Why the Church Needs Drama and the Arts

In this episode, Bill Hendricks and Reg Grant explore the need for art and drama, focusing on the Sunday worship experience and everyday Christian living.

About The Table Podcast

The Table is a weekly podcast on topics related to God, Christianity, and cultural engagement brought to you by The Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. The show features a variety of expert guests and is hosted by Dr. Darrell Bock, Bill Hendricks, Kymberli Cook, Kasey Olander, and Milyce Pipkin. 

Timecodes
01:25
Why is there a debate around media arts and worship in Christian circles?
04:33
Art is speaking through images
06:54
Why has there been a loss of appreciation for art in more recent years?
09:39
Are there enough people that recognize the beauty of art and music?
10:51
The purpose of art
13:26
Absence of drama and art in churches
14:53
Biblical examples of art and drama
20:59
No such thing as Christian art
25:01
Incorporating art into Sunday sermons
26:54
Integrating God into all expressions of art
33:14
Why do arts and drama need the Church?
Transcript

Bill Hendricks: 

Hello. I want to welcome you to this edition of The Table podcast, where we discuss issues of God and culture. My name is Bill Hendricks. I'm the Executive Director for Christian Leadership at the Hendricks Center. And I want to come right to the point of our theme today. Why the church needs drama and the arts. And I can't think of anybody more qualified to speak into this area than Dr. Reg Grant, who is the Department Chair and Senior Teaching Professor of Media Arts and Worship. Reg, welcome to The Table podcast. 

Reg Grant: 

Thank you. Good to be here. 

Bill Hendricks: 

I always feel like media arts and the Hendricks center were sort of cousins were like joined at the hips. 

Reg Grant: 

Yeah. 

Bill Hendricks: 

We have a lot of things in common. But I feel like with this announced theme, why the church needs drama and the arts, I'm in a sense asking you to justify your job here at Dallas Seminary. 

Reg Grant: 

You're not the first. 

Bill Hendricks: 

And frankly, yes. And to justify the existence of the media arts and worship department. Let me ask, why is this even an issue? Why would we not be thinking about worship or about media arts and worship? 

Reg Grant: 

Because the arts are slippery. I used to tell my students if DTS had a flag, our colors would be black and white because we are more comfortable in a yes or a no. And shades of gray are difficult to navigate, but that's where the arts live. They live in shades of gray. They live in the colorful fringes that are unique to our discipline. It doesn't mean that there isn't truth here. There is truth here. There is truth that is nuanced here. 

Bill Hendricks: 

I was going to say nuances loom large in this conversation. 

Reg Grant: 

It is. But it makes those who have been raised with a more definitive kind of an attitude toward you do it or you don't. It's good or it's bad. To have more difficulty in being comfortable with that level of mystery. We're not strong on mystery. Mystery makes a lot of our colleagues and just brothers and sisters in the Lord uncomfortable because there isn't a real hard and fast yes and no in the realm of mystery. And it's something that invites us in and invites us to recognize, I think that, and acknowledge that we are dependent because the closer you come to a black and a white, the closer you come to being able to control- 

Bill Hendricks: 

Very good 

Reg Grant: 

Your world. 

Bill Hendricks: 

It's my experience that humans hate uncertainty. 

Reg Grant: 

Yeah. 

Bill Hendricks: 

We hate uncertainty. And so black and white gives us, at least sometimes, an illusion of certainty. It's ironic because when we talk about God Himself, ultimately He, while He's revealed Himself to us in ways that are reasonable, He Himself goes beyond reason into mystery. 

Reg Grant: 

Yeah. Yeah. 

Bill Hendricks: 

And that's scary for us. 

Reg Grant: 

Well sure because I mean the old temptation to become God hasn't gone away. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Right. 

Reg Grant: 

We still would like wisdom right now and don't make me wait for it. And that's what got Adam and Eve into trouble. They were approached with the abundance of the garden of the orchard in front of them. And they were given a really simple test but the temptation to gain wisdom quickly, immediately on their timetable superseded their desire to follow the Lord. And that's where they got into trouble. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Hans Rookmaaker is a name that I know looms large in your field. Hans Rookmaaker, for our listeners, lived back in the 20th century and was Dutch and was a professor, a scholar. And he spoke a lot about art, art history, philosophy, became very good friends with Francis Shaeffer. And in fact, formed a branch of LaBree up in the Netherlands. And he said that art tries literally to picture the things which philosophy tries to put into carefully thought out words. It's the same idea that you're now speaking in art, not so much through words, but through images, through portrayals, through story. 

