Preaching Biblical Characters
In this episode, Drs. Darrell L. Bock and Reg Grant discuss the art of preaching biblical characters, focusing on Dr. Grant’s work in telling stories from a first-person perspective.
- Grant’s introduction to theater
- Grant’s overseas performances
- Characters Grant has portrayed
- The process of portraying a character
- Importance of staging in acting
- Advice for portraying a character
Darrell Bock: Welcome to the table where we discuss issues of God and culture. I'm Darrell Bock, Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. And my guest today is Reg Grant, who is going to be discussing, I guess in character preaching might be one way to describe it? How would you describe what we're gonna be discussing?
Reg Grant: How to use, I think, first person narratives in preaching to help establish rapport with your congregation. That's one way.
Darrell Bock: Okay. So Reg, let's talk about how you got into this. How did a nice guy like you … Reg and I go back, way back. We were in seminary together, and then have just traveled along in our journeys as faculty members over these many decades. So, how did a nice guy like you get into a gig like this?
Reg Grant: Well, it was another nice guy, my great uncle, Rocky Reagan, one of the great old cattlemen of South Texas, back in the 50s, he would invite us over to his home, which was … it was just an ideal story location. It was an old converted … what do you call … a converted stage coach depot that was a hotel. And he had this … he and his wife, Annie Lee lived in this old hotel, and he had a rawhide rocker located directly underneath a wagon wheel chandelier. And every Sunday afternoon we would go over to Uncle Rocky's, and he would tell Debbie, my sister, and myself, stories of the old west, which he eventually turned into three books. So we grew up in a story telling culture, and I started telling stories and acting when I was about eight and a half, and preparing for Broadway. Everything in me, even though I was a ranch hand for my dad, I started to say, "Man, I got Broadway in my sights. I really want to go there." And that's what I continued to do until the Lord really got a hold of me when I was in college.
Darrell Bock: So, you went to college, and then … So you made it to Broadway, or you didn't make it to Broadway? College … I'm not sure where you went to school. So, how's the New York part of this work?
Reg Grant: My wive and I, Lauren and I, had the tickets to go to Broadway, to New York. We were going to move. Everything about both of us had trained us for New York and auditions and stuff like that. So we had the tickets to go in our hand when we were invited to a Bible study led by Greg Hague, whom you know. We're old buddies. And Greg was a pastor in Lubbock, where Lauren and I were attending Tech. And I got invited to a Bible study by my old pal Ed Quillen, and I didn't want to go, and Lauren did, and she wasn't even a believer at the time. I was, but just barely under the door. And I said … She said, "Come on. Eddie and Mary are our good friends. It'll be the last time we see them before we go to New York, yadda, yadda." And I said, "Okay, fine."
So we wound up going to this Bible study and, my goodness, everything changed. We had never heard the Bible presented the way that Greg presented it to us. Greg being with Chosen People Ministries now, he presented the Bible so clearly, and we were low hanging fruit, boy. I mean, we just literally sat at his feet. You couldn't get a seat in this home that was hosted by a guy named Jeff Burdock. You couldn't get a seat. So we sat on the floor, at his feet, and he talked to us about the Lord, and commitment to Him, and we looked at each other and we said, "This is what we've been looking for our whole life."
We went ahead and went to New York. We new the dance captain of a show called Pippin. There were open auditions for a little show called The Chorus Line, you may have heard of. And we were gonna do all that. And the Lord just would not let me rest. We were very unsettled there. And so we moved back to Lubbock, and just waited on the Lord, and He made it very, very clear to us that He wanted us to go to seminary. So I had to do an Abraham on my love for the theater. The theater had become my Isaac. I didn't know it. And the Lord wanted me to lay it on the altar and walk away, which I did. The day I did that I gave away my makeup kit. I know it sounds weird. I'd been building this makeup kit since I was eight and a half. I gave it to my old buddy, Andrew Goff who is still working over in Ft. Worth in theater. And that afternoon … That was the emotional umbilical cord that tied me to the theater.
So I gave away my makeup kit. That was the last vestige. And I thought that's what the Lord wanted, and that afternoon a friend of mine, John Ratliff, called me said, "There's this fellow at seminary you need to meet named John Reed. He's doing this thing called Christian Theater. This was in 1976. And I had no idea what was going on, but the Lord used John Reed to help guide me back into theater, and in particular theater in the local church.
