Drama Programs Do Not Belong in Church

Stage with lights

I studied theatre in college, planning for acting to be my career. After almost two decades, God moved me out of theatre as a career. My church is now my current employer (along with PJ Media, of course). For the record, I still love theatre; I still love reading plays and theatre theory books and reminiscing about the almost eighty theatre productions that I was privileged to be involved in, either as an actor or director. I even enjoy attending theatre productions.

But I dread the inevitable question from family and new friends, "Do you run the drama programs at your church?"

I dread it because my answer is a resounding, "No!" And my "no" is resounding because I don't think drama programs belong in the church.

I believe that for two main reasons:

  1. Plays and/or skits have no place in the worship of our Creator God on the Lord's Day, and
  2.  I love theatre

I subscribe to what's called the Regulative Principle of Worship. Quoting Derek Thomas of Ligonier Ministries, "the regulative principle of worship states that the corporate worship of God is to be founded upon specific directions of Scripture."

In a nutshell, and borrowing from countless preachers, the Bible commands that on the Lord's Day we pray the Word (the Bible), sing the Word, read the Word, preach the Word, give to the ministry of the Word, and reenact the Word in the two ordinances (sacraments), baptism and communion. Other elements in the worship service are included based on whether or not they aid the required aspects of worship. For example, while churches are not required by the Bible to have air conditioning, it's hard to argue against the fact that A/C aids in worship, especially during the hot summer months. Drama programs do not fit under the Bible's rubric for required elements of worship, and they do not aid people as they seek to worship and praise God through the required elements. In fact, drama programs steal attention that should be focused solely on God.

Setting aside the fact that theatre is a performance art and begs for attention to be placed on the performers, theatre focuses attention on conflict. Without conflict, there is no theatre — at least, no theatre worth watching. In and of itself, that would be fine for church. There is conflict in the gospel of Jesus Christ — humans are born as sinners and are estranged from their Creator God. The gospel recognizes a problem (conflict) that needs to be solved. However, the format of theater is not well-suited to presenting propositional solutions. Theatre that provides hard and fast answers is called agit-prop (propaganda) theatre, and that type of theatre is manipulative and usually poorly done.

In contrast, while a story, the Bible's message is dependent on propositional statements — truth statements. The story of Redemption calls the listener to respond to propositional content. Here are some propositional statements that are at the core of the gospel of Jesus Christ: