No Joyful Hearts!

Being an itinerant performer in ministry, I have been in literally thousands of churches during my 37-plus years of touring. I have been in churches of just about every size and flavor and most of the time I know what to expect when I show up to perform at a church service. However, if there is one area that can be the most unpredictable, the most uncertain, it is in performing comedy. I have learned that comedy is subjective and what can be rolling in the aisles hilarious to one audience can elicit nothing but crickets from another. I have learned from personal experience that comedy quickly turns to tragedy when nobody laughs—so I approach each of these performances with a bit of cautious anxiety.

While comedy is not typical fare for a worship service, often a church will invite me to perform my comedy, The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, for their worship service. It is humor with a purpose and in the right setting, the message can be profound to the listener.  The humor is medicine that heals the soul. But comedy in church, for some, is a bit of a stretch.

My nervousness was heightened at one church where upon arrival I noticed posters publicizing my performance and right beside each one was another poster which read:  “No Joyful Hearts This Morning.”  I was having a minor panic-attack.  I was sure I explained to the pastor that this was a comedy I was performing. And what kind of church would tell people to attend joyless?… I mean, I have been to several where I would have suspected that was the case, but to advertise for “No Joy” was a first!

I was relieved when I discovered the real meaning of the signs. The church had decided to cancel their children’s program for that morning and invite the children to stay in the service with the adults.  They felt the play would be enjoyed by young and old alike.  The name of their children’s program? Joyful Hearts.

Can you imagine what other guests might be thinking as they encountered those signs?
As the saying goes, “many a truth is said in jest,” and I wonder how many churches and individuals send out that very same message by how they approach and participate in church every week.

A friend of mine tells of a similar experience where he was performing a comedy in a church and no one was laughing.  He was dying on stage and couldn’t wait to leave not only the stage but the church.  After the performance one man said to him: “That was the funniest thing I have every seen… it was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud.”

Can you laugh out loud in your church? Is your church a place of joy? Got a funny story about laughter in church?

8 thoughts on “No Joyful Hearts!

  1. Jeff says:

    If God didn’t intend for us to laugh he would not have given us the ability. God created us emotional beings and I truly believe he wants us to use all our emotions in worship of Him. I have been to some churches where you would swear the people were baptized in lemon juice – no one smiles, everyone wears a frown, voices are somber and quiet. I am thankful I attend a church where laughter is present, where voices are cheerful, hearts are welcoming and joy abounds!

  2. Kent Sylvis says:

    A sense of humor is part of being human and should definitely be a part of worship. I’m sure Jesus had a sense of humor and enjoyed a good laugh as much as the next guy. Given the nature of his ministry, I’m sure there were some very funny stories told around the fire at night.

  3. Ann Mitchell says:

    I cannot tell you how timely this blog post is! We have recently become members of a church that we are 100% sure that God led us to. However, one thing that we have taken notice of, along with some friends of ours that joined at the same time, is the lack of joy! It seems that there is a spirit of legalism resting on the church body. No one knows how to just laugh. We were just discussing this very thing on the phone this morning. As a dramatist it has been a very difficult transition for me. There is no welcome reception to the creative arts and just enjoying worship. I so appreciate your blog as it encourages me!

  4. Evelyn says:

    Hey Chuck! It’s not a story about less joy in church. I was driving with one of my 4 brothers on the main highway in British Columbia. We were coming closer to Hope, BC and there was a billboard sign for something that was 15 minutes beyond Hope! I sat with that for a few minutes and wished that we could turn around and get a pic … I mean, can you imagine being 15 minutes beyond hope?! It’s made it into a few of my sermons in Advent about not being beyond hope because of our relationship with Jesus. Sure gives you something to think about for those who really do believe that they are 15 minutes beyond hope. Sorry it’s not about laughter in church, but your scenario brought me back to my road trip with brother Bill.

    1. Chuck Neighbors says:

      I have driven that stretch of road myself! Love the analogy….I just might have to steal that one! 🙂 I could work very well when I share about the work of World Vision and how they bring hope to the hopeless!

  5. judee says:

    With any of our Pastors at SAC, up front, we can always expect a good chuckle or two…We have the JOY of the Lord is our hearts! We are soooo blessed by their examples.


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