Darrell Bock: Well that's interesting. So, was your interest in Broadway, in theater, yours or was it also Lauren's? Or was she just along for the ride?
Reg Grant: No, she was along for the ride pretty much. I met her the first day of class at Tech, the first class. And we started dating, and she left her degree behind. She was going to go into, I think it was in advertising or something like that. And she would up switching over to theater, because that was my life, and we sort of grew up in theater together from that … She was 17 when I met her.
Darrell Bock: Wow. So was she … when she moved to theater, was she thinking about acting as well, or was she doing more of the technical parts of doing theater?
Reg Grant: More behind the scenes. But, I must say, she is a very good actress, and she's even a better director. But she prefers more the background and staying behind. And all of our kids got the acting bug and are doing things in theater and film now. So we're … it's just been a great ride.
Darrell Bock: Wow, well it's great to hear. Well that's part of the story I didn't know. And I knew that you and Greg were good friends. I just didn't know what that connection was. Okay. So, this may take us awhile. We're in the 1970s now. We're up to John Reed. So, tell us about that. So you hit seminary thinking you'd left all this behind. You're makeup kit was now AWOL and gone. And you were ready to prepare for wherever it was God was gonna take you, and you run into John Reed, and the curve ball comes. So tell us about that.
Reg Grant: Yeah. John Reed was my ram in the thicket. The Lord just pointed over there and said, "Hey, look over there. You don't have to sacrifice the thing that I've been preparing you your whole life to do. There's another way of thinking about it." And so John helped me reorient toward local church ministry. And at that point, that was '76. Not too long after that I met Chuck Swindoll. And we became very good friends, and I started doing concerts … not concerts but …
Darrell Bock: Events of certain kinds?
Reg Grant: Events, yeah, with him. And I was the dancing monkey. I'd go out and do my acting gig, and Chuck would preach, and we'd do this tag team thing.
Darrell Bock: Do you have cymbals?
Reg Grant: We have traveled … we've been all over the world together. We've been just to Israel quite a bit, Germany, all over Europe, with me doing first persons, and usually Bible characters. But when we went to Europe, I would do reformation characters, like Luther and Zwingli and guys like that, John Huss, before he got burned at the stake.
Darrell Bock: That's good, 'cause that's a bad ending.
Reg Grant: Painful. So we had a really … have had a wonderful relationship over the years. We really have enjoyed one another's company and being able to … Just think about it, Darrell. This is an actor's dream. Being able to portray Luther in Wittenberg, in front of the doors, in the platz, where you're surrounded by … in front of 600 and something of your closest friends, and you've got people leaning out the windows in the platz, just regular folks, listening to Luther talk. Oh, man. It was just …
Darrell Bock: Oh, yeah. My first visit to Wittenberg came in the 1989, and '90 period when the wall came down. And that May of '90, my brother came over with his wife, and we journeyed into East Germany, which you could just barely get into at the time. And drove the roads. Saw Russian troops everywhere. Landed at a hotel called the Adler, which is eagle. And I'll never forget this. We went to go get dinner, and we started to order off the menu and they said, "We don't have that. We don't have that. We don't have that." So we said, "What do you have?" They said, "We have rabbit." That's what we had for dinner. And so this is in the middle of East Germany. Russia's still in control, et cetera. When you went to East Germany from West Germany, it was like going back to the early 1950s and last 1940s. It's unbelievable.
Of course, Wittenberg is an old established city that has buildings going back to when Adam and Eve walked the earth. And so, way, way back. So I can picture the scene that you're talking about. Wittenberg has a very special place in our hearts, because the visit was just so different, and in some ways traumatic. In fact, my sister-in-law, we only stayed one night. And as we were leaving, she says, "I'm glad to get out of here." She was so spooked by everything that was going on. It was only us and I think one Bulgarian in the Adler that night. So anyway.
Reg Grant: You know, Darrell, the power of story in those cultures that had experienced a lot of repression for so many years, the power of story can liberate people … there's political liberation, and then there's soul liberation. And when you move into a culture like that … we went into Romania, right after Ceaușescu fell.
Darrell Bock: I've done the same thing.
