Thursday, October 14, 2021
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How to have fun while praising God, a male’s perspective

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It’s important to make church fun.

Not to the point where we’re disruptive – spending time with, worshipping and praising God is Job 1.

Making church fun, however, may entice us to spend more time doing Job 1, and may make non-believers more inclined to join the festivities.

I can only speak from the male perspective, so my better half will give the female perspective next week. I also have limited experience on the subject as I’m just 10 years in as a believer.

Nonetheless, here’s some things I have found most enjoyable:

Drama Club

I love writing. I love acting. I love God’s Word. Combine the three and it’s my paradise.

I was lucky enough to have a great support system writing skits, from the church leadership to the laypeople. Combine that with a very talented drama club and we were able to produce skits every two months for a total of 21 skits before we disbanded. Maybe some day we can restart it.

The drama club got along great and, most important, did an outstanding job of revealing and glorifying God through the skits. Bible study is still my main passion, but drama club was a great way to make church fun.

Click here on how to start a drama club.

Youth Group

You don’t have to be stuck in my second-grade mentality to enjoy hanging out with youths, but it sure helps. Volunteering to play tag and chess and checkers — and much more — is a great life.

I never led a youth group, but if that’s a calling it is even more rewarding. I’ve been lucky to hang around some excellent youth group leaders, and it’s truly inspiring.

Bringing God’s word to the next generation is so important but giving them a solid foundation on which to build their lives is probably my biggest reward.

Plus, I have a new audience for all my Christian dad jokes.

Side note: There’s some really, really good 14-year-old chess players, so learn to lose with humility early on.

Click here for more on youth group leadership.

Choir

Guess what? Even if you can’t sing you can still be in a church choir. They’ll just let you in. All you need to do is sing with your heart and spirit pointed toward God and you’ll fit right in.

Carrying a tune is far from my strong suit. Singing is not. I have passion. A lot of it. And I found out that’s all you need. Hint: Smiles also go a long way when you’re singing and praising the Lord.

Funny story: I didn’t know how to read music when I started, so I wasn’t always sure when I was supposed to sing or not. There was a 16-year-old young woman on the riser in front of me who was one of the best singers I’ve personally been around, so she would elbow me in the knee when it was time for me to belt out some tunes or be silent. Luckily, by the time she went off to college I had learned how to read music, so her services, albeit sometimes a little painful in the kneecap, were no longer needed.

Click here on why to join a church choir.

Join/start small groups

Everybody has a passion and a talent (some more than one), and usually there are others who share the same passion and talent. Maybe it’s sewing, or cooking, or just being a goofball who likes putting on skits. Whatever you like, try to join or start a church group doing it.

I was surprised at how many people like some of the same things I do.

As a bonus, small groups often have a big payoff for others. Like to shop? There’s usually a group that shops for people who can’t get around easily. Like to talk (that’s me)? Visiting people homebound or in assisted living facilities provides a great audience. Like to cook? Some people can’t cook for themselves anymore. And there’s so much more.

I love smaller groups because I feel we bond much tighter than with larger groups.

Click here about forming a new church group.

Summary

This list could be almost endless, but hopefully it puts us in a frame of mind to make church fun. I believe it is so important to do so. Church should never be something “I have to do” every Sunday. It should be something “I want to do” multiple times a week.

Do be careful not to burn yourself out, though. That’s no fun at all. But don’t be stagnant, either. There’s plenty of life in churches. Become a part of it in ways you enjoy.

I believe with my whole heart God did not create existence for us to trudge through, but to enjoy as much as possible.

Image by Jörg Möller from Pixabay 

10 things we learn about God from creation

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Debates about creation are rampant these days, but I’m not here to weigh in on the nuts and bolts of how the universe started. Instead, I want to focus on important lessons we learn from the fact there was a creation. It reveals a lot about the very nature of God.

If a refresher is needed from the Biblical account of creation click here to read Genesis 1-2.

10 things we learn about God from creation

There was a beginning. There’s some debate about what “beginning” means when applied to the physical world. Some stand firm on the belief that the universe always existed or is one of many dimensions – and there are other theories — but it’s generally accepted that time and space had a beginning

There is a higher being outside of time, space, energy and matter. If they had a beginning, then the Creator had to be outside all of these. You can’t create something from already inside it.

