If you are considering introducing drama to your church, whether it be in your main service, study time, vespers or Wednesday night Bible study, it is important to do so for the right reason. Why do you want to introduce drama? If it is because this is a means to teach, employing the same techniques and methods that Jesus used, then this is the best of reasons. Following Christ's example (Mark 4:34, 1 Peter 2:21, John 13:15, ) is a valid reason to introduce drama (but then again, most churches do not honor footwashing, and Jesus actually commanded this in the first Lord's supper, but most people today find it just a little too icky). Is it because you want to liven up your fellowship? Entertain the members, possibly attract more numbers to your service? If this is the reason, you should prayerfully consider your motives, and discuss the consequences with several Godly friends, first, before employing drama.
The drama is a method of praising God, of worshipping Him, of fellowship with like believers, of presenting Bible truths to nonbelievers, employing your spiritual gifts and especially, allowing the Holy Spirit to work through you.
How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of
you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a
revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto
edifying. 1 Corinthians 14:26
The drama fits with "psalm," as many psalms are dramatic, or teach or sing praises to God, and the drama also fits with "doctrine," as the drama can be used to illustrate doctrines; the drama fits with "tongue," as it is a way of reaching people, allowing God to speak through you, to act through you, to teach through you, at the foundational level: to communicate; and the drama fits with "revelation" because drama "reveals" scripture, it "reveals" the will of God -- think about it, what is the entire book of Revelation, other than a series of dramas given from God to man? The drama also fits with "interpretation" because it is interpreting scripture into daily, recognizable scenarios, putting scripture into the context where people nod their heads and say: "Hey, I get that! It makes sense! Now I understand what the Bible is saying in that verse!"
The drama is a valid and wonderful way to worship God and praise Him and celebrate His word in a corporate setting. It is for Christians as well as non-Christians.
Entertainment is not bad -- it can be very powerful. But it should not be the primary motive empowering drama, just as it is not bad for a sermon to be entertaining, but if you are delivering a sermon to entertain, you've gone far off the mark. There is a great difference between a teacher that wears a tutu and a goalie mask to class and sings all his assignments with the aid of a ukulele, and a teacher who brings to class a mandolin, a dulcimer, a piccolo and an African drum to discuss the history and evolution of music, or different cultures and their musical expression. The first way is just putting on a show, giving students something odd to look at, some bizarre to tell to their friends, while the second way is a means of giving the students a hands-on way of learning about music, actually producing "music" on diverse instruments.
Granted, both means might prove effective, to a certain degree, with some similar results. Both means might influence students to attend class -- but the heart of the matter is: what is inspired in the student?
Entertaining dramas are good, and will engage the congregation. After all, most of the parables of Jesus were highly entertaining, calling to mind incredible or ludicrous and even comical mental pictures (consider Lazarus in Abraham's bosom and the notion that a poor man is blessed and a rich man goes to hell, or a camel walking through the eye of a needle, blind men confidently leading blind men and all of them falling into a ditch, asking for fish and getting a scorpion, a poor widow bugging an evil judge until he throws up his hands and gives her what she wants, people as weeds or wheat and being harvested or burned, salty Christians; Jesus, the Son of God, a Shepherd looking for the lost lamb, the sinner -- and this little thumbnail barely scratches the surface of Jesus and His parables!).
On the other end of the spectrum, we have no example of Jesus dressing himself up like an emperor and having people cater to him to show them how wonderful His ministry was (granted, mocking him, Herod had Jesus dressed like a king; and serving him, a woman anointed His feet with tears while another did with perfume). We have no example given of Jesus entertaining the crowd, doing magic tricks, singing and dancing, standing on a soapbox and doing funny faces to make people laugh. Dramas for the sake of entertainment are best for secular TV (which is what TV is all about) or to play on TBN, which is about the same thing, but shouldn't be introduced to the church that takes worship and Bible teaching seriously. Entertaining dramas, YES, dramas simply for the sake of entertainment, NO.
The two sides of entertainment should be clearly evident and no more needs to be said about it.
