Quite embarrassed, the pastor pronounced the benediction. Then, as he was retreating to the back of the sanctuary, he belatedly heard from the Lord. "Next time," he was cautioned, "prepare."
This, in turn, recalls the following announcements recovered from church bulletins:
Don't let worry kill you-let the church help.
Remember to pray for the many who are sick of our church and community.
Thursday night-potluck supper. Prayer and medication will follow.
For those who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
The sermon topic will be "What is hell?" Come early and listen to the choir practice.
On another occasion, a youthful pastor was prompted to repeat his text should his mind wonder from the message. Recalling the sage advise, he announced: "Behold I come." Since this brought nothing to mind, he hopefully repeated: "Behold I come." Whereupon, he stepped to the side of the pulpit, insisting as he did so: "Behold I come." He then tripped, falling onto the front pew and into the lap of a matronly woman. He was, of course, genuinely apologetic.
"That is all right," the lady assured him. "You warned me three times, and I didn't get out of the way."
A certain pastor observed that he did not mind persons looking at their watches during his sermon. What disturbed him was when they tapped them against the pew in disbelief.
Another pastor decided to teach a slumbering parishioner a lesson. "All those wanting to go to hell," he spoke softly before shouting, "STAND UP!" The startled communicant leaped to his feet. Looking around for precedent, he observed: "I concur with the pastor."
Missionaries often invoke humor. One was not aware that he should leave a token amount in his plate if he had enough. He was given a bowl of highly spiced stew, which he could ingest only with the help of generous amounts of water. At long last, he emptied his bowl.
His host meaningfully glanced in the direction of his wife, who retrieved an additional portion. Although the missionary made a gallant effort to eat this as well, he could not manage.
"You understand both cultures," I observed to the African student who shared the account with me. "Why didn't you alert him to the custom?"
"Because it was so funny!" the young man gleefully exclaimed.
The veteran missionary Tommy Titcomb tells a story concerning a severe drought. In response, the Muslims held a time of intercessory prayer for rain. Not to be outdone, the traditional religionists also offered prayer. When neither alleviated the problem, the Christians belatedly decided to hold a prayer vigil.
As they prayed, a few drops of water could be heard falling on the tin roof of their sanctuary. Soon, it eventuated in a downpour. The Muslims and traditionalists, who were hiding in the bushes to see what would happen, now fled for their homes. "This was not a problem for the Christians," Titcomb concluded, "since they had brought their rain gear."
Certain biblical episodes also appear of humorous intent. Laban had two daughters. Leah "had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, I'll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel'" (Gen.29:17-18).
Laban agreed, but substituted Leah for her sister. Jacob subsequently consummated the marriage, but "When morning came, there was Leah!"
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" Jesus inquired. "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Matt. 7:3, 5).
Church signs are another source for humor, as illustrated by the following:
God so loved the world that He did not send a committee.
Come in and pray today. Beat the Christmas rush.
If you're headed in the wrong direction God allows U-turns.
I was preaching on one occasion in a rural church when a stray cat wandered down the aisle. Several persons seemed inclined to remove it from the sanctuary, but refrained lest they further disturb the service. Making its way up the aisle, the intruder stretched up so as to peer over the front pew at the assembled worshipers. I had now lost the attention of the congregation, which was intent on seeing what would next transpire. Having surveyed the situation, the curious creature retreated.
At this juncture, we return to additional church signs:
It is unlikely there'll be a reduction in the wages of sin.
Do not wait for the hearse to take you to church.
You are not too bad to come in. You are not too good to stay out.
Come work for the Lord: the work is hard, the hours are long, and the pay is low. But the retirement benefits are out of this world.
Along a different line, the pastor announced to his congregation: "I have good news, and bad news. The good news is that we have enough money to retire our church mortgage." At this, the constituents heaved a collective sigh of relief.
"The bad news," he continued, "is that it is still in your pockets." While of humorous intent, it was not calculated to draw applause.
A young pastor was taking lunch in a restaurant, and opened a letter from his mother. Out fell a twenty dollar bill. Glancing through the window, he spied a disheveled man-apparently in much greater need than himself. Accordingly, he placed the money in an envelope, and scribbled on it as a word of encouragement persevere.
Returning to the restaurant the next day, he felt a tap on his shoulder. The recipient of his generosity then handed him a bundle of currency. It seems that he had bet the twenty dollars on a horse named Persevere, who had won at thirty to one odds. Consequently, the grateful man was returning half of his winnings.
Taking a more serious approach to Christian community, I authored How to Chart a Good Church Trip, and more recently, Why Take the Church Seriously?