Reg Grant: Within days. It's remarkable the difference. We had people … You talked about the guy that was serving you dinner. We had waiters coming up in our hotel up in … we were up on Transylvania. And we had waiters come in and slip us … because the secret police were still out … we had waiters slipping us notes saying, "Help me get out." We had women in babushkas coming up in the city square, a little cluster of women, and I'm standing there with them. I don't understand a word they're saying. They're duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, and I don't know what they're saying. One of them takes off and comes back with her baby, with tears in her eyes, offering me her baby and saying, "Please. Take her. Take her back to the States with you. Please." It's just the most desperate conditions.
Darrell Bock: Yeah. I was there within six weeks after Ceaușescu was replaced, going into various orphanages, taking relief, because that was another sabbatical year for me. And I went with another German theological student. We took a truck full of stuff to these five orphanages. And in one of the places, a lot of the people will remember who watched this from a distance. All the shows about orphanages and the way in which kids were being cared for during that period. And one of the women who ran the orphanage, the second language in Romania is German. And so you can speak German with people and most people will know German. And so we were conversing in German. And she told me a story that they would ask Ceaușescu once a year for chocolate for the children for Christmas, and he would refuse them annually. And in her very clear German she said to me, "Hitler was a rose compared to Ceaușescu." And I'm going, "Now that's a comparison."
So yeah. And so, not to get away from our topic, these are terrific stories. But the point is, is that theater, if I can say it that way, or portrayal, or as you said, stories are able to touch people in ways that Jack Webb and just the facts, ma'am, don't touch. And so … another old illustration for those of you under 35, that's Dragnet.
And so, let's talk a little bit about that. So you met John Reed, and I take it you guys worked together on how to do this. You brought your acting background to it. He brought his theological, homiletical crafting to it, and y'all went to work. And then you had a cohort in crime to some degree, Don Reguire, who helped record some of what you were doing, and wrestled with, "Okay. How do we visualize what you all are doing, and record what you all are doing?" I think you were … you've been so many different people, I'm surprised you don't have a split personality. You were, I think, the Louis Sperry Chafer in the seminary film. And I don't know how many different characters you've done. But you've really done an array of people in your time.
Reg Grant: It has been a real delight to do that. John encouraged me to do it. Don Reguire, of course, with his fantastic skills in photography helped me do that. Chuck has been a great encouragement. John and I wrote a book, as a matter of fact, a number of years ago called Telling Stories to Touch the Heart, that teaches this process of first person narrative structure, and how to go from zero to the final product. So if people are interested in getting that, you can still get on Amazon. Telling Stories to Touch the Heart, Reg Grant and John Reed.
Darrell Bock: That's great. So, you've … obviously you've done an array of people. This is a question I hate to be asked, but I'm gonna ask it anyway. Do you have a favorite? Is there one that you really go, "Man, I really like doing that one."
Reg Grant: I really … The one that surprised me the most was probably Esau. He … as I was studying him, you go into the research on these characters and you have, because of your biblical and theological background, you sort of have a kind of a preconceived idea of what the character is going to wind up being, or how he's going to be presented. Esau was a complete surprise … well, not complete. He's a hairy man, he's red, and he's volatile. Those things fit. But the change in character for him from when he wanted to kill Jacob, to when he's standing beside Jacob at his father's funeral, and the words that you find in Esau's mouth, the actual words he speaks at the reconciliation scene in Genesis should have been in the mouth of Jacob, but they weren't. They were in the mouth of Esau. Esau was the one who was seeking reconciliation. Esau was the one who had, to some degree I think, dealt with personal forgiveness, where Jacob, the very, very first thing that we see happen after that reconciliation meeting is Jacob lies, and he goes in the opposite direction that he promised Esau he would go, because he's scared of Esau, still.
That character … and it's one of the ones that we present for pastors in this new collection of characters that I have that are designed for pastors and Bible teachers. So you get to see Esau up close and personal.
Darrell Bock: So talk about that a little bit. What is this site that you're talking about?
Reg Grant: We started a site on my last sabbatical, couple of years ago. I received permission from the seminary to develop this website called, myunderstudy.com, www.myunderstudy.com. And an understudy is someone who is a backup for the main character in a stage play, or in a film. It's somebody who has to memorize all the lines and be ready to go at a moment's notice, should something happen to the main character. It's the idea of I am second. It's a subordinate role. It's not the star. It's the subordinate role.