Different Learning / Different Methods
The primary reason for drama is to consider the fact that not all people learn the same way, and not all people think the same way, and not all people need the same thing. But we know that Jesus always spoke in parables, to all groups high and low, and we know that God always used drama throughout the Bible, most powerfully in the Sanctuary service in the wilderness, and the whole ceremonial laws surrounding animal sacrifices (there were no merits in animal sacrifices, no sin was ever forgiven through animal sacrifices, but these rituals pointed forward to the TRUE sacrifice, Jesus Christ, and the rituals powerfully taught the sinner how devastating was their sin, necessitating the death of an innocent Lamb, necessitating the death of an innocent Savior).
It is the same principle in writing, with the use of metaphors, similes and analogies. If I say, "You should wear your seatbelt, it's safer than not using it," you might get the point. But if I say "Wearing a seatbelt is like (simile) dropping an egg off the dinner table while it is in the carton compared to not wearing a seatbelt and just dropping the egg on the floor," you get the point better (well, some do, some don't, but then again, that's the point! in that not all learn the same way). The point is better made by actually dropping the eggs! This is a simple drama. (Granted, sometimes the egg will break even inside the carton, but it's chances are better than the egg dropped cold on the floor, which is the whole point behind the logic of seatbelts.)
Bringing the Point Home
When you're reading a history book and you come across an illustration, sometimes you get hit with the epiphany, or the "Aha!" as it suddenly all makes sense. Or in a set of instructions, it is much easier to put something together when you have illustrations displaying how the parts fit together (granted, you might use your mind more if you put a bicycle together with only text, but in using the illustrations you have a degree of confidence that you are putting the bicycle together correctly, and that the finished product will work as the manufacturers intended it to work).
Dramas can do the same thing when accompanying a sermon. A wonderful pastor friend of mine employed a simple dramatic method of explaining the Gospel commission of "sharing your faith" or "witnessing" or "evangelizing the world." Most pastors say: "You better do it or else!" or "It's your duty to do it and for a love offering of $49.99 I'll give you these wonderful video cassettes that will explain everything!" or "Convert 10 heathens and win this Bible!" But my pastor friend actually showed how it works!
He had a huge TV in front that all could see with a faint, fuzzy image warbling on the screen, illustrating that those with the biggest ministries don't always have the clearest picture, or how their message might get a little watered down in all the hype of size, glory and showmanship. And then a deacon came forward with a little hand-held modern miracle of technology, a credit card-sized TV screen -- he looked at the big screen and went through the channels on his little screen until he found the same picture, and the picture was much better, much sharper (but no one in the congregation could see the little screen)! So some with a tiny ministry, or small witness, sometimes have the clearest message! And the deacon was able to take this tiny, pure message to a TV set out in the congregation, and the same process occurred, all three sets were now tuned to the same message, then someone else took the small screen up into the balcony and was able to adjust the TV up there to the same message, and someone down at the back of the church who could not see the two screens up front or the tiny mobile screen, was able to look up to the balcony and set his TV to the same channel! And so the Good News spreads. From one image that is being broadcast from another place, far away, all the sets can be brought into harmony , the clear message goes forward.
A very simple drama. But dynamically explosive. You get the point without a whole lot of talk.
This is what good drama is all about. It doesn't have to be obvious or blatant. In fact, sometimes the best dramas are the ones that leave people scratching their heads, mulling over in their mind: "Now what was that all about?" They might even be irritated by the mystery and be thinking about it a week later! Now that's power, to put out a message that sticks in someone's head for a week! This is exactly what happened with so many of the parables taught by Jesus, even the disciples were confused and asked the Master to explain Himself, which Jesus always did. This doesn't mean that we should put on dramas that don't make sense, or that are purposefully confusing, cryptic, or so highly symbolic that no one has an inkling of what they're watching. But it is okay if the drama is challenging.
It all comes back again to the simple fact that not all brains work the same way. Someone who is confused by one drama, will get another one without any effort. Two people can watch the same drama, and one will get it, and the other won't, or they might even come away with completely different meanings, each seeing something different to take away.
