Why The Church Can Seriously Be Funny
Jon Williams
April 13, 2020

We call this special time “Seriously Night” because we take the entire session to look at ourselves as Christians and say: “Seriously? I mean, seriously, we do this? We say this? We act like this? We’re not doing this?

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Editor’s Note: In 2020, the Orange Conference and Seriously Night are going to look very different. That’s because we’re doing an entirely online conference, which means we can’t be in the same room for Seriously Night like usual. But we still aim to do some fun and funny stuff for the 2020 Digital Experience—if only because we need a little humor now more than ever.

“It is a curious fact that people are never so trivial as when they take themselves seriously.” —Oscar Wilde

Every year at the Orange Conference, we set aside an entire session for one single purpose:

To laugh.

What is Seriously Night?

We call this special time “Seriously Night” because we take the entire session to look at ourselves as Christians and say: “Seriously? I mean, seriously, we do this? We say this? We act like this? We’re not doing this?”

Yeah. It’s kind of like a roast . . . about all of us in the church . . . written by those of us in the church.

But writing this humorous session (along with other ne’er-do-wells who will remain nameless for their protection) always, always . . . makes me terrified.

“Why?” you might ask.

Well, here’s my answer. But please don’t get mad. Okay? You promise? Okay. I’m taking your word you won’t get mad. Ready?

Christians get mad.

A lot.

Especially when someone pokes fun at them. (We’re a very tender, sensitive lot, aren’t we?). “Offended” might be a late addition to the fruit of the Spirit. (I’m kidding, of course. Please don’t get offended.)

Don’t get offended

So, when we devote a whole night poking fun at some of the more bizarre statements, actions, and practices Christians take part in, I get a little nervous.

Because my Christian brothers and sisters are so . . . so . . . serious. About everything.

Now, some of you just read that and said, “Absolutely, we’re serious. We’ve been given a great commission. The work we’ve been asked to do on this earth is of the utmost importance. Eternal importance, in fact!”

And I agree with you. Hear me say that—I totally agree.

Which is why we have to seriously lighten up.

We need to laugh more

This quote from a famous comedian sums up my exact thoughts on why we need to laugh more.

“We’re all screwed up. And the way Christians mess things up is we act like we’ve got it going on. And if we would just stay in that place of, ‘Hey, we’re all screwed up and but for the grace of God, none of us have a shot here.’ We need to have a sense of humor about it; that’s kind of the way I’ve always faced my comedy.” —Jeff Foxworthy

I believe, with all my heart, that in order to show our world a Savior who loves them, we need to be willing to point out why we need Him too.

That takes vulnerability.

That takes transparency.

That takes honesty.

That takes us taking ourselves way less seriously, so we can more effectively point to the One we’re seriously lost without.

Three reasons Christians should use comedy

So, for those of you who think humor and satire and sarcasm are dangerous tools for us to use as Christians, I’ve compiled a list of three reasons why we should embrace our own ridiculousness to further the cause of Christ. (Wow—I’m talkin’ like a preacher now . . . bullet points and everything!):

1. Comedy is confession

We truly need to do a better job confessing to one another about our own poor choices and mistakes. But I also believe the church needs to confess those things it has done poorly to those outside of the church.

Because—and I don’t know if you know this—those outside the church already know our mistakes! And when we don’t own up to them, it actually drives a wedge between us.

2. Comedy is empathy

If we want people to come to us with their hurt, their pain, and their “failures” with the confidence that we, as the church, will be there for them with open arms, comedy is a surprising way to show we care. Comedy and humor let us gently look at the hurts we all carry.

Think about it. The reason you laugh at a sitcom, slapstick humor, or those awkward situations in movies, is because you feel what the other person is going through, but are simultaneously joyous that you’re not the one going through it.

When we all laugh at someone else’s pain together, it’s an indicator that we’re all aware of our own pain. In some way, we’re laughing at our own frailty as humans.

It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s one of the best ways to welcome others, to connect with others, and to create a common starting place for everyone—regardless of where they are in life.

3. People remember comedy

I don’t know about you, but I remember funny things more than I do deep, serious things. The problem is, we think that “funny” and “deep and serious” are incompatible.

I get accused of this all the time when it comes to the products I work on that teach children. People tell me it’s way too silly. That we don’t dive deep enough.

But I just flat-out think they’re wrong. Sorry—I do.

Besides, how would you rather have children (and adults, for that matter) remember the message of the Gospel:

  • Laughing and joyful
  • Or silent, serious, and somber

Um . . . I know which one I’d pick.

Be willing to laugh

So, if you’re coming to Orange Conference this year, do me a favor.

Show up with an open heart and a willingness to laugh at yourself. Be willing to admit those things we treat as holy and laugh them off. And above all, laugh at yourself. Laugh at ourselves.

When we take ourselves too seriously, we steal focus from Him.

Oh, and please don’t tweet at me if you’re offended. Thanks.