A friend of mine, (a member of a denomination), made the statement about an area denomination’s revival: “I’d love to get over and hear _______ this week; he’s a real comedian.” While we are not surprised to hear such coming from today’s religious landscape, this sentiment has found its way into the Lord’s church. A sister in Christ, speaking about the ongoing Gospel Meeting at her home congregation, made the following comment about the previous night’s assembly and the speaker. “I never laughed so hard in all my life.” Hardly a ringing endorsement for those who still want to hear the gospel in a Gospel Meeting. I have heard “brother Comedian” preach, and he is more than capable of preaching excellent and insightful messages from God’s word. However, it is obvious that he is also overly concerned by making sure his audience gets a good laugh at the start, and perhaps several times throughout the evening.
What a contract to what we find in the Bible! When Peter began his sermon at Pentecost, he did not begin with, “These men are not drunken as ye suppose, but before I get to that, let me tell you a funny one I heard on the way to the Temple last week. ”Sadly, because we live in an entertainment saturated society, we fail to see and appreciate the true purpose of preaching and worship in general.
Consider just a few of the great statements we find in the New Testament in regard to people and their attitudes toward preaching. In Acts 10, when Peter went to Cornelius’ house, Cornelius said to him, “Now therefore we are all present before God, tho hear all the things commanded you by God’ (v 33). Note how Cornelius involved the presence of God as being part and parcel of Peter’s preaching.
In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas preached to the Jews of Antioch of Pisidia, telling them that forgiveness of sins and justification could only come through Jesus. Hearing these things, the Gentiles begged that “these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath? (v42). In verse 44 we read that “on the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.” The apostles were not on some comedy tour. They had a mission, and the only way to fulfill that mission was to boldly proclaim the work of God.
Concerning his own preaching, both in presentation and reception, is to make sure that every sermon is filled with “thus saith the Lord.” Illustrations can be helpful, but a gospel sermon is not a collection of stories with a scripture or two attached to it to make it “biblical.” Humor can also have its place, but the pulpit is not a place for continual joke telling or humorous stories. Jesus used hyperbole in Mathew 7:1-5, and I believe there is a humorous angle to His barb, but he didn’t leave his audience in stitches with it.
Second, Bible preaching should be judged by its content, and not by the delivery of the persona of the one delivering it. Certainly some preachers are easier to listen to than others, but the effectiveness of a sermon lies in its content and applications.
Third, our own motives to hear preaching must be pure. It must be our goal to drink deeply at God’s wellspring of life, which leads to life everlasting. (John 4:14).