Humor in The Church: Should Christians be Funny?

Laughter, giggles, hilarity alongside fellowship, church, God, and Christians? Seems very unlikely to some, and ideal to most. Is this possible, can Christians be funny, have a sense of humor or be comical? Is there such a thing as Christian humor?

As a matter of fact, it is possible and very necessary. Laughter is often called medicine for the soul. We can all attest to the need for some medicinal relief for the many internal aliments that often plague the human body, like depression, anxiety, fear, and loneliness – the laundry list goes on for miles. God wants us to make the best of the life he has given us, and that means we should learn to chuckle a bit. It is perfectly fine. You will not lose a jewel in your crown on judgment day because you enjoyed life and laughed. “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.”( Proverbs 17:22)

Christian Humor

Having a witty or humorous personality is accepted. The creator built these characteristics in our DNA. It is safe to assume that some of these individuals choose to be Christians, and viola – a funny Christian is in the church.

But wait, this could be a thing? Christian humor? This could be used to glorify God. This could draw the unsaved people to Him. Be it Christian or not we all deserve to enjoy a crying laughing moment. Christians can use laughter to draw people to Christ. A little secret: God wants us to use the gifts He gave us to glorify him and witness to people.

Sometimes You Must Laugh to Keep From Crying

How many times have you heard the phrase, “I have to laugh to keep from crying”? That is a reality for lots of humans. We deal with so many obstacles, disappointments and setbacks that the only reaction is to laugh. We laugh in hope and faith knowing that God will work it out. We laugh in confidence. We laugh in the enemy’s face. “He will yet fill your mouth with laughing and your lips with rejoicing.” (Job 8:21)

In the church, these issues present themselves the same. Pastors, ministry leaders, and staff deal with a plethora of complications, most unbeknownst to the congregation. Some comedic relief for a few minutes could take one’s mind off a situation and then they could begin to focus on God’s grace and mercy. Church is the place where the hurt, broken, and confused go for help. It is the hospital and people need spiritual medical attention. Christian humor can provide this.

Get Your Rod, We’re going fishing!

Christians are human beings packed with feelings, emotions and a range of experiences. Obvious differences between Christians and non-Christians are that we believe that Jesus died for our sins, that He is coming back to save us from ourselves, so that we may dwell in heaven with him. Heavy stuff, right?

In the world, people have been amused at that fact. Calling Christians crazy or you guessed it, funny. And that is ok. God is forgiving. He understands. He has a sense of humor. The awesome thing about Jesus is, He knew that everyone would not be willing to come to Him, so He instructed Christians, actually Simon and Peter, to go and make fishers of men.

In order to fish, we need bait, meaning we need a way to reach the unsaved to share the gospel of Jesus. Using the hilarity of say, a Christian comedian, just imagine all the people that could be reached. Laughter brings people together, no matter the background. This could work. Taking a very worldly idea and using it to draw people to Christ is just how God wants Christians to fish for men. You have to think of innovative ideas to reach people. Reaching people where they are shows them that you actually care versus trying to push your beliefs off on them. Being malleable is absolutely necessary when you are REACHING people where they are. Jesus had to go out amongst the sinners and share the gospel – He was flexible.

Naysayers – Get used to them!

“Why are you using comedic relief to tell people about Christ? Why is there even a thing called Christian comedy? Why does the pastor keep telling jokes – he is not funny! I will NOT attend a comedy show in the church.”

Whoa! Let us take a minute and bag up our judgments, Christians! These grievances hold as much weight as the old argument, “social media is the devil.” We all know that that is not true. God is on social media, just as He is in the church. With this limited way of thinking, we miss the opportunity to share with someone the goodness of God. All opportunities of sharing God’s word should be used, even if that means being humorous in doing so.

Leave with this thought: Imagine a church with no laughter. Imagine not following one of God’s instructions to us, in his own house. In Ecclesiastes, God commended a few things and one was to be merry. “I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 8:15)

Laugh. Cackle. Be amused. Use that Christian humor.