Sometimes a four-minute drama that is completely obvious is the richest blessing. Sometimes a highly symbolic drama of ten minutes works best. Sometimes a mundane representation of a conversation between two people brings the point across, and sometimes an elaborate 45-minute play with 10 actors, props, sets and lighting is what is required. Sometimes the drama asks questions that it does not answer and then the pastor comes in with his sermon and answers all those questions; other times the drama can be stand-alone, perfectly illustrating scripture (such as acting out the scene where Joseph confronts his brothers in Egypt and they have absolutely no idea who he is).
The point is, drama should make a point. Bible dramas should illustrate or illuminate a Bible verse, or doctrine, or message. The drama is tailored to the Bible, not the other way around. The Bible stays pure, itself, unchanged, whereas the drama is fluid in that it can bend and move to suit its purpose.
The first thing in doing drama is -- what? Acting lessons? Writing lessons? Buying a big book of dramas? Assembling your crew? Telling everyone off so they are in a true humble spirit? Advertising? Doing a series of sermons to convince your people that drama is not evil? Kicking people out of the church you think will stand in your way? Calling for volunteers?
I think the first step of preparation is PRAYER. Pray about it, and ask other Godly members, friends and associates to pray about if you should even use drama. Pray about what kind of dramas you want to do. Pray about who should coordinate all the details of the drama ministry, or even the details of one simple four-minute drama. Pray about it. Ask God if you should use His method. Ask God if you're the right person to be using His method, or putting it into place?
If you're going to write a drama, pray about it first. Pray about it a lot. When I was first asked to write drama for church, I had never attempted it before, but thought, "Hey, I'm a writer, it should be a cinch for me!" Then I sat down to write it and for the life of me could not come up with a single, solitary idea. The sermon was about how the blood of Jesus made peace for us in this war-torn planet (maybe not physical peace, but certainly spiritual peace). I ached about it, and groaned, and did writing exercises (it had always worked for me whenever writer's block reared its ugly head), but nothing worked. Then I prayed.
"Heavenly Father, if you want me to write this drama, You're going to have to help me, because I give up. I can't do it. You promise to give wisdom, well I need it. Help me, God, or I'm going to have to call the pastor and tell him we can't do it."
When I opened my eyes the whole drama was there, behind my eyes, in my noodle. I suddenly knew the drama would work best to see it through heaven's eyes, with God as a general, looking at the world as a map, with the angel Gabriel standing by as a Lieutenant, so desiring to go down to the battlefield and help the Commander, Jesus, who is busy constructing a tunnel on Earth, so that anyone who desires safety from the war can enter that tunnel to heaven. BAM! I sat down and wrote it all in one shot, "Peace on the Battlefield," illustrating Colossians 1:19-22 and also John 3:16. Now, obviously, so many other ways are available to illustrate these verses, but I felt, and feel that "Peace on the Battlefield" was the direct result and answer to my prayer, that God inspired the drama.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that
giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it
shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing
wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the
sea driven with the wind and tossed. James 1:5-6
The same kind of prayer needs to go into the choosing of the actors. The probability is that there won't be a great talent pool to choose from, and sometimes the most talented actors are not the best choice for Gospel Drama. One thing that must be left at the door is EGO. Don't be proud of your work, don't be proud of your talent, don't be proud of your ability -- they are not enough or suitable to get the job done. You need God's help, you need the empowering of the Holy Spirit. I believe it is more important to have an actor that loves God and desperately desires to serve him and has absolutely no talent in acting, than to have a wonderful actor with incredible ability but has no spirituality or desire to serve God. Or, most likely, you'll only have one other person to do the dramas with you -- still, prayer, prayer comes first.
The first time you get together with your team of actors, whether it is your wife and two kids, or some youth from your church, or even the pastor and choir members, before you sit down to read the script, have prayer. Gather in a circle and hold hands and ask God to lead. Ask God to empower you so that you can speak His word with boldness, and ask God to keep individuals egos out of the production, and ask God bless everyone present and fill everyone with the Holy Spirit, that you desire to do this through His power, and not our own. If you practice more than once, pray each time before you practice. And especially, before you go on, pray together again, and then keep praying, singularly, and encourage all your people to keep praying on their own, asking God for better memories, better speech, and His constant flowing power to bless you and those in the congregation. Remember to pray, it's important! Prayer comes first.
