Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Focus on What God Has Accomplished

I've just returned from some great teaching, fellowship and reflection at the Lillenas Drama Arts Conference in Kansas City. There's nothing more exciting than being a part of a group of believers seeking to better serve their Lord through the arts!

This conference always offers some of the best Christian drama teaching available and this year was no exception, but I especially liked the fact that the focus for the four-day gathering was on God and on what He has accomplished, not on hype, glitz, namedropping or a "wow" factor. Celebrities mingled with the "common" folk; people just starting out in drama ministry felt comfortable asking questions of those more experienced: fellowship among brothers and sisters, not a sea of attendees.

Some highlights included an artist worship segment in which the attendees were able to express through different art forms their "monuments" to what God has accomplished (based on the scripture below); insight from screenwriter Henry "Chip" Arnold (right) ; compelling testimony from "Chalk Guy" Ben Glenn (left) and moving prayer requests enacted by Lin Sexton and her team, among other workshop offerings too numerous to mention. It was iron sharpening iron.

It's always good to take some time from our busy schedules to carve out some time specifically for the Lord and to rededicate our efforts to Him and His purposes. Only by humbling ourselves and seeking His face (and not a wow experience, whether at a conference or during our worship services) will we truly be able to serve Him and make a difference through the arts.

"And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, "In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them, 'Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.' For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God."
(Josh 4:20-24 NIV)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What's Happening in Christian Arts?

Conference time is upon us! Authors Torry Martin and Martha Bolton have just returned from the first Gideon Media Arts Conference and Film Festival in North Carolina. I head to the Lillenas Drama Arts Conference in Kansas City this week. Registration is open and speakers and workshop sessions have been posted for the Christians in Theatre Arts Conference June 10-13 in Azusa, CA. For information, click in the following space: http://cita.org.

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed opened in movie theaters Friday. Before its release it already was generating discussion about creation/intelligent design and what is and isn't being taught in our classrooms. For more information on the movie click in the following space: http://www.expelledthemovie.com
Christianity Today offers a discussion guide here: http://biblestudies.stores.yahoo.net/exnoinal.html.

It's also Gospel Music Week which culminates tomorrow with the 39th Annual GMA Dove Awards at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville. Winners from 43 categories will be announced during the awards show. This year's show can be seen live across the country on the Gospel Music Channel on Wednesday, April 23 at 8 p.m. (ET).

Max MacLean's staging of C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters begins its run in Washington, DC at the Landsburgh Theater. For information, click in this space:http://www.fpatheatre.com

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some Thoughts on Tax Day

As I began to gather some profound thoughts to offer on April 15, Tax Day, here in the United States, I was led to a passage in Romans. The fresh prose of The Message shows that Paul's civic and financial counsel is as relevant today as it was for the Christians to whom he was writing in about AD 57. Pause and reflect-- and then make sure your taxes are postmarked today!

"Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it's God's order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you're irresponsible to the state, then you're irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible.

Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you're trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear. Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you'll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage. But if you're breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren't there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That's why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it's the right way to live.

That's also why you pay taxes—so that an orderly way of life can be maintained. Fulfill your obligations as a citizen. Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders."
(Romans 13:1-7 The Message)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Are You Qualified to Lead Worship?

In my position, I get to interact with artists all across the country and I've had the pleasure of worshiping God in many different kinds of services in churches of various sizes, styles and denominations. One common theme seems to run through conversations about how to structure a worship team, however: regardless of style, how do you determine who should be leading worship?

Most worship teams have some requirements regarding musical and vocal ability, but after that, there's a wide range of what might or might not be required of people leading worship.

Some churches require an audition process during which candidates are asked to demonstrate their ability to play an instrument, sing and interact with other members of the group. Some require church membership and/or a personal relationship with Jesus (you'd be surprised, however, at how many don't).

Some actually require participants to have an "up-front" appearance. I'm not sure who gets to judge what that looks like or why God wouldn't be able to use a person who doesn't look like a rock star or fashion model. Some other interesting requirements I have found listed include:

· Being male
· Having a college degree
· Having approval of spouse
· Having the ability to play by ear
· Being able to meet the requirements of a deacon or elder
· Speaking in tongues
· Being emotionally stable
· Being a member of a small group in the church
· Using discretion in dating relationships
· Having finances in agreement with God’s priorities
· Reading the book of Psalms every year

My personal favorite is one worship team that requires "the ability to tell the difference between "in tune" and "out of tune." I've endured enough off-key singing and straining to hit high notes during some services to attest to the fact that not all worship teams have included this requirement yet.

Churches who don't have any requirements or which allow them to be compromised usually:
· Have great musicians or vocalists who they want to use and showcase but would be limited in how they could do so by rules
· Don’t have enough skilled musicians or vocalists and want bodies on the platform

Churches where I have experienced awesome worship and poured out my love, praise and thanks to a God present in the service have been churches with one basic requirement of worship leaders: that they be worshipers. All of the other characteristics needed to be a worship leader come from that. The worshiper knows how to bow before God, how to give Him the glory due His name, how to sing Him songs of praise and how to declare His greatness, love and power to all those who gather.

If you're a worshiper, you can lead others in worship. And it really helps if you can tell "in tune from out of tune." Approach your leadership on the worship team from that reference point and you'll see your team members and congregation respond with a desire to follow your example and to worship with excellence.

"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:23-24 NIV)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

He Uses the Foolish-- Even Me!

It seems somehow appropriate that our one-year anniversary for this blog coincides with April Fool's Day. I've always embraced computer technology and the Internet and was receiving training in HTML programming probably before you even had heard there was such a thing, so it came as a complete surprise to me some years ago when I read an article in the New York Times about blogging.

I actually thought the copy editor had missed a glaring error and that the article was supposed to be about the "logging" industry. As I read, however, I discovered that "blog" was indeed a word that had nothing to do with harvesting trees. A whole communication world that I never had heard of existed somewhere on the Internet. It was sort of like waking up one morning to discover that the United States had added a 51st state a while ago, but I'd somehow failed to hear about it. I felt rather foolish.

Last year blogging became a natural progression of Masterworks' ministry to Christians in the performing arts. We spend a lot of time answering questions, providing resources and training and mentoring those who use their talents in music, drama and performance arts to serve the Lord in the regular course of our ministry. Our blog is just a weekly extension of that. It is read by people from all around the United States (we've had visitors from almost all of the 51, er, 50 states) and the world and it has been a great way to network.

We're committed to serving Him through every means possible so that everyone may Hear His message of hope and salvation. It's OK to feel foolish because we don't know everything, whether it comes to blogs or to the perfect answers to questions people might have about our faith or the bible. Christ is able to use us in our foolishness and weakness and provides the knowledge and wisdom we need to complete His work. This must be true, or today, instead of reading this blog from me, you'd be learning about how to harvest tress...

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. (1Cor. 1:25 NIV)

Daily Inspiration

The Blind Side

Read about the real life mom from "The Blind Side."

Lifeway: http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=169816

Guideposts: http://www.guideposts.com/story/sandra-bullock-blind-side-football?page=0,1

Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at http://www.buddyhollywood.com/.

Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light (http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/) and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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