God can choose. A choice had to be made to basically go from nothing to something.

God is intelligent. There’s a lot of “stuff” is the universe and a lot of “stuff” that allows the first “stuff” to exist. Just think about the intelligence behind the four fundamental forces.

God is creative. Pretty self-explanatory. Just think about the incredible variety of “stuff” in the universe right up and including us.

God is artistic. In this existence we get colors, fragrances, music, poetry, dancing … the list goes on and on. We are surrounded by beauty every day.

God is a God of order. When we talk about chaos what we really mean is we don’t understand it yet. But the universe works on patterns of order. Planets keep orbiting sun(s), the Earth keeps spinning, the moon keeps orbiting the Earth, fundamental forces keep doing their thing. You get the picture.

God wants us to understand His greatness. To say the universe is a big place is the understatement of the millennium. And we have been given the desire to understand and the ability to discover the universe.

God loves us. While many people cling to the rationale that random occurrences over a vast amount of time led to us, that’s a hard sell. The number of the “things” that had to go right for life to be created, then the number of “things” that must continue to go right for our continued existence, is – well – astronomical. So, if we are the reason God chose to create the universe and us, and us in His image, then that displays a love we cannot imagine.

God made us in His image. Looking back at Nos. 3-9, we see attributes of God that all of us possess. We can choose. We are intelligent (don’t let anyone tell you differently). We are creative and artistic. We can create order (my shopping list is a thing of beauty). We can discover and understand God’s greatness (just look at the earth or space or a new-born baby and think about how complex they are). We can love.

Summary

I narrowed it to 10, but if meditated upon, I’m sure this list would grow exponentially.

I love what Dr. Terry Mortenson writes in an article titled “What can we learn about God from creation?”

“Creation tells us that God is living, personal, all-powerful, infinite, brilliantly intelligent, wise, righteous, good, gracious, moral, sovereign and eternal.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Image from Freely Photos

Why go to church? COVID-19 lockdown, job have taught me why

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The importance of having a church home cannot be overstated.

Even if your church base is just a small gathering at someone’s home, attend often, get involved and support, support, support.

I could come up with 100 reasons to have a church home but will only touch on 3 here.

And you can take it from me because COVID-19 and now my job – at least for the moment – have taken me away from my church home. You could say I’m feeling a little lost (pun intended).

Encouragement

Little compares to the power of encouraging others and being encouraged by others.

First and foremost, there will be times when our faith is going to be challenged as the struggles of life take their toll on our often-wearied souls. A church community is vital at these times.

Secondly, I know people who never knew they had certain talents and abilities until they were encouraged to leap out of their comfort zone. When surrounded by love, it’s much easier to take that first step. And people just may be surprised at how talented they really are.

Fellowship

I love to talk, and I love to listen. I have lots of stories and I love listening to other’s stories.

But the real benefit of fellowship, in a nutshell: In the darkest hour, you’re never alone. And when someone else is in their darkest hour, they can lean on us, which is itself therapeutic for us. On the flip side, there’s always someone to celebrate successes, or to cheer along the way. Of course, celebrating other’s successes and being their cheerleader can be just as enjoyable.

Education

There’s always more to learn. People spend their entire lives studying the Bible and still don’t have all the answers.

Getting multiple perspectives can both enlighten and educate way more than trying to go it alone. As an example, when writing skits or leading a Bible study I try to place people, mentally, in the situation Biblical figures faced at the time.

Some other benefits of a church home: Setting aside a dedicated time (or times) each week to worship, praise and become closer to God; prayer, prayer and prayer; to see children being children with other children while learning a moral foundation; and if you’ve read my blogs before you’ll recognize this as one of my favorites — pot-luck dinners.

Want more information, check out these websites:

The surprising benefits of going to church

12 Biblical Reasons for Attending Church

Image by Colin Maynard

Christian comedians that’ll have us guffawing

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There are many ways we can worship and praise the Lord. The first thing that usually comes to mind is music. I haven’t been to a Christian church yet that didn’t sing hymns or praise songs (sometimes both). You can sing, dance, study the Bible … the list goes on and on.

My favorite way: Pot-luck dinners. Give me 20 food options and that, my friends, is Heaven on Earth.

