My mission project was to incorporate humour into sharing the gospel with people. I did stand-up routines in comedy clubs and my local church, and also hosted a night of dialogue on with religious and non-religious people on the humour of God.
On the first week of June, I got the chance to do stand-up comedy at Comedy Works and Yuk Yuk’s comedy club. In both places I was entertained in the company of friends and colleagues, listening to and reflecting on the jokes of the comedians. They have been wounded in life and in return they used their wounds, painful or hurtful events in their lives, to make their audience laugh. I even told jokes about how both of my names have been butchered. Yet one treasured moment at Yuk Yuk’s that I shall remember is when, after the show, the host, a Christian friend, and myself had a philosophical and theological discussion in the men’s restroom (the host could not escape!). My hope, even before this encounter, was to see comedians or audience members not just laugh at jokes based on my wounds and frailties, but also hear and take in a message of healing from a representative of the risen Christ.
On Saturday June 20th, I gave, as I call it, a humorous sermon at my local church. First Baptist Church of Montreal, for the fundraiser dinner held there. The environment was different from the comedy clubs I went to during the first two days of June. I knew most of the audience members, plus I had rehearsed the material that I presented. I was glad to see one of my internship leaders there giving me encouraging feedback on my performance. I had realized that during my set that not a lot of audience members enjoyed the butt jokes. But I knew that would happen. A comedian cannot please everybody. Yet I was glad that I got different reactions (When driving home my parents told me I that I should have not joked about farting and feces after people had eaten. Funny thing, my dad laughed at those jokes as did the pastor of the church). Some said their own jokes based on my butt jokes (the piece presented did not consist of only butt jokes), one adolescent boy told me he laughed at me; a little boy spoke out in agreement with something I said during my set; I was congratulated by adults and even children.
One member of the church thanked me for talking about child-like obedience towards God. This is the parable told by Jesus to his disciples that I used to proclaim the good news after the set of jokes: ”He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Interesting enough, I still need to work on being child-like in obedience especially towards God.
Coming from a Baptist background, I was thankful to learn about the Five Marks of Mission promoted by the Anglican Church when going about doing mission work. The first (to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom) and third mark (to respond to human need by loving service) seemed to relate to my mission project. On Sunday June 28th at Yuk Yuk’s, I did another stand-up comedy routine to an audience of non-Christians and Christians. It was great opportunity to give something that they could laugh about (responding to their need of laughter or entertainment by telling jokes?) and share the joy and struggles a young Christian man like myself deals with. Boy, was I less prepared for that night! Thanks be to God I persevered through my routine. At the end of the evening, I wasn’t satisfied. I did not proclaim the Good News; but knowing that I had a limited amount of time I was able to give them something to take with them in their memories: a Christian was amongst them telling jokes.
Recently, I have been challenged by my peers in how I should proclaim the Good News apart from my mission project. The key is to find words that will include the people I am speaking to without pushing them away with biblical jargon such as sin, salvation and the resurrection to name a few. On the other hand, if I do speak of these terms I should explain such terms to the listener(s). I must also listen to them and observe what the other party is communicating (verbal and body language) with me. Sometimes they are not willing to listen to what I have to say, so I have to let go and move on.
I am thankful that we had been taught about how mission is viewed in other Christian denominations or traditions, that we learned to analyze a certain community before going to do mission work there, we were able to listen to the council of our leaders and mentors, we learned ways to discern (especially when it comes to mission work), we prayed together regularly at our meetings and made sure to check-in with one another each week to know where we were at with our mission project. Christian rapper Shai Linne once said, “Remember you just don’t do missions, you are a mission.” In a similar manner, God is still doing his work in me and is not finished. Maybe Christian mission involves being internally transformed by the Good News of the Kingdom so that God can do his work of restoring this world through his children. And as my mission project will soon come to a close, I still ponder if I can continue to incorporate humour in future conversations with others that do not share the same belief as I do. Hopefully, such humour in dialogue can be the seasoning of “salt” or “flavor” to my conversations as Paul once wrote to the Colossians, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Amos Bohoussou describes himself as a “born again child of God the Father, saved by grace and faith through Jesus-Christ the Son of God, being made holy day by day through the Holy Spirit.” He was born in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire and has lived in Canada since 2004. He has studied Professional Theatre at Dawson College in Montreal and is presently a fourth year student in Theology at the FTE (Faculté de Théologie Évangélique in affiliation with Acadia University).