All Bible verses New King James Version, Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Inita Callaway is currently a Communications Director, for a church, Hope Community Church in Chicago, IL. She enjoys writing, reading, and learning new things about communications and marketing inside the church. She holds a master’s in Written Communications and enjoys putting interesting perspectives on religious pieces.
Some of her work can be found on www.thehopecity.org

 

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3 Ways that Pastors can Use Humor in their Sermons

Christian Humor

“Did you hear the one about…”

In a culture inundated with inappropriate humor, the church should be a place where people can come hear about real life and even get a good, hearty and appropriate laugh. Scripture says, “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them’.” (Psalm 126:2) Wow, to think that laughter could even point people to God and His goodness!

Why not: Laughter is a great gift from God and used appropriately, it can even help break the tension when bringing a heavy message. However, laughter from the pulpit can be a pretty tricky thing! After 29-plus years as a Youth Pastor, 4 years as a Lead Pastor and especially as a College Professor, I’ve learned that carelessly using even Christian humor when preaching or teaching can get you in a lot of hot water! While some of these tips may be a given for most folks, they are worth reminding ourselves:

Tip 1 – If you are going to make fun of someone, make fun of Thyself!

This is one of the first rules I learned in Youth Ministry and it still holds true for adults. No matter how close you think you might be to someone in your congregation, you never know all the circumstances of someone’s life. What might be a funny perspective to you might actually be a sore spot to the person you are poking fun at. I have always found that the congregation enjoys a good, clean laugh at the Pastor’s expense. By the way, don’t even use stories about your family or your kids to get a laugh. (It might be okay if you get their permission, but most PK’s resent being pulled into a message.)

While there is plenty of humor to be found in family, I have to point out my dumb mistakes, not my kids’. If it is about something you did that was less than brilliant, by all means, tell the story. Frankly, it is a good way to make your own family laugh again. Also, while it might be tempting to use humor against National figures, remember, there may be folks in your congregation that might adore that National figure. Our humor should never belittle another person created in the image of God. Make sure your Christian humor is just that. The point: Use humor graciously.

Tip 2 – If you are using a media source for laughter (or for any reason), make sure you preview every bit of it first before you play it in front of your congregation.

I once consulted a Christian resource from a very well-known and trusted source. The book recommended a variety of video clips to use for messages with youth. I thought to myself, “Hey, I can trust this guy. This is a very popular selling book so the video clip has got to be appropriate!” Boy, was I ever wrong! I started the video clip right where the book instructed and, while it wasn’t a humorous clip, it became even less humorous when a very inappropriate explicative came out of the video and into the ears of my middle and high school students! Not only was it inappropriate, it was WAY inappropriate! I thought I was going to have to pack up my office and find a new ministry position. The point: NEVER take any media for granted, whether it is a video or a song!

Tip 3 – Make sure you find a balance.

Don’t make the humor so funny that your congregation misses the point of your message. Have you ever watched a commercial where it was so funny you forgot what the commercial was actually advertising? It is the same way with Christian humor from the pulpit. Your humorous illustration could be so hilarious that your congregation may not even remember the point of your message. All they will do afterward is share the preacher’s humorous illustration without sharing the point. After all, we are to proclaim the Gospel, not simply entertain.

On the other hand, some of us really need to use some resources that can liven up our messages. I remember someone stating that they knew a Pastor who put lemon juice in the communion elements just to make sure people looked holy! Sorry, but lacking humor and looking like a prude should not be considered “holy.”

Christian Humor is a Gift from God

Humor and laughter are great gifts from God. There are many great resources out there to help you bring some Christian humor in the name of Jesus. While you don’t have to be a great comedian to use humor, using humor inappropriately in any form or fashion can not only ruin a great message, it could potentially turn people away from God. As I stated in the beginning of this article, humor – especially from the pulpit – should be used to point people to God, not away from Him. Well, I have to go now and write a sermon where I am sharing some of the most boneheaded mistakes I have ever made as a Youth Pastor.