So we stared this, myunderstudy.com, with the goal of helping local pastors and Bible teachers. They can go to myunderstudy.com and they can find there the … we started out with ten characters, a mix of Old Testament and New Testament characters. And each characters study is divided into segments, three to six segments. And each segment has its own leader guide and study guide. And so you can go to myunderstudy, you can sign up for all of the characters and get everything. And now I think we still have it on for half price if they want to go and look at it. As a matter of fact, Esau, the first installment of Esau, is available for them to look at to see what kind of work we did. It's full costume and makeup. It's in a black box theater that was generously donated by the Swindoll Ministry. And then my sons, Gabe and Mick, who are … they have their own production company called, Rook, R-O-O-K, Productions.com. They shot it and edited it for me. So it was a family project, and we're real happy with the end result.
But mainly it's for Bible teachers and pastors who are either doing a thematic study, or a character study, or a book study where this character appears. And they can use it … and they're real short. The little pieces are only about two and a half to three minutes long.
Darrell Bock: So, a question to see how old you are. So when you were originally doing these, were these on video tape? How did you record the stuff that you did when you recorded it originally? How far back to you go?
Reg Grant: Oh, yeah. Wire recorders. [Laughter] Not really. They were … we did them originally on … yeah, the first ones we did were on video tape. Yeah. Back in the '70s. It was video tape, and then it went to … what was it after that? DVD or mini DV, or something. Anyway, we've been in every …
Darrell Bock: Did you bypass VHS?
Reg Grant: No, no. VHS. We used VHS. An interesting thing is that I've just … since we're in COVID right now, I'm going through all of my … I've got all of these mini DVs, and DVD … all of the … and VHS, and Hi-8 … I'm going through all of that and extracting all of the performances and redoing all of my lectures at DTS, incorporating all this stuff. So it's really a blessing. We're enjoying …
Darrell Bock: Interesting. So, do you have any idea how many characters you've done?
Reg Grant: A little over 30. I have a little over 30 that I've actually written and performed. That doesn't include the film characters. The film characters are … that's a … I did a series called In Search of the Heroes for a few years. And the Lord blessed that. We had a really good time doing it. Won some awards and things like that. So those aren't included in the ones that I'm counting for the 30.
Darrell Bock: So that's interesting. That sounds like … it's obviously a lot of work to do these. So it sounds like you do … work up about one a year, is basically what that comes down to. So let's talk about the process of doing this. Obviously there's study and preparation. You've gotta write the scripts. From the scripts you've got to do the staging. So take us through that sequence. I've seen you do several of these, so take us through what that involves.
Reg Grant: Most of the scripts now are commissioned. So if I have a ministry that is interested in me doing something, if I don't already have that character written and researched, I will start with exegesis and theology, just like I'm doing a regular sermon. So I try to bracket off the audience for the first two stages of my research, exegesis and theology, because I don't want a subjective, interpretive element to enter into my exegesis. I want to try to exegete as objectively as I can and just take the text for what it claims. So I do all of that, and then I fashion it into a script that's going to accurately, clearly, interestingly, relevantly reflect the intent of the author, and the thrust of the text in a way that's going to communicate to a contemporary audience, even though it's a historical character.
Then I have to work with my makeup designer and design a makeup that's consistent with that character's age. That person is Gigi Kocher. She's been with me for over 20 years. She helps me with all of my theatrical and film makeup. And then the next step is costuming. I work with Wendy Poulby. Wonderful costumer. She and I work together to find out what the authentic clothing would be like, what the material would be like, so that when we're … The last thing that we want is bathrobe drama, stand up there in a bathrobe, and point to the sky. We want something that's going to be authentic.
Darrell Bock: That would actually be pretty disturbing, Reg, so I'm glad you haven't gone there.
Reg Grant: Ah. That's what it used to be. Back in the '70s, ‘60s, whoa, man, it was very sketchy.
Darrell Bock: So …
Reg Grant: And then we rehearse. From beginning to end, if it's a full fledged character … and by full fledged I mean 15 to 20 minutes performance … it takes me, depending on the character and whether it's in Greek or Hebrew that I’m having to do my work, it takes me between three and six months to get everything done.
Darrell Bock: Wow. So, I think most people don't realize the level of detail that's required when you do anything theatrically. I've done consulting work on movies and that kind of thing where I get asked, "Okay. So what did the ancient world look like? What did a room look like? What was in it?" All the stuff you never even think about, 'cause all you're seeing are the characters, and all the environment that has to be created in order to do this. Now obviously, when you're on a stage or in a church, there isn't that much additional props surrounding. There can be, but oftentimes there isn't. So you don't have as much of that to mention. But there's a lot that goes into doing something like this that is beyond just reading the text and saying, "Here's what I'm gonna say."
