Monday, June 04, 2007

Welcome to Drama Church

Over at least the past decade the trends would indicate that the use of drama is becoming an ever more popular feature in worship services.

Whether you agree or disagree with this practice, in reality it’s not necessarily a new issue because preachers like A.W. Tozer were speaking against what was then a new trend via the use of drama or the “religious movie.” In other words, we’re just witnessing a resurgence of an old form of what is considered a method of communication within the “Christian Context.”

I’ve personally been involved with the arts for a large portion of my life including vocal music, leading worship for Sunday schools and retreats, musical drama, Easter programs, and even an Opera in one act to name some of my involvement.

I’m not completely apposed to the use of drama if it’s used responsibly and in good taste. In fact, I’ve been in several Easter productions where the scripts and the drama itself beautifully communicated the Gospel. Furthermore, I’m also for (for the most part) the use of creative ways to present and communicate as long as it’s not in conflict with the Word of God.

On the other side, I’ve also been in the audience many times during various services or other special events where I’ve felt very uncomfortable by what was communicated.

Some would say, “Lighten up man! It’s just a drama!”

In response, I’d say, no it’s not just a “drama” that’s at stake here - it’s the message that is being communicated that is at stake. This is especially true as we’re charged to uphold and proclaim the Word of truth and we should speak the truth in love and at the same time not water it down or have an anything goes attitude!

As I ponder past episodes where drama was used in services, I can’t emphasize enough that it’s really important that the dramas do not detract from the preaching of the Word of God nor should they negatively impact the atmosphere of worship. It should also be used to communicate the Gospel and not just be a form of entertainment not that I’m saying we Christians cannot have fun or be entertaining. Again, I’m speaking directly to the use of drama in the context of weekly worship services.

To take it one step further, dare I say that it should only be used during regular services to directly tie into the sermon to help illustrate or communicate a Biblical truth or principle!? Or, it can also be used responsibly during Easter or maybe Christmas where it may reach those who are seasonal church goers. Or, it may be used for a creative announcement of an upcoming church event. In either of these situations, let me stress again the importance of using it responsibly.

Through my first hand experience, I’ve come away from various services with much frustration because the dramas that were used didn’t seem to connect completely with the sermon or in some cased they didn’t connect at all. It’s as if there were two separate or competing messages.

There have also been times where I’ve seen questionable content written into the scripts to seemingly “push the envelope” which has been very offensive and contrary to The Word of God in my opinion.

Regarding the dramas not connecting to the messages, The Holy Spirit does not interrupt Himself nor should we interrupt the message, the worship of God and the edification of the body by misuse of this form of communication.

I keep asking, “Where is the accountability” and “at what point are filters applied by the local pastoral staff and elders who are our shepherds?”

It seems at times like anything goes and nothing needs to be filtered out because by all means it’s for the “seeker” that matters and the believer’s just need to deal with the approach that is being taken.

Where’s the reality that we’re all accountable to God and that we’ll account for what we did or did not do properly for the Lord. This is especially true of Pastors and Elders.

With further thought here are some important questions I believe drama teams and pastors should ask before a drama / skit is considered or standards by which I believe Drama’s should be used or filtered:

-Do the scripts/drama/skits magnify the Lord?
-Do the scripts/drama/skits proclaim the Word of God?
-Do the scripts/drama/skits have a redemptive message to them?
-Do the scripts/drama/skits have a message that is part of the edification of the Body?
-Do the scripts/drama/skits contain a clear illustration used to help illustrate a point and directly tie into the message somehow?
-Do the scripts/drama/skits need to be in alignment with the church’s mission/purpose statement which seems to be a part of the suggested test/filter for everything we do at our churches?

Whatever you’re opinion is let me state that we all need to grow in Christ and glorify Him more and guard what is sacred, good, right, and perfect.

We cannot and should not settle for a watered down Christianity nor can we or should we settle for watered down sermons, services or maybe what some deem as “Edutainment” if it muddies the message! If it muddies the message, then we’ve failed because we’re called and accountable to clearly communicate the living hope found in a salvatory relationship with Jesus Christ!

If we’re not about the Lord’s business, purpose and will, if God’s Word and the Lord Jesus Christ are not in the center of what we do in our churches then what business are we in?

Prayerfully we’ll take a serious look in the mirror at our churches and our hearts and ask the Lord through His Holy Spirit to spotlight what we need to change right now.

Some of what I share here is due to the fact that some churches across America it seems that the drama has replaced or taken a more prominent place than the preaching of the Word.

As sarcastic as this may sound, for these churches that have gone mainly to drama and some worship and very little Scripture at all, they may come to a point where they may just need to rename there meeting place from church to a performing arts center. A performing arts center that just happens to have paid pastoral staff on hand or maybe they’d rather change their titles to “chaplains” so that so called seekers will feel comfortable if the chaplain wouldn’t be seen as offensive to them?

The Word of God was good enough for Peter, just look at the books of Acts. Peter preached the Word and over 3000 people came to faith that day. Some would argue, well, “the culture has changed.” Yes, it has changed but the Word of God has not changed. It’s still as powerful today as it was then! If it was strong enough then, it’s strong enough now and we need to keep the Word of God the focus of our services. The Word of God alone stands supreme and the Word of God is powerful!

Again, I’m not saying that we cannot use creative methods to communicate the Gospel, but I am saying that the Word has to be central to how we communicate and we need to communicate in an appropriate way. I hope you can see this important distinction.

Again I ask His Church:

If the Word of God is not present then what is the point?
What is the church doing if the Word of God and Jesus Christ are not in the center of what we do?

May Jesus Christ and the Word of God be in the center of all we do because if this is not the case then how can we effectively communicate His message and furthermore - how can we call ourselves Christians, followers of Christ?

I’m committed to praying for the Body of Christ, including the leaders asking the Lord to help us come back to our first love, The Lord Jesus and the Word of God. How about you?