No Laughing Matter

By Mark A. Taylor

Have you caught The Jay Leno Show, NBC’s new weeknight offering? It premiered September 14, a few days after this issue went to the printer, so this is no review of its content.

But I couldn’t help thinking about the work the church does as I read about the work Leno did this summer to get ready for his new show.

An August 21 Wall Street Journal piece pointed out that Leno’s move to 10 pm from 11:30 was a big risk for him as well as the network. Leno is trying something largely abandoned years ago: live variety shows, and in a time slot formerly reserved for popular dramas. In spite of his 17-year successful run on NBC’s The Tonight Show, Leno was taking nothing for granted.

The newspaper reported he was arriving for work at 8 am, an hour before anyone else showed up at the NBC Burbank studios.

He spends his days involved in details like designing the seating layout for the new studio. To tune his act, he has done almost weekly stand-up performances at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and the Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, California, as well as free shows in Detroit and Wilmington, Ohio. It is all part of his plan to woo as many constituents as he can—audiences, network executives, and local NBC affiliates.

 

I read the piece a few weeks after spending some time with a preacher who travels and speaks in Christian churches all over the country. “My wife and I always attend a Sunday school class where I’m preaching,” he told me. “And I’m appalled at what happens in most of the classes we visit.”

The major problem is the teacher’s poor preparation, as evidenced by reading from the quarterly or spending half the class time talking about the local high school’s last football game.

Christian publishers work hard to create teaching materials as easy as possible to prepare and present. But there’s a limit. If a teacher won’t look at the lesson till 11 o’clock Sunday night, no material will solve his problem. Likewise for the leader whose preparation is skimming through the discussion guide in the car on the way to the small group.

Of course, Bible teaching is only one activity more important than the success of Jay Leno’s TV show. Add sermon preparation to the list. And evangelistic calls. And developing disciples, including the young disciples (sons and daughters) in our own homes.

I can’t help but wondering: What would the church look like and how would our communities change if every Christian servant had the passion for his task that Jay Leno demonstrates for his weeknight hours of comedy?

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