6 Things The Church Can Learn From Jimmy Fallon  – #OrdainJimmyFallon

6 Things The Church Can Learn From Jimmy Fallon  – #OrdainJimmyFallon March 28, 2014


by David Henson

The Church could learn a few things from Jimmy Fallon, the new host of the “Tonight Show.” And it’s no surprise, really. Jimmy has said in interviews he once wanted to be a priest in the Roman Catholic Church and was influenced early in life by his experiences as an altar boy. But he never felt he could really be a priest because he couldn’t keep a straight face. As a priest myself, it’s always good to be reminded that our image in culture is often a dour one when it should be a joyful one.

So it got Mark and I to thinking on “The Moonshine Jesus Show” what Jimmy Fallon has to teach us and what it would be like if he were a pastor or a priest. So we started a hashtag — #ordainjimmyfallon — and the early contributions are hilarious, but also really profound at times. Seriously go check it out and add yours in! But the hashtag responses really do speak to the idea that Jimmy might have some important lessons for us.

Lesson 1: Embrace the Joy and Enthusiasm in the moment. Sure, lots of churches claim to have joy and enthusiasm for the work of Christ. Some actually do. But, let’s be honest, churches still have a lot to learn when it comes to joy and enthusiasm. What Jimmy does best is exist in the moment on his show and exist in that moment fully, giving it all his attention, energy, and enthusiasm. Jimmy’s joy and enthusiasm for each moment or guest is infectious, and it isn’t just an act either. It’s a profound act of hospitality. It lets everyone in the room know that there is no one or nothing more important than the people being together, sharing a joyful — even divine — moment.

Lesson 2: Embrace Divine Playfulness. Now, certainly there are times to be serious. But there is a rare child-like glee that is refreshing. As adults, we’ve lost the importance and the spirituality of play. But each week, Jimmy invites serious actors and musicians to loosen up and just play. They play charades, Pictionary, and a variety of off-the-wall games. What’s most remarkable to me is witnessing four diverse celebrities, in the span of 7 minutes, form a semblance of community through their good-natured play. It is a good reminder, and a reminder the church often forgets, that play is a profound form of prayer that brings people together.

Lesson 3: Embrace Others’ Talents and Accomplishments. One of the things I love about the “Tonight Show” is how Jimmy yields the spotlight. He celebrates — genuinely — the talents and achievements of those around him. And he’s not the only one telling the jokes. He’s often the one cracking up at other people’s jokes and quips. It is vulnerable way to host what is essentially a comedy show, to not always be the exact center of attention. By laughing on-air so much, he invites his audience to laugh with him. He’s not the only funny one. He gives credit to his writers, especially on Twitter, for the really funny bits and segments he does. It’s almost as if he’s a student of comedy and laughter, and he’s willing to learn from the experiences of each and every person who comes on as a guest. It’d be nice if in many of our churches we got the impression that our pastors or priests weren’t the only holy ones there to teach others, but people who are journeying with a congregation, willing to learn what it means to be followers of Christ from each other.

Lesson 4: Embrace that It’s All Bigger than You. Jimmy Fallon made it clear in his first episode that he wasn’t in control of the “Tonight Show.” Rather, he was its steward. “I just want to do the best I can to take care of the show for awhile,” he said during his first monologue in February. Even though his name’s on the show and he’s responsible for it for awhile, he knows the institution is bigger than himself, and it will continue on after him.

Lesson 5: Embrace the Change. But just because he respects the institution doesn’t mean he’ll keep doing things the same way. In fact, it’s his deep respect and love for the institution that is pushing him to change it, tweak it, and put his own personality in it. He embraces the cultural changes around him and adapts the institution to its environment. He brings the institution to a new generation with dynamism and with respect for it. And it’s paying off for him. He’s tops in the ratings, his videos are going viral, his hashtags are trending worldwide, and he’s drawing a younger generation to the institution.

Lesson 6: Embrace Hope. There is virtually zero cynicism on the “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” Each show feels like an unrestrained celebration of life. There’s a time for critique and speaking up, but that has to be balanced with the celebration of life. We so often tend to focus on the worst news in the world, the injustice, or sin. But we need to be reminded, too, that life is worth celebrating, that there is good in the world, that God is present in the world with us. Confronting injustice in the world from a place of hope and from a deep belief in the goodness of the world offers more resilience, more boldness, and more grace than confronting injustice from a place of cynicism, despair, and brokenness.


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