Visual Worship?

Posted on June 2, 2012 by


It’s become common knowledge that worship isn’t a style of music. In fact music only has as much potential to be worship as everything else in our lives. But we gravitate toward music as “worship” because it  has the power to evoke emotion and can impact us in ways that raking the leaves, or giving good advice, or eating a meal, for the most part, cannot. Because we recognize that music has this power, we are very careful to use it in a responsible and intentional manner.

If we are so careful not to manipulate or repel people with our music we need to be just as aware of what other elements are saying or how they are effecting people. An easy step into this more intentional approach is to start looking at our visuals. See what I did there?

What visuals are there in relation to a church gathering? Moving from the outside in.

  • the building – Exterior
  • the building – Interior
  • the people
  • the lighting – general
  • the stage
  • the lighting – stage lighting
  • the projection
  • the leaders

How much thought have you put into each of these elements? What do they say to you about who your church is? What do they say to brand new visitors?

A few examples –

Exterior – In 80’s or so there seemed to have been an architectural revolution against “frivolousness”.  New Churches took on warehouse or office complex look. Now some of this may have been because this was around the same time as the advent of the mega church, so they were building big and building a big office building or warehouse is a lot cheaper than building a big cathedral. But at the same time some church leadership was shifting to a “Pastor as CEO” model, and the office complex buildings seem to reflect the heart of some churches.  Think of it this way, when you walk up to your building do you feel like you are entering into a place where people worship God or are you walking into work.

Interior – some churches have such a put together design inside that it feels like a museum, you don’t feel as if you can touch anything, and for some reason there is a perma-hush over the place. Other churches have an interior design that can be described as “lacking one” things are tossed here and there, furniture and decor is dated (not timeless), there is a feel that no one really cares to much. What are the colors you use and why? Studies have shown that colors effect our mood and ability to focus/be creative/socialize. Are you using the right colors the right way?

People – think all suits or all casual, what is that saying about how people think about God and each other? Do they want to give their best to God, or are they trying to impress each other, or do they equate a style of dress with being spiritual? Do they take church seriously or are they simply tacking it on to their weekend? Do they view a style of dress and inherently hypocritical?

General lighting – the ever fun florescent vs incandescent battle. Which has won over your church? do you go the natural light path? are your lights giving people headaches? Does this choice fall in line with more business aesthetic or is it simply something that happens to be whatever is cheapest to purchase or run?

The Stage – How do you have it set up? what is in the center? does what you are emphasizing reflect what is most important to the church? there are churches that only have a Cross on stage and do everything from the floor or have the band in the back of the church. There are some that have pneumatic lifts or stage pieces to roll in (or out) the band, or raise and lower the pulpit.

Stage Lighting – Do you have any? Is there more technology in your lighting rig than there is in a NASA control room? Where does the lighting lead your eyes? Bring that color question back, do you know what your choice in lighting color is doing to your peoples subconscious?

Projection -Do you have any? how much effort do you put into it? Are the images the right size for the screen you have or are they stretched and distorted? How much thought did you put into the font you use? Do you use motion backgrounds? How do they affect concentration, engagement, or feel of the service?

Leadership – this is basically the same as “people” only everything is hyper-sensitized. If you are purchasing $100 shirts and are one step ahead of the fashion industry, what is that saying to your people? what priorities are you subconsciously putting into their minds? Do you still wear the same things you did 20 years ago, or do you look like someone from 20 years ago? What is that saying about how much you care? What is it saying about how much you value your responsibility as a public figure? What kind of people are you attracting based on your appearance?

You could go on and on ad nauseum  (I may have already) and hopefully someone is asking where in the bible does it say that we should invest this kind of energy into something that no one really notices? Well there is easy answer

“…And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Col. 3:17. So if we are doing all things in the name of Jesus we need to be putting thought and giving our best in everything we do.

The one that is more compelling, to me, is to look at old testament worship especially the temple. A short list of what God was concerned about with the place that He was to be worshiped in:

  • Incredibly specific dimensions
  • Specific structural materials
  • Gold plating
  • Images carved in wood: Cherubim, palm trees, open flowers, pomegranates, lilies,
  • Artistic elements: the color of the pomegranates.

God laid out in incredible detail how he was to be worshiped and how things should look.

In the new covenant there are a lot of things that God doesn’t lay out for us. We don’t have an order of worship, specific songs to sing, instruments to use. and with that we are to made to understand that God lives in us and so there is no need for a temple to house the presence of God. But just because we don’t have those things laid out for us doesn’t mean that any less thought should be put into how we worship God. We are free to listen to the Spirit. I’ve tried not to align myself one way or the other as far as stylistic bent, my main point is that we need to actually be thoughtful about this stuff and not ignore this way that we can further serve our people.

Posted in: Praxis, Uncategorized