I preached at a church recently that is without a pastor. Another
guest preacher had spoken the week before. When I asked someone
in the congregation how she liked the guest preacher from the
week before, she said, “He was so funny!” I quickly
checked to see if I had anything funny in my sermon and I didn’t.
So I was faced with a common dilemma of preaching — is it
appropriate to include jokes in our preaching or not? Do we need
to be “funny” when we preach the gospel?
To have humor in our sermon does not necessarily mean to tell
a joke. We can paint a humorous picture with our words or we can
inject a humorous note into the message with a quip or a witty
remark or with a clever turn of a phrase. Jesus often exhibited
this kind of humor.
But what about telling jokes? Let’s consider a couple of
First, WHY DO WE INCLUDE JOKES IN OUR SERMONS? Some feel that
a joke at the beginning of a sermon will capture the attention
of the congregation. Or maybe injecting a joke in the middle of
the message can reconnect the people whose attention may have
drifted. The laughter of the rest of the congregation will alert
them to the fact that they missed something and will prompt them
to start listening again. Using a joke can also lighten things
up when dealing with a sensitive subject.
That raises a second question: WHAT ARE THE DANGERS WHEN WE TELL
JOKES? To begin with, some people just cannot tell jokes. If this
is the case with you, then it is probably better not to use them.
In addition, we can tell a joke that we think is funny but nobody
else does. Nothing kills the flow of the message like a joke that
bombs. But what if the joke does go over well? What if the joke
is a real killer that stimulates everyone’s laughter? It
is possible that in this case, the joke may be the only thing
about the sermon that the members of the congregation remember.
Another danger is that a joke can be inappropriate. Of course,
we are not going to use bad language when we tell a joke in the
pulpit. But we may inadvertently put someone down without even
Some avoid including jokes in their sermons for a deeper reason.
They feel that when preachers tell jokes, this unconsciously conveys
to the congregation that the gospel is all very well but in the
last analysis is not to be taken too seriously.
So what should we do? Every person must decide for himself, but
here are some guidelines I try to follow.
- I do not use a joke at the beginning of the message that
is unrelated to the message, just to get a laugh or capture
the attention of the people. If the members of the congregation
remember the joke, I want the joke to convey something about
- I try out a joke with some small groups before using it in
a sermon. I want to know if someone besides me thinks it is
- If I have any question at all about the joke’s appropriateness,
I will not use it.