Why Doesn’t the First Service “Get It”?

Orginally published on Wednesday, July 27, 2005 at 7:33 PM
by Todd Rhoades

This just in from LarkNews...Pastor Bruce Smith’s funny sermon-starter went over vastly better in second service than in first.  The cute illustration, involving a child who mis-read a Bible verse as "be ye one another’s burdens," caused only scattered chuckles in first service. Smith’s face pinked up and he moved on to his sermon…

But in second service the audience responded with a roar of laughter.

"I think I told it with a little more oomph," he said later, resting in his office. "I had my rhythm in second service. It's hard to nail a joke the first time out."

The appreciative response was "really gratifying," he said. He believes the joke will "hit the eight-o'clockers later in the day."

At my church, we have three services... the first is at 8:00.  The early service is always a different crowd.  Could be that they're just not awake yet.  smile

FOR DISCUSSION:  Anyone have any great stories about how something went over or flopped in first service (or any service for that matter?)

This post has been viewed 2607 times so far.

 TRACKBACKS: (0) There are 18 Comments:

  • Posted by Don Solin

    You know, how nuts is this… that we who have been in multiple sevices know for a fact that first service is always...always the sleeper.  How weird.  I can remember when I was a youth guy and the Senior guy would ask me to preach, how fearful I was of the first service.  Not so much because of my material, but I knew it was mostly the older crew, and it always seemed so, so, well, dead!  HMMMMMMMM

  • Posted by Jason Fletcher

    Interesting--we’ve been doing two worship services for almost a year, and our 8:30am worship service-for the most part-seems more alive and engaging.

  • Posted by

    Where is the biblical precedent for using jokes to lighten up the serious crowd? I know it’s a modern trend and I understand the psychology of it. Eph. 5:3-4 could be incorporated to even speak against it: “let it not be once named among you, as becomes saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.” I know if I got up that early to go to church, I wouldn’t be going to hear a joke but because I was hungry to hear a word from the Lord. After they laugh, then you have to get serious again. Are we treating people as our yo-yo? I remember asking a friend what they liked about their pastor, they responded, “he makes me laugh.” Is that why we go to church? Is this just another way that we are trying to appeal to the world through the flesh? I just can’t see Christ or His disciples beginning their sermons with a joke.

  • Posted by Todd Rhoades


    Sorry you chose to take a ‘tongue in cheek’ article and find something serious about it.

    No one said that the purpose of church was to make people laugh.

    And I think that calling what this pastor did (in this fictional story) “another way that we are trying to appeal to the world through the flesh” is… well… laughable.

    Just my $.02.

    ba dum dum.

    [Thank you very much… I’ll be here all week!]


  • Posted by

    This is just an issue that I’ve struggled with personally and was seeking some help. When I got saved, I was very sarcastic about everything then all of sudden, life became serious. When i started preaching, I wonderered if joking was allowed. I actually had one man tell me he wasn’t coming back to the church because I laughed when I preached (it was actually after telling what I thought was a humorous story). So I suppose this falls in line with what the original intent: a joke that blessed one group and not another. No offense or derailment of purpose intended. I just want to find the best approach for God to bless. Thank you for your correction and please forgive my speaking out of place.

  • Posted by Todd Rhoades

    No need to apologize… I just think we take ourselves too seriously sometimes.  Somehow, I think Jesus must have a tremendous sense of humor.

    In ministry, sometimes all you can do is laugh.



  • Posted by

    My dad, who pastored for 50 years, said the same thing. I used to hear him giving this loud laugh early in the mornings, and I’d see him in the bathroom looking in the mirror. I’d ask him what was so funny, and I can hear his reply, “boy, when you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re taking yourself far too seriously.” and then he’d laugh again.

  • Posted by

    Sorry, but I believe humor is a very potent and effective way to communicate truth. It also reveals how sure you are of yourself, especially when the “jokes” on you. I remember my dear Sr. Pastor friend was making an illustration about fishing. He had a ball of line tangled up under the pulpit. What he didn’t realize is that the ball of line got tangled somehow on his lower coat button and he didn’t catch it. He walked out behind the pulpit with this ball of line dangling from his lowest coat button. The funny part is he idn’t catch it until someone in the congregation pointed it out to him. Not planned but certainly drove home two points: Pastor’s are human and can laugh at themselves, and secondly the humor lifted the “air” so the truth really came home. I believe Jesus had the greatest sense of humor of any human ever on earth. If a pastor has a good sense of humor, I believe he has a wonderful tool to bring sinners, and marginal folks into the Kingdom. As my cousin used to say you can draw more bees with honey than with vinegar. I think folks who don’t know the Lord can appreciate better appropriate humor than a serious, scoulley demeanor. If laughing is taking the ways of the world, or telling an appropriate joke borders on “fleshly” activity I think we’ve swung the pendulum way to far to the right. Be wise, be purposeful, but “get” real. Who are we kidding by being something we’re not?
    If God were all about serious stuff why did He create some of the funniest looking animals, birds, mammals and even things humans do when no one is looking? I think God loves a good honest belly roll laugh.

