Thinking Out Loud

December 9, 2011

Preaching in Your Pajamas*

No, this isn’t about a recurring nightmare that your pastor has, although, as a regular in a church orchestra, I can honestly say I had the dream where I was sitting among my fellow church musicians in sleepwear. 

Nor is this a rant about the trend in the last 20-30 years of preachers losing the three piece suit, or at least the jacket and tie.  That shipped sailed long ago.  While I agree with the maintaining respect or decorum for the ‘spiritual office’ of pastor, I also appreciate that the slightly more casual look is (a) more welcoming to visitors and (b) more affirming of the principle that the pastor is a human like the rest of us.

Years ago, in order to catch a piece of history, I visited The Vineyard church in Yorba Linda, California while the late John Wimber was the pastor.  (If the trend in my Charles Shultz and Bil Keane pieces holds up, someone will now turn up in the comments section to speak ill of Wimber.  Trashing the deceased is apparently acceptable now, to some anyway.)  Wimber was also a musician, so he was playing in the worship band and was probably the last person you would pick out as being the one who was about to deliver the sermon.  Dressed in a sky blue jogging outfit or track suit, he then got up and gave a passionate message for the better part of an hour, and if you walked away only remembering the way he was dressed, you probably needn’t have bothered to go at all.

I say all this because, as part and parcel of the ongoing Rick Warren bashing, I’ve noticed a few people talking about his Hawaiian shirts.  I’m not sure if he still wears them on a regular basis, or if it’s just a stereotype, but it appears to some these shirts represent less than the minimum standard for a respectable pastor.

I’m not so sure, however.  I keep thinking back to Wimber and wondering if maybe it’s just a Southern California thing, something reflective of west coast culture. Of a pastor who is trying to connect with the local culture in order to, as the Apostle Paul put it, “win some.”

It also occurs to me that some of the Warren bashers have run out of things to say, and in the process have noticed that despite their ravings, Warren and Saddleback haven’t gone away, so they fire a cheap shot across the bow that’s in the spirit of, “Your maternal parent wears military footwear.”  Or the virus that got into my computer years ago and sent people a note that simply said, “You are fat;” hoping to strike injury at some deepest level. By their clothing ye shall know them.

Makes you wonder who is really showing up for church in their p.j.’s… and perhaps their recurring nightmare should be the one where they are keying in their latest hate rant on their blog and suddenly realize they have absolutely nothing to say.

*For the record, I originally titled this “Preaching in Pyjamas” using the spelling I grew up with in Canada, and the one known to my UK readers; but again my spellchecker would have none of it; so in concession to the sheer numbers of my U.S. readers, I caved, but only for numeric reasons; the Brits did (literally) invent the language after all.


  1. Great post! Merry Christmas!

    Comment by sergeimakarenko — December 9, 2011 @ 3:40 pm

  2. I watch rick Warren from time to time live stream. Depending on which service ( saturday night or Sunday a.M.) he is dressed more casual. I have found that the older he is getting, the more reserved and conservative he has become in his appearance. It might also have to do with his recent health and diet regimine.
    In any case, I think people have grown weary of the clothes debate. The so called seeker, is not interested in a pastors attire as much as wanting to know he is accepted, loved, and that he will be respected even if the pastor disagrees with him. In other words, will the pastor be ‘real’ with me. People will be able to spot a phony no matter the tie, shirt or jacket. So what we really need to be aware of is, how is our heart.

    Comment by ralph juthman — December 9, 2011 @ 9:18 pm

  3. With Christmas on a Sunday, this year (most years with the Day not on Sunday we’ve set aside that service), and as I will have been up past midnight on Christmas Eve, I am contemplating preaching in my pajamas and inviting the congregation to come worship in theirs as well. When I first saw your title, that’s where I hoped you were going. Then, as I read the post, I was drawn back to a sermon I preached a few years back, in which I observed that Rick Warren wears Hawaiian shirts and that, when asked about the choice of style, he replied, “It’s all about comfort.” Noting my own choice of Sunday vestment (an alb with cincture and stole), I said, “For me, it’s all about wearing the contemporarily stylized garb of the first century Roman servant class.”

    Comment by Dave in Webster — December 10, 2011 @ 7:47 am

    • Love the concept. You should add some pillows and blankets at the front and invite the kids to sit on the floor.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 10, 2011 @ 9:53 am

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