Humor Makes A Memorable Sermon
Humor Makes A Sermon Memorable
If you are new to this blog, please review the previous posts about making a sermon memorable. In the last few posts we’ve focused on humor as a key strategy in making a message memorable. In this post we will continue to explore how humor makes a sermon memorable for your hearers. Let’s look at some more guidelines for using humor effectively.
Let the Joke Lead to What Should be Memorable.
This past week I was preaching on Philippians 2:12-16. Paul says, “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” After talking about the phrase “work out your salvation”, I turned to those two very challenging words: Paul says to do this with “fear and trembling”. What does that mean? I decided a humorous, true story might help people remember what we were talking about.
I told the story about a man who was encouraging his young daughter to jump from a diving board. The young girl, out of fear, refused to jump, despite all the man’s encouragement. Finally, he gave up, and the little girl walked back off the diving board, and headed down the ladder to solid ground again. Then all of a sudden, she climbed back up on the diving board, ran to the end, and jumped into the water. The man was ecstatic. “That was great!” he said. “What gave you the courage to finally jump?”
The little girl explained. “I was on my way down the ladder when I saw a big spider, and I was more scared of the spider than I was of jumping.”
Getting To The Point
As I expected, this solicited a laugh from the audience. I then went on to explain that maybe Paul means we should fear things that keep us from all that God has intended for us. Or maybe he meant that we should be in such awe of God, that we naturally choose the path of obedience. I showed on the screen several verses from Proverbs and Isaiah that talk about the fear of the Lord.
The point is that humor makes a memorable sermon for your hearers. But you want them to remember the right thing: the major point you are making.
There Are Some Things You Shouldn’t Joke About
In today’s world, you shouldn’t joke about topics that will create discomfort or disparage a person or group of people. In the United States, which is my world, I wouldn’t joke about religion, race, sexual orientation, or any other sensitive subject. Any joke that demeans a person or group might make a sermon memorable, but the wrong thing will likely be remembered.
For instance, I was once at an annual dinner of supporters for a local ministry that provided housing for senior citizens. A guest singing group, made up of 4 college men, introduced, and then sang a song about a man who kept losing his wives to death, but he found many others willing to wed him in the senior community. The song was supposed to be funny, but it went over like a lead balloon. In fact, the man who got up after the song to close our time in prayer prayed, “Lord, forgive these young men for making fun of the last enemy.” That deeply respected man had lost two wives in his lifetime, and didn’t find the subject matter humorous at all. People remembered the introduction and the song, but for the wrong reasons.
Humor And the Memorable Sermon
The story is told about Spurgeon, one of the great English preachers in the 19th century. A woman complained to him about his excessive humor. She felt that the humor detracted from the message. Spurgeon listened to her, and then replied, “Well, madam, you may very well be right; but if you knew the number of jokes I do not tell you, and the number of things that I refrain from saying, you would give me more credit than you are giving me.” (D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), p. 251)
Brandon Hilgemann quotes the above story with this commentary:
The best preachers know how to get the audience laughing one minute, and listening intently the next. Laughter breaks down the walls of hard to reach people and brings them back for more. Laughter eases tension in the room before a few heard words. Plus, it makes a sermon more enjoyable to hear.
Laughter is good for the sermon and good for the soul.
Humor makes a sermon memorable to your hearers. Practice it in your messages, and you’ll note the attention people give you.