Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” I think you’d be hard pressed to find a person who would honestly say he or she prefers a crushed spirit over a cheerful heart. We can all recognize the valuable place that humor holds in each of our lives. One of the beautiful aspects of humor is how it can transcend so many barriers and bring people together in a unique way. Mark Twain once said, “Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritation and resentments slip away, and a sunny spirit takes their place.”
In this interesting article, Bob Smietana shares the passion of Rev. Susan Sparks in her campaign to convince fellow pastors to add more humor to their Sunday sermons. Reverend Sparks has gone so far as to create the “Ten Commandments of stand-up comedy” as a resource for other pastors who are new and open to this idea. Sparks was careful to say that “she wasn’t advocating replacing theology with jokes. But she did remind preachers that in a world where texting and Twitter are commonplace, they can’t afford to drone on and on.”
So here’s my question: Is focusing this much on comedy from the pulpit truly beneficial to the spiritual climate of the church?
I agree with Sparks that “humor does two things. It binds us together as a community. And it breaks us open.” However, when she goes on to say that “when it’s done right, ministry and comedy make people feel less alone,” I feel a bit of conflict. On a basic level I can’t disagree with that statement, but I’m still not convinced that pastors should focus their efforts on making sure their sermons are entertaining and humorous enough to hold the attention of a so-called “sound byte generation.”
I love to laugh. I don’t think church should be a completely dismal place. At the same time, should the joy and laughter in the church be something that is dependent on the humorous material and delivery of the pastor’s sermon? Maybe we should be more focused on the truth found in Psalm 126:3: “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” It is the works of the Lord and not witty one-liners from which we ought to derive real joy.