Should a Pastor Use Humor in the Pulpit?

I’ve heard arguments for yes and no in answer to this question.

Some view humor in a sermon as being blasphemous, out of place, and irreverent. I understand the point and think it has merit. We are dealing with Big Serious Issues.

Others say humor is fine; it’s part of effective communication and keeps people listening. I get this too. Big Serious Issues can get Big and Boring. What good is it if everyone is asleep while you’re seriously discussing Big Serious Issues?

Ignoring all church tradition and sanctimony, my answer to the question is this: It depends. I’d need to ask some questions to understand the context better to give a correct answer.

1. Is the pastor funny?
If you are not naturally funny, then don’t use humor. We are often not the best judges of our own humor. The best test is if anyone thinks you’re funny when you try to be funny. If you are not funny; do not force humor into your sermons. It will sound stilted and won’t work. Don’t be the guy who reads jokes you found on the internet because you know you need laughs, but then read them all wrong with terrible timing and voice so everyone just cringes. Don’t be that guy. If you are naturally funny, I do think it is fine to be funny.

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What the Failing Pastor Wants for Christmas

I’m not a big fan of holidays. Christmas does very little for me at this point in my life.

Giving gifts has become annoying. I give people things they’ll never use and they return the favor by giving me things I never use. It’s like when God gave Joel Osteen His Son. “What am I gonna do with this? I gotta pay bills!”

My family has all but given up with “thoughtful” gifts. Now we just exchange lists of things we want. Which is dumb. Why not you just go get what you want yourself and I’ll go get what I want myself? Save everyone the hassle.

Anyway, I’m asked by numerous relatives every year what I want for Christmas. Most of what I want for Christmas can’t be bought, but these truly are the things I’d like.

1) World Peace
I sincerely, with all the honesty and integrity of my heart, desire everyone to just shut up and get along. Relax. Don’t argue at every provocation. Get a thick skin. Be gracious. Lighten up. No one is listening anyway. Sssshhh. Be still and know God. I long for the return of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, to set all things right.

2) Spiritual Growth.
I want this for me, first and foremost, but also for my wife, my kids, my family, my church, my city, my country, my nation, and the world. This, in fact, is the thing that would lead to World Peace.

3) Ice Cream, Steak, and Dr. Pepper
Solomon concludes that all is vanity, yet he repeatedly says to spend your hard earned money on food and drink. I have ceased, for the most part, in buying things. When I spend money it’s on food or doing something. I hate stuff lying around my house, cluttering up my desk, and tripping my feet. I want to eat and then go do something to burn those calories so I can eat more.

4) Twitter Dominance
I wish I could get another helping of insight and humor to make my Tweets reach the world and bring about spiritual growth, peace, and a few laughs. I want to do better for you, Twitter World.

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What Pastoral Success Looks Like to the Failing Pastor

What would pastoral success look like to me?

I can sum it up simply by saying: when my church grows in the unity of the faith into the perfect man, Christ Jesus. I’d want to see Christlikeness in the people in my church. Not perfection, but a definite moving in that direction.

What would that look like?

People would show up, not just to church, but for each other. They would visit each other, provide needs for each other, fellowship on their own initiative, do acts of mercy and kindness for those outside the church, shepherd their own families, witness to their neighbors, and such like.

If these things were happening, I’d feel like I was succeeding at my job.

At the same time, it would probably never be enough to make me not feel like a failure. Christlikeness is a high standard. It is perfection. “Be perfect” is like a thing commanded in the New Testament.

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3 Things This Pastor Never Says

In my twenty years of being a pastor, there are three things I’ve learned not to say.

1) “I’m busy.”
I hate these words. I hear these words so often, there’s no way I can possibly say them to another human being. No one is ever available for anything because they are “busy.” I later find out ”busy” meant doing something they thought was more fun, which is just about anything other than doing something associated with church

I also don’t say “I’m busy” because I’m not. I can make time for pretty much anything I want to do. I have gotten more used to simply saying “no” to things, rather than giving stupid excuses. I attempt to never give excuses. If I forgot to do something, I will say, “Oh, I’m sorry.” Rather than “Oh I didn’t do that because I was so busy.” Constantly getting blown off by people because they are “busy” makes a guy feel like a pile of mud. I don’t want to do that to other people.

