Misplaced Emphasis and Missed Opportunities

Although the title of this article presents a negative connotation, my goal in writing it is one of encouragement.

Many Christian schools and homeschooling groups present a spring play with either their elementary or high school students, or both. Unfortunately, the mindset of some of those school drama instructors is that, in order for a program to be a quality presentation, it must be a “classic.” Many use only secular dramas, musicals, etc. I would like to encourage these teachers to climb out of the rut of secular thinking and view their yearly spring production as an opportunity from the Lord.

The opportunity is threefold:

  1. To help students see the need to develop their talents for God’s glory, not their own
  2. To edify believers
  3. To evangelize the lost

A Christian school should be just that–Christian. Why should a parent spend his hard-earned dollars to have his children trained to use their God-given gifts for their own self-glory or only for entertainment purposes? I am not saying there is never a time to present a “good” secular play whose moral attributes are in line with God’s Word. But how much better it would be to show these children that “there is joy in serving Jesus”? I know, from past personal experience, the worldly and prideful pull drama can have on an individual if that dramatic talent is not channeled toward service for Christ.

What are your objectives in presenting a drama? Is it just to have a spring program of some sort, or is it to strengthen your students’ walk with God? I visited a fundamental Christian college’s acting class a few years ago and was appalled by the material the professor had selected for the students to use. They first had to read through the script and delete all the swear words in the original play! This same professor had been approached earlier by one of the students about using Christian drama instead. The student had been told the faulty line of reasoning: “It has to be a classic.” Who says? Is that God’s criteria or the world’s? Was writing talent only given to those who lived in the ancient past or those who write for Broadway? Are we training our future generation for Hollywood or ministry? This philosophy, or lack of a Biblical philosophy, has carried over to many who are going out from our fundamental colleges to teach in Christian schools. Many of these schools have never presented a Christian play; it is always a secular drama or musical. Why? Several years ago, I happened to be at a well-known Christian school at the time they were presenting an operetta. Although the storyline was fine, the lead female’s costume was very immodest, especially when she and the other girls in the cast began prancing around the stage in a choreographed sequence.

I strongly believe it’s time to rethink our goals in this area. We, as fundamentalists, are totally opposed to the use of sinful music. Why, then, do we fail to see the danger in some of the dramatic productions we endorse? Are we seeking man’s applause now or God’s applause later?

Apart from the development of talent, this is a golden opportunity to edify believers. Choose a play that will encourage Christians to live their faith, to endure through trails, to trust the Lord. Biographical plays, hymn stories reenacted, Scripture brought to life in dramatic form, fiction that relates Biblical truth through the lives of the characters–all of these will help build up the believers in the audience, not to mention the cast and crew who work with the script for weeks or months.

Last, but definitely not least, is evangelism. Many friends and family members will come see “Johnny” or “Sue” in a play who otherwise would never darken the door of a church. Why not give them the gospel while they’re there? They are constantly bombarded by Hollywood; they’ve probably already seen that secular production in which you’ve invested so much time, energy, and money. Treat them to something different, something pure and good, something with a strong, clear gospel message. Over and over, Christ used earthly stories to give a heavenly message. Why shouldn’t we?

A comment I hear quite often is, “We’re so glad we found you! There’s not much out there for Christian drama that’s worth producing.” It is true that much of what is available in the way of Christian drama is poorly written and uninteresting or treats God’s Word flippantly. However, the good news is that there are solid dramatic resources with great plot lines, interesting characters, and a clear Biblical message! Below is a list of a few of those options. If you know of more, perhaps you could add to the list!

  • Bob Jones University Press–(The Press has both secular and sacred programs and plays available for elementary and high school students.)
  • Bringing the Truth to Light–Contact Alan Behn at abehn@nbbc.edu.(Several small, easily staged one act plays plus two full-length dramas.)
  • Dramatic Difference Publications–A catalog is available upon request. (Many full-length plays, programs, musicals, and cantatas are available in an affordable reproducible format. This is a great source for high school drama material, although some programs are suitable for elementary school and junior high students, as well.)
  • Faith Publication–810-653-9661 or faithpub@msn.com–A list of resources is available upon request. (Jim Potter has many resources in a variety of dramatic forms from 20 minutes to 1 ½ hours in length for junior high age through high school.)
  • Check with the Fine Arts Department of fundamental Christian colleges. Many of the faculty have been involved in the writing of sacred plays and programs.
  • For dramatic resources in several different genres (including reader’s theater, choral readings, monologues, hymn history vignettes, and two missionary dramas) contact Joy Wagner at 303-922-830 or email her at jwagner@rrm.org.
  • Another option would be the Academy of Arts–Nicky Chavers’ qualified staff will come to your school or homeschooling group to help your students develop and perform one of their productions. There is a sizable fee involved.

In closing, I would like to quote from a letter I received a couple of years ago. It reflects the burden I have for us, in fundamental circles, to embrace a desire to glorify God in the area of drama.

“It is the day after our final showing of ‘In Due Season.’ As the sets, costumes, props, and clutter from the play have all been cleared away, I reflect with fond memories on that which has consumed my life for the last several months. I feel the need to write to you and express my gratitude. You had encouraged me that we could tackle a full-fledged play (as a medium small school with no professional theater people on staff) and that you would be praying for us as well as for eternal results. The students and I poured our lives into making this play come alive…As we perfected the characters and their emotions, the interwoven messages of the play began to permeate the whole cast, transforming lives. Our prayers turned from ‘help each actor remember his lines’ to ‘help us to be worthy to proclaim this message,’ and ‘may the message of this play reach into every heart in the audience.’ None of us will ever be the same.

I had made a commitment many years ago that I would not ever have the school kids just “perform” for the sake of performing, but that every song or script I would teach them would be one that honored God. Thus, it was God’s leading that I found your play. What a privilege it has been to see my students realize for themselves that things are only worth doing if they have a Godly message. They learned that God can work through them to change people’s lives.

One grandfather, who used to be faithful in a church, wrote an email to us in the middle of the night saying that he could not get the meaning of the play out of his mind. He said he was in awe that such a magnificent group effort could have such a powerful message. He said we were on a mission to proclaim that we were not ashamed to show forth our faithfulness to Christ. The Holy Spirit is obviously working on him. One of our new students helped with the stage changes. After sitting through the play three times, he wrote in his chapel notes that he wanted to be saved and to serve the Lord. There were many visitors in attendance who will receive a visit from our visitation pastor. Many seeds were sown. Who knows how far reaching the effects of this play will be? I can’t help but feel that some of our actors are being called into the ministry, with this play being a stepping stone towards that.’

What more could you ask?

Sandi Rebert is the wife of Brian Rebert, pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church in Farmington, Maine. She has been published in the past by Bob Jones University Press and several Christian periodicals. Her interest in writing and composing led to the formation of Dramatic Difference Publications, providing Christian drama and music resources to fundamental churches, Christian schools, and homeschooling groups.

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