Humor in the Pulpit

I’m a funny guy.  I love to laugh and I love to make other people laugh.  Sometimes I just enjoy making other people feel awkward, but that’s not the point of this post.  I have tried and failed miserably at humor from the pulpit, and here is a list of what I’ve learned.  

  • I’m not as funny as I think I am:  My wife tells me this all the time, but I’m just too hard headed.  The harsh reality is that I’m not even half as funny as I think I am.  I would do well to remember this each time I attempt a joke.
  • Not everyone has my sense of humor:  This is closely related to point #1.  My sense of humor tends to be a little on the dark side.  Not everyone shares my sense of humor, and I should not expect them too.  There are some things I should just keep to myself.  Correction, there are many things I should just keep to myself.
  • Not everyone has a sense of humor: There are some who have had their sense of humor surgically removed.  They just refuse to laugh at anything.  I have a difficult time relating to these types of people, but as a pastor, I must.  They have helped balance my personality by teaching me that not everything in life has to have a joke attached to it.  Still, come on folks, laugh a little, or at least crack a smile.
  • The pulpit really is not a place for humor:  I’ve determined it’s just too risky to try a joke in my sermon.  If the joke falls flat, everyone checks out of your sermon.  The gospel is too important to muddy the sermon with an unnecessary joke.
  • Family humor is off limits:  I once tried to tell a joke about my wife being pregnant.  It wasn’t funny and on top of that I forgot the joke and fumbled around for the right words and settled on the phrase, “her belly”.  Again, this joke was terrible and awkward.  When we tells humorous stories or jokes about our families, we never know when those attempts at humor will leave them vulnerable and embarrassed.
  • Reading internet and email jokes is strictly forbidden: I once had a pastor who only read half of the email joke before he tried to read it from the pulpit.  He started reading it during his sermon, and the last half of the joke was off color at best, dirty at worst.  He kept reading the joke.  I thought it was funny, but I followed the congregation’s lead and stayed silent.  It was awkward, and it turns out, that pastor was sending out his resume.  He left 4 months later.
  • Some humor is acceptable:  We don’t want to be robots.  We want to engage our congregations with humor.  I’m not going to leave that part of myself totally behind.  I have a favorite deacon who likes to pick on me, so I pick back sometimes.  I’ve asked him to tell me if I cross the line.  

These are the lessons I’ve learned about humor from the pulpit, I’ve learned these mostly through error.  What do you guys think?  Is there anything you would add to this list?

You might also want to read: Southern Baptists, Phoenix, and the alt right. What to do Now.

Southern Baptists, Phoenix, alt-right, and What to do Now

This week, the convention that was supposed to be bland and uninteresting turned into a frenzy as Southern Baptists tried to correctly condemn white supremacy and the alt right movement.  I was there.  It was intense.  The final resolution was successful and firm, but the struggle to get there was a nightmare.

What should we do now?  Let me suggest a few actions we can take at the ground level in our churches and interactions with the world

Pray–Racism will never go away.  We should continue to pray for the victims of racism and the perpetrators.  Without the power of prayer, we could pass thousands of resolutions, but they would have no meaning.  Christ has the power to comfort victims and change the hearts of alt right racists.  We should personally pray and lead our churches in corporate prayer for God to use His power to do what only He can do.

Educate–One of the main problems I heard from pastors at the convention is that we did not know exactly what alt right meant.  There are many members of our churches who would label themselves as alt right, but who are not racist and do not believe in white supremacy.  They are simply conservative.  We need to educate our people on what identifying as alt right really means.  We need to encourage our people to identify as conservative Christians instead of alt right.  We can still identify as conservative Christian can’t we?

Calm down–When I was in school we used to tell each other to take a chill pill.  Was this a black eye for our convention?  Yes.  Will some media outlets blow this out of proportion?  I would expect nothing less.  Will the alt right crazies try to troll some of us on social media?  Yes they will, but our responses and dialogue should be infused with grace, love, and mercy.  We should also be very careful about how we engage in this debate on social media.  Pastor’s, if our church members are angry, a face to face or phone conversation is probably more appropriate.

Learn from our history–Dr. Joel Rainey wrote an excellent post about this here:  Learning from our family history.  Can we please not let this happen again?

Remember–When we were called back to the convention center Tuesday night for a possible vote on the resolution, we were reminded what Southern Baptists are all about.  The IMB commissioned almost two dozen new foreign missionaries.  It was incredible.  I was reminded that our job is to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.  Our repudiation of racism is necessary and important, but it does not supersede our commission to carry the gospel to those who have never heard.  In fact, condemning racism advances the gospel.  Standing against racism and white supremacy is not an end in itself but a means to demonstrate the gospel to a watching world.  I was thankful for Dr. Platt and the IMB for their moving presentation.  

Be thankful–I am thankful we got it right.  We passed a resolution that condemned a dangerously evil ideology that’s growing in our society.  I am grateful for the forgiveness that has been extended by our African American brothers and sisters.  I wish we didn’t have to seek your forgiveness, but you have shown class, dignity, and grace.  Thank you.  

This week was my fourth convention and I hope to attend many more.  We are not perfect, but we serve the God who is.  We don’t always get things right, but we serve the God who does.  I’m looking forward to Dallas2018.