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Some churches get very upset if the preacher uses any humour in the pulpit. I suspect heaven will be a shock to their system!  Other churches esteem humour above all else that comes from the pulpit.  This is also a problem position.  But what of the rest of us somewhere in the middle?  We know that humour is neither inherently sinful, nor the point of preaching, but it can be a minefield.

Here are some pointers:

1. Be authentic in your humour.

That is, don’t pretend to be something you are not.  If you are not a joke-teller in conversation, then don’t tell jokes in the pulpit (it won’t work).  As long as it is appropriate, go with your natural style of humour.

2. Be joyful rather than silly.

We have so much to celebrate and should be a people marked by “Easter joy.”  However, the dynamics of a responsive crowd can stir our flesh into looking for laughs.  Don’t make that your pursuit, you will be selling out on the great goals of preaching!

3. Be loving to all.

Don’t use humour that is critical, destructive, racist, sexist, etc.  Don’t use restrictive humour, that is, humour that only those on the “inside” will understand.  It can be okay to say something that some will find amusing, but it is not okay for those who don’t to feel like they are being left out.

4. Be selective.

Don’t always use the same kind of material.  For instance, it may be the cutest thing you ever heard, but not everyone in your congregation wants to hear what your child said this week at bedtime.  For some a continual diet of those comments can be like rubbing salt in an open wound.

5. Be humble.

If it goes wrong, don’t hesitate to apologise.  I inadvertently mixed up two brands when giving an illustration and managed to reference something highly inappropriate … it certainly got a laugh, but I needed to both apologise and explain how I ended up saying what I did!

What would you add?  Any pointers you’ve found helpful?



Peter Mead is involved in the leadership team of a church plant in the UK. He serves as director of Cor Deo—an innovative mentored ministry training program—and has a wider ministry preaching and training preachers. He also blogs often at BiblicalPreaching.net and recently authored Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation (Christian Focus, 2014). Follow him on Twitter

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Lawrence Webb

commented on Jul 31, 2017

I rarely use humor in the pulpit. I definitely am not in the club whose members think a joke is the way to establish rapport. I occasionally will have a personal story with a humorous twist, preferably one that shows some faux pas I committed. I basically do not tell jokes in the pulpit. They belong in the same category of the story from the book of illustrations. In "real life," I like to tell funny things, often corny, but not in the pulpit.

Albert Gunter

commented on Aug 1, 2017

Whilst personal humour can be great and is original. my pet hate isiwhen the preacher passes off what is obviously a fictional anecdote as something thta really happened. This is made even worse recount the tale as happeneing to themselves, to me this is akin to lying.

Lionel Frank

commented on Aug 1, 2017

I believe that while there is nothing wrong with humor from the pulpit, it must tie in with the message. There must be a POINT made through the joke which might help the listener even remember the point being made. It could be a form of a parable with a twist and we know that Jesus used parables( illustrations ) to bring out a truth.

Celso Escanillas Jr.

commented on Aug 2, 2017

Thanks for the pointers and am with you on these five points. I also stay true to the humor or illustration. I avoid exaggerating or adding to the humor or illustration just to make it "catch-ier" or more interesting, to the point that I am already telling a "white lie". Nice topic!

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