Reg Grant: Yeah. I think that doing background research and finding the people that you know that you can trust that are really good … Barclay actually has really good background studies, especially for New Testament backgrounds. The detail that he brings to the text for the flora and the fauna that were there, and architecture is very helpful. So yeah, you go back and you dig in to those details.
Now here's the deal that a lot of people don't appreciate, or they just don't know, is when you find out what the environment is like, that's going to change the way that you present it, even if the people don't see everything in that environment. So knowing that the flowers were in bloom when Jesus tops the hill and looks at Jerusalem for the last time, changes your attitude towards the presentation of that text subtly. But all of those little subtle things add up to a big difference.
Darrell Bock: So how much are you looking for … and I don't know what else to call this, so I'll just throw a term out, and if it's the wrong term you can correct it … looking for a hook in that background and something pictorial or symbolic or even in the text that you hang onto that can be part of the thread that you weave through as you develop the character? Are you looking for those kinds of things when you're doing your research?
Reg Grant: Absolutely. Yes. Absolutely. There's always a hook. And usually, the beautiful thing is, it's usually in the text. You usually have something in the text. For example, when I'm doing the Book of Ruth, or I'm doing Ruth, chapter 1, the word “return” is repeated five times in chapter 1. So that's a hook. That's an important thing to understand. So the idea of return, it informs my blocking. Blocking is where you go, and why you go there on the stage. So that in the mind of the audience, all time proceeds from the audience's left to the audience's right. So if you're moving forward in time, you're moving on the stage, from the audience perspective, you're moving from the audience left to the audience right. That's progression in time. If you return, you go from the audience's right to the audience's left. So when you're blocking Ruth 1, there are a number of times when you are farther to the audience's right, and you're moving back consistently to left. So you're moving from Moab back to Bethlehem. Those kinds of little details really stick.
Let me give you another one. This one's beautiful for the musicians that are out there. If you're in Genesis and you come up against the tree of life, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the word for tree is 'ets in Hebrew. Well, you move forward, couple of chapters, and you're at the oracle against the woman. So, "Eve," the Lord says, "your pain is going to be multiplied in child bearing." Well the word for pain is, in Hebrew, is a homonym for the word for tree, so that every time Eve's pain was multiplied in child bearing, she would be reminded of the source of her pain and her disobedience in taking the forbidden fruit. Now we don't have any good English homonym for tree and pain that go together. But what the informed artist, and what our students do in the Media Arts and Worship program at DTS, what they can do, when they recognize that similarity, is they can develop a musical theme for the tree that's subtly replicated when it comes to the oracle against the woman, so that the audience, without even being consciously aware of it, is … the idea of the consequences of sin is subtly reinforced in the listen audience when they hear that repeated theme. The Old Testament and New Testament's full of that kind of stuff. Those are the hooks you're looking for.
Darrell Bock: That's interesting, 'cause that brings in the whole issue of music, and another element of background that you can put into what it is that you do. Man, there are just a million different directions we could go. Let me go here. Let's talk about the stage for a second, 'cause I remember once … and I can't remember why this got sent to me … but at some point when we were interacting on something we were doing together, you sent me a diagram of the way in which staging is laid out. And you made the point about time that you've just made, but you also made a point about stage, I guess it's good and evil, and where that sits on a stage, and those kinds of things. I just go to the theater and I think they gotta … they only have so much space they can work with, they gotta go somewhere.
So talk a little bit about that, because that obviously … part of what you do when you have this, and of course you're subject to the environment that you're doing it in, whether you're in the middle of a … I've seen you do this in the middle of a … in effect what was an ancient theater, or an ancient theater space, as well as in a room. So, talk a little bit about how staging impacts what you do.
Reg Grant: This comes out of a discipline that generally defines called the psychology of aesthetics. And it's a slippery pig. Nobody really knows why it works. It's very subjective. But test after test after test have confirmed that there are certain areas of a stage, a staging area that the audience relates to emotionally and psychologically in different ways. And in real specific ways. By the way, this holds true in the west, it holds true in China, it holds true in South America, in Israel. I've tested this all over the world, and to a … each culture reaffirms that this is the way it works. This is … in a nutshell this is how it works.