Reg Grant: 

Through sound. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Through sound. And so it's a different calculus. 

Reg Grant: 

It is. One way that I like to think about it is it's pretty much the opposite of a materialist frame of reference when we try to interpret reality. You cannot unravel mind. You can understand the brain. You can understand that this is a collection of neurons, but that's not what a person is. That's not what a mind is. You cannot unravel consciousness. Nobody can do that. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Right. 

Reg Grant: 

God alone created mind and consciousness and an awareness, as CS Lewis said, of a greater reality beyond this one. How do you boil that down to neurological synapses firing? It's just not a materialist... You're going to come to the end of yourself before too long if you're a full blown materialist. And I think in the arts, while on the one hand we may say, oh yeah, I'm a materialist. I mean those who are not Christians yet or believers yet would feel more comfortable with the materialist kind of an approach. But in practice, when they exercise their giftedness, they're anything but, or they're not good artists. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Yeah. So let's just backtrack. How did we get here? Because we have in Christian history, this rather rich history of creativity and the arts and music and even drama, the middle ages, the churches are holding Christmas masks and they're telling stories publicly in the streets. And then you have this explosion of art in the Renaissance. How did that all suddenly, or maybe it wasn't sudden, but how did we get from there to what I might call sort of a sterile vision of art today? 

Reg Grant: 

The enlightenment. The enlightenment combined with Oliver Cromwell, who came in and closed all the theaters in the mid 17th century and thought he could stamp out this pestilence of creativity, and it just will not stay down. It will not go away. It keeps popping back up because people are made in the image of God and- 

Bill Hendricks: 

They will create. 

Reg Grant: 

They will create. It's part of who we are. It's in our spiritual DNA, whether or not the person acknowledges Christ as Lord or not. Those people are all created in the image of God and have an impulse, compulsion to create that can't be denied by something as simplistic as an atheistic approach to life. Just doesn't work. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Yeah. Oh, creativity is irrepressible. 

Reg Grant: 

Yeah. 

Bill Hendricks: 

I think of how would anybody possibly shut off a Mozart? The guy's composing in his sleep. He cannot not compose. He cannot not hear that music and want to bring it out. 

Reg Grant: 

Yeah. And when you think of Bach. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Yes. 

Reg Grant: 

We don't have a lot of his works. And they were finding his works. People were using them to wrap fish, his compositions. That's how some of the most magnificent work of Bach was discovered wrapping fish because people didn't recognize, to a large extent, his genius especially on the basic societal level of the very poor people to whom he ministered in his churches, didn't recognize it. They just got a new Cantata every week and had no idea what it meant to compose something, the genius behind it. So we almost lost most of Bach. And if it weren't for some people intervening, then we would have. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Well, that kind of raises the question of there's this masterpiece, but are there enough people who recognize it, recognize what they're even listening to? 

Reg Grant: 

It doesn't matter. The reason it doesn't matter is because if the piece is done well, and it doesn't stand up and trumpet I am creative. I am a genius. I'm creating all this wonderful stuff and why aren't you appreciating it? If it does its job of revealing, from a Christian point of view, if we do our job of revealing Christ who is beauty, He is goodness, He is truth. If we do our job of revealing that then the people will be affected even though they might not be able to rationally deconstruct it and understand why they're being affected. But a good story well told is going to have an impact on the listening audience or the viewing audience that a simple grocery list of do's and don'ts will never have because there's a motivational element in the story that's lacking in a grocery list. 

Reg Grant: 

So we need to be doing what we're doing well to the best of our ability under the control of God's Spirit because it works. Because that's the avenue through the local church that God is using to transform us. Not society. Our goal isn't the transformation of society. Our goal is to mirror Christ. The transformation of society is up to God. If we make that our goal, we're going to be frustrated artists our whole life. Our job is to mirror Him and let Him take care of the results. 

Bill Hendricks: 

So do you see that happening in the church and among Christians today? 

