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Shavua Tov

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  • Daniel Botkin

Mixed Feelings About Fun



FUN, n. Sport; vulgar merriment. A low word. (Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language)

Like most people, I enjoy having good clean fun, because fun is... Well, it’s fun! The noun fun in its adjectival form is funny. If you get to know me, you will discover that I have a sense of humor. I have laughed at funny things -- not only before I met the Lord, but even as a believer. I have even made other people laugh on a few occasions.

Humor and laughter are universal among humans. The Bible says there is “a time to weep,” but that statement is immediately followed by “and a time to laugh” (Eccl. 3:4).

The Bible says there is a time to laugh. Therefore, humor and laughter and having fun are not sinful. However, I get concerned about Bible believers who think that being a Christian is all fun and games. Over half a century ago, A. W. Tozer, my favorite Christian writer, wrote about “the new cross” that was being preached in evangelical churches at the time:

“The new cross, if understood aright, is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment.... The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living... Christ calls men to carry a cross; we call them to have fun in His name. He calls them to forsake the world; we assure them that if they but accept Jesus the world is their oyster” (Gems From Tozer, pg. 19, 23).

About 13 years ago a GOE reader sent me a couple of large glossy postcards that were sent in a mass mailing to residents of her area to advertise a new seeker-friendly church.

“At Journey Church we believe that worship can be fun!” the ad said. “Our services are upbeat, the music is contemporary, we won’t beg for money, and we strongly believe that church should be accepting and inclusive of all people.”

I guess I agree that worship can be fun, if by “fun” they mean enjoyable. I’m not exactly sure what they mean by “upbeat” services. No talk about sin, perhaps? As for contemporary music, I like some of it. And I don’t like to hear churches beg for money. However, I do not believe that church should be accepting and inclusive of all people. The Bible commands us to not have fellowship with certain professing believers if they refuse to repent of their sins. We are commanded to not even eat with them. (See 1 Corinthians 5:9ff.)

I came across these old Journey Church advertisements while recently organizing my office at its new location, and I wondered if this particular Journey Church (there are others with that name) was still functioning after almost ten years. I found their website, where they talk about their core values. “Beyond faith in Jesus, Journey Church has 4 core values,” they state. Their very first core value, declared in bold print, is:

Fun. We do all kinds of fun things as a church.”

Our local Messianic congregation does fun things as a church too, but having fun is not our first core value after faith in Jesus. Our first core value after faith in Yeshua is discipleship.

When Yeshua called people to be His disciples, he did not appeal to their desire to have fun. As Tozer pointed out, He called them to carry a cross and to forsake the world, not to embrace the world. Yet embracing the world is exactly what churches like this appear to be doing. They are using worldly methods of advertising to appeal to people’s carnal worldly desires. They want their churches to appear hip and relevant. They want to make going to church look like a cool thing to do, or at least something that’s not just for squares.

It’s pathetic the way these ads make promises to not inconvenience their people. This particular church promises “we’ll let you sleep in on Sunday mornings!” They do this by starting their meetings at 5:10 p.m. (I guess 5:10 p.m. sounds way cooler than 5:00 p.m.)

“We won’t waste your time at Journey Church,” the ad promises.

“Give us a chance,” they beg.

They are so non-judgmental that in their list of things that you’ll find at Journey Church, they include “Imperfect People.” That is true, of course, but they go even further and state this:

“We’re a gathering of skeptics and sinners - no saints or perfect people here!”

It is one thing to humbly acknowledge one’s own imperfection before God in prayer. I do that every day. But it is another thing to boast of one’s imperfection as if it were a virtue, and to label your church as a gathering of skeptics and sinners and to brag that there are no saints in your church. That is a distortion of humility. When Paul wrote his Epistles, he addressed them to “the saints,” to “them that are sanctified,” to “all the saints,” etc. He did not address his Epistles to “the skeptics and sinners in Corinth,” even though the Corinthians had some serious sin problems.

I do not question the motives or the sincerity of people who advertise their churches like this. They probably think this approach is the best way to draw new people to their church. But this is not the approach that was used by Yeshua or the Apostles. They called people to repent of their sins, trust in Yeshua, and obey God’s commandments. They called people to stop living as sinners and to become saints.