There are areas of the stage that are strong, that from the actor's perspective, looking at the audience, that would be to the actor's right. So that's going … It's called stage right. From the audience perspective, that's their left. But from the actor, looking at the audience it's stage right. That area tends to be more psychologically and emotionally stronger and warmer. To the actor's left tends to be more psychologically cold and aloof. If you … And then, beyond that, you can divide the stage into either 6, 9 … you could do 12, but why would you do that? … acting areas. Down center is the most powerful acting area there is. Confrontations, fights, conflict. Up center, that is farther back on the stage … They call it up because the stages used to be actually elevated, take a marble at upstage, and it'd roll off into the orchestra pit downstage, because the audience was flat, and they needed to see the characters back in the stage.
So upstage center is number two. Downstage right is number three. Downstage left is number four. Upstage right is number five. Upstage left is number six. Those are the basic strength and weaknesses of the staging areas. And if your character is involved in a fight, then you want him down center. If you've got Romeo proposing to Juliet and saying how beautiful she is, and her eyes are like the stars in heaven, then you put that down right, because it's warm and mushy and intimate, and warm. If you are doing the death of Jesus, it's close to the audience, and it's intimate, but it's also, it's death, so it's more removed. So you put that down left.
If you've got demons in pigs, put them up left. That's the place for demons and pigs. They're just the weirdest thing, and they’re cold and aloof.
Darrell Bock: That's interesting. Yeah, I just saw Hamilton, actually presented on the screen. The staging that they do is absolutely amazing. But I'm thinking of the scene where they're debating with one another, the political issues, et cetera. That's right up front, right almost in your face on the stage, in terms of what's going on.
Reg Grant: I did too. I just saw it a couple of days ago. I thought it was marvelous, a marvelous production.
Darrell Bock: Incredible. Sally and I are commenting, not just … Everything about it. The musical variety, everything about it in terms of the way it was produced and displayed, absolutely amazing. We put it in a handful of plays that we've seen where we go, "That's one of the best I think we've ever seen."
Reg Grant: That play has the record for having the most words of any musical in American musical history. And you can see why. Can you imagine trying to memorize all those words?
Darrell Bock: Oh, man. And the different music styles that were applied in the show. Absolutely … anyway, amazing. So, let's talk, where we've got just a little bit of time left, let's talk a little bit about your advice to people who want to try and do these first person portrayals of characters. What would you advise them?
Reg Grant: You don't have to do a long one. And 15 minutes, when you're trying to memorize 15 minutes of material and you're just starting out, that feels like forever. So you don't have to do that. Just take one minute. Just take 30 second of the Psalm that you're doing for this Sunday, and memorize that brief Psalm. Don't do an acrostic Psalm. You'll be forever. But get a short little psalm that you could … Psalm 2, or Psalm 1 … and memorize that. And then, when you present it, you will find that in making eye contact, since the eyes are the windows of the soul. True statement. The eyes are the most effective communication tool physically that we have.
Step aside from the pulpit and use your hands to gesture and paint the picture. You've got ten paint brushes here. You can paint or … you're the Edward Scissorhands of drama. You can sculpt the space. You step aside from the pulpit, and you paint the space, and you memorize just 30 seconds. I guarantee you, that's going to be the part that people remember, because you have made eye contact, you have invested yourself in them, and you have encouraged them to participate.
That's what good storytelling will do. It doesn't allow the audience the luxury of observation. It invites them into the story where they can participate with you vicariously in the events from Scripture.
Darrell Bock: And so, I take it that part of what you're trying to do, and this is why you use your hands and move through the space, et cetera, is you're also not only telling the story, you're creating a kind of visual as you move around, interact with the audience, so that the memory isn't just what you are saying, but in some cases, what you are depicting, if I can make that distinction.
Reg Grant: Yeah. That's right. If I tell you … if you and I are having an argument on stage, and … or let's say that you're not there, but I'm depicting an argument on stage, in my regular sermon. And I'm gonna become angry in this argument, and my motion is real simple. It's just this. I'm gonna tell you to go, like that. My line is, "Go," my motion is that. If I do this, "Go," if I hit, say, "Go," first, and then make the motion, then the last time, the third time that I do it, I don't have to say the word. All I have to do is make the motion and the people fill in the word. So they associated repeated movement with a line or an attitude or an emotion, and the third time you do it, you've established a pattern on the first two. The third time you do it, you don't even have to speak the word. They fill it in.