Reg Grant: 

More and more I do. I'm encouraged by what I see in the local church. As I travel around the world and go into churches in different parts of the world, it's not rocket science. It's real simple. I have been in South America and been in a church in Ecuador, in Quito, where I was able to see... It was just a cinder block church. Very, very basic. It had space between the roof and the wall to let air circulate and just unpainted raw concrete floor. I think it might have even been dirt. As we were singing these Christian hymns, I stood behind. One man was a Quechua, another man was a Huaorani, another man was a Jivaro. Now two years prior to that, they would've killed each other. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Right. 

Reg Grant: 

They were singing praises to God. And the binding force that the Spirit used to unify this group was music. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Mm. 

Reg Grant: 

Music bound these brothers in Christ together and gave them the opportunity to celebrate the risen savior in a way that was so basic and yet so profound in its exercise. We have a man here at Dallas seminary named Todd Agnew. Todd is fantastic musician, and he's also a worship pastor. And I think those two things go together so well. Being a pastor and a musician whose heart is for his people. And Todd does such a magnificent job of replicating the life of Christ in the pulpit and in the classroom as he's teaching. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Hmm. Reg your whole background is particularly on the drama side of things. And to this day, I know you still do acting an one man productions and storytelling and so forth and so on. That seems to be a part of the creative fields that is missing in action in many churches today. 

Reg Grant: 

Yeah. It's a discipline that's... I said it's not rocket science, but there is technique involved. And there is discipline and it's hard work. Most of the time, if a church isn't participating in promoting or participating in drama, it's because they haven't been exposed to it on the church side of things. Now, everybody in that congregation's going to go home and watch Arnold Schwarzenegger and watch movies and things like that. But the connecting point between what's possible and what... there's a secular sacred division that's not healthy. In this case, it's not healthy because there are opportunities to explore the use of drama and it's biblical. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Right. 

Reg Grant: 

We have many biblical examples of the Lord commanding drama in the worshiping community for the furtherance of his message. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Give us an example. 

Reg Grant: 

Okay. Isaiah 20, the Lord tells Isaiah to take off his clothes. Now, Isaiah was probably a pretty well to-do dude, but the Lord gets him to go real basic. And even to the point of exposing a kind of at least a semi-naked quality to him and he went parading through Israel as a sign to Israel that judgment was coming and they were going to be led away. 

Bill Hendricks: 

It was street theater. 

Reg Grant: 

Yeah. Yeah. Ezekiel. Ezekiel, 4:1-8. The Lord starts out by saying, I want you to draw a picture. Now etch it in a clay tablet. Okay, that's going to be Jerusalem. Now take an iron pan, set up the iron pan, erect a siege wall against this pretend Jerusalem. Now here's what I want you to do. Zeke. I want you to go down and lie down on your side, your left side. You're going to go down on your left side for like 390 days, something like that. And by the way, in case you get uncomfortable and you decide you want to turn over, I'm going to tie you up. I'm going to tie you up so you can't move and you're going to be there for 390 days. Now he gave him breaks, obviously, right. There are gaps in the story. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Right. 

Reg Grant: 

And then when you're done with that, we're going to flip you over and lie on your right side for 40 days for all the years that Judah was... So you've got an object lesson of a man lying down, and I'm sure he said something while he's lying there, so we've got this wonderful acting going on and it doesn't stop in the Old Testament. 

Reg Grant: 

New Testament. We have Jesus himself in John in 5:19, 12:49-50, and in 14. Jesus says in five... this is one of the most fascinating things he says. I never did anything I didn't see the father doing first. And 12:49-50, He says, I never said anything I didn't hear the father speak first. Now we think of Jesus as being creative. And He was. But He was not original. CS Lewis says, I don't want to have anything to do with originality. It's bad news. The devil had the original sin. That's where Lewis goes with it. But when Jesus was saying He didn't do anything or say anything He didn't hear the father doing or saying first, He was saying the father and I are one, and it's not like, this is Reg's paraphrase, it's not like when I was a boy and I was in my earthly, adopted father's home. And he was demonstrating how to shape a piece of wood. And he would do it. And then short time lapse, I would do it. And I I would follow his lead. 

