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Go Ahead. Be Dramatic.

Drama captures the minds, the imaginations,

and the emotions of the audience.[1]

God is theatrical. It has been said, “All of creation is a theater for God’s glory.”[2] Numerous biblical accounts demonstrate that God is powerful and mighty in His actions and purposes. He created everything from nothing: the heavens and the earth, the sky and land, the birds and fish, man and woman. He continues to perform supernatural miracles, signs, and wonders to work in the world and gain attention from His children. His dramatic demonstrations of power are seen today in nature, during hurricanes, earthquakes, and blizzards. God is all–powerful; He is omnipotent in His being and His behavior.

The Old Testament records numerous wonders of God. Moses experienced the dramatic work of God when the angel of the Lord spoke to him from the burning bush that was not consumed. When the Israelites fled Pharaoh’s army, God manifested His power in dramatic fashion by parting the Red Sea, allowing His children to cross safely to the other side. Balaam’s donkey talked. The walls of Jericho fell down. The widow’s son was raised from the dead. Elijah was carried into heaven. The widow’s oil was multiplied. Elisha’s bones were revived from the dead. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were delivered from the fiery furnace. Daniel was protected in the lion’s den. Jonah was saved from the belly of a whale. God demonstrated His mighty power in dramatic miracles in the Old Testament.[3]

The New Testament also contains many accounts of God’s dramatic intervention, often through the ministry of Jesus. Though Jesus refused to give a miraculous sign on command to prove His authority, He performed miraculous signs during His ministry. Jesus changed water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana. He healed Peter’s mother-in-law. He calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. He healed the woman with a hemorrhage, and raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. He fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, and He walked on the water. He healed a stooped woman, and He raised Lazarus from the grave. Jesus demonstrated His mighty power in dramatic ways in the New Testament.[4]

God has exhibited His power through wonders and signs, and Jesus performed many miracles in His ministry. These dramatic demonstrations accomplished divine purposes, met human needs, and evidenced the truth of the gospel. As God’s instruments, Christian communicators may use dramatic presentations to convey a biblical message or illustrate a spiritual principle. Consider how you may be able to integrate drama into your public speaking as you continue reading!

Drama is the “compression of human experience into a story we can view on the stage.”[5] The word “drama” actually comes from a Greek word meaning “to do.”[6] It implies action, involving a performer and an audience. Drama is a form of literature and can be prose, verse, or dialogue. It illustrates a message and can be presented from a script, by improvisation, through mime, or spontaneously during a speech. According to Lewis and others in The Complete Guide to Church Play Production: “Drama shoots darts into the hearts of the audience and pulls them out with emotions attached.”[7] When drama is used by Christian speakers, it should be God-glorifying and Christ-centered. The message, not the medium, is the focus of a biblical truth presented dramatically.

Drama is a powerful method of expression. It speaks to the total person—physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual.[8] The body performs the actions of drama. The mind conceives and interprets drama. The emotions express feelings and portray passions. The spirit convicts through the verbal and nonverbal message. Christians can use drama to stimulate and persuade the audience to consider their personal relationship with Christ. Therefore, Christian speakers should be open to drama in certain public presentations.

Oral interpretation is a dramatic art, also called interpretive reading or dramatic reading.[9]  It is the presentation of a literary work with feeling and expression, for the purpose of enlightenment. Oral interpretation and dramatic performance are similar in public speaking though slightly different in academic contexts. Oral interpretation is taught typically in speech communication programs, while drama is taught in the departments of theater arts. Both are appropriate for public speaking.

Oral interpretation began 3,000 years ago with the classical Greek philosophers who used formal oratory to teach and persuade. Eugene and Margaret Bahn wrote a History of Oral Interpretation to document the development from the classical Greek through the ancient Roman, Medieval Period, and Renaissance as well as the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. The oral interpretation of literature has continued into the 21st century, though its nature, practice, and trends have varied.[10] Oral interpretation and dramatic presentation can be effective and essential tools for a public speaker!

            [1] Matt Tullos, Show Me: Drama in Evangelism (Nashville: Convention Press, 1996), 5.

            [2] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. and indexed by Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1967), 1:6:2 (72).

            [3] Ex 3:1-22; Ex 14:15-31; Num 22:22-41; Josh 6:1-21; 1 Kg 17:17-24; 2 Kg 2:1-12; 2 Kg 4:1-7; 2 Kg 13:14-21; Dan 3:8-30; Dan 6:10-18; Jonah 1:1-2:10

            [4] Mark 8:11-12; John 2:1-12; Matt 8:14-15; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:42-48; Matt 9:18-26; Mark 6:30-44; John 6:16-21; Luke 7:11-17; Luke 13:10-17; John 11:38-44.

            [5] Alison Siewart and others, Drama Team Handbook (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 15.

            [6] John Lewis, Laura Andrews, and Flip Kobler, The Complete Guide to Church Play Production (Nashville: Convention Press, 1997), 277.

            [7] Ibid., 277.

            [8] Everett Robertson, The Dramatic Arts in Ministry (Nashville: Convention Press, 1989), 7.

            [9] “Oral Interpretation,” http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/oral+interpretation (cited 20 March 2013) American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 2009).

            [10] Eugene and Margaret L. Bahn,  A History of Oral Interpretation (Minneapolis: Burgess, 1970), 174.


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