I am also the pastor. If I tell people in my church I am too busy for them, that sort of defeats the purpose of my job. If the church keeps you too busy to be with the people in the church, things need to change. It also sounds like I’m complaining about my job, blaming the church for my busy-ness. That’s not a good look

2) “You’re saved.”
People want the assurance of salvation. The Bible pretty much says you will have the assurance of salvation to the degree your life is changed, new, becoming like Christ. 1 John hits the point pretty clearly. Seeing sin decline in your life is a great sign you’re saved. If you tell that to people, they will charge you with being legalistic and promoting works righteousness. People do not want to hear this.

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5 Things the Failing Pastor Likes About Being a Pastor

Many of my tweets and blog posts are about “negative” things. Mostly that’s because my humor is fueled by making fun of negativity.

But often people just hear me as whiny and complaining.

And they would be correct.

However, making fun of negative things is one way I deal with it.

There are actually many things I enjoy about being a pastor.

OK, “many” was way too big of a word. There are several things I enjoy about being a pastor

1. People crying.
Seriously. People let pastors in to their personal lives, sometimes shockingly so and occasionally disturbingly so, but for many it’s quite healthy and beautiful. I’ve been at the bedsides of dying people. I’ve grieved with people. People share their spiritual struggles, their passion for saving the souls of their loved ones, and their deepest fears, disappointments, and regrets. It’s amazing to me how many grown men have spoken to me through tears over the years. It’s moving and beautiful and I love it.

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Dealing with Church Bullies

When I first became pastor, two men in the church viewed themselves as being the assumed decision makers. They hired me and set my wages and gave me my paycheck.

I was a young, new pastor with no pastoral experience. I knew they were the supposed leaders of the church. I showed them respect and asked their opinion when it came to decisions. They regularly refused to say anything and told me to do whatever I wanted.

So I did. I was then regularly told that what I wanted was the stupidest thing a pastor should want. One day after church, my wife and I were invited over to one of the guy’s houses for lunch. We agreed.

When I got there, guess who else was there? So these two decision makers of the church brought me into the living room, leaving the wives to corner my wife, and sat me in the lowest chair in the living room, which as I recall kept my butt about four inches off the floor, practically eating my knees.

They both stood over me and told me how dumb I was and how wrong my latest decision was. Never mind the fact that I asked them what they thought about this decision beforehand and both refused to do or say anything.

I patiently took their lecture and the awkward chair situation, ate lunch, and went back to making stupid decisions.

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Dealing With People Who Sleep in Church

Pastors, next time you feel your sermons are too boring, remember: The Apostle Paul once preached someone to death.
@FailingPastor

 

God bless Eutychus. Acts 20 says that Paul was preaching late into the night and dear Eutychus couldn’t take it anymore. He even moved to the window. I’m guessing he did this as a strategy to stay awake.

But even sitting at the window didn’t work. He zonked off and out he fell. Paul raises him from the dead, and then, get this, it says Paul then “talked until morning!” I love this!

Paul bores someone to death, raises him up, and then keeps on preaching for more hours!

Thank God this passage is in the Bible.

Do you know how many pastors over the years of Church History have put people to sleep and yet remained confident to keep going because Acts 20 is in the Bible?

Eutychus probably had an excuse. He probably worked long hours, or walked a long ways to get there. I do think he moved to the window in an effort to keep awake. The spirit was willing, the flesh was exhausted.

I give him the benefit of the doubt. I do this because many people have fallen asleep on me while I was talking. Most of these people work long and late hours. One guy worked a moving shift of crazy hours and often just got done with work before coming to church after working all night. He could have just gone home, but he made the effort to be there.