Reg Grant: 

Jesus isn't watching the father and listening to the father and then copying him. It's a mirror image. The best word that we have for it, I think, is mimesis. It's the primary principle in all of Western imitative art. And it works for this connection as well. When you put your hand together in front of a mirror, when you put your hand in front of a mirror and you move it, well which moved first? There's no separation. There's no time lag. Why? Because this image is in a sense, this image. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Right. 

Reg Grant: 

Jesus is saying the father and I are so much so this perfect re-presentation of God, Jesus says, the one thing guys, when He's talking to the disciples in the upper room, He said the thing that you must realize is that I have revealed the father to you. That's my job. To reveal the father to you. Now, John 17, I want you to do the same thing. As a matter of fact, I'm going to pray that you will be one even as the father and I are one. 

Reg Grant: 

Back in 14, Phillip pipes up, Phillip's sort of a backseat guy, and you don't hear much from him throughout the course of Jesus' ministry. But Phillip says, Lord, I'm sure kind of wanting to sort of impress the master. You've had students like that sit on the back row and then it comes to finals and they, all of a sudden they become active. Well, there's Philip on the back row saying, tell you what, Lord, just show us the father. And it'll be enough. Doesn't that sound spiritual? It's just great. It's just super, but Jesus, isn't going to have anything to do with that. He said, Philip, have I been with you this long? And you don't know if you've seen me, you've seen the father, not the same person. But a perfect re-presentation of the father. 

Reg Grant: 

That's our goal. And in the arts, whether it's music or dance or drama or whatever that art is, there is an opportunity for us to take that aspect of the character of God and under the guidance of God's Spirit, allowing Him to mold us and shape us and frame our art to present that to the world. And so reveal Christ. 

Bill Hendricks: 

To manifest Him. 

Reg Grant: 

To manifest Him. That's what we're about. Yeah. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Well that segues into a question that I know you must get asked incessantly, which is, Reg, what makes art Christian? 

Reg Grant: 

Oh, that's a great question. I don't believe in Christian art. I don't think there is such a thing. I think art is art. I think beauty is beauty. Dr. Chafer himself said that systematic theology is the gleaning of truth from any and every source. It's truth. It's not, it's not Christian truth. It's truth or it's beauty or it's goodness. Now how we manifest that, how we take that beauty, that goodness, that truth. And we- 

Bill Hendricks: 

Convey it? 

Reg Grant: 

Convey it. Yes. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Manifest it. 

Reg Grant: 

The manner in which we do that has an end in view that is unique to our position in Christ. And that is the glory of God. Because we have at our disposal, these many, many, many tools that allow us the privilege of participating with God in showing Jesus to the world. And it's so multifaceted, it's as different as every single individual. Bill, if you don't do this, if you don't do what we are doing here, nobody does it. Darrell could come in and take a shot at it, but it's going to be Darrell's deal. It's going to be different. And if I don't act, then nobody else is going to act. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Each of us is unique. 

Reg Grant: 

Yeah. Unique contribution. So the Lord gives us this privilege of taking these gifts, submitting them to Him to the end that, and this is one of the things that's missing in the church, I think, to the end that we glorify Him. So the church doesn't get reduced to something like an extended marriage seminar, or how to get your kids to obey you or- 

Bill Hendricks: 

Right. 

Reg Grant: 

It's not that. I can go to a lot of secular places to try to get that. It's how do we engage the gospel? I mean gospel in the largest sense, the Word of God. How do we engage that in a way that is going to honor the Lord? In the process, I'm going to wind up with a family that loves Jesus. I'm going to wind up with a marriage that works, but that's not my primary goal. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Well, it reminds me of something CS Lewis said, he talked about friendship, philosophy, and art. And he said, all of those are actually unnecessary in the sense that none of them has what you might call survival value. But rather they are things that give value to survival. And we've kind of mix those up, I think. We're wanting to survive. And the question is survived for what? Like, what's the nature of that survival? 

Reg Grant: 

Yeah. Because it all comes back to me again. Even in the Christian realm, it's so easy to slip back into that prepper kind of a mentality where I'm preparing for the end, not to the glory of God, but so I can survive. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Right. 

