I have been a big fan of Late Nate with Jimmy Fallon for some time.
I try to stay up as much as possible with my night owl wife, but often I fall asleep just before the opening monologue. However, I almost always end up catching highlights of Jimmy’s show on Hulu the next day.
When Jimmy has guests who are willing to play water gun games, race tricycles, crack eggs on their heads, and have lip sync battles, I am almost giddy. I can’t help but smile and laugh as the royalty of the United States (actors) put their bodies and reputation on the line for the glory of beating Jimmy at his own game. Jimmy has provided a space for them to not take themselves too seriously and show us a fun time.
I like this show, and it wasn’t until I read this article Jimmy Fallon Exits Stage (Just) Right that I realized why.
Joy is the animating principle that Jimmy brings to every show.
This is not joy concocted for any other purpose than to bring the viewer into his good time. It seems that Jimmy plays all these games because he wants to have fun himself and bring joy to the viewer. It’s a “time out” after the news when we can be reminded that there is still fun happening in the world.
So, here is what Jimmy Fallon has taught me about ministry:
Doing silly, wacky, zany, fun things purely for the joy of doing them is a worthy thing. It’s even better if we as ministers of the church do them with and in front of a congregation so they can share in our joy.
I had a bit of experience with this last week.
Our Intern Pastor Jeff Johnson found a really old skit from the 17th century about Elisha and the She Bears (2 Kings 2:23-24). It’s all set to music and is only about ten minutes long.
My job was to dress as a she bear with a member of our congregation and drag the little children back to the “cave” where we made munching sounds like we were eating them. We then came back out with a shoe and jacket wiping our faces like we had finished a big meal. We finished by dancing together arm in arm celebrating our feast. It’s a totally messed up story in the scripture.
The joy part of this was who Jeff got to be bears: me and one of the “manliest” men in our congregation. He is a great guy, husband, father, grandfather, business owner, avid hunter, a little bit of a curmudgeon, and THE LAST person you would expect to come out in face paint dressed as a female bear.
The snickers, laughs, claps, and smiles as we both came out shined bright from the congregation. Its purpose was to make people laugh, to make the children fall over from the silliness, and to remind people that fun still happens. Our Intern Pastor had us do this solely to bring joy.
Joy is a big deal. It’s mentioned 108 times in the Old Testament and 56 times in the New Testament. The people of God are described in all kinds of situations as being filled with joy. One of the central descriptors of the Kingdom of God is joy. Romans 14:17 tells us, “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” After love, joy is the next Fruit Of The Spirit. We are called to be people of joy.
Friends, remember to bring joy to the congregation.
Bring joy by playing with kids, playing like a kid, tell funny stories, dressing up in the Sunday School play, walking with parishioners, thanking people, dancing, complimenting, serving, providing silence, and connecting young people and older folk.
Bring joy by being a little zany.
Now, some of you may be thinking, “My congregation won’t respect me as their spiritual leader if I do some of these things.” Let me dissuade you from that right now. I think it will do exactly the opposite. I think they will respect you more. It shows you are human, that you have fun. That play is a gift from God. If you can’t have fun and play with a congregation, they will not trust you when things get tough.
Mr. Miyagi said, “Never trust a spiritual leader that cannot dance.”
I think he’s right, but maybe I would say,“Never trust a spiritual leader that can’t play with joy.”