Berean cogitations

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Is your pastor a stand-up guy or a stand-up comedian?

A few weeks ago, a group of my friends and I watched a Christian teaching DVD at a church singles group meeting. I tell you, it was a hilarious, mile-a-minute jokefest! The preacher was a gifted comedian, and he kept his audience in constant stitches.

After the DVD ended, we found ourselves at a loss. We wanted to discuss its content, but instead, we were forced to ask, "What was that all about?" The pastor was so intent on cracking jokes that even the most attentive listeners could scarcely pick out his message.

This, I think, is a serious concern in many churches. In their desire to attract crowd, many pastors turn the pulpit into a stand-up comedy revue. The doubtlessly think, "If we can get people laughing hard enough, then they'll want to attend this church and they can hear God's Word." I strongly disagree. There's nothing wrong with using humor in the pulpit, mind you, but when humor becomes the emphasis, then God's Word is overshadowed—or even ignored.

Today I found this article ("Is Your Pastor a Comedian?") that expresses much the same view. As I said, humor is not intrinsically wrong; indeed, there are times when a well-placed joke can help people remember a vital point. Overall though, one's preaching should convey the seriousness and sobriety that God's Word deserves.

Sadly, I know that many churchgoers love to hear a comedyfest come from the pulpit. I also know that many would respond by saying, "Why do you say that it's wrong to crack jokes? Do you want the pastor to be nothing but a sourpuss?" Not at all; as I said, the problem occurs when humor is pursued as a goal—when it becomes the main course, rather than a delightful bit of seasoning.

Many others respond by asking, "Are you saying that the pastor shouldn't use his talents? Why should we deny him the chance to demonstrate his gifts?" This, of course, is a specious response. Of course people should use their gifts, but they must sometimes be used in moderation. Moreover, it doesn't necessarily follow that one should use these gifts in the pulpit. I know pastors who are gifted at home repair; does this mean that they should use the pulipt to demonstrate how to fix a bookcase?

Still others would say "Well, if it draws the crowds in, what's wrong with that? Are you saying that they shouldn't try to increase attendance?" No, I'm not saying that at all. Rather, I'm saying that we shouldn't attempt to draw crowds by turning the sermons into irreverent jokefests. This can only hinder the preaching, rather than reinforce it.I am fully aware that some would disagree with this viewpoint; nevertheless, I stand by my point. When preaching, the focus should be on the Word, rather than any desire to tickle people's fancy.