James Dean's character in "Rebel Without a Cause" in 1955 made T-shirts a major fashion statement, something that is more true than ever today.

Welcome to our new #TestimonyTuesday blog! Each week, #TestimonyTuesday will share a story from one of our Kerusso retail partners, customers, employees, or fans about how God is changing lives every day! In particular, we will celebrate His work in people’s lives through what we call T-shirt evangelism: reaching others with the Good News of God’s love by wearing a Christian-themed T-shirt, hat, or piece of jewelry.

Ever wonder why we at Kerusso like to say, “Change your shirt. Change the world!”?

We call it T-shirt evangelism. Where did T-shirt evangelism come from? How does it work? Is it effective? (The short answer is YES!)

Following is some background, straight from the horse's mouth (not really, it's straight from Kerusso CEO & Founder Vic Kennett!):

1955: The simple white T-shirt becomes a cool fashion statement; an industry is born.

In 1955, James Dean wore a simple white T-shirt in the landmark film, Rebel Without a Cause. Remember those rolled-up sleeves? Almost overnight, sales of this basic piece of men’s underwear went through the roof.

The T-shirt that had been strictly an undergarment had become a symbol of individuality. All the “cool cats” (and all those who aspired to be cool cats) wore them. By the 1960s, a cottage industry selling airbrushed tees had sprung up at hot rod shows, and by the end of the decade, the technology had been developed to mass-produce screen-printed T-shirts.

A worship team at a church in the mission field wears their Christian T-shirts proudly.Printed tees have long been a way for us to make a statement about all kinds of things: humor, politics, revolution, sports, movies, stars, cars, kittens, and, yes, even Jesus. If it matters to you, you want to wear it on a T-shirt. Printed T-shirts have become a staple of our wardrobes, allowing us to express ourselves without saying a word; whether you are 2 or 92, you probably have a few in your closet, and they are likely some of your favorite things to wear

The 21st Century: We wear printed T-shirts to express ourselves – but are we saying anything that really matters? 

Did you know that a graphic tee will be read as many as 3,000 times before heading to the rag box!? A printed T-shirt effectively turns us into walking billboards, making us active marketers of the message on our shirts. 

Is wearing a “JUST DO IT” shirt going to make a difference in the world? Or just help Nike sell more sneakers? Now, don’t get me wrong, I like Nike. I’m not saying you should feel bad if you don’t wear a Christian-themed T-shirt all the time. What I am saying is this: Why not use the opportunity to make a statement about something that really DOES matter? Why not say something on your shirt that can change a person’s life for all eternity? Why not be a T-shirt evangelist for God?  

One of Kerusso's outreach programs gets Christian tees in the hands of students in mission fields around the world.So, what is T-shirt evangelism?

Simply put, it is purposefully choosing to wear a Christian T-shirt while going about your everyday life, expecting to make an impact on those who see your shirt. You may even choose to wear them to locations where you might not always wear a T-shirt, being led by the Spirit in your approach. 

I’ve seen and heard of some very cool divine appointments that God has orchestrated in the lives of people who wear our shirts. Sometimes you’ll get the opportunity to expand upon the message on your tee with someone who asks you about it. Sometimes you won’t speak to anyone about it. The wonderful thing is, you will have many witnessing opportunities when someone simply reads what your shirt says – without you ever having to say a word.

Some missionaries serving in the slums of Nairobi, Africa, sent us a photo of a local resident they ran across, named Gus, short for Augustine. Gus was working in the slums, but nevertheless, he believed he has “life in abundance,” and he was wearing a Kerusso shirt reading “3:16 The Numbers of Hope!”When you stand in line at the store, cheer at your child’s soccer game, or walk the halls of your school, you’ll be sowing seeds of God’s grace, love, and truth. That kid sitting next to you in school is soaking in the truth of the Gospel right there in class. Your neighbor who is going through a family crisis can see words of encouragement as you chat across your driveway. These encounters are often more powerful than you will ever know. You and your T-shirt may be the only “Jesus” they will see. The scripture on your shirt may be the only “Bible” they will read.

Is T-shirt evangelism effective?

We’ve always known that Christian T-shirts bearing God’s word make an impact. The many comments and letters we’ve received from wearers over the years describe how these shirts have helped them share their faith. But we wanted know even more. Not long ago, we conducted a survey among people who regularly wear Christian T-shirts and asked them several questions about their motives and what happens when they wear the shirts.

We learned some remarkable things from our survey! We learned that 98% of those surveyed wear Christian T-shirts in order to share their faith and not just as a fashion statement. Almost half the people surveyed said they’ve been able to share Christ with an unbeliever because the message on their T-shirt sparked a conversation. And – get this! – 1 in 14 reported that they helped an unbeliever reach a decision to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior after having a conversation that began because they decided to wear a Christian T-shirt!

Why do fellow believers wear our products?

It’s not just because they’re cool or because they love the designs; it’s overwhelmingly because they want to share the Gospel. They see the act of putting on that T-shirt as a step in the process of fulfilling the Great Commission: telling the world about God and the relationship available with Him through His son Jesus. They are T-shirt evangelists!

I’m grateful to the Christian retailers who are providing these tools to their customers, and I’m grateful to all the customers and Kerusso fans who are using these tools to reach more people with the Good News.

Change your shirt. Change the world! 

Do you know someone with a story to share about how they use Kerusso products to spread love and light? Email us at! If you'd like to get in on T-shirt evangelism, you can find your own favorite Kerusso shirt here. Need prayer or have questions? Click here. Thanks for reading!

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