A Stand-Up Pastor

It's a packed house at the Comedy Club in Las Vegas. A lanky figure sporting tattoos from wrists to shoulders stumbles up to the mic, wipes the mop of hair out of his eyes, and explodes with jokes. Then he talks about God and then bombards the crowd with more jokes. No sex, no profanity— nothing like the audience is used to seeing on cable TV— but they reward him with an explosion of laughter. Elijah Tindall— Pastor Elijah to his fans— is a funny man. What the audience doesn’t know, though, is that the man hurling the jokes is also a youth minister.

This comedian has a cause— fighting a one-man war against the negative influence the entertainment industry wields over teenage culture. He fights that war from inside the enemy camp, answering the entertainment industry’s exploitation of teens with his own positive message— and he answers it shot for shot. Says Tindall, “That’s my mission statement for life. I want to reroute those negative impacts to teenage culture. In turn, teenagers transform the larger culture.

“I would be hypocritical if I said something needed to be done and just sat there doing nothing. I can’t complain about something if I’m not willing to do my part to fix it,” he said. “Stand-up comedy and entertainment is a great way to connect with people.”

Pastor Elijah dedicates his life to taking the fight to the heart of the industry by combining comedy and pastoring. “My mission statement in life is— whether it’s parents, teenagers or entertainers— I want to influence those who influence others.”

Weekends find Pastor Elijah laughing it up and spreading the gospel nationwide. He’s no stranger to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Nashville and other venues around the country. His 24/7 schedule puts him in churches on Friday evenings, smoke-filled comedy clubs on Saturday nights, and area churches on Sunday mornings.

Tindall says he didn’t have an “aha” moment that set him on his current path. It was a combination of dents in youth culture that he kept seeing as he pastored teens. “I spoke to young ladies who believed they should do whatever it took to lock a boyfriend into a relationship. I addressed videos that pitched the idea that a person’s value comes from what they own: bling necklaces, grills and spinning tire rims. Over time it was clear that the entertainment industry introduces counterfeit identities to teens.”

Despite his patent mix of comedy and ministering Tindall’s not comfortable being known as a ‘Christian Comedian.’

“I’m not looking to be labeled as a specific kind of comedian. I want to be known as a good performer, a good person. That’s what connects with people. I let my light shine but unless you’re trying to blind somebody it’s wise to carry an internal dimmer switch.”

During his Friday night performance he calls on the audience to bring themselves back to church on Sunday morning. “I call it a ‘bringer event.’ People of the congregation invite friends to their church to listen to a comedian, not just another speaker,” he says. “My intentions are to make people come to a point of feeling comfortable with making a commitment to change.

“Sometimes churchgoers don’t understand — they’re blinded and assume that we’re reaching the world already and handing out every opportunity for salvation. This isn’t always true,” he notes. “Outside the church I convey a simple message, and I hope that if the roles were different, and it was me out in the crowd hurting, that someone would love me just enough to share God’s word.”

Pastor Elijah counts his nonconforming appearance as an attraction to teens that feel their parents and members of the older generation just don’t understand them. “My purpose isn’t to raise conflict with people but to connect with people,” he said, “and I like it. It works.”

Tindall’s message has seriously wide appeal and he follows up with it nationally. This summer will see him performing at youth camps and comedy clubs in Missouri, California, Arizona and, naturally, Oklahoma.

“The entertainment industry shows teenagers a shallowness, an attitude, a mentality that sets them up for failure. It’s just miles away from reality, a reality where teenagers should be deep. That depth allows them to tap their gifts, abilities and talents.”

The next step in his career will see Tindall living under the big lights of Hollywood. He plans to continue his unique brand of pastoring by opening a non-profit agency, “Hollywood Light,” a ministry aimed at reaching and spreading the Word of God to the very people that live and work in the shadow of Hollywood.

Log onto www.myspace.com/elijahtindall to learn more about Pastor Elijah.

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