Claim Scripture / Believe God
Ask God to help you. Ask God to give you the right motives. Promise God you'll give all the glory to him. Ask God for wisdom. Ask God for the ability to put this drama thing on. Ask God to bless your mouth. Ask God for boldness. Ask the Holy Spirit to be present, throughout the whole process, involved in the whole process, motivating me to God's will, and not my own. And before you do anything: COMMIT THE DRAMA TO GOD.
Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in
him; and he shall bring it to pass. Psalm 37:5
And in like spirit, read and claim Proverbs 3:5-6: "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." These are pure and powerful promises. These, with prayer, are the most important things to drama, from Step 1 to actually putting on the drama in church. God WILL help you through this, and it will be a blessing for you, and for those that God blesses during the drama.
Gospel drama is ABOUT scripture. It should be based on Bible verses if it is to be considered Gospel Drama. The Good News should be the foundation of every drama, so the drama should be uplifting, which does not mean it can't be sad, and it should be positive, which does not mean that it cannot deal with negative things, and it should point people to Jesus, even if His name is never mentioned.
The Bold Drama
When you decide to actually put on a drama, do it with everything ya got! Don't do some half-hearted attempt. Don't be shy, and don't let your people be shy. Shyness is not the way to present the Gospel. No coyness allowed. If you're going to do it? Do it with all your strength!
Whatever work you find to do, do it with
all your might! Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NJB)
The Bible is very clear that, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are to be BOLD. When the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, they went out into the streets and preached the Word of God with BOLDness!
According to my earnest expectation and
my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed,
but that with all boldness, as always, so now
also Christ shall be magnified in my body,
whether it be by life, or by death. Philippians 1:20
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter
into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a
new and living way, which he hath conse-
crated for us, through the veil, that is to say,
his flesh; And having an high priest over the
house of God; Let us draw near with a true
heart in full assurance of faith, having our
hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and
our bodies washed with pure water. Let us
hold fast the profession of our faith without
wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
And let us consider one another to provoke
unto love and to good works: Not forsaking
the assembling of ourselves together, as the
manner of some is; but exhorting one another:
and so much the more, as ye see the day
approaching. Hebrews 10:19-25
Don't see the people. Let it all be about the message first, primarily. The message comes first, the people second. So, "see" the message. Which is another way of saying: "Keep your focus on Jesus." Not on yourself, not on the people. Jesus is the message. Focus on Him. You can't go wrong. This is true boldness. Because God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of love, and power (2 Timothy 1:7) and a sound mind!
When you do drama in church you will need to speak from your diaphragm, not your throat. Let your voice boom up from your gut, and project out over the building, even if you are in a tiny chapel, even if you have microphones. Even during practice, speak in loud voices, practice using the diaphragm, and encourage everyone to do the same. At first it will be tricky, as everyone in their daily lives pretty much just use the wind power from their larynx, the throat wind, and not the strength that is available from using the diaphragm. Put your hand on your stomach and push in, and talk from there, with boldness!
And with this practical boldness, props are not really necessary. You can visualize the set, such as a mountain scene with a rushing river, and by visualizing it, the congregation will too. People like to use their imagination, and with your drama you can give them a means of employing their imagination in a good way. Turn their imagination to thinking of good things, not the negative things of this world.
Practice Makes Perfect?
Maybe for a piano recital it does, or for your golf game, but not in Gospel Drama. If you were going to put on a ten-minute drama with four actors, you might possibly wish to call everyone together, once two weeks before the drama, and once a week before, and then the morning of the drama run through it all again, all together. And then pray. No, PRAAAAY. Trust in God.
It's more important to allow the Holy Spirit to work through you, then it is to practice, practice, practice. This is what I believed even before my wife and I put on a first drama, and it is what I believe now, today, with all my heart, after putting on more than 120 Gospel Dramas (some of them performed multiple times).
It is very easy to over practice, to get it all down pat, and go out and give it your all, with all your talent, and then there be no real blessing. Because this is TV kind of methodology and mindset. Gospel Drama always needs the supernatural, power from on high, God's blessing, and the Holy Spirit inside you, working through you.
