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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Humor in the Pulpit

I recently heard this quote from ____________ (Ah, not going to tell you to keep from tainting your opinion):
People say to me now, who knew me when I was young, "You're not as funny as you used to be." And I say, "Life isn't as funny as it used to be." But, I made my trade sortof being a Bob Newhart knock-off when I was young. I did every Youth for Christ thing, Campus Crusade deal, Junior High, Senior High, I spent summers doing Junior High camp. And I had the shtick, the stand up comedy, the whole bit. Once in a while it leaks out, but usually they edit it out of the tape.

Well you know, they criticized Spurgeon for saying things that are humorous, and he said, "You outta hear the things I think and don't say." And I confess there are things I think of that I don't say. Maybe more of them now than I used to say.
Through no intentional decision on my part, I'd have to say I'm finding less room for humor when I preach as well. It's not that I think it is morally objectionable to use humor in the pulpit (for I don't), it's just that the more I preach, the less time 40 minutes feels like. (I know, it would kill the church if I went longer, but nearly every week I feel like I could preach for an hour much easier than for 40 minutes.)

This week, Cedarville led our church in corporate worship. Being a Grace grad, I considered an introduction making fun of Jason or perhaps some other easy Cedarville target (Jason especially likes when I talk about Cedarville's grass). However, Cedarville did such a good job "setting the table" that it would have been terribly inappropriate to do some standup, and distract the focus from the Word. Instead, we turned straight to Joshua 5

Alright preachers, I see you on my statcounter. Tell me what you think about humor in the pulpit or how you've found the balance. What about those in the congregation, what do you think? Am I just getting old, or am I finally getting what preaching is about?

*As a side note, I do not plan on talking about the Ohio State-Michigan game on Sunday, and it will be quite minor if I do. Despite the fact that they will be undefeated and on their way to the champtionship game, it pails in comparison to the things God has for us in Joshua 6!


  • At 9:58 AM, Blogger TheReformedThinker said…

    Decent post until you decided to fill it with lies in the last paragraph. We all know that UofM is going to walk into the stadium number 2, but walk out number 1. OSU has not seen a defense like that of the mighty men of michigan!

    Go Blue!

  • At 12:29 PM, Blogger RevPharoah said…

    Now, THAT's funny!

  • At 1:50 PM, Blogger marissa finch said…

    you should make a post about the "beauty and the beast" night between you and charity just like you told it last night at LIFE group!

  • At 9:14 PM, Blogger ~d said…

    danny, we'll all be disappointed if you don't say something about saturday's game. it's tradition. you can't break that kind of tradition. and if you don't get it over with at the beginning, people will simply be listening for the punch line somewhere in the middle of the message....and you wouldn't want them to miss the message, right?

    i, for one, have always enjoyed your sense of humor. if it takes a couple more minutes to fit that in, it's worth it. used appropriately it doesn't detract from good, solid teaching.

  • At 10:53 PM, Blogger ~~anna~~ said…

    I vote for using humor when it's appropriate (like making fun of OSU) AND take a full hour to speak. After all, a football game is technically 60 minutes, so why not a msg!
    and I have to agree with thereformedthinker! GO BIG BLUE #1!!!
    Here in CR there are a number of us getting together to watch the game at another family's home (Yes! a house NOT an apartment)
    Fun times...of course, the TV station may broadcast in Spanish, but then we can just say we're all studying with the TV on!

  • At 8:56 AM, Blogger BReformed said…

    You asked for preachers to respond.

    Frankly, you can break tradition. The post-modern church has broken virtually every tradition of the church for the sole convenience or desire of "culture", whether it is theologically-rich hymns, prayer meetings, or preaching. I vote for chucking man's traditions more than once in a while. If football is that important, then find a bar and camp out for the post-game party and quit the duplicitous facade. Just come out and say that we really don't need more than a passing moment dedicated to the reverence of Almighty God.

    I am not aware of any congregation that has not had some kind of "dedication" service for it's church, setting aside the facility unto the Lord's work. We arrogantly dedicate our facilities to God, then beg the integration of the world's culture into the church recreationally, and socially. But preaching? Pffft.

    To answer your question, I don't think it has anything to do with getting "old". I'm barely older than you, and neither of us are "old". It has everything to do with whether the pulpit is viewed as the "sacred desk" or merely a lecture stand. It's the difference between giving a "sermon" and giving a "talk".

    Humor for the sake of humor is a waste of time. We all know pastors (in addition to Joel Osteen) who have to tell a joke every time they enter the pulpit. But why?

    Sometimes, the pastor's homiletic style does invoke a humorous response. Al Mohler is known for this ability, and is always punctuates his point. But no one comes away from Al's preaching thinking he is a jokester, and the anticipation is not "what joke is Al going to tell today?"

    Perhaps that's a good test: do the people silently wonder, "What's today's joke?" I know a pastor from my youth who precipitates that very question in people's minds to this day as soon as he steps into the pulpit.

    Christians in the pew have serious issues in their lives. They don't need stand-up comedy to be engaged. They don't need a super bowl Sunday to bait people into the church as an "outreach". Good grief, who are we kidding? What you bait them with is what you will have to feed them later.

    Ephesians 5:4 (NIV) "Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving."

  • At 8:14 PM, Blogger ~d said…

    breformed - i sure hope you aren't thinking that what you wrote describes our church. or that those of us who appreciate danny's humor sit in the pew anticipating it more than we anticipate his solid, biblical teaching. it felt like you were pinning some ugly label on us (or was it me?) that doesn't fit. frankly i couldn't care an ounce less about the OSU-MI game (i'm sure i don't even have the initials right), but i have always enjoyed watching others who do care toss around their friendly barbs. and while i wholeheartedly agree that humor for the sake of humor is a waste of time, humor that is appropriate or timely is a gift. my goodness, LAUGHTER is a gift.

    no one comes away from danny's preaching thinking that he's a jokester. i'm not saying that you think we do. i'm just assuring you that we don't see him that way. and i know i'm not alone in saying that i really look forward to hearing his sermons each week. they are rich in truth, grounded in scripture. (go ahead, ask me about last week's - i still remember most of it, especially the main point that i'm trying to put into practice.) but it seems just as wrong to omit humor when it fits (because you're worried the congregation will miss the real point) as it is to work it in where it doesn't.

    and danny, i apologize now if i wrote something that didn't quite come out as i intended. i'm not trying to cause any problems. i just don't always have the best luck when it comes to commenting on your blog for some reason. i still prefer group discussions! :)

  • At 11:14 PM, Blogger danny2 said…


    if david felt i joked too much, he'd tell me. (he refuses to post his messages on the internet, so i've never heard him preach, but he has too much wit to never use humor in the pulpit.)

    and i love humor, and to be honest i probably crack a joke or two per week...not that i plan to.

    the cedarville example is just what i'm talking about. if i felt so commited to tell a joke that i destroyed the atmosphere of what God was doing (something i know i have done before) then i have not been a good steward of what God has given.

    ~d, most of all, thank you for your comments about my preaching. honestly, those are the exact comments a pastor hopes to hear about his sermons. thanks be to God! (for if you would have heard me 8 years ago, i was the jokester who just wanted to "work the crowd.") God was gracious for not striking me dead (i certainly deserved it for taking the ministry of the Word lightly) and doubly gracious for changing my preaching when i didn't think it needed changed (i was soooo arrogant...again worthy of lightning to the head).

  • At 9:30 PM, Blogger ~d said…

    i hear what you are saying danny.

    and i, too, and deeply grateful for God's grace, mercy and enormous patience with me while waiting on me to start growing up


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