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Sermons Can Be Funny but Not in These Ways

4. Joking that’s pervasive.

I’ll let Martyn Lloyd Jones speak to this one: “I would not dare to say there is no place for humor in preaching; but I do suggest that it is not a very big place because of the nature of the work, and because of the character of the Truth with which it is dealing … .”

Humor is great, especially, I think, when introducing a sermon. But an attitude of joviality in preaching is inappropriate.

Yes, Jesus threw out some great lines—but most of his preaching was deadly serious. Joking that dominates a sermon discredits the sermon’s weight.

5. Joking when we’re not funny.

Again, MLJ: “The most one can say for the place of humor is that it is only allowable if it is natural. The man who tries to be humorous is an abomination and should never be allowed to enter a pulpit.”

If you’re not funny, don’t try.

If you are funny, be yourself—but recognize the seriousness of your task.

6. Joking that’s insensitive.

Finally, we need to know our congregation well enough to know what’s not “jokeable.”

Obviously, this is a fine line—sometimes the best way to communicate a hard truth to a hardened congregation is through humor. But there also needs to be an awareness of the church’s history.

Sometimes humor can hit a bruise the preacher didn’t mean to hit if he’s not deeply aware of the particular struggles and history of his congregants.  

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Nicholas McDonald is husband to lovely Brenna, father to Owen and Caleb, M.Div student at Gordon Conwell Theological seminary and youth/assistant teaching pastor at Carlisle Congregational Church. He graduated with his Bachelors in Communication from Olivet Nazarene University, studied literature and creative writing at Oxford University, and has spoken internationally at camps, youth retreats, graduations, etc. He blogs about writing, preaching and the arts at www.Scribblepreach.com, which has been featured on The Gospel Coalition, Knowlovelive.org and Challies.com. He currently resides in South Hamilton, MA.