Servant or Star?
I got an e-mail the other day from a drama team member who felt he was not being given enough "stage time." His perception was that because I valued excellence, he did not have the opportunity to prove his talent to the congregation. He was correct - I do value excellence and talent. I also value a beginner willing to serve more than a super-talent needing to star.
In the conversation that followed, I tried to help him see that as the drama coordinator it is not my mission to provide an opportunity for people to prove their talent. My job is to provide an environment in which a person can excel in the role for which God has called and gifted him or her.
Excellence and Ego
In my college theater program, we were taught that our egos would drive us to excellence. It was only after I came back to the church that I realized ego will drive us all right - to a self-centered universe where our art does not reach beyond the borders of ME.
Although we often forget it, excellence and ego are not the same thing. Ego limits the dramatist in two ways. It holds back the one who says, "Oh, no, I could never do that. I'm only good at helping with props,'' when you see in her a gift for directing. Ego also crushes the growth of the one who demands that his talent be center stage. He grows bitter quickly when he is not being used as he sees fit.
(Read Isaiah 64:8.)
The purpose of your ministry is not simply to serve the people on the team. Your ministry is to serve God, serve his people and lift one another up. That is why the drama team needs to develop their skills and talents to the highest level they can - not so they can shine but because we serve an excellent Lord. Reaching for excellence drives us to the joy of using our talents well. (Read Hebrews 13:20- 21.)
Excellence and Success
Not only do we confuse excellence with ego, we confuse it with success. As an actor, you are only successful if you ... are a movie star, are a professional actor, have a theater degree, perform in the main worship service regularly ... you fill in the blank. We decide what is successful not by what is excellent in God's eyes but by what someone else is doing well. Or by what we wish we were doing.
It is God who gives us our talents, skills and abilities (Exodus 35:31- 32; 36:1- 2). It is God who measures them out (Matthew 25:14- 30), and it is our job to invest them wisely.
We need to develop our skills to the highest level so we can lay our talents down at the altar, allowing God to fulfill us. Excellence begins with submission, not proving talent or making people laugh or being successful. Being excellent is first about working hard to develop your talent and second about choosing to serve with it rather than to star.
Invite your team to look up the Scripture verses in this article and ask them to talk about their abilities, skills and talents. Spend some time talking about how they see God shaping them and how they are investing their abilities for his glory.
"O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven: Be ever present with your servants who seek through art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty, and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
- Collect 17 "For Church Musicians and Artists" The Book of Common Prayer