I recently found an article entitled “Is Performance a Dirty Word?” (Originally posted here). It deals with the ever-present comment, especially about church worship teams but also applied to just about any type of performance art used in the course of a service, “This is not a performance, it’s worship.” As a practitioner of performing arts (both music and drama), I believe that the two words are not mutually exclusive…at least they shouldn’t need to be.
I had an interesting conversation with my pastor last night. At one point, he mentioned that someone had a spiritual gift of fun. I joked that I didn’t remember that as being one of the gifts in any of the lists I had read. He continued that some people now believe that there are really an infinite number of gifts available and that they can be made to include any number of things that can be used to minister to and edify members of the congregations. He likened it to the fact that there is a list of qualifications for deacons (I Timothy 3:8-12) but only one sentence of job description (Acts 6). He said that a pastor he once worked for summed it up like this: God knew that the job description for deacons would change with the changing of times so he left the job description vague so that it could adapt as needed.
Gifts in worship can take on many forms. Yes, there are gifts given in scripture in several places…evangelism, preaching, teaching, hospitality, etc. However, like the job for deacons, the areas for gifting has also changed and expanded with the times. Music has changed. Theatre has changed. Visual Art has changed. All of these areas of the arts have changed over the years, decades and centuries since the Bible was written.
Yes. I am a performer. By that I mean that I complete all of the tasks in writing, rehearsing, preparing and presenting a drama or musical piece that any other performer in those areas would complete. Yes. I am a minister. By that I mean that I complete all of the tasks that a minister would complete in order to hopefully draw the members of the audience or congregation into a closer walk with Jesus through the drama or musical piece that I present. These are not mutually exclusive terms. It’s time (actually, long past time) for those in the church with talents in the performing arts to accept them for what they are and put as much effort into creating high-quality, God-pleasing presentations as they would to present something to a secular, school or other crowd. If it’s not work doing well, it’s not worth doing it in church has long been my anthem.