What about comedy, though? That may be my second-favorite way. Few others, if anybody, would pull that one out of their hat. I contend that a good laugh mixed with a lesson is often the perfect prescription.

I’ve been blessed to have attended churches where comedy was often on the menu, but in case you haven’t, here’s some online suggestions to tickle your funny bone. These are 3 of my favorite comedians (in no order):

Tim Hawkins

This former truck driver has so many talents. He’s not only a great comedian, but a great storyteller and musician. His parody songs are top-notch. “Things You Don’t Say to Your Wife” is my favorite. He’s very relatable and his delivery is perfect.

Chonda Pierce

The first thing us guys will notice about her is the lack of men in the audience. That’s a crime. She’s so funny we need to turn out more for her. Sure, she’ll probably pick on us, but boy is it hilarious. And don’t worry, she’ll pick on the rest of the audience as well. Her delivery is impeccable and it’s obvious she’s having so much fun on stage.

Skit Guys

It would be impossible to not include these guys. Not only do they provide important messages about Jesus, the Bible and everyday life, but they do it in an entertaining and often hilarious way. They have so many great skits, but “Mom Goggles” has to be my favorite. As a dad I needed them often. Eddie James and Tommy Woodard have taken Christian skits to a whole new level.

Don’t stop with just these, however. Keep searching because there are so many hilarious Christian comedians out there. I’m sure you’ll find plenty that will tickle your funny bone. And who knows; maybe at the next pot-luck dinner throw in a joke or two.

Feature image by Pierre Rosa from Pixabay 

These Christian songs speak to me

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What are your favorite Christian songs?

It’s nearly an impossible task for me to think of all of mine in one sitting. There would be hundreds, maybe a thousand or more. I was able to compile, to the best of my ability to recall, nine songs that have special meaning to me and a 10th pick from my wife.

So, without further ado, here’s the 10 songs in no particular order:

1. How He Loves

(By John Mark McMillan)

By far my favorite Christian song and my go-to when troubled. I sang it to my grandson when he was younger as he fell asleep. It has been covered many times, most notably to me by the David Crowder Band and Jesus Culture.

Best line: I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about, the way that He loves us

Listen to it here

2 God of Wonders

(By Third Day)

I love the song and the tempo was perfect for my marathon training. I still run to it (just not as far).

Best line: The universe declares Your majesty

Listen to it here

3. I Can Only Imagine

(By MercyMe)

MercyMe poses one of the greatest questions: What will I do when I actually meet Jesus? Of course, I can’t really answer it until I’m standing before Him, but it’s still fun to think about.

Best line: When all I will do is forever, forever worship You

Listen to it here

4. How Great is Our God

(By Chris Tomlin)

Reminds me that every single day I need to introduce non-believers to how great God is, and to reaffirm it to believers to help them grow in their faith.

Best line: Let all the Earth rejoice

Listen to it here

5. Amazing Grace

(By John Newton)

May be the most popular hymn for both the religious and the secular. Covered many, many times. While often sung solemnly, it makes me want to dance. Howe could I not when I consider God’s amazing grace.

Best line: Grace will lead us home

Listen to it here

6. He Reigns

(By Newsboys)

A great reminder the whole world is one big family under God’s reign. Especially now that we’re becoming so divided, we need to hear this message more than ever.

Best line: All God’s people singin’ “Glory, glory, hallelujah He reigns”

Listen to it here

7. God Only Knows

(By For King & Country)

An important lesson that speaks to everybody at one time or another: God only knows the real us and what we’ve been through — or perhaps are going through at this very moment.

Best line: There’s a kind of love that God only knows

Listen to it here

8. 10,000 reasons

(By Matt Redman)

One morning a pastor asked me to lead pre-church prayer with thankfulness. After a dozen or so things for which I’m thankful I was stopped because we had to start the service. Don’t know if I could have come up with 10,000, but if given long enough I probably could. And this song has perhaps the greatest ending a song could have.

Best line: My soul will sing Your praise unending 10,000 years and then forevermore

Listen to it here

9. We believe

(By Newsboys)

Whenever my faith is challenged this is the perfect reminder of what I believe and why I believe it.

