Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Visual Worship

Do you think visual worship is Biblical? Have you ever wondered why we’ve adopted so much of this thing called technology into our services? I mean Paul, James, Timothy and our other church founders never had access to the plethora of technological toys that we have, yet Acts says, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

If you’ve ever asked this question before, you and I are on a similar journey exploring the role of visuals in our worship environments.

Over the years, I’ve looked for answers. I asked my friends and family. I sought counsel from pastors and other spiritual advisors, only to hear things that missed the heart of what I was asking.

Then I did what all mature, wise followers of Christ would do; I turned to Google for help. I can assure you that the words “LED fixture”, “DLP projection”, “stage design” and even “visual worship” do not appear in any translation of the Bible I could find.

I wrestled with scripture, confident that God would reveal something powerful to me about the inclusion of creativity, design, color, and texture in worship services. I was certain it would be a New Testament idea, but instead I found a diamond in the rough deep in the book of Exodus.

Moses led his people to the Promised Land and received a great deal of instruction from God up on Mount Sinai. They discussed the Ten Commandments, Sabbath Regulations, and visual worship. Don’t believe me? Go check out Exodus chapter 35. Reading this story opened my eyes to realize God cares a great deal about the visuals in His worship.

There was intricate detail about the color, size, shape, and textures of every aspect of His worship service—including the Altar, the Table, Ark of the Covenant, and every other aspect of the worship services.

It was as if God had appointed Moses as lead architect in creating the first portable church—the first cathedral. And God gave His people explicit detail on how everything should look.
Visual worship isn’t new.
You see; visual worship isn’t new. It’s not some innovative tactic or marketing gimmick to lure in the next generation with flashy lights or slick design. Visual worship is creativity, design, environment, and art engaging people on a deeper level to be rendered in a posture of worship and adoration toward our Heavenly Father.

Just as Moses built that first cathedral in the Promised Land with the direction and clarity from God, the cathedrals of the fifteenth and sixteenth century churches were also designed in a manner to allow our buildings to tell a powerful story.

I got a chance to visit London for the first time last fall. At the top of my list of places to visit was St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. I had no clue what I would experience in these two masterpieces… But never before has a building rendered me to a position of such awe and reverence. It was as if the building itself was designed in a way to take me to deeper level of adoration toward my heavenly father—visual worship.

These majestic wonders of architectural beauty were often designed to bring your attention upward—to evoke a posture of worship. Cathedrals weren’t a flashy way to bring hip architectural enthusiasts into the church; they were designed in a way to invite you into something bigger than yourself. Again, visual worship isn’t new. Visual worship seems new, but only because our canvas has changed.
Visual worship seems new, but only because our canvas has changed.
Technology has evolved. New tools exist. Our worship spaces are far more functional now. And new studies have helped us understand the power of visuals in our worship environments.

Researchers at MIT say we remember about 10% of what we read, but we remember almost 80% of what we experience. This reinforces the need for visual worship in our modern worship environments. We need to use art, media, visuals, and atmosphere to evoke a posture of worship so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ becomes eight times as sticky.

Visual worship gives us an opportunity to put pictures of songs, messages, and prayers into our services—making the Gospel as contagious as possible. We’re not re-writing the story of the God or crafting a new Great Commission. You see; the Gospel is a timeless story. But we’re called to tell it in a timely manner. Visual worship is one of the vehicles through which we can accomplish that calling.
The Gospel is a timeless story. But we’re called to tell it in a timely manner.
God is calling us to rebuild the creative walls of the church. It’s time to begin commissioning visual worship leaders who will curate the look and feel of our services. Let’s begin to harness the power of the visual atmosphere, much like the ancient church did, evoking a posture of worship.

We need not more music libraries, but libraries of visual liturgies. Storytellers, environment architects, and moment makers are what will help us become a visually engaged community allowing the power of pictures to point people to the Cross.
We need not more music libraries, but libraries of visual liturgies.
I’ll leave you with this. The other day I was at an event where Craig Groeschel was speaking and he said this:
“The church used to be known for artistic innovation. Today that word ‘innovation’ has never been more alienated from the word ‘church.’ We must be focused on being more innovative… To reach people that no one is reaching you have to do things that no one is doing.”

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