Reg Grant: 

It's so easy to slip into that. And even when it comes to protecting my family. I can want to protect them but I have to ask myself, why do I want to protect them? Why do I want to preserve my life? Well, I want the opportunity to witness for Christ more. I want the glory of God to be accomplished in my life and in the life of my children and the life of my wife and my loved ones. And that's what gets me up in the morning. And that's what helps me go to sleep at night. 

Bill Hendricks: 

So how would a church go about bringing this into its discipleship of its people? 

Reg Grant: 

It's real easy just to... Back in the old days before we had internet or even computers, I used to hand out three by five cards when I was teaching in the local church. And say, for example, I want you all to write down your favorite books, the things that you're reading now that you really like. And I got a little reading club together and it started out like 40 or 50 people and it quickly got down to about 10. And so I said, okay, now you're going to take that. And you're going to read. And you're going to hand in... I had talked to the secretary beforehand, so I got permission to do this. You're going to hand in the best examples of illustrative material, good or bad, positive or negative, to her. She's going to type it up and I'm going to start working those illustrations into my sermons and my messages. Well- 

Bill Hendricks: 

Interesting. 

Reg Grant: 

Well, I got that idea from your dad. Those people are on the edge of their seat listening because they- 

Bill Hendricks: 

Want to see if they got into it. 

Reg Grant: 

If they made the cut. Yeah. It was so much fun. I think little simple things like canvasing your congregation, sending out one of these real easy to compose Google doc survey things and saying, Hey, where are you? Where's your gift? What do you love to do? What's your passion in the arts? Where do you line up? And then collect those and approach those people and say, here's how we want to celebrate your gift to the church. And start letting go of the reins a little bit and trusting these artists to put together something that's going to benefit and bless the church and wind up being a ripple effect out into the community. 

Bill Hendricks: 

So as people start to express those creative gifts, what if they all end up, oh, this is a Christian thing. I got to put a cross in there. I got to put an angel in there. Is that legitimate? Is it- 

Reg Grant: 

No. 

Bill Hendricks: 

How do you- 

Reg Grant: 

I wouldn't dare to challenge the motive of the person wanting to do that. It's just uninformed because our job is to help them understand that if you've got a Rembrandt or a Van Gogh, I don't have to tack a Bible verse on it to justify its inclusion in my hallway at my church or at my home. Again, it's that secular sacred divide that's just poison. I want the biggest thing that I have, you ask any of my faculty or my students, the biggest word for Reg is integration. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Say more about that. 

Reg Grant: 

You know the verse every good and perfect gift comes down from the father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James. And the idea is that I think the way it works itself out practically is that every gift, every good and perfect gift, comes down from the father of lights. Now that may extend beyond love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What if, what if there are, there are riches beyond our imagining that are good gifts that come down from the father of lights with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. So you've got this constancy and consistency in the triune God. 

Reg Grant: 

And at the same time, you've got this enormous variety of gifts that all work together. When we consolidate those gifts where we are given the opportunity to explore how, if you're a plumber, God bless you. I need you. You're a plumber. But to be a really great plumber, you need to know something about dance. If you're a dancer, you need to know something about plumbing because they're related. We don't see it right off the bat, but there's a connection between these good and perfect gifts that God gives to the body of Christ. It's our joy to discover what those connecting points are and to celebrate. I can't look down on anybody else in the body of Christ. How can the hand say to the foot, I have no need of you? 

Bill Hendricks: 

Right, we need- 

Reg Grant: 

We need plumbers. We need dancers. We need actors and we need technicians. 

Bill Hendricks: 

So when we say why the church needs drama in the arts, what we're really saying is first Corinthians 12. Why the church- 

Reg Grant: 

Exactly. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Needs everybody. 

Reg Grant: 

Yeah. Yeah. It's because the church needs everybody. There is no special class. Artists don't occupy a special, higher calling. It's a calling like anybody else. But what I think we can do in the local church is try to move beyond suspicion through acceptance to celebration. So that we're no longer... I want to encourage our leaders out there to give the artists in their congregation a chance. And relax... I want to say not be afraid, but it's more than just fear. It is. There is a justifiable caution to the arts because they see what's going on in worldly arts. Some of which is really awful. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Really dark. 

