Most preachers are too intense for the 21st century. Don’t get me wrong. They’re good – very good – but stodgy, oh so stodgy! Dave Gilpin looks at how to bring out the funny side of your leadership.
Like a building with no windows, they personify a fortress-like strength of convictions. But who wants to live in a place with no windows? To fill a wall with a window doesn’t really weaken it but it does make it more approachable, more hospitable and much more attractive! Breezy light-heartedness brings a 21st century balance to the thick walls of unbending conviction.
In fact – it’s one of the cornerstones of 21st century culture – ‘Don’t take yourself too seriously,’ with the catch-phrase ‘Lighten up!’ As a minister, preacher and leader, you can bridge the cultural divide using catapult or canon, but the best way is to build bridges of relationship, and that means you and I need to be entirely relatable!
Relatability is so difficult for people who see themselves as ‘watchmen on the walls!’ Being a ‘Bastion of the truth’ can wipe the smile off anyone’s face. You can be too serious, you know, in your sincerity to hold onto what is good and what is right. We can even think that it all depends upon us. Responsibility is good but being overly responsible will dampen all of the joy that seeks to rise from the heart to end up on the face!
When Jesus said, “My yoke is easy,” He was declaring that ‘ease’ was the true nature of Christian living. Can you believe it? In a recent survey of a zillion Christians, the question was put, “Do you find Christian living easy?” Our survey said a resounding, “You’ve got to be kidding!”
For most people, Christian living is far too difficult because they’re always involved in things that are none of their business. Here’s a little list of 5 things that are none of your business.
1. Trying to do what only God can do
Only God can do miracles! We can’t do them! All we can do is believe and step out. Many Christians pray too little, but many also pray too much. There is a point where the pray-er leaves the prayer in the hands of the prayer-answering God and moves on.
2. Trying to work out how God will do what God said He will do
That’s His business. Deuteronomy 29:29 says that the ‘hidden things belong to God but the revealed things belong to man.’ We should walk in the light that we know of and trust Him in the darkness. Spurgeon once said, “He who believes what he knows, shall soon know more clearly what he believes.”
3. Worrying about tomorrow
Tomorrow is God’s business. It’s in a world of its own. It’s our job to have faith and step out in obedience today. Life is about today. We often live so much for tomorrow, we not only neglect today’s agenda but have a tendency to invent tomorrow’s, resulting in ‘super-spirituality’. If we do the stuff the Bible tells us to do, it will be easier for God to do the stuff He’s told himself to do!
4. Prophesying the timing of God
For much of the time, God is re-enforceing His promises to us regarding His nature and His outcomes. He rarely tells us His timing and rarely gives us His full map to our destination. Most Christians give up because they invented not the Word of God but the timings of God. The timings of God are held by the providence of God. We expect, we anticipate … and whenever He wants to, God acts.
5. Other people’s decisions
The decisions that people make are none of our business. The one thing that God will not do, even through our prayers, is circumnavigate people’s decision-making ability (their free will). It’s our job to influence, not invade. Even when we pray for people to be saved, God’s answers generally come in the form of re-lighting people’s conscience and giving them a more spacious and conducive environment in order to make a more clear-cut decision to accept Christ or reject Him. You aren’t responsible for the decisions made by your congregational members or for decisions made by anyone outside of your church. You are responsible ‘to’ your church and ‘to’ the world around you. It’s time to stop trying to push people into various levels of commitment to Christ. It’s time to simply present people with the opportunity to make ever increasing commitments to Christ.
RULE NUMBER 6
Recently in our in-house Megacentre publication for our church, I noticed a huge error in my article on ‘faith, hope and love!’ I assumed that everyone had been incredibly inspired by my scriptural reference. I quoted from the passage about Jonathan and his armour-bearer which declares, ‘God will save by many or by few.’ I blame it on my handwriting (which is like a doctor’s), but it had been translated in the typing, ‘God will save by money or by fear’! It wasn’t even on the same continent! For a minute I was stunned. For a minute my temperature rose and then I remembered ‘Rule Number 6’. I was reminded by the Spirit of God that it was all really, really funny even for a perfectionist like me!!
Rule Number 6 stands alone
There is no rule number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 7. Here’s a story about it taken from ‘The Art of Possibility’ by Benjamin Zander.
‘Two Prime Ministers are sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in, apoplectic with fury, shouting and stamping and banging his fist on the desk. The resident Prime Minister admonishes him: “Peter”, he says, “kindly remember Rule Number 6,” whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologises and withdraws. The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again twenty minutes later by a hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying. Again the intruder is greeted with the words, “Marie, please remember Rule Number 6.” Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and an apology. When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting Prime Minister addresses his colleague, “My dear friend, I’ve seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of Rule Number 6?” “Very simple,” replies the resident Prime Minister. “Rule Number 6 is ‘don’t take yourself so g-damn seriously.” “Ah,” says his visitor, “that’s a fine rule.” After a moment of pondering, he inquires, “and what, may I ask, are the other rules?” “There aren’t anymore.”
I react when people say at the end of a time of worship, “Let’s keep this spirit that we’ve entered into and not disturb it.” The place then moves from inspired reflectiveness to inward morbidness. The human psychology cannot maintain solemnity for long periods unless in exceptional circumstances. To lighten a place up is to keep everyone looking up and not down. I love ‘cutting in’ on what people would see as ‘a flow’, because in every meeting, many flows flow as one to produce multi-dimensional outcomes! To ‘lighten-up’ is to keep the flow! Too stay too serious often eventually breaks it creating what the Australian aboriginals called a ‘billabong’. It’s part of a river that no longer flows!
You are a very funny person. British humour is the best in the world because (primarily outside of the church) they love to laugh at themselves. The Aussies laugh at others, the Americans play with slapstick, the Germans ………. , but the British know how to dismantle all of their eccentricities and have a gut wrenching laugh that proves to be good medicine!
The best thing that a leader can do is get two or three of the young people to impersonate them and heartily laugh along at the light-hearted mockery! Far from disrespect, it’s a steam releasing exercise. Just as comedians say stuff we all think but aren’t daring enough to say, a little parody goes a long way!
The way you walk is funny; the way you preach is funny; the way you put on that loving expression to cover up mental vacancy is funny. That high maintenance person that you really do love is funny too!
Just as every cloud has a silver lining (Hezekiah 3:2), every situation has a funny side. A big dollop of laughter is just what the doctor ordered for the 21st century church … and it begins with you!