Bertolt Brecht’s Guide to Being Church
The great German dramatist has a few lessons to teach pastors, ministers, and churches as we seek an answer to the questions: “What makes us who we are?” “How do we ethically and authentically share our Christian identity to the world?”
I think Brecht, without whom Bobby Darin would have never sung Mack the Knife, has an idea or two.
1. Don’t do church just for those who want their hearts superficially warmed. Cutesy, cuddly, warm, and fuzzy can fill seats (or a theatre in Brecht’s case) but is it real?
2. Do what we do, as if the church is empty, and no one cares about the outcome. Be truthful and authentic about your message. If it alienates a few people rather than entertains anyone, then we’re being authentic to our message. What we say shouldn’t depend on the reaction we’ll receive.
3. Quote your message. By this Brecht would mean, the message is not ours. Pastors and leaders aren’t like traditional actors immersing themselves in a part. We are messengers, people who quote the reality of scripture. We put the scripture out there for everyone to see, grasp, and hear. We’re not here to convince people, in one hour, that we are something which we are actually not. We are bringing to the fore, God’s unfolding work in progress. Because people understand that their lives and the world they live in are works in progress.
4. Take the suspense out the equation. Tell people the Good News, the end of the story, and how it all worked out. Brecht said that if he had been directing Beckett’s waiting for Godot, he would have stood up at the back the room with a large sign which read, “He’s Not Coming!” We need to stand up at the front, back, and everywhere saying, “He came, he’s with us, and will return.” There’s no need to keep people in suspense. Life is too short. Let the cat out of the bag.
5. Everyone needs help from everyone. We’re all in this production together.