Rich Griffith is a single dad to two awesome adopted sons (Aaron and Dylan), Contributor to the Teen Devotional Bible, has been in Youth Ministry for 32 years in a variety of capacities, is a Lead Pastor and the Professor of Youth Ministry at Toccoa Falls College. He is the Ministry and Leadership Departments Online Coordinator. He is completing his Doctorate in Youth, Family and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary.

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God Gave us Humor

We were created in God’s image and He infused us with the ability to smile at a silly thought, giggle at a funny story, and laugh out loud at an incredible joke, even when the joke is on us.  Humor, laughter, and smiles are all indicative of internal joy manifesting externally.  We all have these emotions and I believe they come from God.  Humor helps people cope with pain, suffering, loss, stress, and the lies the world throws at us.  It is a gift from God that help us deal with the bad and allows us to embrace the good.  It is an amazing gift that I am confident He also partakes in.  I cannot help but believe that as God watches us He smiles, giggles, and laughs out loud at what we, His creation, sometimes do.  It is obvious that God places some importance on humor since the words laugh, joy, rejoice, and smile are used over four hundred times throughout the Bible.  The Bible also says that there is a time to laugh.

“A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

There are many benefits to humor and my personal belief is that it is not used enough in ministering to others.  Humor can open doors that might otherwise be shut.  It can soften hearts and open minds.  Humor can reach unreachable places.  How much easier is it to approach someone that smiles, laughs, and doesn’t take themselves too seriously compared to a person who is uptight, judgmental and just an overall downer?  The world is looking for the answer and they are watching Christians to see if what we say is represented by what we do and who we are. Do we show that God is good and full of incredible love and grace or do our actions speak a different message?  People need to see that Christians truly represent Christ; that we are sincere, that we are real, and that we laugh.

In today’s social environment it helps to be creative and unique in how we reach out to others.  One of the gifts I have been blessed with is the ability to communicate biblical truths through cartoons.  Cartooning is an art form that requires speaking volumes using limited verbiage and simplistic visual depictions.  That sounds technical but what it really means is getting a point across using few words and funny pictures.  Cartoons speak a universal language that allows different people from different groups to connect in a non-threatening way.  An example of this connection is a cartoon I created relating to the recent Pokemon Go craze.  The cartoon features the disciples on the shore of a lake speaking to Jesus saying, “If you just walk out on the water a little ways, you could catch us some great Pokemon.”  By using a timely subject in society and connecting it to a biblical truth I am able to combine two different mindsets, world versus spiritual, into something humorous that does not need to be argued or questioned and in the end communicates the message that Jesus can do amazing things.

While cartooning allows me to speak biblical truths to those who would not normally be open to listening, it also allows me to remind Christians of certain responsibilities. Many of my cartoons poke fun at how we Christians sometimes think or act and since a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down, I use cartoons to serve as that sugar. One cartoon I created shows a church member angrily staring at a Sunday visitor that dared to sit in his seat and his wife saying, “Henry, stop staring at the visitors.  They didn’t know that’s where we usually sit.”  This is a great reminder that we Christians do not have seniority rights but rather should be focused on welcoming others into the Kingdom.

I am a cartoonist.  I am not a great theologian, nor am I looking to turn the world on its head.  I simply strive to use the talent God has given me to make a positive impact and, through humor, bring the people I touch a little closer to the God I know and love.  He has given us all different giftings and abilities.  Now is the time to use new and creative ways to reach others and to represent our God as loving, living, and compassionate.  What gift can you use in His work?  Be open to other ways of ministering that may not be the norm.  Don’t sell yourself short; there is nothing that cannot be used.  The mission is to reach the lost and impact the world.  This takes everyone doing their part.   So loosen up, laugh a little, and allow yourself to love more.

By the way, did you hear the one about the Pastor, the Priest and the Rabbi?