People are busy and here’s the other thing: I’m not always that exciting.

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There is One Reason a Pastor Does a Funeral: To Preach the Gospel

THEM AT FUNERAL: He’s in a better place now.

ME: Yeah, that is one nice casket.
@FailingPastor

 

 

The average funeral costs about $6,000-10,000. And that’s for a basic funeral package, not even including frills. Most people don’t know this. You need to tell them.

I preached a sermon once about funerals. I talked about what I say at them, which is the Gospel, so if you don’t want me preaching a Gospel message, don’t ask me to do your funeral. That would suit everyone fine. I also told them about the cost of a funeral and basic ins and outs of the funeral industry.

No one talks about death in America anymore, unless it’s some off-hand witty remark as a good guy shoots a bad guy, or gratuitous video game violence, or some other entertaining form of death. People want to live and get their stuff. No one wants to consider death.

Solomon says that the house of mourning is a place of wisdom, whereas a house of parties is a place to get dumber. Guess which one people like better?

People don’t go to funerals anymore. It’s amazing. I was talking to one funeral home director and he said fewer and fewer funerals have a pastor. The people in the family don’t even know one to ask. He went on to say how few of the pastors who do funerals bring up the Gospel.

I find this depressing. Funerals are the best opportunity you will ever have to deal with life and death. Most people are ignoring death. At a funeral, you can’t. The dead guy is right there in front of you. I like to throw in a little, “One day we will be at your funeral.” Make them feel what it’s like to be the dead guy in the coffin up front.

Death makes people consider large issues. Why do you think Satan enjoys making a joke out of it so much? Large issues like life after death, judgment, mortality, and other soul searching topics come up naturally. How a pastor could not grab this opportunity by the neck and hammer the Gospel home is beyond me.

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How to be a Sane Failing Pastor, Which Should be Your Pastoral Goal

“Their church is doing great. They just built a second building.”

–What people base church success on and why so many pastors feel like failures.
@FailingPastor

 

One of the main sources of pastoral depression, and all other forms of depression, is comparison.

“Comparison steals contentment” is the old quote you hear in various forms. There is truth there.

Most comparison is based on what you see. Being the pastor of a small church with a pathetic building situation is depressing on many levels.

People in your church will frequently demand the impossible from the group and make fun of its small size. It develops a complex as everyone feels a little foolish in our little group. People visit the church and then never come back, making the whole group feel rejected, embarrassed, and a tad defensive.

People from other churches constantly tell you how great their church is. How many got saved. How many attend. How much their new building project costs. The new exciting programs your church could never afford that they started and won their whole city to Christ.

Pastors are constantly given advice from “more successful” pastors (and there will always be a more successful pastor) about how to do things and “here’s your problem.” If we could all just be as cool as those cool guys in their cool churches.

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Sometimes Sermon Criticisms Are Actually Compliments

Criticism from “certain people” is often the best way for the pastor to know his sermon was spot on.
@FailingPastor

 

 

For the most part, I get zero feedback from people about my sermons. Therefore, I have to do a little digging to figure out how “well I did.”

Typically the same people will tell you “good sermon” every week. This means very little. I look for the person who asks a question about something I said. To me, that’s a compliment. I got them thinking.

Then there are the criticisms. It’s easier for people to criticize than to praise. If I mispronounce a word or give the wrong reference, you would think I’d just dropped a hydrogen bomb on a village of innocent women and children.

Then there are those who will walk past quickly, not making eye contact and then will write an email on Tuesday. They always wait until Tuesday. They lull you into calm. “I didn’t hear anything bad on Sunday or Monday, guess I did ok! I must be in the clear!”

Nope, Tuesday morning has an email waiting for me. The email begins with:

“On Sunday you said. . .” something that I sort of said but not entirely. By the time Tuesday comes their emotions have stretched what I said into something ridiculous. They will then copy and paste 327 verses pointing out how “what you said Sunday” is not right.

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