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“Drama captures the minds, the imaginations,
and the emotions of the audience.”
God is theatrical. It has been said, “All of creation is a theater for God’s glory.” 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.
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.
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.” The word “drama” actually comes from a Greek word meaning “to do.” 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.” 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. 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. 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. Oral interpretation and dramatic presentation can be effective and essential tools for a public speaker!
 “Oral Interpretation,” http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/oral+interpretation (cited 20 March 2013) American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 2009).
Christians in leadership will often be called on to speak or teach. A Bible lesson will frequently be the focus of a Sunday School class, Bible study group, or special event. While some principles are the same as a general speech, a Bible lesson differs in significant ways.
The Bible is the best primary starting place for a Bible lesson or inspirational message. While there are many other excellent resources, the text of Scripture should always be considered first. A speaker can confidently proclaim truth from God’s Word because the Bible is a trustworthy source of information. A speaker can have complete confidence while proclaiming truth from God’s Word because it has nothing to do with one’s own capability or strength. The Bible can stand alone based on its inerrancy, infallibility, and inspiration by the Holy Spirit. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by Godand is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Exposition of Scripture is a serious task. Time and energy are involved to interpret the meaning of Scripture correctly and then teach the truth to others clearly. An expository preacher needs to spend hours each week studying the text in preparation to deliver a biblical message each Sunday. Be grateful for a pastor who faithfully teaches the Word week after week. Practice these principles of biblical exposition when teaching or speaking. Teach the Bible, not your personal opinions or the opinions of others. Speculation or the sharing of personal thoughts as “gospel” should be avoided. Teach the meaning of the text more than your own experiences or feelings. Teach the Bible clearly including accurate interpretation and relevant application.
When I (Rhonda) stand up to teach the Bible or share an inspirational message, I do so after hours of prayer and study. As I begin speaking, I give my message to the Lord. I focus on the text and biblical truths, limiting my personal opinions until the application part. Women respond positively when a passage of Scripture is interpreted and then applied. The practice of exposition is always worth the effort.
The five F’s below should be helpful practices as you teach a Bible lesson to a group.
- Focus on a specific passage of Scripture.
- Find the central idea or biblical principle of the passage.
- Feel the need of your audience for the biblical principle.
- Fashion your message for the audience.
- Faith your delivery, allowing God to speak through you.
As a Bible study teacher or Christian speaker, begin the preparation process with exegesis and hermeneutics. Continue the delivery process with homiletics and exposition. There are many more tips and helps for practicing these disciplines in our book, Talking is a Gift! Speak truth from the Bible, citing references. Teach the Bible systematically for the purpose of life change!
A great resource for you as you prepare your message is the newly released Study Bible for Women from Broadman & Holman, along with the Women’s Evangelical Old Testament and New Testament Commentaries! I had the joy of compiling and editing these works with my sister-in-law, Dr. Dorothy Patterson of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For more information and to purchase any of the books in this series, click here.