|"Even some officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater." —Acts 19:31 (NIV)|
No, the Apostle Paul was not planning to audition for an Ephesian production of Godspell. In fact, the drama in Acts 19:31 has nothing to do with scripts and curtain calls. But I chuckle when I read that verse out of context. It reminds me that, despite inherent challenges, the performing arts is an institution that could use a dose of Christian influence—at all levels. It also prompts me to share the story of one novice thespian's most demanding role: performing for both his drama troupe and his Lord.
After being cast in a community theater production, this idealistic young man found that his character's dialogue included several profane uses of God's name. So he removed them. Simple enough. No one else in the repertory seemed to mind. However, a significant obstacle remained. At a key moment in the play, he was supposed to angrily tell another actor to, uh … do something to himself that's, er … anatomically impossible. Need I say more?
During several weeks of rehearsals, the young actor playfully substituted other f-words for the obscenity (freeze, fleece, frappé, etc.), never for an instant believing he'd actually be asked to blurt the word at an unsuspecting audience. After all, this was "family theater." The troupe had a reputation for providing entertainment for all ages. It even bused in little old ladies from a nearby retirement community. Certainly they would rewrite that one line before opening night.
Two weeks 'til curtain. The director took the young man aside and, with the support of the theater company's principal player, suggested it was time to take "the word" more seriously. Incredulously, the lad replied, "You've got to be joking. We can't use language like that on stage. It's totally inappropriate." Debate ensued. As rational argument fell on deaf ears, this Christ follower realized there was only one thing to do. He respectfully told his colleagues that, if they insisted on keeping the obscenity, they'd have to find someone else to deliver it. The show went on … without the f-word.
I must admit, it felt good.
That episode took place in 1987, four years before I joined Focus on the Family. My mission field was a humble auditorium of moms, dads, young people and, of course, those sweet gray-haired ladies from the retirement village across town. If someone had told me back then that I would spend more than 20 years battling to protect thousands of families around the world from entertainment eager to assault their sensibilities, I would have said they were crazy. I was just doing my part to preserve decency on a quiet little stage in central New Jersey.
I share that with you because I'm convinced that a lot of parents, youth leaders and teens feel inadequate to impact this postmodern culture. They look at parachurch ministries, international organizations or perhaps a high-profile megachurch and believe that God needs "size" and "clout" to make a difference. Not so. The more I talk to people, the more I hear about everyday folks with tenacious faith changing their world à la 1 Samuel 17. Don't be intimidated. Making a difference requires nothing more than lovingly using the resources, passion and opportunity God gives us. And take my word for it; the victories that go virtually unnoticed can be some of the sweetest.
In his play As You Like It, William Shakespeare proclaimed, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts." So, what part are you playing? How about your children? Do you view yourselves as vital to the success of the show, or do you feel like insignificant extras wandering beyond the reach of the spotlight? Let's never forget that, when God does the casting, every role is designed to make an eternal impact.
Published September 2011
Just recently, Bob had a chance to interview actor Kevin Sorbo, who has appeared in faith-based films including What If…, Soul Surfer and the upcoming Abel's Field. The Hercules star had this to say about his recent choice of roles: "I keep my faith pretty quiet. I'll talk about it to people, and I'll minister. And I think, in a way, I'm ministering by doing all these faith-based movies. … I believe in these types of movies, and I believe in movies that have good writing, good acting, good photography, good whatever else, but also send a solid message out there, too." Click here to see the entire conversation.