A Caronport pastor doesn’t want preachers to leave their sense of humor at home when they go to work on Sunday mornings.
“There is still a fair bit of push back on whether it’s appropriate to use humour and imagination when preaching. The truth is there are tens of thousands of puns in scripture and Jesus, himself, employs all different kind of humourous devices while doing his ministry,” Blayne Banting, Caronport Community Church pastor, explained.
“Even the parables Jesus tells almost have a joke like structure to them as there is always some kind of punch line that is surprising and unexpected, which is a dynamic that makes something funny.”
The use of humour in preaching is a topic Banting explores in his newly released book, With Wit and Wonder: The Preachers Use of Humour and Imagination.
The idea for the book stems from a longtime belief of Banting’s that preachers need to utilize all the gifting’s that God has given them, including the more creative ones.
“This book is in reaction to hearing preaching for years that seemed about as interesting as watching and listening to paint dry,” he laughed.
“I kind of felt it was almost sinful to take the living Word of God and make it boring, so it’s been a lifelong passion to figure out ways in which using humour and creativity can legitimately be done and not go overboard.”
Banting acknowledges that preachers are not meant to be standup comics, but wrote the book after wondering how preachers could properly use humour and imagination in their teachings.
“I think our culture is making it harder and harder to listen to preaching. There is too much other stuff out there with all the bells and whistles, so just to have some person up there speaking for a lot longer than our attention spans lasts, seems like a rather daunting task,” he said.
“So if preachers are able to engage those latent gifts that are within each of us, then I think that is a lot closer to what God intended his message to be. The fact is He gave us this living message that was active and vital and pulsing with life. So it’s like the whole process of recounting that same message with a little more life and pizazz or energy in today’s preaching.”
The book, which was published this past November, was written as a defense against the view that humour and use of the imagination do not belong in preaching.
“The first two chapters are kind of defenses where I try and give a bit of theology on humour and imagination and then kind of go through and do a quick overview of theories,” he explained.
“Then the rest of the book is, where do we do from here now that we think it is legitimate?”
While the use of imagination and humour is widely debated among pastors, Banting points to the fact that God, himself, is the most imaginative and creative being.
“We are created in the image of the most creative being ever, so there is a sense in which the very fact we are created in His image is part of what gives us this very volatile gift that is often misunderstood and underappreciated,” he explained.
Society, Banting suggested, seems to be more at ease with people exercising their creativity in different aspects of the arts, but not with Christians employing those same imaginative and creative gifts to communicate and teach the gospel.
“It’s worth pursuing the possibility of being able to use those gifts to the extent that God has given them to us,” he said.
“I think every pastor or preacher needs to visit that whole aspect of using humour and imagination to see how they are wired in regards to their creative potential and their sense of humour.”
Banting cautions, however, that Jesus’ use of humour is not an end in itself, but is a means to an end.
“Jesus wasn’t just saying things to get a laugh, he was using humour as a way to get his point across,” he explained.
With the book now released, Banting hopes his book will encourage pastors to be more creative and use their natural giftings.
“My aspirations are never financially motivated because I know this is such a small niche and it is only written for a few people,” he said. “If it helps preachers to be more creative and use their nature gifts of humour in preaching that is good enough for me.”