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The use of humor in Gospel Preaching

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  • The use of humor in Gospel Preaching

    I have listen to a lot of sermons and started wondering about the following:

    1. Is there anywhere in scripture where the preacher/teacher/prophet was trying to get his audience to laugh?

    2. Did Jesus ever try to get His audience to laugh?

    3. Jesus did tell some “almost” humorous stories, like the log in your own eye, with some very deep spiritual meanings, but would it make people laugh?

    4. Is trying to make your audience laugh, also making lite of the subject?

    5. Should the teacher/preacher emphasize the seriousness of the subject, by not showing any humor?

    6. Would humor hurt someone in the audience caught up in the seriousness of the subject?

    7. Why do preachers today use humor?

  • #2
    I find that joking around while preaching is a bad thing. A gentle humour occasionally as it pertains to the message is ok, but there is a fine line that cannot be crossed.

    The modern pragmatic church is so intent on meeting the "felt needs" of its audience that it desires to entertain rather than speak God's word in truth and in entirety. Preachers don't want to offend anyone, so they water the gospel message down with an abundance of feel good fluff, and much joking. Talk of sin and repentance is frowned upon. After all, it is important to keep the numbers up!

    That is also why there is a proliferation of modern "worship music" that repeat words or phrases over and over and have very little substantial theological meat to them. It's almost as if the church thinks that nobody will get the deep meaning in the old, well written hymns that the church built into their worship in days past.

    We have been reduced to the lowest common denominator: don't understand the Word because we aren't being taught the Word and just need to be entertained for an hour each week.


    Securely anchored to the Rock amid every storm of trial, testing or tribulation.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by bling View Post
      I have listen to a lot of sermons and started wondering about the following:

      1. Is there anywhere in scripture where the preacher/teacher/prophet was trying to get his audience to laugh?
      There is some Wisdom literature that says laughter is good, but I can't think of anything meant to be humorous.

      2. Did Jesus ever try to get His audience to laugh?
      No, unless it's lost in idiom, or he just wasn't funny.

      3. Jesus did tell some “almost” humorous stories, like the log in your own eye, with some very deep spiritual meanings, but would it make people laugh?
      Sometimes I laugh with delight that I've found something I hadn't understood before in Scripture; but it isn't funny.

      4. Is trying to make your audience laugh, also making lite of the subject?
      Can be, but good speakers will build and release tension, whether a preacher should be a good speaker is another matter.

      5. Should the teacher/preacher emphasize the seriousness of the subject, by not showing any humor?
      The emphasis should always be on Jesus and therefore on the teaching, but I humor is a common tool to manipulate the attention of an audience, and I can think of a preacher who is funnier than I particularly appreciate who preached at a conference of preachers and was considered appropriate.

      6. Would humor hurt someone in the audience caught up in the seriousness of the subject?
      It can be jarring if the technique is used poorly, again, this is based off the assumption a good preacher should be a good speaker.

      7. Why do preachers today use humor?
      The simple fact of the matter is that no one has a perfect attention span, and people have differing abilities in learning, there are various techniques involving repitition, or drawing someone's attention to a subject through somesort of drama or comedy, such as getting quieter or louder or making a joke. It isn't Biblically centered, but is instead based in modern rhetoric, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
      Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? -Galatians 3:5

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      • #4
        There is nothing inherently wrong with humor. But I think a lot of preachers have a tremendous amount of disrespect for their audiences, and do not mind simply wasting the time of the people of God. I don't drag myself out of bed on a weekend to come to church and hear a lame stand-up routine.

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        • #5
          There is one potential example of a phrase added for humor. This is in Rom 13:8
          For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. (NKJV)
          The point about "attending continually to this very thing" seems first to be unnecessary to the point Paul was making. In the context of the discussion, it would be unnecessary to tell the audience how dedicated these 'ministers' are. (Genuine interest in the devotion of the ministers would not exist unless the audience felt the government was doing good things for them. The context suggests otherwise.)

          If we are to look harder for a reason for this phrase, we can consider that Paul has inserted a bit of humor here. The anticipated reaction of the audience members would be to laughingly (while gritting their teeth) say "Yes that is right. They sure are continually hounding us for taxes. They are very good at that part."

          In saying this we identify "this very thing" with taxes rather than with governance (e.g. ministering). Some translations have envisioned that the ministers were devoted to governing, which may simply be their attempt to clarify what this unstated thing was.

          Humor then appears to be the intended effect. Paul likely was using the humor to diffuse a tense situation.

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          • #6
            1 Kings 18:25-27English Standard Version (ESV)

            25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” 26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”


            Now THAT'S funny.
            That's what
            - She

            Without a clear-cut definition of sin, morality becomes a mere argument over the best way to train animals
            - Manya the Holy Szin (The Quintara Marathon)

            I may not be as old as dirt, but me and dirt are starting to have an awful lot in common
            Stephen R. Donaldson

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            • #7
              This may not be totally relevant, but I've always found this very funny:

              2 Kings 19:35, NASB

              Then it happened that night that the angel of the Lord went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead.
              I DENOUNCE DONALD J. TRUMP AND ALL HIS IMMORAL ACTS.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Zymologist View Post
                This may not be totally relevant, but I've always found this very funny:

                2 Kings 19:35, NASB

                Then it happened that night that the angel of the Lord went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead.
                Do you mean that it sounds like the dead men awoke and realized they themselves were dead?

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                • #9
                  Jesus used exaggeration a lot and some puns to make a point. Everything in moderation.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by mikewhitney View Post
                    Do you mean that it sounds like the dead men awoke and realized they themselves were dead?
                    Yeah. Probably more of a translation thing than anything, but the phrase, "and when they woke up, behold, they were all dead" just strikes me as funny.

                    As to the OP, I don't think I disagree with what anyone else has said.
                    I DENOUNCE DONALD J. TRUMP AND ALL HIS IMMORAL ACTS.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Ehud was sent to the Moabite King Eglon on the pretext of delivering the Israelites' annual tribute. He made a double-edged shortsword about eighteen inches long, useful for a stabbing thrust. Being left-handed, he could conceal the sword on his right thigh, where it was not expected. Once they met, Ehud told Eglon he had a secret message for him. Eglon dismissed his attendants and allowed Ehud to meet him in private. Ehud said, "I have a message from God for you", drew his sword, and stabbed the king in his abdomen. Eglon was eviscerated by the blow, which caused him to leak excrement he was so overweight that the sword disappeared into the wound and Ehud left it there. He locked the doors to the king's chamber and left.

                      ---Judges 3:12



                      Except this is more "badass" than "funny"

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                      • #12
                        Humor is just one of many rhetorical devices that can be used (and we know there are plenty of them in the Bible). I like Obsidian's comparison to a stand up routine. If you're up there trying to make people laugh more than you are trying to actually make your point, something is out of balance.
                        "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

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                        • #13
                          A good example of someone using humor effectively in sermons is Ben Witherington. Although his humor will make you groan more than laugh, it's effective.

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                          • #14
                            Good comments.

                            Humor and making people laugh is not the same thing? Humor can make people really think?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by bling View Post
                              Good comments.

                              Humor and making people laugh is not the same thing? Humor can make people really think?
                              Irony is similar to humor and can often include it. Jesus's parables often used it, though not for humorous effects.
                              "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

                              Comment

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