There are a few required elements every story needs—character, conflict, change. Not every story needs humor, because not every story is funny. Still, adding the right level of comedy into the mix is a hilarious way to take your storytelling to the next level.
The church is not especially known for its sense of humor. Many people outside of the church see Christians as downright humorless. And they aren’t completely wrong to think that. Religion is a serious thing, but it can be taken to an extreme.
The Greatest Story Ever Told needs a few jokes.
God Created Humor
“Remember: even God has a sense of humor. Just look at the Platypus.” —Dogma (1999)
He is the ultimate storyteller, and humor can be used to greatly enhance storytelling. God’s omniscience means he understands everything, including jokes. He’s great at everything else, why not stand-up comedy, too?
The Bible tells us that “every good and perfect gift is from above.” Laughter is one of the best things on Earth. So how can it not come from God? We owe it to him to have fun and be funny. Maybe comedy should be considered a form of worship.
Humor in the Bible
Knock, knock. Who’s there? It’s the Bible! What a funny book. Well, kind of.
The Bible is full of pretty much everything, especially great stories. But It’s short on laugh out loud scenes. But there are a few funny moments, if only because they’re so bizarre. These are all real—I didn’t make any of them up.
- Jesus once cursed a fruitless fig tree in Matthew 21 because he was hangry.
- God told Ezekiel to eat a scroll. And so the prophet did it. It tasted like honey.
- Elisha got mocked for his baldness by local children in 2 Kings 23. So he curses them and has two female bears eat them.
- There’s a talking donkey in Numbers 22. Just like in Shrek.
- When Sarah was told she would have a child in her old age, she laughed. When God asked her why, she denied laughing.
- Jesus told Peter to find money in a fish’s mouth in Matthew 17. Remember to never look a gift fish in the mouth.
- In Acts 20, a boy named Eutychus gets so bored with Paul’s preaching that he falls asleep. And then falls out of a window.
Why It’s OK to be Funny
OK, so humor isn’t the point of the church. Not every sermon and email has to make people laugh—this isn’t a Marvel movie, after all. Being funny shouldn’t detract from the church’s main purpose—serving Wednesday Night Supper. (See that was a joke.)
Christianity has something to gain from using humor. Comedy can make our message more relevant. Being slightly more self-deprecating might make believers more believable. Adding humor forces us to pay attention to our messaging and our audience.
The stories we tell need to be something our audience cares about if they’re going to listen. If we don’t laugh along with the rest of the world, they’ll only end up laughing at us. With some effort, theology just might be a little more fun.
Adding Humor to Your Storytelling
I’m no comedian, but I know good comedy when I see it. And there are quite a few things churches could learn from professional humorists. Maybe if Paul had thrown in a couple of more jokes into his preaching that Eutychus kid wouldn’t have fallen out of the window.
Here are just a few zany ideas to get your church started in the right direction.
- Find the ‘line’. Know what kind of humor your audience can tolerate. The line is all about what’s appropriate and what’s not.
- Comedy is all about timing. Use pauses to help land the punch line.
- Avoid being cheesy. This has more of a negative effect than positive. People expect Christian humor to be predictable. Surprise those people by stepping outside of the box.
- Have a point to the joke. Don’t undercut the seriousness of your message without a purpose. Humor can sometimes make a statement as much as anything.
- Be willing to take risks. You’re going to have to take some risks to be funny. When you know the line and have a point to the joke, it comes across much better.
- Don’t just use your first idea. Comedians have to test out their jokes, and not all of them work. Don’t expect every joke to be a success. Toss out the bad ones and re-use the good.
- Use the rule of three. This is a common humor trope that uses two normal examples to set a pattern and then a third, unexpected example to break that pattern. Just like the Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy guacamole.
- Learn from other comedians. There are a lot of funny people out there. Go learn from them. Figure out what makes them funny. There are plenty of great stand-up shows on Netflix—some of them are even appropriate enough for you to watch.
- Humor and Storytelling in Preaching Podcast
- How to Use Humor in Brand Storytelling
- Humor in The Church: Should Christians be Funny?
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