Joe Brown is a freelance cartoonist from Kalamazoo, Michigan whose work over the years has appeared in numerous periodicals and books. Joe is now focused on speaking Biblical truths and ministering through humor with his cartoon “Pastor Pete”.  His work is currently sold through cartoonstock.com and he can be contacted through his website www.christianslaughtoo.com.

Interview with Christian Cartoonist Bruce Robinson

CMM: When did you first develop an interest in art and drawing?

Bruce: I was born in upstate New York and in the early 1960s my family moved to South-Eastern Pennsylvania…the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country! I attended a rural grade school and quickly found out that I could draw. The television show Batman (starring Adam West) was popular back then and I remember to this day staying in the classroom during recess (while the other kids were outside playing) to draw a version of Robin in order to earn some extra money to buy ice cream at lunchtime. An extra nickel went a long way in those days!

I would spend my after school time drawing and drawing and drawing…after I did my homework, of course. I remember drawing with some pastels from my mother’s John Gnagy art kit. John Gnagy was a popular T.V. artist in the early 1960s and my artistically inclined mother had purchased the studio art kit. I remember drawing a green colored glass vase (that sat on the living room coffee table) with pastels from the kit. I can still see the image in my mind…but unfortunately the drawing is long gone.

When did you first decide to focus your talents on drawing cartoons?

Even though I did reasonably well drawing realistic objects…I gravitated toward drawing cartoons. This is most likely due to my father having an interest in this art form. He even had scrapbook albums that he had filled with cartoon clippings from the top cartoon-rich consumer magazines of the day. I guess that I saw these cartoons brought my father great pleasure and as a youngster I wanted to do anything to please my dad! My father was a chemical engineer by profession and in order to take a break from all of the tedious work that comes with that job, he would relax by sometimes reading comic books…Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Gyro Gearloose, etc. I believe my dad also wanted his kids to enjoy the humor and relaxation of comic books just the way he had had the pleasure of doing when he was a kid. So, you see cartoons and comics were ALL AROUND me growing up. 

I started entering drawing contests locally and via magazines. I won First Place in a contest where the artist had to draw their father in cartoon form. I pictured my dad with a crash helmet on, wearing a suit and tie and holding some test tubes with other chemicals exploding all around him. I also won a number of other drawing contests, one of which was a prominent competition sponsored by our local newspaper who had a Christmas card design contest.

Soon thereafter I got my biggest break. I won a cartoon drawing contest that was featured in the back of BOYS’ LIFE magazine (a magazine for Cub Scouts & Boy Scouts). At this point, I was HOOKED on CARTOONING!

Did you go to school to study art or drawing?

In my high school art classes I explored many other forms of art including painting (oils and acrylics), pastels, charcoal, sculpture, wood working, leather craft and many more…but I’d always return to doing the art form I loved…CARTOONING! I was not only interested in the fun drawing aspect of it…but I was also interested in the humor part of it as well. It made me feel good to make people laugh!

After graduating high school I attended a local prestigious Art School. But it was only for a short time. At the school I was learning things such as printmaking, design, etc. which was all well and good…but I came to realize that deep down, I just wanted to earn a comfortable living from doing what I loved best…drawing cartoons. Since the “Golden Age” of magazine cartooning was drawing (pun intended) to an abrupt close and the odds at making a decent living from drawing magazine cartoons was slim to none…the only cartooning alternatives (back in the early-mid 1970s) was either animation or syndication. This was in the days before computer animation existed so the idea of me sitting at a drafting table repetitiously drawing the (almost identical) animation cel for a film did not interest me. Besides I wanted to “do my own thing” and draw my OWN characters. At that point I was head strong into the choice of creating my OWN characters (and starve) rather than draw someone else’s characters (and eat). I was taking the “starving artist” syndrome to a whole new level!

How did your Christian beliefs influence your early cartooning career?

