Drama King: one pastor drops preaching entirely for dramas

For decades churches have been experimenting with forms of communication, and one of the hallmarks of seeker churches has been the use of dramas in worship gatherings. It should come as no surprise that a church named Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community has chosen to push this experimentation to its logical end. The church has chosen to communicate biblical truths and narratives entirely through dramas - the sermon is no more.

Hot Metal Bridge has been getting a lot of press for its unusual worship format. Both The Wall Street Journal and the Today Show have run stories. Here is what some other media sources are reporting:

No one preaches at Hot Metal Bridge. Plays are its liturgy. Mr. Walker, a soon-to-be ordained United Methodist minister, leads the church with his friend Jeff Eddings, a Presbyterian seminarian. "Instead of coming to our church and listening to a sermon, you can be part of the sermon," Mr. Walker says.
Most of Mr. Walker's plays explore Bible themes flavored with pop culture and modern-day skepticism. "Sticking With Fishing" ponders what would have happened had Peter not dropped his net to follow Jesus. Elijah joins a man on the ledge thinking about a last leap. The archangel Gabriel kills time as he awaits news of Christ's birth.

Beyond dramas, Hot Metal Faith also hosts a Bible Fight Club to debate theological and social issues:

On Tuesday, the church and shop host Bible Fight Club, a rollicking debate about social issues, heaped with New Testament. About 25 people sat on lumpy couches in the basement, discussing paranormal phenomena, debating whether children are more in touch with angels and whether prayer helps?

Continue reading the full article about Hot Metal Faith's unique ministry here.

April 25, 2006

Displaying 1–10 of 17 comments

Ken Fields

May 09, 2006  9:34am

Though Jesus communicated in sermon form, much of what is captured in the gospels is teaching in the drama of story (parables), in dialogue (intense conversations with Pharisees), and in action (miracles). Church was never meant to be merely a classroom lecture hall. Michelle, Where do you find this form of Gospel communication in the Epistles? Why do we feel the intense need to reinvent what God has ordained as the means by which He saves sinners? The following verses supersede culture and time... and the Christ-centered, practical, and authoritative PREACHING of the Gospel is the medium through which God has promised to draw sinners to himself. God help both our message and our methods to be biblical! Romans 10:14-17 (ESV), "But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ."

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Pastor Jim Walker

May 03, 2006  1:54pm

I understand that since you have never been to our church or even know us, I will refrain from getting defensive ... ...except on one point: JOEL OSTEEN?! Are you kidding me? Comparing us with Joel Osteen?! If you knew us, you would know how hilarious that is. Jeff has Philippians 3 tattooed to his arm! We're for the last, the least, and the lost. We have a congregation filled with homeless people and close to homeless people. If you looked into our offering plate at the end of the service you would find pocket lint! I live on almost nothing. I gave up a plush job in the suburbs to plant a church in a smelly cafeteria! JOEL OSTEEN?! Oh my. Check out our message board on our web site. Become a little more informed. Kingdom come, Pastor Jim Walker Hot Metal Bridge

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Jeff Eddings

May 03, 2006  12:50pm

good conversation. with thoughtful and important questions. as one of the pastors at hot metal, i think it may be helpful to let you all in on a couple things. although we do the drama thing, it is by far not the only thing. of course the publicity we have received has been because of the drama and so they choose to focus on that. we do unpack the word through teachings and sermons as well during the service. as has been noted we have found that dramas can leave more questions than answers. sometimes it is good to let the questions linger but others times the gospel word clearly needs to be spoken into the brokeness of our community. another feature of our community: we do communion weekly and share a meal immediately following. this has been more important and crictical to the formation of our faith community than any drama! our dramas are born out of bible study and reflection by our community. they are biblically based, theologically thought out, and they allow for people to discover the stories in such a way that they can see themselves in the story. some weeks we do not do dramas but present testimonies or other creative expressions of faith. but again the gospel is preached faithfully. most importantly we want to be a missionally minded community. we have tried to be active in the local community and we are known more for our block parties and our willingness to welcome addicts and guys recently released from prison than we are known for our dramas. hope this helps and i would certainly be willing to answer other questions you may have. God's peace

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McNair Wilson

April 27, 2006  10:40am

I'm not sure about the depth of this new preacher we're hearing about. Sure he draws big crowds and gives practical advice. I must admit he tells great stories that seem to apply to my life, but where's the scripture? I've only heard him use the great prophets a few times. So, I don't think this guy is really mistering the Truth. And his name is "Jesus." How wierd is that! Just storytelling and little scripture–his ministry will never last. And I hear he never went to seminary.

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April 27, 2006  6:58am

I hate to rain on the parade here, but I find this pastor's "innovation" to be a dereliction of duty and responsibility to be a teacher of God's Word to the church. The pastor has sold out to culture. Drama has limits in being able to communicate doctrine and explain how to live out the Christian faith. Maybe this is harder "work" compared to preaching, but, having been a pastor, preaching is hard work if it is done right.

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Paul Goddard

April 26, 2006  2:03pm

Anyone ever see a Billy Graham Association movie? Of course! The didactic couched in the context of drama. Who was the guy who told parables most people didn't understand? Every narrative has a point, a perspective, a world view. The vast majority of such in our culture exclude the triune God or true satanic forces. If these guys love Jesus and his Word, they can use this media to "preach the Word" as much as any. In fact, role-playing godly behavior is much more powerful than describing it. So, evangelical, fundamentalist, or other lovers of Jesus, give it a try. Frankly, the biggest down-side is the work involved. Preaching is much easier.

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the fundamentalist

April 26, 2006  9:51am

Interesting, I must say. My first reaction like many was to brand them as heretics, but then I had to step back and look at it from a different angle. These guys are being culturally relevant. I know that my church uses drama to help communicate a message. My pastor often incorporates the two, using the in the sermon as an illustration, often participating himself. The question I have to ask though is how far is too far? I don't know that there is a bright line that we can draw to say what is acceptable and what is not.

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April 26, 2006  9:22am

Reading this, the scripture from 2 Timothy 4 comes to mind. 'Preach the Word! Be prepared in and out of season. Correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction.' My questions: 1.)With this new format where is the platform for Gods word to be preached? 2.) How do we instill a reverence, hunger and dependance on Gods word when a drama becomes the focal point of the teaching? 3.) Is the Word anyless capable to convict, powerful to impassion and ready to restore than it has been for the past centuries, thereby justifying its relegation from the worship programme?

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Mark Goodyear

April 26, 2006  8:43am

Also, churches need to remember what drama can and can not do. I heard Ralph Winter speak last week. He is a strong Christian and one of the producers of the X-Men movies. He said, "Movies are not good at answering questions–they are good at asking questions." When movies and drama sketches start answering questions they turn into didactic sermons. Sermons make good sermons. Drama sketches don't. Of course, I'm guessing Hot Metal Bridge still provides sermons and answers in more intimate settings like small groups.

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Mark Goodyear

April 26, 2006  8:32am

My wife and I are the volunteer drama ministers at our church, and I am excited to read about drama being used in this way. The descriptions of the dramas are especially intriguing. Obviously, the dramas need theological heft and understanding if anyone expects them to communicate the gospel. Regardless of their approach, if Hot Metal Bridge wants to know Christ, they will find Him. He doesn't hide when people seek him out–even if they do so in ways that aren't orthodox.

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