Summary: Preach with joyous, godly humor
In this lesson I hope to teach how to preach a humorous sermon.
The top pay for professional comedians is probably in the multiple millions. That's far more than we pay the average preacher laboring in the word of God. Why? Why is it that the hollow, immoral message of Hollywood seems to have more monetary value than the most meaningful message on the planet, the gospel? Entertainment is more interesting to the average person than the gospel. We can be better preachers of God's message if we preach it in an entertaining fashion. Entertainment is a valuable tool for making appropriate parts of the gospel have more impact on average people, and one way to add entertainment is by using humor.
In this lesson, we return to what the Romans termed the middle level of rhetoric. However, unlike Augustine's middle kind of sermon, this is not a praise sermon or doxology. We have already covered that. This is an entertaining sermon, in the style of the middle level of rhetoric. Specifically, we will discuss preparing a sermon that contains humor. This chapter focuses on the what, why, who, how, where and when of humor. It gives Ten Commandments of humor and an example sermon.
What is Humor
Humor is an incongruous condition that causes amusement, a temporary mood causing laughter, our enjoyment of the absurd, or an ingenious verbal skill that induces delight. Why would preachers want to learn to use humor?
Why Use Humor
Laughter and rejoicing often go together (Job 8:21). Laughter, singing and praise for God can also go together, especially after a great trial is over (Psalm 126). There is a time to laugh, even in a sermon (Ecclesiastes 3:4), and especially at annual times of rejoicing and celebration of the great events of the Christianity (Ecclesiastes 10:19). A merry heart is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22).
Humor can help a sermon relate to people, because it is enjoyable, stimulates interest and even helps sleepy people wake up. Humor is also a good way to paint an illustration in people's minds.
Some subjects are just plain touchy, delicate. A good way to handle this on some occasions, but not all, is to get the church in a good mood. Don't make light of the seriousness of the subject matter, but use humorous every day examples of how people approach the subject matter which we can all relate to and are downright funny. Let the church know that it's okay to laugh at ourselves.
A Catholic priest had finished his homily when the microphone went out. He said, "Something's wrong with my mike." Many in the congregation did not hear, but assumed he had said his usual blessing, "May Christ's peace be with you." So, they replied, "And also with you."
Who to Focus On
There will always be disagreeable or despondent people in any congregation. Some of them may actually like you, but for some unknown, private reason they are having a bad day. Perhaps they have a migraine or are in deep emotional pain over some private sorrow. Don't take this as an insult. They may actually need and want your humorous stories, but may just not show it today.
Then there is the person who genuinely hates your guts. You don't know why, but from the first time they saw you perhaps, either something you said, or your personality type, or something else entirely made them instantly dislike you. There will always be those who when they hear that you have been called to another church will want to sing, "What a friend we have in Jesus." Shut any gloomy or negative person out of your mind when you are preaching humor.
Focus on those who are genuinely having a good time, and tell your jokes to them. If you respond to them, others will too, and enjoy their response to your jokes. I remember one church I served years ago where there was a lady with a distinctively infectious laugh. Even if my humor was weak, people laughed because they enjoyed her laughter. Her laughter was infectious not only on the congregation, but on me too. Her encouragement made me preach better and made my humor more effective. People love to watch people laugh. Laughter is infectious.
How to Use the Punch Line
Many people blow a joke at the punch line, yet remembering the punch line is the way to remember jokes. It doesn't matter if you retell the joke with slightly different details, because a punch line usually fits a variety of circumstances. The punch line is the joke. Keep it a secret. Never tell the punch line or even hint about it before you give it. A punch line works better when it is not given away before hand.