When The Gospel Is A Laughing Matter
The Gospel of course is no joke, and nor is critical human need that it addresses. However, humour may well be an effective cultural key that can lead to a greater openness to hear and consider the Gospel. “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people” said Victor Borge, a Danish comedian, conductor and pianist (1909-2000), affectionately known as The Clown Prince of Denmark. This is especially true in the Australian context.
Although humour occupies an important place in Australian culture, churches have been slow to use humour as a means of breaking down stereotypes of Christians and also as a means of communicating the Gospel. One man who is trying to change that is Nathan Ranclaud, also known on the stand-up comedy circuit as Uncle Nath.
Nathan ran a youth group and taught high school religious education for 12 years. He learned over time that if the message had humour and was self-deprecating your audience would open up and listen. After becoming a Pastor he became even more convinced as he would see husbands who had been dragged to church with their arms folded, literally unfold their arms as they began to laugh.
He decided 3 years ago that he would help other churches by doing stand-up comedy as an outreach. Most churches seemed nervous and in hindsight Nathan considers that it was probably considered too much of a risk for churches that had only ever organised the typical events, where you invite a speaker and expect people unfamiliar with church or the Christian faith to feel comfortable. Nathan kept getting booked in secular venues and for a while was only doing pub n club shows, which culminated in the Melbourne Comedy Festival in 2017 at the National Theatre.
He found that secular audiences loved adult comedy that wasn’t crude and full of egregious swearing. He was contacted by a secular agent who started booking him corporate gigs. However, Nathan’s heart was to use his stand-up comedy as an outreach tool and to help churches rather than to become successful in his own right on the circuit.
Christians would feel a lot more comfortable inviting friends to a comedy night that has an evangelistic edge than to a typical evangelist who would preach. In fact, the only time many Australians would ever gather to hear someone talk is when they pay to see a stand-up comedian. Humour is used as a vehicle to advance political and cultural views, and of course advertisers use humour to promote products.
Nathan believes that the age of the sharp suit wearing preacher who has it all together is over. Secular Australians are too cynical and can spot a fake at 30 pacers. He sums up our gospel message as “stupid sinners like me have a saviour.”
Nathan doesn’t only reference Jesus in his routines but also the church: “I love the church, no matter what they say about the church in media, when the education system failed me, my family broke down and I was an unemployable teen no one wanted, the church welcomed me in and saved my life”.
Nathan doesn’t believe that every pastor needs to turn into a stand-up comedian. Rather, communicators in church can go a lot further in understanding how the incorporation of humour can make a big difference in winning a listening ear.
We explored this more with Nathan in our webinar during August. Click here to listen to the podcast.
More about Uncle Nath:
You can check out Nathan’s website here.
Subscribe to Nathan’s Youtube channel here.