Pastors urged to put the ha in hallelujah

For everything, there is a season, says the book of Ecclesiastes.

A time to be born, a time to die. A time to love and a time to hate.

And definitely a time to laugh.

That’s the message the Rev. Susan Sparks has for her fellow preachers.

That passage also says that there’s a time to weep — but that’s where too many preachers stop, said Sparks, a former trial lawyer turned American Baptist preacher and stand-up comic.

“I think we’ve erred too much on the weeping side,” she said.

Sparks, the pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City, was in Nashville on Wednesday for the Festival of Homiletics, a conference that’s brought preachers from around the U.S. to town.

She says that humor can help preachers connect with their parishioners, defuse church conflict and deal with an often-stressful calling. To help get her message across, Sparks gave preachers a Ten Commandments of stand-up comedy. First on the list was “edit, edit, edit.”

“Preachers have this very bad habit of never getting to the point,” she said.

Sparks said she wasn’t advocating replacing theology with jokes. But she did remind preachers that in a world where texting and Twitter are commonplace, they can’t afford to drone on and on.

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Actually, I’m pretty against this because most of the pastors I know (except you, Dale) really aren’t that funny, and their failed attempts at humor are only encourage by courtesy laughter, and the courtesy laughter is only brought about because of the esteem position they hold.

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