Reg Grant: 

But one of the reasons that they're afraid is because they inherently recognize the power of those arts. Well, if those arts are sanctified, if they are dedicated to the Lord Jesus, and dependent on the Spirit to mold and shape us, they are far more powerful than anything that the world can produce. It's just that we're scared by the world a lot of times. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Do you find that it seems like maybe some ministers, some pastors, some church leaders, they sort of get art and others just like they don't quite get it. Like, what's the point of art? Like they just don't have categories in which to work with it? 

Reg Grant: 

Yeah. A lot of it's the way that we were brought up that each individual, what kind of home were you brought up in? Were you exposed to the arts as a kiddo or not? And, and some guys come, and women too, of course they come to the arts later in life. Sometimes that light bulb goes on and boy get out of the way because they are going to... So I had a student, Jason Shepherd. I hope Jason's watching this. Jason came from a long line of preachers and he was the center for the Texas Aggies. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Oh, wow. 

Reg Grant: 

I could go anywhere with that guy. Over 300 pounds of... He was a bull. And he wanted to be a pastor. And he had a semester where he just couldn't work out his elective offering. So he had to sign up for creative writing, which is what I was teaching. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Right. All right. 

Reg Grant: 

He didn't want to be there. And it was obvious from day one. And about halfway through the semester, the bug bit. Jason Shepherd is a good writer. And he came to my office, not too long after that. And he said, Reg, I'm not going to be a pastor. I'm going to be a professional writer. And I need you to help me. Well, years pass, he goes on to become a senior editor at Insight for Living and then goes down and he wound up coaching football at some little town down south and teaching the kids creativity and writing. 

Bill Hendricks: 

He's writing it and- 

Reg Grant: 

Still writing. Yep. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Good for him. 

Reg Grant: 

Yeah. Arts change people. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Yeah. 

Reg Grant: 

Beauty has a habit of doing that. 

Bill Hendricks: 

So me being the contrarian that I am, I always flip these things around. We've kicked around the question why the church needs drama and the arts. Why does drama and the arts need the church? 

Reg Grant: 

Oh goodness. If we don't have the church, then we're missing out on the primary tool that God is using to reach the world for the Lord Jesus. I mean, you could go out, hang out your own shingle. You know, you can go through this program, the Media Arts and Worship Program, and you could go into LA. And I've had some students who have done this. And hang out your own shingle, do your own thing, become para church- 

Bill Hendricks: 

Right. 

Reg Grant: 

Outside the church. Now these are good people. And they are convinced, and I believe that in many cases they are correct, that this is the professional avenue that God has called them to. But there is another group of students who are going in as worship pastors, and they are working through the church as the primary organ of distribution of goodness, beauty, and truth to the community and to the world at large. Both groups are okay. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Yeah. 

Reg Grant: 

Both groups are doing what God has called them to do. All these people that are out in LA and Nashville and New York. Those folks aren't ignoring the church, but their professional life is in secular media and trying to make a difference inside out. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Inside the culture. 

Reg Grant: 

Yeah. It's a kind of a Larry Crab thing. Inside out. Yeah. That's character transformation 101. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Well, because as you pointed out earlier, if you leave God out of the equation, the art can go dark very, very quickly. 

Reg Grant: 

Oh yeah. Yeah. It's our inclination. We don't lose that tendency. And the church helps. Sometimes the guardrails that the church puts in place can be more restrictive than they need to be for the sake of safety. And I can understand that. And it takes a very brave pastor and church leader to allow these artists who are admittedly different to play. We don't encourage play sometimes in the local church. And that's where a lot of good things happen when you have that. When you have the freedom to blow it, the freedom to fail. 

Bill Hendricks: 

I was going to say play and experimentation. You know, every once in a while something blows up and you go, okay, that didn't work. But that doesn't mean that whole project of creativity gets thrown out. 

Reg Grant: 

I know. Yeah. I mean the Texas Rangers, go Rangers. Even the best batters for the Rangers, we may have one guy that's over 300. He blows it seven times out of 10 coming to the plate. So they're coming up with creative approaches to help them over the hump, but we're not going to fire these guys because they're not batting four and 500. We're going to work with them. And that's what we need to do in the local church. Work with your good batters get them up to 300. Fantastic, great. Give them the opportunity to fail seven out of 10 times. Man. That would be a different kind of looking church. 

