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A Stage Upgrade

August 6th, 2008

Focus Text: Matthew 25: 20-21 (NKJV)

 “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’  His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’’’


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

People often ask me about the process of Fine Arts.  If you’re unfamiliar with what Fine Arts is and why I’m writing about it, let me enlighten you to my present situation.  I’m sitting the lobby of a hotel just down the hall from where I just oriented and put to bed (yeah, that’s going to last) almost forty teenagers.  Each of them are here in Charlotte, North Carolina for one solitary reason: Fine Arts.

Fine Arts is what we like to refer to as a “wonderful monstrosity”– wonderful in its content and implementation; monstrous in its time commitments and logistics.  Here in Charlotte, we are joined by almost 15,000 other students from across the United States who have trekked to this fair city to engage in Fine Arts festivities.  Fine Arts categories of competition include short sermons, human videos, dramas, vocal performance, art, photography, Christian bands, songwriting, and many more categories: over fifty in all.  

Walking through the Convention Center at National Fine Arts is quite the sensory overload.  In one corner, a student is playing a tuba, while another group of students near to him is engaged in human video rehearsal.  Just down the hall from them, ten other students practice sign language, while acoustic guitars line the corridors of the Convention Center like decorative ornamentation.  Sometimes, we stand shoulder to shoulder with thousands of strangers all crowding towards a performance room or an escalator (or a Starbucks.)  It’s like a huge game of sardines– and that’s kind of what it smells like too.

So that’s the basics of what Fine Arts is, but the process of what we do to prepare and implement a successful Fine Arts trip is something else altogether.  Conceptualization of human videos and other elements of the program begin in September or October.  Writing and co-writing of the actual entries commences in December and January.  Practices begin then in February and last every Sunday afternoon (and sometimes at other times) from February through the last weekend of April.  At this point, our students participate in the District Fine Arts Festival.  If they receive a high enough score at Districts, they are invited to Nationals.

Thus, the docket for Nationals is set and the process continues.  More writing.  More practices.  More deadlines.  More reservations.  More preparation.  All in all, we pretty much are working on Fine Arts in some capacity from November through August of most years.  Yeah, its a huge commitment, but the payoff– the melding together or our group, the skills of ministry that are imparted, and the spiritual dynamics that “shift” in each student’s life– is also huge.

Hence, I comment on the practice aspect of Fine Arts.  We usually practice our high school large group human video in our youth room.  The maximum number of participants for this category is ten and we spread out and fill up the space.  To the left of their stage in our youth room is a steel, load-bearing vertical support beam.  In all honesty, its position is awkward in that it is always just in the way.  Our students learn to adapt to its presence and to simply practice around it– plus, running headlong into a steel beam wouldn’t be good for their “mental” health.

Practice takes place Sunday after Sunday– month after month– and at this point, year after year.  Then, the day comes that the students must perform on a different stage . . . minus the beam.  That’s what happened today.  Our large group took the stage to perform and as their coach, I know that this wasn’t their best performance.  Their stunts, visuals, and story were fine– it was their staging that seemed off. They bumped into each other several times and had trouble finding the center of the stage.  They executed well (and at this point, I don’t know their scores,) but they had trouble adapting to the bigger stage because of the excessive time they’ve spent of their little stage at home.

Matthew 25 tells a similar story- a story most of us know.  In a nutshell, a king leaves town for an extended trip and leaves certain amounts of money to his servants to invest.  Each servant uses their investment according to their own discretion and upon the return of the master, they receive rewards based off  their respective efforts.

The principle of the story is not about shrewd investment strategies or financial favoritism; it’s really about exerting the same degree of faithfulness no matter what amount of potential is in your hand.  Most of us feel that if we had a million dollars that we would handle money differently, but this probably isn’t true.  I mean, sure, you’d spend more for a while; but if you waste money now and don’t prepare for the future, that’s exactly what you’d do with any amount of money.  And statistics bear this out among lottery winners who often go from multi-millionaires back to poverty in a matter of a few years.  Why?  Because the amount of the investment in one’s hand isn’t nearly as important as the amount of faithfulness in one’s heart.

That means that the small stage must be enthusiastically mastered before the greater stage can be reached. Our students know the value of their video regardless of the size of the stage; the same rings true in our walk with God.  My I never resent the “small” things that God keeps putting me in charge of.  I want to embrace them and become the servant whose faithfulness remains unchanged despite the degree of value that I may see in the present.

Don’t worry, the bigger stage is coming; but we must know what to do when we get there.  I hope my students get another chance in the big room; but if not, you can rest assured that they’ve been faithful to the small stage. 



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