- Phil Berquist
If you’re a fan of comedy you might enjoy watching comedians talk about the craft of comedy. I always find it interesting (and entertaining) to hear the thought processes that go into writing a joke or bit or even a set of jokes. In Jerry Seinfeld’s web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, as the title implies, Seinfeld picks up a fellow comedian in some unique car and they simply go out for coffee. It’s usually entertaining because comedians are typically funny and it’s often fascinating because you get a behind-the-curtain look at how comedians think.
In a recent episode Jerry’s guest was comedian/actor, Kevin Hart. During their discussion something stood out to me that I think has striking implications outside of comedy. Seinfeld began professing his disdain for the use of pyrotechnics, flash, lasers, stunts, etc. before a stand-up comedy routine. He mentioned it might work for some people (like guest Kevin Hart) but he preferred a much more yeoman-like approach, similar to Mike Tyson’s approach to a boxing match. Tyson went against the grain of the flashy, bombastic performances that many prize fighters were known to embrace by coming out in a simple terry cloth “poncho” instead of a silky long, embellished robe. As Seinfeld remembered, “He would cut a hole in the hotel towel… no socks… so stool… he came ready to fight… It’s a reduced essence.”
Seinfeld’s reasoning? Too much lead up to the actual stand-up routine “makes the talking seem small.” I couldn't help but to transfer this assessment to modern church culture. A lot of churches with vast resources create fantastic events which help to raise attendance and interest. The danger, though, is what Seinfeld fears about his shows: that the talking (sermon) might be made to seem small. The message from God’s Word is meant to be the centerpiece of a worship gathering. If there is more emphasis placed on creating an exciting environment or attractive event than on hearing from God, we’ve missed the mark. There is an adage in ministry that says “what you win them with is what you when them to.” The idea here is that if people are “hooked” by hype then that is what they will desire and will often find themselves dissatisfied and unfulfilled.
A similar scenario unfolds in the Mark 8. After we read about Jesus miraculously feeding a multitude, some Pharisees demand a sign from Him as a test. But Jesus questions their desires, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
NOTE: I am not saying Jesus’ miracle is empty hype. I am simply pointing out that people are often attracted to the fantastic and then err by letting it distract them from a richer truth.
If we are truly longing to know and follow Christ we will, like Paul, keep the Gospel as our top priority (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This was Jesus emphasis, too, when asked for a sign in Matthew 12. He replies, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Knowing that the people were testing Jesus out of curiosity as a test and wanting to simply see something amazing, Jesus responded with a prophecy about His resurrection from the dead!
Stay alert, folks! Let’s not be considered an evil generation that only longs for a fantastic event and dismisses the message of God’s truth as it gets overshadowed. God talks to us through His Word. He talks to us through the Spirit. He talks to us through faithful preaching.
Let’s avoid anything that makes “the talking seem small.”