Get a good working flow with everyone. Try and learn everyone's strengths, weaknesses, their nervous tics and the places they might forget their script. And keep everyone loose. Keep reminding them that it is through the power of God this drama is going to work, and not because anyone is so good that there will be no mistakes.
Stick to the Script, or Improvise?
I always assure everyone that if they can say it in a better way, a way in which they feel more comfortable, or can deliver the line better as if they had just thought it up, then go for it! Don't be a stickler for written words; however, don't change the meaning of the message. It's very easy to improvise and say something completely at odds with the message in the script, and to yourself you don't ever sense the blooper. But the message-at-heart is more important than the lines that deliver the message.
Some people are best at improvising, saying the words as they need them, while others cannot improvise their way out of a soggy paper bag. To each his own. If clinging to the script serves you, then do your best to memorize the script. Then again, don't forget that if you have read it once, the Holy Spirit can aid you in recalling it when you need to recall it.
Clinging to the Script
If you can't memorize for the life of you, there are many ways to actually have the script before you. It can be hidden in a magazine that you pick up and casually leaf through, or spread about on a table to which you glance down at -- if you're using a laptop computer as prop, you can have the script right on the screen! For a tricky line that you just know you're going to forget, put in on half a 3'x5' index card, and hold it in your palm, or put it somewhere on whatever you're using as a stage.
The "Dramatic Reading" is another way to put on a drama that is highly effective. Have your actors sit in a half-circle in front of the congregation, facing them, and then read the script without acting it out (of course, this works better with some scripts than others, for scripts involving much action, you might need to rework the script around a "narrator," someone who actually reads the descriptive passages). Walking about, reading from the script, or acting with script in hand, doesn't work as well, but can be done successfully.
Also, the "Dramatic Mime" is very powerful. In this, you have two teams. One team reads the lines with microphones, either sitting in an adjoining room with a clear line of sight to the actors on stage, or sitting at the front of the congregation, with backs to the audience. This first team keeps half an eye on the actors, who are the second team. The actors act out the scene on the stage, but do not speak; they can move their mouths as if they were speaking, but it is the Team #1 reading the script that actually provides the audio stimulation. Team #2, the actors, can actually be a little behind, listening for the reading of the script, and when they hear "their words" coming out of the speakers, they silently mime those words.
Church, not Hollywood
Always keep in mind -- you might have to keep reminding yourself -- this is all about serving God, and your fellow man (and woman), not about getting a big break in Hollywood. Keep prayer ever present, always base your drama on scripture (it can match the scripture the pastor is speaking from, or if a stand-alone drama you might wish to read the scripture to the congregation first). Drama is good for Bible studies at home (it can loosen up the group as well as illuminate scripture) or in addition to a choir program, or vespers service, or special worship service in church.
But always keep humble, keep prayer ever there, and the Bible your foundation, and keep your eyes on the Savior, trusting Him that His promises are real, that He will help you; always allow the Holy Spirit His chance to work through you -- we don't "use" the Holy Spirit, He uses us.
And have fun. Humor is great, as long as it is appropriate. In practice, if someone flubs their lines, enjoy a good laugh with them, and also allow everyone to laugh when you blow your own lines.
If you do get your call to Hollywood, maybe you can take something positive along with you!
Ways to aid this ministry include praying for this site www.TruthSeek.net, www.DeceivingtheElect.net, and www.DramaticParables.com, donations and provision may be gifted using the TruthSeekGift page (and please only use this if you feel you are inspired by God to do so), and also feel free to use the Prayer Request page to submit prayer requests, and praying for the prayer requests of others, as well as exploring the various advertisements and links on these pages (regrettably, the advertising is necessary to recompense the many costs of keeping a website running, so exploration of the advertisers, which are not connected to any of these studies, is greatly appreciated). Any aid is joyously accepted, even if that means a smile and a well-wish. Thank you so much!
Christian drama, Gospel drama, Christianity in roleplay, scripts that illuminate and teach scripture, using the Bible alone, the Bible says that God speaks through "similitude," which is a parable that is acted out .