Best line: (Every line, but I’ll go with) And the gates of hell will not prevail, for the power of God has torn the veil; now we know Your love will never fail

Listen to it here

WIFE’S CHOICE

10. I’ll Fly Away

(By Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch)

My wife says she has been drawn to this song since elementary school. It really speaks to her and gives hope for what’s to come.

Best line: To a land where joys will never end

Listen to it here

* Photo by Mark Angelo from Pexels

Beating Sin: A Bible study on Genesis 3 and Matthew 4

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Welcome to this Bible Study. If you want to watch the study click on it below.

Whether we can truly ever defeat sin has been debated for hundreds of years. Jesus even touched on the subject when he taught us to pray daily, “Forgive us our debts…” Yet it is our duty as Christians to tackle sin head on.

The question is, how do we do it?

It’s simple to say, “Just don’t sin,” but that’s nearly impossible. Sin is ever-present, summoning us like the “Hot now” sign draws us into a Krispie Kreme.

Any chance of defeating sin requires breaking it down to its very core, then examining the only example we have sin defeated – Jesus in the wilderness.

To break it down, we need to look at the first sin in the Bible, Satan tempting Eve. From her defeat we can see how sin attacks us in stages; and, hopefully, from there we can find ways to stop it in its tracks.

Here are five stages of sin we learned from Eve in Genesis 3:1-6:

  1. Sin is introduced

We are constantly bombarded with ways to sin — through thoughts, desires, emotions, things we see or hear and through other people. It may be from music, a movie, a book or just a selfish idea, but one way or another a sin is introduced to us. In Eve’s case it was through a serpent, which used the most efficient way to influence us: Making us question facts.

Satan introduced the idea that Eve could eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, thus becoming equal to God, and not suffer consequences.

  1. The sin is considered

Then we start to weigh the sin’s merit. Do I want to do it? Should I do it? What are the consequences? What’s the reward? This is when our fight or flight mechanism should kick in; either fight off the sin or run from it.

Even did not do either. She chose to remain with the serpent to hear the risk-to-benefit merits. At this point Satan was able to use Eve’s likely lack of first-hand knowledge of what God had said about the tree. We know she likely did not hear God’s warning, but heard Adam relaying it because she misquotes God. In Genesis 2:17 (NIV) God says “…you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good an evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Yet when Eve quotes God in Genesis 3:2 she adds “and you must not touch it.” By questioning what God actually said Satan tricked Eve into entertaining the sin.

  1. The sin is justified

Taking from personal experience, we can be experts at this: “Everybody’s doing it … It won’t hurt anyone … I deserve this … No one will find out … They have it coming to them … But I really want that …” Hint, phrases like that mean we shouldn’t be doing it. This is where desire often betrays us.

Eve knew it was wrong to eat from the tree, yet she created an excuse to do so in Genesis 3:6: “She saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food, and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom.”

  1. Sin is committed

Hey, we made it this far, why not go all the way? Right? Once we given our life to Christ, we always have an out, right up to the very last minute before we sin; but by the time we get through the first four steps, we’re pretty much sunk.

In Eve’s case, six words (the number biblically connected to imperfection, sin and evil powers as defined by the website numerology.center) did the trick, “She took some and ate it.”

  1. We introduce the sin to someone else

We often bring others into the fold. Maybe it’s an unconscious thing. Maybe we just desire to have a partner in crime, so to speak. Or possibly post-justification for doing it to ease our conscious. Maybe it was just so much fun, and we thought we got away with it, that we just wanted to share it. Whatever the case, sin often spreads.

In Genesis 3:6 it says, “She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate it…”

There’s hope

We’re lucky to live in a time where we can refer to and learn from Jesus’ teachings and life on Earth. These stages of sin are tackled very early in the Gospels; right after Matthew introduces Jesus.

Matthew provides three examples of temptations each of which Jesus defeats with God’s word.

Satan tried to exploit the fact that Jesus, like us, had desires. Satan thrice took Jesus into Stage 1 by introducing sins. Jesus, however, never allows the train to leave the station. Satan failed to push Jesus to Stage 2.

Conclusion

Whether we can truly ever defeat sin may be debated for many more years, but not by Christians. Genesis provided the roadmap of how we get from being introduced to sin to committing it, but Jesus showed us how to defeat it.

