This afternoon I went to see a passion play put on by a local church. I’d heard about it because a member of the church I go to had told me about it, seeing how he had a part in the play and all that. So he had dual reasons for telling me about it. Now, I’ve seen and been part of multiple passion plays over the years, put on by different churches, so I know more or less how they go and how different churches emphasize different events in Jesus’ life and especially His final week.
This could also mean I’m a little biased when it comes to them.
But I went.
And not ten minutes into it I was thinking, “Oh. My… What. On. Earth. Am. I. Seeing?”
I know plays like this are low-budget. The same goes for the bulk of other Christian performances (such as the woefully inaccurate Tribulation Trail / Judgment Journey events that pop up around October) and movies. I know not to expect a huge blockbuster performance out of them.
But come on. You’re presenting God’s truth to the lost – at least to the lost that the saved drag to these sorts of performances. Can’t you at least make it compelling and interesting, and not laughably bad? The play today was so horrendous that more than once I considered getting up and walking out in the middle of it. That really is not good. I know that as a writer and an amateur performer I can be more critical of others’ work, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re losing at least one audience member. Do you really want to take the chance of alienating those who need to hear the gospel, but who are too busy laughing at your sorry attempts to convey the message to actually hear it? I know the message is the most important part, but if the execution is terrible…
The script today was good, by the way. It could have done without Satan’s evil laugh, because that made Satan look more like a child’s villain and less like the enemy of all of us, but aside from that it was good.
I know people are saved as a result of these events. This is undeniably a good thing, and I will not dare to suggest otherwise. But that does not mean there is no reason to change. Lest you think that the play need not change because it is leading to what God wants to do, also keep in mind that God works in our weaknesses.
And I think, a lot of the time, that is what He is doing.
But is it really so hard to come up with a good, low-budget Christian performance? I know I have seen several. These are the groups that spend weeks on end preparing and working with what they have, refining it until it is as good or better than many other plays. Even little things like keeping the performers from being anachronistic (no glasses or watches, no obvious microphones) goes a long way. You are wanting to present the gospel to many people. This is good, and admirable. But you are also choosing to do it in the form of a play. So please, make it good. You don’t want people laughing at your inability to act or keep a crown of fake thorns on your head while the Messiah is being beaten nearly to death.