I’m sure I’m not the only pastor who’s been rocked by Craig Groeschel’s famous statement that, “If you want to reach people you’re not currently reaching you’re going to have to do things you’re not currently doing.” That idea has pushed me to do some things that, well, I had never considered doing before.
A few months ago the thought came to me that most unchurched and dechurched people have an image of church services being dull and boring. We probably haven’t reached many people with that mindset, so I decided to do something that might get their attention: I hired a comedian … to preach for me.
We billed the services as, “The Funniest Church Service Ever.” We empowered our people with invitations, put a big banner out front and prayed that the disenfranchised would come. My prayer was, “Lord, draw some people who never thought they’d come to church.”
I know, it’s written somewhere that comedians and preaching don’t mix. But testimonies and church services go quite well together.
So I asked our comedian to share some of his personal experiences (i.e., testimony), along with a biblical message, and it worked better than I had hoped. By God’s grace, we touched 500 people that we had never touched before. And a surprisingly large number of them returned the following weekend and are becoming part of the church.
Yes, we drew a line that deviated slightly from “the box.” That’s what we intended to do, because we wanted to reach some people that we hadn’t reached before.
Yes, we took some criticism from members that felt we crossed a line. And yes, I suppose I’ll get several critical comments from pastors reading this.
But I decided a long time ago I was willing to do anything short of sin to reach people for Christ. And it looks like somewhere around 50 eternities have been changed as a result of our funny church service.
The truth about me is, I work fairly hard at inviting friends and neighbors to church, and most of them turn me down regularly. I discovered that inviting them to hear a comedian at church was easier than almost any other invitation I’ve given. Over breakfast one morning, I invited three men to attend. All of them agreed. One of them was our city’s former mayor—who thanked me profusely (with a big smile on his face) after the service.
Ecclesiastes says that there is a time to mourn and a time to laugh. We do a lot of mourning in church. Proverbs 17:22 says that, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” I got to experience that up close and personal that weekend.
Dozens of people reported how healed they felt as a result of laughing together. A lady told me she enjoyed it so much, she stayed for a second service. – I wish I could say that happens when I preach!
A few days afterwards, an older gentleman emailed me so say that he hadn’t been to a church in years. The one-two emotional punch of laughter from our speaker combined with a personal touch during our prayer partner time so moved him that he’s decided to continue attending. His note concluded with, “I was at the point of suicide more than once … I hope this encourages you in your efforts to reach the wounded.”
I am learning that there’s a close relationship between faith and risk. This one seems to have paid off for us. It may not work for everyone. Maybe our next outside-the-box venture won’t turn out as well for us. But as for me and my church, I hope we’ll continue to find ways to draw our boundaries wider, in order to reach previously unreached segments of our city.
What risks have you taken that have paid off for the gospel? I’d love to hear about them.
Hal Seed is the founding pastor of New Song Church in Oceanside, Calif. He is currently encouraging churches to launch a Bible Reading Revolution in their churches and cities. Find out how to participate at www.pastormentor.com.
For the original article, visit pastormentor.com.