The Gatekeepers are Gone: Unlikely Wisdom for Pastors from a Stand-Up Comic

Patton Oswalt

“The gatekeepers are gone”, said stand-up comic Patton Oswalt in a talk that has huge implications for pastors and other communicators.

Oswalt continued as he held up his iPhone to a crowd of comedy bigwigs.

“In my hand right now I’m holding more filmmaking technology than Orson Welles had when he filmed Citizen Kane. I’m holding almost the same amount of cinematography, post-editing, sound editing, and broadcast capabilities as you have at your TV network.”

Then he encouraged his fellow comics to use that technology to build their own audience and take their comedy to the next level.

“I need to decide more career stuff for myself and make it happen for myself, and I need to stop waiting to luck out and be given. I need to unlearn those muscles.

“I’m seeing this notion take form in a lot of my friends. … Your podcast is amazing. Your videos on your YouTube channel are getting better … Your Twitter feed is hilarious.

“Our careers don’t hinge on somebody in a plush office deciding to aim a little luck in our direction. There are no gates.

“Comedians are getting more and more comfortable with the idea that if we’re not successful, it’s not because we haven’t gotten our foot in the door, or nobody’s given us a hand up. We can do that ourselves now. Every single day we can do more and more without you (industry insiders) and depend on you less and less.”

Stop waiting for a break. Make your own break,  says Oswald. What’s stopping you from getting your comedy out to the whole world except your own lack innovation, imagination and passion?

That was the essence of a surprisingly smart lesson on innovation and creativity from the stand-up comic who’s best known as the voice of Ratatouille in the Disney film and Spence on the sitcom, King of Queens. Oswalt was speaking at Montreal’s Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in July of 2012.*


So, Small Church Leaders, What’s Stopping Us?

How about it, Small Church leaders? Is what’s true for comedians true for us? 

The gatekeepers are gone. We no longer need a big building, big budget or denominational support to change the world.

The best technology on the face of the earth is cheap, easy-to-use and is already in the pockets of most of the congregation members we’re preaching to.

I know pastoring a church isn’t like putting a comedy bit on YouTube. Pastoring – especially Small Church pastoring – still means a lot of face-to-face and one-on-one. There’s no technological substitute for that.

But does Oswalt have a couple things right?

The world is changing at a mind-numbing pace. We need to change, too. Not our theology, but our methods. Not necessarily with technology, but not necessarily without it either.

We need to be innovators. There’s never been a better, easier, more cost-effective time to do that, than right now.

What’s holding you back?


So what do you think? Have you found new technologies, techniques or Godly advice that has helped you be a better Small Church leader? If so, could you share it with us?

*I first read Oswalt’s quotes on a news website. Normally I would link to it, but it turns out the unedited text of the speech is full of expletives. If you really want to find it, you’re on your own. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. (Luke 16:8)

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