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?

No Prophet is Welcome in His Hometown…

We enjoyed having Chuck Neighbors…He is a true professional and an extraordinarily talented artist. His one-man play “The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass” …was touching as well as humorous. I would recommend Chuck for your next event or service. It is crazy that he’s based out of Salem, Oregon and it took this long to have him at one of our events!”

Pastor John Fehlen
Salem, OR

I love this quote. I love it not only because it says nice things and I appreciate the endorsement… but even more I love the fact that Pastor John acknowledges the fact that I live in the same city as his church, have for over 20 years, and yet his church has not had me come and share until recently.

I have often wondered why it is that I do so little performing in the area that I live.  If you follow my performance schedule from year to year, you will see that I travel all over the country and around the world.  But I will tell you, the hardest place for me to get a booking is in “my own neck of the woods.”  I think it is safe to say that most of the churches/pastors in my area are familiar with who I am and what I do.  Those who have opened their doors to me have said nice things, like Pastor John, and most have had me back time and again. But considering the number of churches in the area, there are so many more with which I have not had the opportunity to share my ministry. Friends call and ask when I am performing locally so they can see a performance… and I have little to offer them.

I speculated on this for years and think that a couple of possible reasons for this oddity might be:

Since I live locally, I am perceived as a local guy and “must not be that good.”


Since I live locally they reason, “he lives here, we can have him in anytime.” And with that “anytime” they never get the proverbial “round to it.”

Airports... I live here.

I know that “no prophet is welcome in his hometown”… not sure I classify myself as a prophet, but when it comes to being an international touring artist, I often feel that the welcome locally is indeed lacking.

I marvel when I check out local events and see that artists I know from across the country are sharing their talents here at churches that have never extended an invitation to me. In talking with some of the same artists, I have discovered that many of them have experienced the same phenomenon in their own communities.  I think I feel it more here because for me to go to other locations from the Northwest almost always involves getting on an airplane. Some of my fellow artists live in more densely populated parts of the country so the next major city might only be a one-hour drive away. (Not to mention the fact that the venue has to pay travel expenses on top of whatever the artist requires for honorarium, so booking a local artist becomes a bargain in this economy.)

A few years ago I wrote an article that was published in a national magazine. A few weeks after the article was published I received a call from the publisher in New York informing me that a church in Salem had called wanting to know how to get in touch with the actor who wrote the article. What a surprise to find out he lived just a few miles from the church. It turns out it was a church I had contacted many times over the years. When I had contacted them they were “not interested.”  However, this article had gotten their attention and they wanted to book that actor for their church. I had to laugh. I have since shared my ministry with this church several times.  But I marvel that it took a New York City connection in order for them to notice what was right next door!

So to the churches that are local (and local to Salem, Oregon actually includes south to Eugene and north up the I-5 corridor to Seattle), I encourage you to sample an international artist who lives locally.  I would love to have a few weekends a year free from airports, rental cars and hotels… really I would.

Chuck Neighbors

Chuck Neighbors

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