Humor In Preaching: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Pulpit. . . . -- By: Bradley Rushing

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 06:2 (Fall 2009)
Article: Humor In Preaching: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Pulpit. . . .
Author: Bradley Rushing

Humor In Preaching: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Pulpit. . . .

Bradley Rushing


Dr. Jerry Barlow

Dr. Rushing serves as Pastor of First Baptist Church in Cleveland, MS.

Dr. Barlow serves as Professor of Preaching and Pastoral Work and Dean of Graduate Studies at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.


Charles Haddon Spurgeon was known at times to entice great roars of laughter from his preaching. Some observers criticized such laughter and his use of humor in preaching as irreverent. However, Spurgeon stated, “If my critics only knew how much I held back, they would commend me.”1

Is humor appropriate and useful in preaching? This paper presents selected perspectives on using humor in preaching, discusses three major theories about humor and how it functions to make people laugh, and offers suggestions on how preachers can use humor in sermons from a traditional homiletic.

Historical And Contemporary Perspectives On Using Humor In Preaching

One of the first homileticians to voice an opinion on the subject of humor in preaching was Alexandre Vinet. He dismissed the usefulness of humor in preaching saying, “The pretence [sic] of correcting morals by comedy is vain. If the use of ridicule may be admitted in familiar conversation or in a book, it is out of place in an assembly where grave subjects are treated.”2 Austin Phelps agreed with this view fearing that the use of humor in a sermon would degrade the Bible.3 T. Harwood Pattison also rejected the idea of using

humor in the pulpit: “Religion is too severe a matter to be treated in a trivial or jesting spirit. Figures of speech may be in place in a platform speech which are not to be tolerated in a sermon.”4 In a more contemporary work, John Piper rejected any notion of humor in the pulpit contending that laughter promotes an atmosphere, which hinders revival.5

Phillips Brooks in Lectures on Preaching was one of the first homileticians to note the appropriateness of humor in preaching by responding to the critics who viewed humor as frivolous: “The smile that is stirred by the true humor and the smile that comes from mere tickling of the fancy are as different from one another as the tears that sorrow forces from the soul are from the ...

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