John Wesley also called people to stop sinning and to become saints. Why do I mention Wesley? Because this particular Journey Church is a Methodist Church, and John Wesley was the man who started the Methodist movement. After noticing that this Journey Church is a Methodist Church, I wondered what John Wesley would think about the Journey Methodist Church’s non-offensive approach. Here are some things Wesley wrote:

“Do not imagine you can avoid giving offence. Your very name [Methodist] renders this impossible. Perhaps not one in a hundred of those who use the term Methodist have any ideas of what it means. To ninety-nine of them it is still heathen Greek.... It is vain, therefore, for any that is called a Methodist ever to think of not giving offence... And as much offence as you give by your name, you will give still more by your principles.... To men of reason you will give offence, by talking of inspiration and receiving the Holy Ghost; to drunkards, Sabbath-breakers, common swearers, and other open sinners, by refraining from their company, as well as by that disapprobation [disapproval, condemnation] of their behaviour which you will often be obliged to express. And indeed your life must give them continual offence: Your sobriety is grievously offensive to a drunkard; your serious conversation is equally intolerable to a gay impertinent.... Either, therefore, you must consent to give up your principles, or your fond hope of pleasing men.... You cannot but expect, that the offence continually arising from such a variety of provocations will gradually ripen into hatred, malice, and all other unkind tempers. And as they who are thus affected will not fail to represent you to others in the same light as you appear to them, -- sometimes as madmen and fools, sometimes as wicked men, fellows not fit to live upon the earth; the consequence, humanly speaking, must be, that, together with your reputation, you will lose, first, the love of your friends, relations, and acquaintance, even those who once loved you the most tenderly; then your business, for many will employ you no longer, nor buy of such an one as you are; and, in due time, (unless He who governs the world interpose,) your health, liberty, and life” (“Advice to a People Called Methodists,” from the Thomas Jackson edition of The Works of John Wesley, 1872).

Sounds to me like the Journey Methodist Church would not want the founder of the Methodist movement to be their pastor. He would spoil all their fun with his strict Methodist morals.

As stated earlier, humor and laughter and having fun are not sinful. I was recently surprised to learn that A. W. Tozer had a great sense of humor. You would not know that from reading Tozer’s books, but Tozer’s sense of humor is discussed in some detail in his authorized biography, The Life of A.W. Tozer by James L. Snyder. Snyder devotes an entire chapter to Tozer’s humor, and sprinkles examples of humorous witty remarks that Tozer made, especially when he was tired.

Raymond McAfee, an associate minister in Tozer’s church, used to say, “I could always tell how tired he was by the amount of humor that sneaked into his sermons. If the congregation was convulsed with laughter, Tozer was tired.”

Louis L. King, another minister, told about taking an elderly Presbyterian woman to hear Tozer speak. King said, “From start to finish, his address was so uncontrollably humorous that my Presbyterian guest who had false teeth had to use a hymn book to keep her teeth in her mouth.”

So apparently Tozer was a very funny guy, even though his writings are dead serious. I appreciate humor, so I was pleased to learn that this man of God whom I admire appreciated humor. I was surprised to learn that Tozer even tried his hand at drawing cartoons, and once enrolled in a correspondence course in cartooning. Of course that also pleases me, since I like to create cartoons.

Tozer wrote: “Now obviously an appreciation of the humorous is not an evil in itself. When God made us, He included a sense of humor as a built-in feature, and the normal human being will possess this gift in some degree at least.... Humor is one thing, but frivolity is quite another. Cultivation of a spirit that can take nothing seriously is one of the great curses of society, and within the church it has worked to prevent much spiritual blessings that otherwise would have descended upon us. We have all met those people who will not be serious. They meet everything with a laugh and a funny remark.... I see no value in gloom and no harm in a good laugh. My plea is for a great seriousness which will put us in mood with the Son of Man and with the prophets and apostles, that we may attain that moral happiness which is one of the marks of spirituality” (pg. 201f).

Tozer had a good balanced view of humor, and I think I do too. Let’s be serious about serious things, but let’s not take ourselves or one another so seriously that we cannot laugh at things that are funny.


| DB


Image: A Time to Laugh by Daniel Botkin from his To Everything There is a Season Gallery. See this and all Daniel’s art pieces on his art website, DanielBotikin.com.

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