Drama in the pulpit
Part two of our interview with Andrew Page
You've just written a new book for Bible Study leaders. How do you see the interplay between Sunday preaching and the midweek homegroup? Is there any?
Yes, I’ve just written a sister book to the preaching one: it’s called ‘How to Lead Group Bible Study so that People Meet God’. As far as interplay between Sunday preaching and midweek home group is concerned, that will obviously vary from church to church. But it seems to me that group Bible study gives everyone the opportunity to talk about a Bible passage with one another, something that is not normally part of a Sunday service.
So I think Sunday preaching and home group Bible study are essential parts of healthy church life.
What can we as preachers do, do you think, to improve the quality of what happens midweek in homegroups?
Well, you could give copies of my book to your home group leaders!
First, there is more to home groups than the Bible study part: key parts of a home group certainly include the Bible, but also love, worship and prayer. So church leaders should be thinking and praying about who could best do training for home group leaders, recognising that it may not be the minister or vicar of the church.
Second, if preachers are excited about the way the Spirit speaks through the Bible, that will affect the way our home groups are.
And third, if the church provides the home groups with pre-prepared group Bible study material, the leadership need to make sure that it’s of good quality. Not all published material is, in my opinion.
You created something called The Mark Drama. What is that exactly?
The Mark Drama is 15 people from a local church or a student Christian Union acting out every incident in Mark’s Gospel as theatre-in-the-round. This is done without scenery, costumes or props. The Mark Drama, until the Covid pandemic cut things short, was being performed in around 18 countries around the world. It is performed without an interval and lasts around 90 minutes. You can find out more by going to themarkdrama.com.
There is no script. Much of the drama is improvised, with the help of the director. The only exception is that the Jesus actor has learnt almost all the Jesus words in the whole of the Gospel. And it’s deliberate that Mark Drama is not performed by professionals: the power of the drama is not in the acting, but in the story itself and in the astonishing words of Jesus.
The only preparation that 14 of the team have to do before the first rehearsal is to learn the order of all the events in Mark’s Gospel: this is absolutely doable, especially if people use my book The Mark Experiment to help them. And the whole thing comes together through no more than 12 hours of rehearsal. It shouldn’t work, but it does!
I am amazed by the power of the drama. My vision is that people who would not see themselves as Christians, and who may never have read a Gospel as an adult, will be impacted as they experience the whole of Mark. They see the slowness of the disciples, the attacks of the religious leaders and the love and compassion of Jesus. In the first half of the drama there is some humour, but in the second half things become increasingly serious as Jesus predicts his death and goes to Jerusalem and to the cross.
Many people who wouldn’t see themselves as Christians will take a Mark’s Gospel afterwards, or join a Christianity Explored or an Alpha course: so the Mark Drama is often a very significant step in someone’s journey to faith in Jesus. But don’t get me wrong: the drama has a huge impact on Christians too, and most of all on the acting team.
Do you feel drama like that can have a role in supporting preaching & teaching? Do we focus too much on the pulpit event?
I am very committed to public Bible exposition, not as a lecture but as an event, which is why I wrote “How to Teach the Bible so that People Meet God”. Things like the Mark Drama can create in the audience the desire to know more, and a key thing for many will be to hear Scripture read and explained. So there is no way that I want drama to replace preaching!
So I certainly think good Christian drama can be a great support to preaching and teaching. Having said that, the Sunday service sermon is not the only way that the Bible can be taught: small groups offer the opportunity for people to grow in their knowledge and understanding of the Bible. But I am still convinced that public declaration of God’s truth is essential. However, my fear is that some Bible teaching today is like a lecture: the content may be good but there is little room - or expectation - for the Spirit to use the Bible to speak into our lives. I think we need to be praying that, as the Bible is taught, a supernatural event will take place.
I think two enemies of Christian churches are Bible teaching with little biblical content and Bible teaching which is more a lecture than an event. So my advice to preachers (and to me, too) is: Be ambitious! Ask the Holy Spirit to equip you to teach the Bible faithfully and relevantly, and to make your sermons a supernatural event in which people meet God.
For more info you can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Page was a missionary in Austria for 20 years, involved with student work and pastoring a Baptist Church. He is a passionate Bible teacher, and loves helping others to preach, too. He is also the creator of the Mark Drama, in which a team of 15 Christians from a church or a CU acts out every incident in the Gospel of Mark as theatre-in-the-round. Andrew returned to the UK in 2007 and is a member of Above Bar Church, Southampton.
Image: the Mark Drama themarkdrama.com