Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Following the Scene...

Have you ever watched or been a part of good improvisation? Whether it is music, theater, cooking, sports, engineering, true improvisation is a thing of beauty. Why? Because it involves creating. Creating from the heart with passion, precision, skill, and talent.

However, for improvisation to work, there has to be a lead, a goal, a scene and cooperation. If two musicians start to improvise but play in different keys, it will sound terrible. If a wide-receiver starts to improvise his route but doesn't tell his quarterback, an interception is likely forthcoming. Improvisation takes the scene that has been set and creates within it. It doesn't redefine the scene, but simply adds to it. When it is done well, it can really bring music, acting, or anything else to life.

But, good improvisation is hard. It is really hard, because it requires loads of talent and skill to keep it from degenerating into madness. There has to be a commitment to the art and the scene that drives your improvisational technique. Most musicians, actors, athletes or anyone else that know improv is likely to become a part of their trade find that they must practice more, understand the scene/play/score better than anyone else so that what they add actually fits. The wide receiver must know his quarterback's tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses. The musician must not only know the style of the song, but the feel, emotion, drive and purpose for the music as well as know the place his or her instrument has in that piece before they just start randomly playing notes.

In essence, improve requires a person to internalize their craft a much higher level than those who simply stick to the script. It is a high risk, high reward endeavor. When it goes right, it can blow the roof of the place. When it goes bad, well, you just look like an idiot that wasn't prepared.

And this is what Jesus has called us to. Yet, God has called us all to improv in life. He has set the stage, the props, the lights, and he has described the scene in great detail. He has told us our character must line up and serve to highlight the lead character Jesus Christ. But, in the end, God has told us to improv our lives into the scene that He has set.

I know this may sound odd, but think about it. How many places in the Bible did God command us to write songs using 4/4 time? Did God tell us that our works of art had to be cut from marble? How about our hymns? Was it God that told us to skip the third verse? Or to tune our guitars down 1/2 step? Or to worship in the morning, or evening or afternoon? No, He simply said worship, glorify Him, lift up the name of Jesus, love one another and preach the Gospel to all nations.

God didn't tell us how. He left it for us to figure out. So we have to improvise our lives according to the scene that God has set.

Here are the rules for the scene, there are only two:

1. Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Here is the goal of the scene -
Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Your method of performance is this:
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ - basically, everything you say and do needs to agree in spirit and in truth with the scene already set by Jesus in the four Gospels.

Repeat the scene until Jesus comes back or your die.

That's it. There is life.

Now, many people, most people want a word by word script because it is easier and less dangerous to memorize a script and mindlessly repeat it. It is also easier to critique the performance of others when there is a script and I don't have to take the chance that people might find out I am not fully prepared to improvise the scene, so just tell me what I need to say and do.


God didn't give us a script. Life is not scripted. He set the scene and told us to follow him. In Hebrews 12:2 the author tells us to "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." So Jesus is the beginning and end of our faith, or our inclusion in the scene of God.

What about the middle?

That is where improv enters. Start with Jesus and the salvation he offers, then learn as much about the scene as you can. Learn about how those before you pleased or displeased God. LEARN THE SCENE. (The scene is found throughout the entire Bible) Then, start living your life improving it every day to the Glory of God understanding that He will be the judge of your performance, not the other performers. Hebrews told us that Jesus would perfect our faith in the end so it is a matter of getting better day by day. Growing in your role as a Christ follower and imitator.

We also must guard against ANYTHING that is not true to the scene. This includes anything that takes the focus off of the lead in the scene, Jesus Christ. It is ANYTHING that destroys one of your fellow performers, ANYTHING that attempts to redefine the scene that is set through scripture and ANYTHING that keeps you from understanding and accepting the scene better. This includes distractions from the scene, false interpretations of the scene or leaving out part of the scene. We must be true to what God has given us.

So, no, you do not get a script, because a script often will not involve the heart. God wants your touch, your personality, your uniqueness included in the scene of life, so He is commanding us to improvise. And it is through this improvisation that you will truly find freedom in the Christian life as your life becomes a life of beauty, art, discipline, and ultimately love. For, if you honor the scene that God has set you will find that God is calling you to something beautiful that is certainly Above Reality.

(I am indebted to Kevin VanHoozer's The Drama of Doctrine and Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz for inspiring this blog post.)

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