As the church of God is taking a new trend and drama ministry is also getting better and bigger, the Head of Department/Drama Director for The Redeemed Christian Church of God Drama Department, Pastor Babatunde Oreniyi has called on pastors across the world to have a large heart and accommodate drama in their churches so as to help advance the kingdom of God. The clergy cum filmmaker made this call in an exclusive interview with Gospel Film News publisher, Oluwafemi Dosu recently in his office at Redemption Camp. in this interview, Oreniyi also delve into some of the challenges faced by the drama departments and encourage church based drama groups. Excerpt:
FOR THE BENEFIT OF THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW YOU, COULD YOU PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF?
My name is Babatunde Oreniyi, I’m the HOD/Drama Director for the Redeemed Christian Church of God Drama Department.
HOW DOES THE DRAMA DEPARTMENT OPERATE?
Well, we operate as a department in the mission. We are not just a central body, we operate right from the grass root where we have every parish of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, up to the area, we moved from the area level to the zone, to the province and from province to the region and as well the national level and the international because we have mission arms all across the nation of the world and we are still expanding to spread the good news and tentacles, bringing the body with a focus of The Redeemed Christian Church of God. So, we are trying to bring the awareness to the church and also to get an army of drama ministers raised in all of these churches so they will be up and doing, bringing the gospel to the world in form of pictures. So, this is what we are all about; spreading the good news.
ARE YOU THE FIRST HOD OF THE DEPARTMENT?
I’m not the first HOD of the department, the pioneering HOD is Pastor Segun Adegbiji who retired two years ago. That was when we took over operation of the department. Up until then, I was the first coordinating secretary for the department. So, I’m not the first HOD.
THE DEPARTMENT IS MORE THAN TEN YEARS NOW, WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES YOU HAVE PASSED THROUGH?
The department is actually twelve years old but officially it’s eleven. Well there are whole lot of challenges, just like any idea you bring to the table in places where not everybody see things the way you see them. For instance, up until the time the drama department started off in the church we were the ones trying to rally people around to get started. I have some people who said drama in RCCG was not possible, drama in RCCG can’t work but of course going by the conviction and what God told us at the beginning we saw it happen. The challenges are there in terms of pastors who didn’t know how drama fit into their operation. If it were to be an independent body they know how to run around, do their things, minister in churches and all of that but if you are operating in a church as a base then the pastor is wondering how does this person help me; I know the choirs will lead praise worship, I know the ushers will stand to welcome people but when its drama, you claim you want to preach message and I am going to preach my message as well, we can’t have two messages in the same service so let me do the preaching you just sit down and listen. If we want to watch play or watch movies we will either invite people outside the church or we go and put on our TV and see film, but the truth is that, it’s just because of the lack of knowledge and understanding in the body of Christ and among some pastors that’s why they’ve not realize that God has given everybody gift and the bible told us that gifts are given for the edification of body of Christ and to build the church, which means that every gift you see in the body of Christ, every talent you see in an individual has something to contribute. Everyone of us have a particular audience that we must reach. Preaching on TV, Radio, Tract, or Leaflet won’t reach everybody but the drama we are talking about is like packaging the gospel in an entertainment format to reach out to the world because where even the gospel won’t be received in the traditional way everybody know it gospel can reach those places through ministration of drama ministers, through films, through Christian movies.
I don’t know if you are aware that before Yasser Arafat died, I learnt he watched the movie, ‘The Passion of Christ’ and I don’t know how many Christian leaders could sit the man down one on one and preach to him, but mere watching ‘The Passion of Christ’ he won’t stand before the throne of judgment and say nobody preached to him or he never heard about the gospel, so, in the same manner so many others who will never walk into churches, who will never sit in front of their screen to watch a sermon, but when it comes to entertainment they will sit down before they know it they will see Christ in it. So, the gap is there in the body of Christ especially in our churches where pastors don’t know how drama people come to help them.
Apart from what I just explained now, the drama people help you put your message in picture format, they help people to see the things that are wrong in the way the church is going, the attitude and so many other things but the point I’m making is just that we put the word in picture format to make it memorable. Many pastors preach on Sunday but before Wednesday people have forgotten what they preached about even some after leaving church is the end. Pictures engage the mind. It was said that a picture is equal to a thousand words; I dare say it is even more than that. So, If you don’t even say anything just show somebody a picture, a thousand thoughts/word come to mind and you begin to give interpretation and that stock in the subconscious. That is why people terrified by what they see, those are just the challenges.
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO TELL PASTORS WHO DON’T ACCEPT DRAMA IN THEIR CHURCHES AND CHURCH BASED DRAMA GROUPS?
Well, let me start with the drama people. It’s unfortunate that many drama people in churches don’t know how they fit in their church to help their pastor. For instance one of our province coordinator came around recently, we got talking and by the time I start sharing with him how he could be of support to help the pastor in the church it was like he was in total darkness before our meeting and he said he now know what to do, that is why in our own operation pastor want to know what you have to offer. People complained that pastor didn’t give us room, he didn’t invite us to minister and the like, and I asked; do they invite the choir, nobody invites the Usher, nobody give them time they just know they fit in.