Bill Hendricks: 

What are some of the most encouraging and hopeful models that you're seeing out there of Christians embracing the arts and doing some incredible things with it? 

Reg Grant: 

Oh, goodness. Well, the ones that everybody goes to. I see Naima Lett on the west coast. She's doing marvelous work through Letts Rise, L-E-T-T-S Rise Productions. She and her husband Kevin are just doing marvelous work out there with the acting community and in worship out there as well. Brian Albrecht graduated right when the program was getting started, I think right before the program was ever even official. And he's making on average a film a week in his church. And that is- 

Bill Hendricks: 

Wow. 

Reg Grant: 

That's a tremendous work ethic. Brian and Kathy, Kathy his wife is an actor and he has a marvelous family. We've got other people. I mean, we've got, I'm trying to think of the Nihonga, my buddy who wrote silence. 

Reg Grant: 

Mako Fuji Mora is doing great work. And he was up in New York and working in Presbyterian church up in New York, just welcoming artists, training them. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Right. 

Reg Grant: 

And so there are those huge success stories, but the real success stories, I think that I'd like to highlight are the people in my congregation, the people at Lake Ridge Bible Church who are just doing marvelous work. We have artists who are working there and reaching the community for Christ. We just finished vacation Bible school and using beauty and goodness and truth through the arts and getting these dear little ones to a relationship with the Lord Jesus. I tell my writing students, Bill, that most of them aren't going to go out and sign a six figure deal, but they can write a letter creatively to their estranged children or their estranged spouse, or their estranged father and mother that will heal and bring them back by God's grace, to a relationship with the Lord Jesus. I would trade any contract for life change through the exercise of creative writing in that venue. 

Bill Hendricks: 

So in a way you're making a distinction between art as a career versus art as a calling. My dad used to say your career is what you're paid to do. Your calling is what you're made to do. And if you have a creative notion, a creative gift in you, then you must do that creativity. Whether you get paid to do it or not, somewhere in your life you've got to express that because that's what God has made you to do. He's got a contribution to make through you in this world. 

Reg Grant: 

I think everybody has that calling. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Yeah. 

Reg Grant: 

I think every single person because we're made in the image of God. 

Bill Hendricks: 

We're all made in the image of God. 

Reg Grant: 

We had a gentleman, Greg Vaughn, a good friend of mine called me into the office one time, many years ago. And he said, look, I got all these executive people who are married to their jobs. And a lot of these guys have lost their wives and their children in the process of building up their business. What do you think we could do? Don't you teach writing down there at DTS? And he said, well, why don't we put together a little course. So we did, it's called Letters from Dad. And it takes guys who are businessmen who don't know, they claim, anything about writing a letter from the heart instead of just a letter from the mind. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Right. 

Reg Grant: 

And we teach them how to do that. And then we have a banquet and they get together with their loved one that has grown estranged. They work for weeks on one letter. 

Bill Hendricks: 

I can only imagine. 

Reg Grant: 

And they get together with them at the banquet. They separate out- 

Bill Hendricks: 

And read. 

Reg Grant: 

And they read that letter. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Oh, I'm sure you got tears and hugs. 

Reg Grant: 

Yep. The Lord uses that. Yeah. Businessmen who wouldn't think they could pick up a paint brush. That's my next step with them show them they can paint, can draw as well. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Well, let me let you give a little advertisement for the Worship Arts Department. What kind of students are you looking for? Enroll in that program? 

Reg Grant: 

No one has ever asked me that. The kind of student that I am looking for is a student who is willing to follow the Lord in the exercise of his or her creative gifts, wherever the Lord leads. You give me a student like that. We're going to town. And it can be any kind of, I don't have to... I'm a horrible dancer. And I used to be able to sing, but I can't anymore. But you give me a student whose gift is that. And thing is, over the years I know people. And we can help- 

Bill Hendricks: 

You can link them up. 

Reg Grant: 

I can link them up. And just seeing what the Lord does with these young, especially the young ones. Oh my goodness. Opening doors that even them in their creative capacity, couldn't begin to imagine. He's the God of infinite surprises. And he keeps opening doors, despite my protestations of inadequacy. He keeps saying, I mean, Bill, if you knew me before when I was cowboying the first 18 years of my life, you would never. I mean and even people that know me now say Reg really? 

