Wednesday, December 10, 2008

dinner theater and Horizon

We have this tradition in our family. Every year around the Christmas season we go to Toby's Dinner Theater and watch a show together. We eat dinner there and then enjoy a musical of some kind.

What is interesting about the actors and actresses in a dinner theater is that they have to function in multiple roles. They start the evening serving the tables to which they are assigned. Then they offer coffee and dessert. When everyone is stuffed, they slip backstage to get the final touches on their costumes and makeup.

These actors and actresses get into character and sing and dance to the delight of the audience. They transform from servants to entertainers. And in those moments we forget that they were just refilling our coffee. They become elevated to the status of Broadway stars.

Then intermission comes and once again these entertainers transform. They go from "star" to "servant" in the time it takes to turn on the house lights. They get last call drink orders and make sure everyone is sufficiently comfortable. When intermission is over, they transition right back to star status. They sing and dance and finish the evening in character.

As I watched the actors/waiters make their rounds during intermission the last time we went, something in me resonated with them. I realized that being on staff at Horizon is very similar to being a dinner theater actor.

There are times when ministry at Horizon requires the spotlight. There are times when I am up front speaking when it is not too different from being on stage. And yet before and after the sermon, I shift into a role that is much more like a waiter.

There are times when I feel as though I am in a place of authority. In this place, I am on a certain platform or pedestal. Then there are other times where I am much more in a place of being a servant. In this place, I function more like a stepping stool. At times I am elevated by the congregation like an audience elevates an actor. Other times I am subservient to the congregation like a waiter serving his table full of paying customers.

Both pedestal and stepping stool, authority and service are all a part of what it feels like to be on staff. Ministry is often a bipolar experience. At times you are fielding complaints like a waiter does for his table. Other times you are receiving the praise of a curtain call. But like the actors at the dinner theater, all of this is what it looks like to our job.

People in an audience often do one of two things. Some like to make heroes out of professional actors and slaves out of the blue-collar waiters. Others like to criticize the stuffy actors and befriend the down-to-earth waiters. The problem a dinner theater audience runs into is that these two desires come into conflict with each other. At a dinner theater the same person is filling both roles. The professional actor is the blue-collar waiter. The hero is the slave. The stuffy actor is the down-to-earth waiter. The one being criticized is the befriended one.

This is the same kind of dilemma faced by the congregation of Horizon. For some, it is much easier to praise the preacher and belittle the guy who helps set up the equipment in the morning. For others, it is easier to be cynical about the preacher while befriending the guys who do the hard work of serving the church. The problem for a person at Horizon is that these two people are one and the same. The preacher is the guy who sets up. The guys doing the hard work of serving are also the guys preaching.

Ultimately, the dinner theater audience is forced to break down their typical ways of categorizing their entertainers and waiters. They are forced to move beyond their stereotyping and their typical modes of interaction. This is the same thing that is required of the congregation of Horizon. The old categories and ways of interacting with the preacher just don't fit there.


At 7:25 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Hey Mark,

Sounds like a cool place for entertainment...

Question, do you think it is possible to praise the preacher, while befriending the servant?

I also agree that categories and stereotypes can be dangerous.

I'm curious though, you mention that the old categories and ways of interacting with the preacher don't fit there. (Horizon)

What are your thoughts on what would fit, or fits Horizon?

At 7:43 PM, Blogger Mark said...

I think ideally people at Horizon would treat their leaders (both paid and non-paid leaders) with an attitude that can "praise the preacher while befriending the servant." I think that is the best of both worlds.

I think as Horizon people we should respect the authority that leaders have earned while not putting them on a pedestal.

I think staff at Horizon often function like a point guard on a basketball team. Point guards take the lead on the court but are also teammates and equals with the rest of the team.

There are times a point guard can function a little bit like a coach and there are other times a point guard can be more of the water boy/servant role. But a person on staff at Horizon is neither just a coach or just a water boy. They are a point guard who functions as a little of both.

I think the more responsibility one takes and the more one is willing to serve and give, the more respect is due them. Those who have chosen to take more responsibility for our community, deserve the respect of the community as a whole.

At 6:07 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I've been thinking about the "befriending the servant" part.

I know for me personally, i've realized that I haven't done a good job of being the most approachable person to some. I seem to meet people new weekly that seem to have been coming to Horizon for months!

I guess my point is that if we leaders or staff are to have others view us as friends, peers (befriending), we have to be open to getting to know them. I think to gain this respect, they need trust, which comes by relationships.

Your last thought:

"I think the more responsibility one takes and the more one is willing to serve and give, the more respect is due them. Those who have chosen to take more responsibility for our community, deserve the respect of the community as a whole."

What level of respect are you referring too? The respect of the actions and commitment the person is taking, or respect for the individual themselves?

I can see one being respected for what one does, but at the same time maybe relationally not seeing a similiar level of respect depending on the nature of one's relationship with another.

So i'm guessing you are referring to being respected for the works.

At 10:42 PM, Blogger Mark said...

I don't think respect for the actions and respect for the person are completely separate things.

If someone commits to, serves and takes responsibility for the people of the Horizon community, then those actions say something about that person's character.

So if you respect those actions, then you should also respect that person. This is why I respect our leadership so much. They have sacrificed continually for this community.

I have respect not only for their acts of sacrifice but also for them as individuals. Their sacrifice says something about who they are. So I respect them greatly as people.

As to your point on trust, I think trust does build in relationships. But I also think trust needs to be given to people more freely. Our culture tells us that others should earn our trust and until they do we should hold our trust closely to our chest.

But I don't think that is what Jesus had in mind for the church. I think He had in mind that we would trust each other until we were given good reason not to trust.

Now, I don't think people need to trust us just because we are leaders in the community. But they also shouldn't distrust us just because we are leaders in the community. This happens sometimes unfortunately.

As leaders we want to have relationships with people so that trust will be built. But we can't have relationships with everyone. So some amount of trust just needs to be offered to one another simply because we are in the Body of Christ together.


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