The Church is not a Stage… or is it?

She was conservatively dressed and looked to be in her late 40’s. She was choking back a tear as she approached me. I had just performed a short play about prayer. This play often touches people in a special way concerning their own prayer life. I was prepared to hear her comments–the kind that I love to hear. Comments like:

“I really identified with that character…”
“I struggle just like that with my own prayer life…”
“God used the play to speak to me…”

And yes, let’s be honest, I also wanted to hear her say comments like:

“You are such a good actor…”
“That was the best play I have ever seen…”
“DeNiro has nothing on you…”

(Even we Christian actors like to hear such things but our humility won’t let us admit it.)

But these were not the comments on this dear lady’s lips. The comment I was about to hear made my heart sad. She looked me in the eyes and said:

“What you are doing…acting…that is what I always wanted to do. That was my passion…but the church I grew up in frowned on acting and the theatre. They only saw how the world used it–mostly negative. They would not give me the opportunity to use my God given gifts and talents.”

She then went on to say some of those other comments that I wanted to hear but I was struck by the tragedy of her opening comment. That was several years ago, but the words she spoke have stayed with me through the years. I think of them often and I have heard others echo her words in my travels across the country.

I have been at work at this ministry through drama for a long time. I started doing drama as a ministry in 1975, but my involvement in theatre goes back even further, to the plays I performed as a child–mostly in church. After hearing comments like the one above I count myself so fortunate to have grown up in a church that encouraged me to use my gifts and talents in ministry.

Things have changed a lot over the years. There are churches using drama on a regular basis today that would not have considered it twenty years ago. Some who would have called it “of the devil” back then, are among its strongest proponents today.

While most of my ministry centers around performing, I also do a number of drama workshops each year. These are opportunities for me to train and encourage others to use their artistic talents in service to our Lord. I always start my workshops with a little discussion about “Why use drama in the church?” Every once in awhile I get cornered by someone who has made it their mission to convince me that drama doesn’t belong in the church and that the church should not be a place of “entertainment.” I ask my workshop participants to role-play this situation and help me convince this well-meaning but misguided person that there is indeed a place for drama in the church. There are several reasons that are usually proposed but here for your consideration are a few of the most popular.

  • Drama is not a “new” thing. It is actually quite old. The very first dramas where religious dramas.
  • Jesus told stories–parables–to get his point across. Drama does much the same thing.
  • Entertainment is not a bad thing. We all like to be entertained. We may not want to admit it, but the worship services at most churches are well planned. The pastor wants the service to hold the attention of the congregation. The best sermons are sprinkled with humor and stories. Why? Because if it entertains us, it holds our attention better.
  • There is a lot of drama in the various elements of worship. Consider communion, baptism, responsive readings, etc. These and many other parts of worship have a drama all their own.
  • People remember more of what they see than what they hear.
  • Drama has the unique ability to tap into our emotions and our intellect at the same time and is especially effective because the audience member will identify and connect with a certain character being portrayed on stage.
  • We live in an entertainment oriented society. Like it or not, we are entertainment junkies. While the Gospel doesn’t change, our culture does. We (the church) need to find effective ways to minister to our culture without compromising the truth of the Gospel. In this regard drama is made to order!
  • It provides a place of service and ministry to those who have talent in this area. If the church does not provide a place for this artistic energy to be used, then rest assured those who have a passion for the performing arts will find another outlet for it.

I think you get the idea. It has always been my conviction that God gives us different gifts, talents and abilities for a reason. Ultimately that reason boils down to serving Him. It brings God great pleasure to see our talents used in this way. It is my hope and prayer that, if you haven’t already, you will find ways to use your God given talents in service to our Lord.

Note: Does your church have a drama ministry? Are you thinking of starting one? Why not give us a call? We would love to come and spend a Saturday stirring up those creative juices and helping you build a viable drama program at your church through one of our drama workshops!

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