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Eternal significance of drama
Biblical, strategic, essential
Sometimes Christians have been wary of using drama. “Can it be right to communicate in this way?” they ask. Others may happily use drama for children, but consider it has no relevance for communicating to adults.
We suggest that drama is an under-used yet essential means of communicating gospel truths, both to Christians and non-Christians. Of course there are dangers. There are dangers with preaching, dangers with street witnessing, dangers with web evangelism, dangers with radio evangelism. Let’s look at why drama is biblical and effective:
- We are ‘hard-wired’ for ‘story’. The gift to create or understand
an imaginary narrative, displays itself in even very young children, even when they can
barely talk. This is quite remarkable, if you reflect upon it.
- We can only understand and remember abstract truth when it has ‘visible clothes’.
Good use of language in communication always ‘paints a picture’.
- Most cultures spend a considerable proportion of their leisure time living in this
world of story. This is true of the rich West, watching TV and cinema, reading, or
playing computer games; and in traditional cultures with story-telling, puppets or dance.
- Western Christians, being ‘people of the book’, assume that everyone around
them is part of a ‘book culture’ and obtains information the same way –
through reading and one-way formal lectures. In fact, a very large percentage of people, even
in the West, are a considerable distance along the spectrum towards what is called
an oral communciation culture.
They do not read books, ever. All their informational input is through visual images and spoken
words, through conversations with friends, or from the world of story.
- This, of course, is why a testimony can communicate so well – though only if it is
expressed in words and concepts which non-Christians
- Few people can absorb a one-way stream of information for long. The hour lecture only usually works
for the student segment of the population. Until quite recently, all research into how people learn was
based on children’s needs. But now, the field of adult learning
has uncovered some remarkable aspects of how we learn best. And surprise surprise, we find them
to be a close reflection of biblical communication!
- We remember far more of what we take in through our eyes and ears together. I can still
remember Christian dramas I saw 20 or 30 years ago.
- Evangelistic drama is one way of meeting people on their ground, not ours, as we are advised in
1 Cor 9:19-23.
It’s a way of ‘fishing on the other side of the boat’.
- The clinching argument is the example of Jesus. His method of communication to the ordinary
people was so utterly revolutionary, we still often do not understand it or use it. Although he did indeed expound OT scripture
when in the synagogue, or to his disciples, his method of communication to the mass of what we
would now call ‘unchurched’ people was dramatic story
And story culturally relevant to their situation. Israel had no culture of performing drama,
but in common with many cultures today, they loved story-telling.
And I just do not believe that Jesus told the parables in a flat monologue. He was a master reconteur. He surely enlivened the stories with different voices for different characters, gestures, facial expressions, which must have been something very close to street theater. It seems perfectly possible that he would have called up a child or two (as he did in Luke 9:46-48) to represent one or more characters in the parable.
And another thing! The stories were not a minor prelude to the ‘real’ ministry – i.e. a sermon. They were the message. Furthermore, he did not usually add in a ‘this means that’ epilogue. He left people to go away and think! So although drama can be used to reinforce an overall message, it can also be used in a stand-alone context.
Daniel Julien points out that there are many examples of mime in the Old Testament.
Other sources of drama scriptsThere are many other sources of Christian drama scripts. Do a web search for ‘Christian drama skit’ and you will find thousands of scripts, some free, some available at a modest price. You can also get a sense of the scope of drama by viewing these drama videos at YouTube.
HandbooksDramaShare.org offer a detailed manual, in several forms: book, CD, or download: Countdown to CurtainUp Manual.
IVP offers two excellent handbooks for those wishing to do drama ministry:
• Drama Team Handbook: articles on every aspect of drama ministry – from why it’s biblical to how to direct a performance, from warm-ups for actors to how to write your own sketches. You'll learn how to do drama that is simple and meaningful – without experienced actors. You’ll learn how to craft drama with authenticity and excellence. Also included are cutting-edge sketches for the postmodern crowd that you can reproduce for your drama team and use in your ministry.
• Drama Team Sketchbook – 12 Scripts That Bring the Gospels to Life: more scripts to use.
Check these articles on drama:
related pages within the Effective communication menu links
recommended books including free downloads
valuable online videos about web ministry