Why you need to be funny…seriously

It’s hard to be funny under pressure. Hey, it’s hard enough for some of us to be funny at all. But, as this helpful little column will tell you, you absolutely must be funny if you are to reach Australians at all. Must. Or there’s no hope for you. You’ll need to minister in some other country like Switzerland or Canberra. So, no pressure.

There are three big reasons why humour plays an important part in reaching Australians, four of which I’ll outline here:

It’s disarming. Many Aussies are increasingly guarded against Christianity. They expect us to be Pharisees, though they use might other terms. One church I heard of recently created a sign that read Smithfield Baptist Church: Surprisingly Uncreepy. If you ask me, that beats Because You’re Going To Die One Day hands down. Wish we’d thought of it before all that printing. There’s something about humour that allows us all to let our guard down. When you make someone laugh, you’re a friend, not an enemy.

It’s interesting. So many Australians live lives of desperate boredom: tuning out from the millions of banal messages they are bombarded with daily, even scanning the pages of PRAC magazine for a half-decent read. (That bit was just to see if it gets past the editor.) Editor’s note: Of course it didn’t, but I’ll let it go for the sake of good humour.

In an age where the medium is the message, presenting the gospel like it’s a university lecture won’t do. We intuitively do this in children’s ministry and make it fun, but we forget that an adult’s attention span isn’t all that much greater. We’re just better at pretending to look interested!

It’s absurd. When you’re filling the bathtub with custard, it’s hard to keep the camels from escaping. Just think about that.

It brings perspective. All good jokes (so I’m told) start off as serious stories, and have a surprising ending that suddenly puts the rest of the story in a new perspective. This is precisely what the gospel does. Even in these increasingly dark and worrying times, Christians should have a twinkle in their eye that says, like the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride, “I know something you don’t know.” We know the ending is different to what people expect. The gospel brings joyful laughter to people who have found riches only when they struck rock bottom, and people who won a prize only when they stopped striving for it. Humour in hard times can be like rain in a desert. Eric Love and I wrote this song, promoting what we call ‘The Christian Swear Word’, for times like that:

When your hammer slips and lands on the wrong nail
When you try to catch the final bus and fail
When your washing is exported by a gale
When you do your best, but all to no avail
When it all seems too much and you just want to weep
And you don’t know whether you’re Arthur or Martha
Don’t say ‘crikey’ or ‘blimey’ or ‘bother’ or (BEEP)
There’s a better word for it – say Maranatha*

In the nightly news a litany of woe
And there’s nowhere in the world that’s safe to go
When disaster lands the poor a further blow
And relief is far too distant and too slow
When it all seems too much and you just want to weep
And you don’t know whether you’re Arthur or Martha
Don’t say ‘crikey’ or ‘blimey’ or ‘bother’ or (BEEP)
There’s a better word for it- say Maranatha

When the Lord says He’s preparing us a place
And a day when we will see Him face to face
And reward for those who persevere with grace
Be assured, it’s not just talk, but it’s the case
When it all seems too much and you just want to weep
And you don’t know whether you’re Arthur or Martha
Don’t say ‘crikey’ or ‘blimey’ or ‘bother’ or (BEEP)
There’s a better word for it – say Maranatha

*Maranatha means ‘Come Lord Jesus’ But as I say, it’s hard to be funny under pressure, week by week. It can’t be cranked out. It’s the fruit borne naturally from deep roots of peace and joy in our wonderful, outrageous, hilarious God, who loves Aussies and whom Aussies will love.

Andrew Turner is the Church Development Facilitator for the Baptist Churches of SA. His blog Sacred Agents (sacredagents.net) is worth a read, or you can follow him on Twitter (@_Andrew_Turner). Prac11.

See also the article: Is the Gospel a Laughing Matter? also from Prac11