A Funny Thing Happened

Years ago, one of our denominational magazines printed a regular feature on church humor. There were funny stories from pastors and churches. There were even cartoons, like those from my friend Joe McKeever. Humor is helpful. It is necessary. As pastors, we deal with matters of eternal significance. Life and death. And so a little levity can bring needed perspective.

I love reading about church humor. Especially the funny things that happen to other pastors. But here are a few of the funny things I’ve encountered in my own ministry…

Let Us Pray

I’ve written about this incident before in a more serious article about prayer. I started the sermon off with a question, “Why don’t we pray?” I meant it as a rhetorical question. As in, what are the things that keep us from praying.  But one of my closest friends in the church thought I was calling the church to prayer. So he bowed his head and closed his eyes. After a moment or two he realized I was preaching. Not praying. So he slowly lifted his head and opened his eyes. Hoping no one around him could tell that he had misunderstood. That’s when he noticed the people around him trying to contain their giggles.

Where is the Grave?

Funerals are serious events. People are usually sad. But I’ve also seen a few funny things happen. When I served in south Louisiana, I was asked to conduct a funeral for a family member of one of our daycare employees. Best I remember, the service was at the church. Then we left for the burial. We drove and drove and drove. Then turned off the main U.S. highway onto a state maintained road. Then onto a smaller road maintained by the parish. By this point we were pretty deep in the bayou country.

At the cemetery we were met by a family member. An irate family member. Someone had not dug the grave. Or maybe they dug it in the wrong place. I don’t remember. Actually, I couldn’t understand what he was saying. He was speaking half French and half English. Or something like that. All I know is that he was one angry Cajun! And I found myself inching back a little at the time until I was hidden on the other side of the hearse. You never know…

Flyaway Toupee

Picture this. The ushers come forward to receive the morning offering. And as they are coming forward, I am noticing one or two of our members struggling to contain their laughter. I’m talking about shoulder shaking, laughter containment! But I couldn’t tell what was going on. Then the lead usher prayed the offertory prayer, and the men turned to receive the offering. And there it was. A flyaway toupee. Somehow, this guy’s toupee had gotten turned up in the back. Kind of like the way we fold socks at our house. Now I was having a hard time containing myself. After church, one of my buddies said, “When you can hold your hair in your hand before putting it on, there is no excuse for having a bad hair day!”

Hold My Bible

Speaking of toupees. I had the distinct privilege of sharing many funerals with a former pastor of one of the churches I served. One day, we were conducting a graveside service for a church member. It was a terribly windy day. And yes, he wore a toupee. As we got started he whispered to me, “Would you hold my Bible? I need to hold my hair in place!”

The Burning Bush

Weddings are also a place where funny things happen. We were about halfway through the service, the marriage of my brother and soon-to-be sister-in-law, when the commotion started in the back of the church. I had no idea what was happening. Most in attendance didn’t know anything was going on. Until someone came forward and whispered something to my sister’s husband. Chad basically climbed over a pew and ran to the back of the church. A moment later, we were told that the church was on fire. I’m talking fire trucks and everything. Thankfully, it was only a burning bush. I would say it was a theophany. But it was just a cigarette.

The Best Prayer Ever

I have a really bad habit of praying and walking at the same time. I’ve done this for most of my preaching ministry. I’ll start praying as I transition from the end of the sermon to the invitation. And I’ll walk down the stairs from he platform to the floor while I am praying. On this Sunday I missed a step and fell. But I didn’t miss a beat in my prayer. No one knew what had happened except for the youth group who always sat in the first few rows of the middle section. Of course, they had their eyes opened so they were unsuccessfully trying not to laugh out loud.

I finished that prayer on my knees and brought the service to a very respectable close. Nothing was said about the mishap. In fact, a lady came up to me afterward and said, “That was the best prayer you’ve ever prayed. And when you said ‘amen’ and we opened our eyes… You were on your knees. It was such a spiritual moment.”

Choose Your Words Carefully

The Apostle Paul said it best, “Where sin abounded, grace abounded more” (Romans 5:20). So, I was preaching about a specific sin and its consequences. God has a standard. When we don’t meet that standard, it is sin. And sin has consequences. I carefully explained all of this. And then I made the transition from sin to grace.

Now, if you’ve ever seen me preach before, you know that I use my hands. A lot. I can’t talk without using my hands. So I made the transition from sin to grace. I repeated the harsh reality of sin and its consequences. Then I said, “But.” And I used both hands to form a parenthesis about twelve inches apart. Then I repeated, “But!” And moved my hands to about eighteen inches apart. And then… “A great big but!” And as I was moving my hands further apart, I realized what I had said. I also preached the rest of the sermon staring at a tiny spot on the back wall. No eye contact with anyone until it was over!

These are a few funny things that happened… What could you add?

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Rob Paul is a church revitalization strategist with over three decades of experience serving established Southern Baptist churches in pastoral ministry. He has helped churches in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia to experience revival and revitalization by God’s grace and for His glory. He is currently serving as the senior pastor of Huffman Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. To find out more about Rob Paul Ministries and the work of church revitalization, visit https://robpaul.net

2 thoughts on “A Funny Thing Happened”

  1. Thirty years before you came as pastor of that “church in South Louisiana,” I pastored nearby at Paradis. During my nearly 3 years there (it was my seminary pastorate), I had only one funeral. The bereaved husband asked, “Pastor, do you know where there is a cemetery around here?” I didn’t. So, I called Don Grafton, your predecessor at Luling. He said, “Joe, I’ve been here 11 years and not had the first funeral. I have no idea how to find a cemetery.” (The reason he had no funerals is all his members were transplants, working at nearby refineries, and when someone died, they traveled back home to Alabama or wherever for burial.)

  2. I remember while serving as a Sunday School Director in Huntsville (Really was serving as Education Director as we didn’t have one), I got up in morning worship to announce a community blitz I was organizing. I n my enthusiasm, I said we were going to bring in so many new people we were going to cause these stained glass windows to glow with enthusiasm and the very rafters to twinkle above us in excitement! (Very dramatic in my youth) What I actually said was: we are going to cause these stained glass windows to glow with enthusiasm and the very rafters tinkle over us! Well all the kids who are always whispering to their mothers they need to go tinkle burst out laughing, soon to be followed by all the parents. I had to turn to the pastor to find out what I had said and why all the laughter! Was a very red-faced moment!

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