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.
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 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 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.