Now it’s up to us to do it.

How I lost 165 pounds & ran a marathon

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I’m a determined person, but full credit goes to God that I was able to lose 165 pounds and run a marathon in a little over 2 years.

About a year after becoming a born-again Christian, I woke up one morning and realized if I didn’t lose some weight, I was going to die of a heart attack, and maybe soon. Now I had had this thought many times throughout my life, but this time felt different – this time I had God to lean upon.

I quickly devised a plan to lose weight. My goal was simply to go from 325 pounds to 305. That’s all. Just 20 pounds. If I could just lose 20 pounds that would be an achievement.

I began researching diets, read articles on losing weight and devised a three-fold plan within hours. First, I would change the way I eat, then start exercising and along the way involve as many people as possible to hold me accountable. The last one quickly became the most important. Oh yeah, and there was lots of prayer.

Nearly everyone has heard of the 21/90 rule: It takes 21 days to create a habit and 90 days to create a lifestyle. So, for the first three weeks I only focused on getting my eating under control. That was the first habit I needed to create. Plus, I was afraid if I exercised too soon it would just make me hungrier. I started slowly reducing the amount of food I ate without changing what I ate to prevent system shock. I then slowly switched what I ate to include more fruits, vegetables and lean meats.

After 21 days I added exercise. I walked about half a mile a day for a while, then went to a mile. One day I decided to run a little. A little was an understatement — I made it about 1,000 feet and was winded. Right then and there I made an additional goal: To run a 5K in a year.

It took three months.

All the while I had an enormous cheering section. Family, friends and coworkers would check on me regularly. I’ll admit, without them there’s many days I would have thrown in the towel. And, of course, I talked to God about my wins and loses and asked for guidance and wisdom.

Losing 1 to 2 pounds per week it took about three months to get down to 305. I reset my goal to another 20 pounds and when I reached 285, I went for another 20 and so and so on.

After the 5K I moved on to a 10K then a half marathon, all in the span of about 9 months. With those completed, I set my sights on a marathon. I filled my iPod with Christian music to help with my tempo and trained hard for a little over a year.

Click here for marathon training plans

I weighed 160 when I arrived in Ohio to run in the 2011 Air Force Marathon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and I was ready to go. My goal was to complete the marathon in under 5 hours.

Four hours, 14 minutes and 56 seconds later I crossed the finish line hands in the air giving praise to God for carrying me through all that training and the marathon itself.

 

I still run 5Ks and every now and then I’ll throw in a half marathon (not last year because of Covid-19), but I don’t run nearly as much. My eating lifestyle has pretty much remained the same, though.

Important, and not-so-important, lessons from Men’s Group

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When I became a born-again Christian, I immediately joined a men’s group and probably learned as much about Jesus and life with that bunch than anywhere else.

I strongly suggest joining a small group at your church, whether it be a youth group, men’s group, women’s group, senior group, Bible study group or any other that interests you. Relationships in these gatherings are usually very strong, and it’s a great way to grow in your walk with the Lord.

In my case there was a bonus: The group was comprised of mostly older men, so even at 45 I was the youngest. “I just come here to feel young,” I often quipped. That only lasted about six months though, as we had an influx of men younger, some way younger, than me join. Good for the church, bad for my quest for the Fountain of Youth.

Click here for more on Men’s Groups

Here are some important lessons I learned from my early days in the group:

* When you get 40 or more men together a handful will emerge as jokesters (confession time: I was often the instigator). Luckily, we had an easy-going group who loved to laugh, so they often played along.

* Whether you can carry a tune or not, sing with as much passion and praise as possible. I must not have been too bad because they never purchased a karaoke machine. This doesn’t necessarily mean sing loud, just with your whole heart. Try it. It’s fun and inspires others.

* Everybody has something to offer. We took turns at the podium with no prescribed format. Some sang, some talked about something interesting they read, some just talked about their lives … the list was endless. Some just read their favorite passages from the Bible and shared what the Spirit had revealed to them. No matter what they did, we always learned something about the speaker.

* You can learn something about the Bible from anyone. The Bible speaks to different people in different ways. It seems some people can better follow the Spirit through certain parts of the Bible than others. Hearing what was revealed to them brought great insight to parts of the Bible where I struggled.

