Monday, January 5, 2015
Humor in the pulpit.
I expect the overuse of jokes in sermons is meant as a camouflage for the failure to provide anything of merit in them. If so, let the preacher take note: it doesn’t work. The sermon which depends on a joke for its effectiveness is an insult to God, to the audience, and to one’s calling. The pulpit is for the preaching of God’s Word, Law and Gospel. Anything that distracts from that shouldn’t be there. The religious experience is largely bound up in the sermon. Most sermons can be edited down to under 10 minutes. Most the scrap material includes humor. People laugh and might remember the joke but it rarely contributes to edification. And don’t kid yourself, most people are not impressed. There is a hunger out there for conversations – dialog, not monologue – and real relationships. The reformers moved the pulpit in the center and our shift should be the other way: Ten minute message perhaps, with lots of conversation and activities that practice the Christian lifestyle in community – praying with others, listening to their stories, serving the community, etc. I say this as one who loves a great story and enjoys being the one telling it. I just think of what Christ did for me; brutalized and nailed to a cross. The lamb of God. When I go to Church I "need" to hear the truth without humor. I love wholesome humor but... when I present myself to my King on Sunday in corporate worship - I think some reverence is in order. Remember; this is what the holy spirit has done for me so this is the way I see it. Our God certainly has a sense of humor. He created us in his own image, and he gave us the ability to laugh and to tell jokes, even to be silly. That said, I don't want my pastor to entertain me on Sunday morning. 1 Corinthians 13 doesn't say "love is patient, love is funny." Scripture doesn't preach winning people over with our clever anecdotes. It preaches the glorious and incomparable love of a risen Savior. I'm much more comforted knowing that my God is Sovereign, Gracious, Infinite, Merciful, than I am knowing he's amusing. I've heard pastors who use humor to shy away from the deeper truth of Scripture or to prove how relevant Scripture is. Our God doesn't need proof! He is always relevant! I'd much rather the Holy Spirit use my pastor's words to convict me and lead me back to grace than to keep me smiling. If our sermons never offend, we probably aren't telling people the whole truth.