With the Christmas season officially just days away, we’ll undoubtedly begin to see quite a few churches putting on Christmas plays over the next month or so. Because the Regulative Principle of Worship has been a topic here of late, I’d thought it would be appropriate to briefly discuss the issue of drama and how it relates to the principle and the season. (If you are not familiar with the Regulative Principle of Worship, please briefly research the issue here and here in order to properly follow the line of thinking in this post.)
Drama in Public Worship
No doubt that there will be many churches this holiday season using drama to tell the story of Jesus or some other Christmas-related tale –especially here in the South. From my personal experience, Christmas plays are often seen as an important tradition, at times just as foundational as the Christmas trees and the Christmas Eve services that have become apart of our very culture. Given this traditional element, questioning the biblical precedent for the practice is often seen as cold, divisive, narrow-minded, and, must I say it, scrooge-like.
The Appeal of Christmas Drama
It certainly must be noted that drama in worship is most often employed by seeker-sensitive, Arminian ministries, in an apparent attempt to evangelize. Everybody loves Christmas, especially here in the Bible belt, and there are relatively few who actually deny the birth of Jesus as the historical root of the holiday. So for holiday cheer and tradition, the Christmas play is appealing to a very wide audience –Christian, non-Christian, Mormon, Catholic, agnostic, family, friends, coworkers, etc.
Therefore the logic among many is that we should get people into church any way possible. We have discussed the root error of this line of thinking before, which ultimately lies in the misunderstanding of the nature of sin, the will of man, and the sovereignty of God (to say nothing of the methodology given by scripture), so it needs no repeating today. But it must be emphasized that the preaching of the word, the very proclamation of Jesus Christ, is simply not good enough, according to this logic, to attract a wide audience, and so the Christmas play is employed to bring in those who wouldn’t otherwise darken the door. Christmas plays do not offend, they do not divide households, they are generally warm and fuzzy at a very family-oriented time of year, and so they provide a great impetus for the numbers-driven mindset.
Where the Regulative Principle of Worship Speaks to this Issue
Setting aside the mindset and the root cause of such thinking, drama in worship, without a doubt, *is* a violation of scripture, and the RPW rightly speaks to this very issue. But, contrary to popular belief, it must be emphasized that the RPW is *not* designed to suppress, or to put God ‘in a box’. It is rather for our good and for our greatest joy in the Lord. God Himself knows what is best for our souls, and God Himself has given us means of worship as the highest and best means of attaining grace in our lives. God, through scripture, has left drama completely out of His Word and instruction to His Church, and that for an important reason. You just won’t find drama in scripture, despite the fact that drama was very prevalent during New Testament times, and you won’t find it because drama is inadequate to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is insufficient in placing Christ as preeminent in our worship.
To break it down in practical terms:
- *What can be better for our souls than the preached Word?
- *What can be better for those outside of Christ than the clear proclamation of the gospel through the preached Word?
- *If preaching was completely sufficient to minister and save in scripture, who are we to say that it is now supplemented, at times, by better things? Has market research replaced biblical revelation?
Sadly, some believe that drama in certain situations is better for the soul than the very means which God has given us in His word. By implication, God simply left something out. By implication, the preached word, the Lord’s Table, prayer, singing of Psalms and Hymns, and baptism are insufficient for the Christian to grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. By implication, instead of the preaching of the Word bringing about faith in the unbeliever (Rom 10:14), the gospel must somehow be communicated through another media which is at times superior to the preaching of the Word.
We are to Place Christ as Preeminent in Worship
My Brethren, Jesus Christ not only demands obedience and preeminence, He has given His Word to instruct us in all matters of faith and practice. The RPW isn’t simply to avoid the judgment of God in offering ‘strange fire’ before the Lord, but it is also aimed at placing Jesus Christ as absolutely preeminent in worship. It is for our good! Drama in public worship, unfortunately, will only do more harm to your souls than good.
We have been given means to which we are to commune with Jesus Christ! Do you not see Christ as Prophet and King in the preaching and proclamation of His Word? Do you not see the broken body of Christ in the bread, and the spilled blood of Christ in the wine? Do you not see the image of Christ stamped upon the saints in their prayers and singing of hymns? Do you not see Christ as our High Priest in the prayers offered up to heaven’s throne and the preaching of the Gospel of grace? Where is Christ in drama? Where is Christ in the skits and the earthly, woefully insufficient representations of His earthly body? Where is Christ in the comedy, the showmanship, and the entertainment?
The plain fact is that we don’t see Jesus Christ in these methods; we see ourselves. And that, my friends, is why this principle is even debated. People want to be entertained, and they will respond in droves if you give that to them. But our hearts are idol factories; the subtleness runs deeper than we can imagine. Let us not look ourselves and what we want in worship, or what we think will best communicate the gospel to those outside of Christ; Christ, by His mercy, has saved us from ourselves, so let us look to Him in the Word.
We have been given Jesus Christ through the given means of worship. Let us ever seek to set Christ as preeminent in all things, especially our worship.