In the early 1980s I became a Christian and I suddenly realized that this (what I had previously thought) “useless talent” could be used positively for God’s Kingdom. After all, He is the One who gave me the talent (and desire) to begin with and now after all of the previous years of training and trials and tribulations regarding cartooning, I was now offering it back to Him…in hopes that he could use it for His glory! 

During the late 1980s and early 1990s the comic panel “The Far Side” was IMMENSELY popular. At that time, I feel that God inspired me to create a religious/Christian version of The Far Side. I would later name this cartoon feature GOOD MEDICINE (referring to laughter as good medicine as mentioned in Proverbs). After drawing around 120 GOOD MEDICINE cartoons and receiving endorsements from Johnny Hart (creator of ‘B.C.’ & ‘Wizard of Id’), Bil Keane (creator of ‘The Family Circus’), Christian cartoonists Rob Portlock & Robb Suggs, and others, I assembled them in book form and pitched it to a number of Christian publishers. I ended up with a few publishers that took a second look (and these publishers were kind enough to “endorse” the GOOD MEDICINE book) but no publishing contract. I then decided to self-publish the book and set about figuring out the costs, distribution, etc.

Through a series of circumstances, God provided the funds to do a print run of 5000 copies. I was able to secure a list of Christian bookstores in the U.S. I worked up an 8 X 10 promo sheet and began calling and faxing hundreds of bookstores. All told, I ended up with GOOD MEDICINE selling in 300-400 bookstores nationwide (mostly in Christian bookstores…but even in some secular bookstores too). It was gratifying to even receive re-orders from some bookstores too! Additionally, I was able to further talk about GOOD MEDICINE as God opened up the doors for me to be a guest on a number of Christian radio shows.

Where do you see yourself taking your cartooning in the future?

It’s been a wild ride so far and I guess the ride isn’t over just yet. I’m amazed looking back over the years and seeing how God was working behind the scenes (unbeknownst to me) regarding the cartooning gift he has blessed me with.

Since GOOD MEDICINE came out I have been blessed to have my single panel cartoons in numerous titles from Chicken Soup For The Soul books as well as running my comic feature BOW WOWS & MEOWS on the web. The feature is endorsed by such greats as Mort Walker (creator of ‘Beetle Bailey’), Glenn McCoy (co-creator of ‘The Flying McCoys’), Leigh Rubin (creator of ‘Rubes’) and others. 

Recently, I have been thinking of doing a GOOD MEDICINE #2 book and have thought of a number of cartoons that could be included. I may eventually do a Kickstarter campaign with it to see if there is any interest. In the meantime, I launched a website where many of the cartoons from the original GOOD MEDICINE book can be licensed (for a nominal fee) for use in church newsletters, flyers, websites, Power Point presentations, etc. Feel free to check them out. I hope the cartoons bring you a smile or two (or three) and to God be the glory!

Bruce Robinson is an internationally published cartoonist and his work has been seen in numerous trade and consumer periodicals, newspapers, greeting cards and websites for many years. His cartoons have appeared in such publications as the National Enquirer, The Saturday Evening Post, Woman’s World, Highlights For Children, Boys’ Life, and more, as well as in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul titles.

Top 10 Cartoons for your Bulletin

Over on Christian Media Magazine’s Facebook page, we post helpful articles about church management, technology, and trends. We also like to post funny cartoons, and these seem to be some of our most popular posts. Everybody likes humor.

While we should be serious and intentional about our Christian beliefs, sometimes it’s good to relax and stop taking ourselves too seriously. Here are ten sites where you can find cartoons (for free or for a minimal charge) to use in your bulletins or other church media:

Joyful ‘Toons

The Back Pew

Reverend Fun

Agnus Day

 

Toon Fever

Here are some other great sites for cartoons:

Cartoon Church

Church of the Covered Dish

Yolk Yellow Falls

 

And last but not least, two other resources where you can find a wealth of cartoons, artists, and links:

Christianity Today

Baptist Press

 

Always be sure to check the rights and permissions of the cartoons before you print them in your bulletin. We hope this list will help you to share humor and the goodness of God with your congregation!