* Perhaps the most important lesson I learned from my older group: Hold onto your loved ones closely because one day they’ll be gone. This goes without saying and needs to further comment.

Jesus prayed for the unity of his believers in John 17. Joining a small group, or more than one, does just that. It’s also a tremendous way to bond, learn, teach, encourage and just “goofball” around with others. We met in the morning, so we also broke bread together … and eggs and hash browns and bacon and sausage (sometimes with gravy).

15 Christian jokes that will tickle your funny bone

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I love jokes. In fact, at my memorial service, I want someone to give me a 21-joke salute.

I especially love quick-hitting jokes. The cornier the better.

Here are 15 quick-hitters, all with a Christian theme (Note: Not responsible for snorting, laughing so hard you cry or milk coming out of your nose):

1: When a woman decided to send the old family Bible to her brother, the postal worker asked her if there was anything breakable inside. “Only the Ten Commandments,” she replied.

2: A 25-year-old’s favorite song: “It is Well With My Soul.” A 75-year-old’s favorite: “It Is Well With My Soul, But My Knees Hurt, And My Back, And My Fingers …”

3: When Adam’s children asked why they didn’t live in the Garden of Eden anymore, he replied, “Your mother ate us out of house and home.”

4: Moses was the biggest sinner in the Bible: He broke all 10 commandments at once.

5: Noah was a great investor because he was floating all his stock while everyone else was in liquidation.

6: We say “Amen” instead of “Awomen” for the same reason we sing Hymns instead of Hers.

7: After creating Adam, God stepped back and said, “I think I can do better.”

8: God does not believe in atheists, therefore they do not exist.

9: Did Noah include termites on the ark?

10: Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day; give him religion and he’ll starve to death while praying for a fish.

11: Preacher: “The good news, we have enough money to pay for our new building. The bad news, it’s still in your pockets.”

12: Best pickup line for men: “Excuse me, I believe one of your ribs belongs to me.”

13: When the visiting preacher’s hat came back empty, he looked out at the congregation and said, “Thank you, Lord, at least they gave me my hat back!”

14: Best reason to join the choir: If you’re out of clean clothes the robe saves on laundry.

15: Best way to recognize the deeply religious: They think God’s presence is strongest in the back pew.

Bonus: There’s more women than men in churches because they identify with Jesus perfectly: Even after He died He had to get up because there was work to do.

Website on which some of these jokes were found:

www.jokesclean.com/ChristianJokes/

kruszer.tripod.com/jokes.html

margaretfeinberg.com/23-of-the-best-bible-jokes-riddles/

www.quickfunnyjokes.com/christian.html

onelinefun.com/christian/5/

Is it OK to be a goofball in church?

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“Goofballing” is not only OK but should be encouraged.

For a church body not only to survive but to thrive, a variety of talents are needed: Some people to lead, some to form groups, some to lead Bible study … you get the picture. Unfortunately for those with little if no funny bone, way down the list is – you guessed it – goofballs.

Of course, there is a time and place for everything. Being a goofball during church service is probably not advisable except under extraordinary circumstances; I’ll admit, I have been known to get a little out of control during praise songs.

Pastors can use “goofballness” in services, however, via skits. About 12 years ago I began writing, directing and acting in skits that often used humor to engage the congregation before sneaking in a lesson or two. So, I found others who were willing to goofball with me, and we were off to the races – 21 skits to be exact.

It was during a charity talent show for a Kenya-Gaitu community mission that my true “goofballness” was exposed. “Frozen” had just been released so my cohort lip-synced the words while I danced around the stage in a snowman costume throwing “snow” on her. I even had “snowballs.” Laughter filled the church and kids were brought in to enjoy the show.

Apparently, I’m not the only goofball roaming church halls. SunRidge Community Church in West Kelowna, British Columbia, has a webpage on their site dedicated to “goofballing” called “Behind the Fun.” I happened on to it randomly one time and loved checking out the photos.

And remember, we read in Ecclesiastes that there’s a time for everything; including a time to weep and a time to laugh. Maybe there’s a time to goofball as well.

Email me here how you are a goofball in church. I’d love to hear about it. Add a link if there’s incriminating video evidence.