The drama people themselves have to first understand and think outside the box, be creative on how to support the pastors. If somebody is hawking something in the traffic and you are not looking in the person’s direction, it is an indication to the individual that you don’t need his product but if the person tells you this is how the product will benefit you even without buying at that moment, anywhere you sight that product or brand you call for the person, why? You have discovered what the product is going to do to your life. In the same manner, drama people must begin to dig out reasons why they fit into the church, how they become of benefit to the pastor, even to other department in the church, how do they benefit other people in church, how do they benefit the community where they live, they have a whole lot to discover. For instance, I once shared that if you go to church you will notice the character of many people when they enter the church, many want to sit at the back, nobody wants to seat at the front. When you do a playlet that shows people that when Ushers are directing you, they are not just directing you out of their own will, they are directing you because they have a role to play as God’s minister in their own office. So, if you show somebody who is coming to church that the miracle you are looking for is just by the seat the Usher is telling you to sit and he just wave the Usher off that I’m not sitting there, I’m sitting at the back, when somebody see such play they will see themselves in it. If you tell them; Hope you can see your angel where the Usher is asking you to come and sit down, but because the person wasn’t seeing and the Usher also wasn’t seeing the angel but just doing his/her own duty. You have passed a message, maybe someone else took the seat and got a miracle, so when next somebody is asked to come and sit in church he quickly goes to where the Usher ask him to come and sit because there should be an order in every service.
Haven said that, the church want to also do publicity and people normally go out casually, share tracts and of course people want to collect your leaflet those who are interested will carry it, those who are not interested will reject it, before you even return from your publicity you’ve started seeing your leaflet on the road. Now, let’s take a different turn, when going for publicity and took a different dimension, told your drama people can you just organize one short play that we can do in five minutes, it could even be the pastor driving anyway, driving down to the center where you are doing the publicity and a brother just jump in front of the vehicle and said, I’m tired of this life, I want to kill myself, he stabs himself and blood comes out in the public place and people are like is it for real or this is a play and by the time they gathered, somebody else have started sharing the word, you too if your life is frustrated like that man Jesus is waiting for you, and before people realize that oh, they are church people you’ve catch the attention, you’ve drawn their interest and somebody is telling them that come to this programme, your life will never remain the same. Mere carrying away that picture of a frustrated man, you are reaching out to somebody who will say even if for nothing let me go there and some their interest will be, maybe we will even see drama again in that church, let’s go there.
So, you’ve started showing the church how you come to help doing things differently from the way they’ve always done it. The drama people need to sit down and begin to display their own value in the body of Christ.
Haven said that, now looking at the pastor on his own end, pastors need to also understand that any pastor that is restricting things to the norm and also the regular way of preaching, the norm of only these few departments exist in the church when I got born again, it mustn’t be more than the same number of departments then you are shortchanging yourself. I love using the analogy of Jesus when He told Peter ‘cast out your net’, Peter cast only one net. Do you know what happened to that net, the net was filled but it got to a breaking point. So, back in the early days when many of us got born again preaching was sanctimonious; you respect the pastor, you respect the sermon, once it’s going on then nobody moves around but today people don’t have that long patience of sitting in church again, things are changing. Churches are coming up with different departments that nobody ever thought they existed. Such churches introduced ‘Meet and Greet’ which only exist in the corporate world that when you go to a shop you want to buy something and a Meet and Greet meet you how can we help you takes you round or people come into church and somebody smile at you, shake your hand, prophesy into your life, that’s also a department. So, pastors must begin to have a broad and large mind and realize that every gift have a will in the church. A knife defined in the hand of your wife when she is cooking is the same knife you will find in the hand of an area boy and you will take to your heels, but you did not run when you saw the knife with your wife, it’s because of who was holding it. If the pastor don’t culture, tutor and mentor people who carry different gift in the church then they will take it out to the church and the devil will hijack it, use that gift to torment the church.
We know many people today who started from the church and their story is they now end in the secular world because pastor was not there to help them, some of them were even frustrated by their pastors, their passion is there but you keep telling them that you don’t have a place for them in church and of course the person wants to find expression, so he leaves to where he can get expression and uses his gift there, and the devil of course knowing what to do with the gift began to use it. Part of my pain and question I always ask is this; Whitney Houston had a pastor, what did he do about her gift, Michael Jackson had a pastor, what did his pastor do about his gift. We all know how Jackson will get to a country and will hold the whole country to their feet, assuming Jackson was a gospel music artist, let’s imagine what impact he would have created in the world at his time. So, pastors need to develop a large heart. If you don’t understand a gift take time to listen to the carrier of the gift, go make your own research and findings about that gift, then prayerfully see how the gift can help the church. For instance I’m a pastor and a teenage girl walk up to me and say Daddy I like to dance Barley. Barley as we see on TV is somebody wearing pant or leggie to dance, and then the whole nakedness underneath is showing. Well, that’s what we know. So, as a pastor I will ask the sister dancing is nice but let’s try and find befitting costumes that others can emulate, rather than for me to judge that barley dance gift by what I see on TV and simply because I see the secular people dance it on TV i shut down the group that God has brought to me in the church. Whereas if I’m able to culture that gift, find her a person who could do her a better costuming and also groom her, who says those who are out there in the world won’t come and learn how we are doing our own, what she is wearing could also be sold to them. One, I’ve created an avenue of revenue for that girl and whosoever is making the costume, I’ve helped her to make her gift what others can learn even if we open a school she will help us recruit teenagers who otherwise would have gone into the secular world to learn it, their parents would have brought them in. we would have save parents the agony of taking their child to unbeliever who could as well rape them and introduce them into the things that are wrong, we would have created a Christian dimension into it and we would have made the gift something that the church would be proud of, so pastors should have a broad mind, ready to learn, have listening ear and let Holy Spirit also lead and guide them.