[img]https://www.sermonindex.net/images/forum/2004/may/featured_news.gif[/img]ANDOVER, MASS. This fall, when the people of New England Bible Church wanted to have a really good time, they got together at the start of Sunday worship to memorize Bible verses.Part of the fun was the game-show atmosphere, as "contestants" filled in the blanks of a verse. But part of it was also the mood of levity that invades a realm once known more for hard pews than hard laughs. One recent Sunday, a good-natured quiz pitting elders against deacons connected with congregants partly because of its tongue-in-cheek tone. "This is all for show," Pastor Tyler Thompson assured the flock. "These people up here really don't like each other all that much." Everyone laughed.From here to Hollywood, somber services where smiles are frowned upon have in many churches gone the way of sky-high pulpits and knuckle-rapping ushers. In its place is an effort to tap the nation's culture of humor to promote spiritual gain: In Texas and southern California, church outreach ministries now include Christian comedy shows that draw upwards of 300 people. A forthcoming book on "The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching" (Zondervan, 2005) dedicates an entire chapter to humor as a homiletic device.
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