Bill Hendricks: 

The Reg I knew? 

Reg Grant: 

Yeah. Not the same. No. And it's the Lord's grace. It's just pure. It sounds so trite doesn't it? But it's what it is. It's his grace, it's his overwhelming kindness that I don't deserve. And I couldn't work for. It's just because he loves me. And I pray every day that he'll help me love him the way that he loves me. 

Bill Hendricks: 

So the word that comes to mind as you're describing this and your work with your students, among other things, you're unleashing something there, it sounds like. 

Reg Grant: 

I'm giving the students permission to be what God has always designed them to be. And once they sense that it's okay to play. Once they sense it's okay to not make a hundred every time, then we're off to the races. 

Bill Hendricks: 

And so we're back to our question. Why does the church need drama and the arts? What I hear you appealing to church and church leaders is to start giving permission to people to be who God made them to be. 

Reg Grant: 

That's a very good way of saying it. I wish I had said that myself. Yes. Yes. But it's risky. It feels risky. And you know, if you're not uncomfortable, if you're not uncomfortable in your position of creative leadership, you're probably not leading very well or being very creative. You need to be on the edge saying, Ooh boy, Lord. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Lord, you better show up. 

Reg Grant: 

Need you. Need you. And really, you know what enhances our prayer life. It really does. It drives us to our knees. It keeps us dependent constantly, consistently aware of our need for him. So I think, I think it's a win-win. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Well, and the opportunity costs. If we keep people bottled up, what are we losing? 

Reg Grant: 

The thing is, you don't know. You don't know what you're losing. 

Bill Hendricks: 

The treasure you're missing out on. 

Reg Grant: 

The treasure you're missing out on. You're going to leave it buried. And you know, I can go back with the Lord over this talent. You know I did this, and he's going to say, you know what? There was so much potential in what I gave you and you missed it. I don't want to be on that end of his declaration. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Well, and if I'm a church leader I don't want to be on the end of saying the reason they buried it was because I didn't give him permission to unleash it. To use it. To put it into- 

Reg Grant: 

Yeah. Because so many of them, those people who are sitting out there who are gifted- 

Bill Hendricks: 

They're waiting on me to say, hey try it. 

Reg Grant: 

Yeah. And they don't even know they're waiting on it. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Right. 

Reg Grant: 

You know, they're just they're content. I'm not taking a chance. I'm okay. Cause you know, the artist egos are infamously fragile. And they wouldn't step up and say, oh, I could do this. And some of them aren't stage people. Some of them are seamstresses and some of them are backstage people. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Gardeners and chefs. 

Reg Grant: 

Yeah. 

Bill Hendricks: 

All kinds of stuff. 

Reg Grant: 

Yeah, absolutely. But all part of the body of Christ, all contributing, all integrating toward one common goal of glorifying the Lord Jesus. 

Bill Hendricks: 

Reg. This has just been fascinating today. Thank you very much for joining us. And thank you as well for joining us here on The Table Podcast. We'd invite you to subscribe to whatever platform that you receive The Table Podcast on, and we'll look forward to seeing you back next time on The Table. I'm Bill Hendricks. 

Voiceover: 

Thanks for listening to The Table Podcast. Dallas Theological Seminary. Teach truth. Love well. 

Bill Hendricks
Bill Hendricks is Executive Director for Christian Leadership at the Center and President of The Giftedness Center, where he serves individuals making key life and career decisions. A graduate of Harvard, Boston University, and DTS, Bill has authored or co-authored twenty-two books, including “The Person Called YOU: Why You’re Here, Why You Matter & What You Should Do With Your Life.” He sits on the Steering Committee for The Theology of Work Project.
Reg Grant
Reg Grant (ThM, 1981; ThD, 1988) is the department chair of Media Arts & Worship at DTS, where he teaches courses in homiletics, drama, oral interpretation, and creative writing. He has written, produced, and acted for radio, television, theater, and film. He’s married to Lauren and has three grown children.
Contributors
Bill Hendricks
Reg Grant
Details
September 6, 2022
art, Creativity, culture, worship
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