  • Posted by pjlr

    I’m a fan of Lark News.  Primarily because it takes our all too human foibles and shows us what happens when we take it to the logical extreme.

    We do 2 services in our church. It is uncanny how different the two are.  A preacher must be sensitive to his audience. What works in one situation may bomb in another.

    I (humorously) use one service against another.  I may start by saying, “I’m gonna try something out on you and if it doesn’t work I won’t use it in the second service.” Or to the second service I may jokingly say, “wow, that first bunch was a tough crowd, I’m glad you’re all hear to salvage the day.” Or, again to the second bunch, “If this message bores you today, get the cd for the first service, the guy who preached that service was reallly on fire.”

    Our congregation has a sense of humor and they appreciate the humorous illustrations and jokes I use to drive a point home.  After the service someone may comment on what a great joke it may have been and I lovingly steer the converstaion by asking them, “Yeah, but did you get the point?” This is always a wonderful opportunity for me to repeat, or summarize the point I was trying to make.

    As in illustrations, preachers have to judiciously choose so as not to overwhelm the point, but to nail it down.

    Go Lark News! These guys do a great job at poking gentle but poignant fun at the church family.

    Go Todd, you are doing a great job at posting some great topics to comment on.  I’m gonna start recommending your site to my other ministry friends.

  • Posted by

    “foolish talking and jesting” speak nothing of jokes and laughter in church, but rather inappropriate, demeaning, crude speech.

    Just my $0.02 concerning the text use

  • Posted by

    Our early service is 9am and shockingly, the first service can sometimes be just as attentative and sometimes more attentative than our 1030am service. Sorry, to spoil the fun but, perhaps, if a service is earlier than 9 in the morning, it’s just too early. Our two services have a good balance and we are proud (in the purest sense) to be able to say that. THough, earliness is little excuse compared to how early people wake up for work every day of the week, which shows a shift in priority that definitely shouldn’t be in the mind of God’s people. But, we also want them to enjoy coming to church in a casual manner that is flexible and joyous, which means they need to be rested to fully experience the move of God.

  • Posted by Josh Surratt

    Interesting article...we have an 8:00 service at our church.  It definitely seemed like it was more difficult to engage them.  We started experiencing with video from Saturday night during that service, and they loved it. They responded more to the humor and seemed more engaged in the teaching.  The teaching pastor still attends the service, greets people and hangs out, but the message comes through video.  Since we made the switch, the service has grown considerably.

    I guess my point is...maybe it’s not always the congregation...if you are like me, it may be that the pastor is not at his best early.  This solution has worked great for us.

  • Posted by bernie dehler

    Author says:
    “"I think I told it with a little more oomph,” he said later, resting in his office. “I had my rhythm in second service. It’s hard to nail a joke the first time out."”

    I hope he was as concerned about the Biblical points he was trying to make (if any), more than the delivery/response from a joke!


  • Posted by

    If we can’t laugh at ourselves, who canwe laugh at?

  • Of course Jesus has a sense of humor - Look who he’s called into ministry! People like US! Is that a hoot or what?


  • Posted by

    Laughter is good medicine and it can be a useful tool in deliverinng truth. However, it must be used in moderation. A sermon cannot and should not be one humorous illustration after another. Use one to drive in the point, to open the topic, or check to see if they are really “with” you, but one MUST get to the truth and the scriptures if the Word is going to change lives.

    P.S. We all know God has a sense of humor - have you ever ridden in a van full of teenagers and heard some of the bodily sounds they make? - - - enough said! grin

  • Posted by

    Why doesn’t the pastor get it? It’s not the congregation’s fault it is the communicator’s fault.

  • Posted by

    One speaker used to say, “I get people to laugh so I can hit ‘em in the teeth.” Needless to say, I remembered that some 20 years later!

    I have found that multiple services are subject to the attitude of leadership. Some leaders speak of their first service as dead or subdued...etc. Others, in a more positive light. I really think a great deal depends on how the pastor and staff view the first service.

    First services tend to be less boisterous because few parents will bring kids that early. As such, leadership can interpret the lack of “noise” as a conservative atmosphere. I think we need to be careful assigning a personality to a service. People is people.

    I will up the .02 to a nickel.

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