Darrell Bock: And that's how …
Reg Grant: There are some …
Darrell Bock: That's another kind of hook, in some ways.
Reg Grant: Exactly. And it's more holistic. It's more … You want to reach … A lot of times, I tell my students in preaching, that we do heart bypass surgery. We go straight from the head to the feet. We have a kind of intellectualized sermon that really doesn't touch the heart. That's why we wrote the book, Telling Stories to Touch the Heart, because you want to engage the whole man, the whole woman, the whole child, the … all of the senses are involved in good storytelling. And the more holistically you present that story, the more you appeal to those senses, the more involve the person is going to become, even though they may initially say, "Oh, just give me the facts." Guys especially. "Oh, just give me the facts. I'll write it down. I'll make a grocery list." And you take it home and you file the grocery list and that's your Christian living there. You don't … That's not Christian living. That's just making notes. You want them involved in the story so that they go out and they live that truth.
Darrell Bock: Okay. So on this website, is it just samples? Or do you discuss the, for lack of a better description, the theory and method behind what you're doing?
Reg Grant: Ah, great question. The initial offering … it's still under construction, but it's almost completely done. The initial offering is those ten characters with study guides and leader guides. So we don't have an analysis of the how to right there. But, when people sign on to it, when they purchase the set, then I am making new short videos, one and a half to two minute videos, on the how to. That's part of what I'm doing here, now. I'm making these short videos that show you how to get into character, how to approach the stage, how to use blocking, all of that stuff is going to be just as an add on to the value added kind of a thing for those who sign on.
Darrell Bock: So remind us again of the website.
Reg Grant: www.myunderstudy, M-Y-U-N-D-E-R-S-T-U-D-Y, myunderstudy.com.
Darrell Bock: Interesting. Well Reg, it's been just a real treat to walk through this with you. Like I say, I go back to the Don Reguire slide shows, the video tape, all that stuff. We both had a lot less gray then, and in some cases more hair. And so … exactly. But it's been great to walk through this with you. We thank you for what is certainly a powerful and a great alternative in ministry, and I really love the idea of these short, almost vignettes within a sermon that you can do, so that the person doesn't feel like they have to have full Broadway and Hollywood training with a makeup kit in order to be able to do this kind of stuff.
Reg Grant: That's right.
Darrell Bock: So, I take it you found your makeup kit again. Is that right, in one way or another?
Reg Grant: No. Andrew told me … he said, "Whenever you come back to the theater, I will have it for you. I will keep it." And as far as I know, Andrew's still got it over there in Ft. Worth. I've never gone back to get it.
Darrell Bock: Interesting. Wow. Well, thank you again, Reg, for this time, and the reflection. And I hope people who either have listened to first person character sermons … that's a lot to say … or have tried to produce them will appreciate what goes into it, and what its goals are, that kind of thing. So, it's been a real pleasure to have Reg as our guest. We thank you for being a part of The Table. We hope you'll join us again soon. If you have topic suggestions for the table, please do feel free to write us at [email protected], and we'll file those away and think through the possibility of them. We thank you for being a part of our time today, we wish you all the best. Thank you for being with us. We hope to see you again soon.
About the Contributors
Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock has earned recognition as a Humboldt Scholar (Tübingen University in Germany), is the author of over 40 books, including well-regarded commentaries on Luke and Acts and studies of the historical Jesus, and work in cultural engagement as host of the seminary’s Table Podcasts. He was president of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) from 2000–2001, served as a consulting editor for Christianity Today, and serves on the boards of Wheaton College and Chosen People Ministries. His articles appear in leading publications. He is often an expert for the media on NT issues. Dr. Bock has been a New York Times best-selling author in nonfiction and is elder emeritus at Trinity Fellowship Church in Dallas. When traveling overseas, he will tune into the current game involving his favorite teams from Houston—live—even in the wee hours of the morning. Married for over 40 years to Sally, he is a proud father of two daughters and a son and is also a grandfather.
Reg Grant (ThM, 1981; ThD, 1988) is the department chair of Media Arts & Worship at DTS, where he teaches courses in homiletics, drama, oral interpretation, and creative writing. He has written, produced, and acted for radio, television, theater, and film. He’s married to Lauren and has three grown children.