March 8, 2012
Lighting the Congregation in Worship
Got this email this week:
I appreciate all that you guys are doing over there keep it up! In a recent conversation I had about whether or not you should turn the house lights down during worship in order to draw people into a “deeper and more meaningful” worship...I responded to this person by saying its not important if the lights are up or down its simply a matter of preference and really rather trivial because if you haven't been thinking about and living for Jesus during the week turning the lights down during a song set is not going to make anybody's worship deep or meaningful.
They responded “Living Stones does it”...now I have to ask you is it simply a technological issue (especially at your downtown campus) because you have the big screen, the lights, projectors and such or is it a theological issue? I look forward to your response.
Both, but that is less true today than it was five years ago.
Well Brad, great question. This past year I had a conversation with a seasoned worship veteran, Bob Kauflin on this topic. His insight was great; churches have swung back and forth on dark vs. bright sanctuary lighting every 20 years or so. And for the record, you nailed it. Lights don't mediate or compensate for someone who worshiped other things all week.
What you will hear from many worship leaders is that they want everyone in the room to forget what's happening around them. It's as though the best possible scenario in a room of 500 people is 500 phone booths with 500 pairs of headphones. I get what they are saying, but I think we lose something key to the church gathered if we tell people it's all about their solo worship time.
One of our biggest challenges historically was getting the typical Living Stones attenders to not worry about what people around them were thinking and just engage with God freely during corporate worship. This is good in principle, but you don't see a lot of "phone booth" type worship experiences in scripture. Five years ago we were pretty committed to a dark sanctuary, but these days we go somewhere in the middle.
Corporate worship is designed to refresh the saints, equip them, and encourage them to mission, which can't happen if you can't see and hear what's going on. In other words, seeing others respond to the truth of scripture in songs is a godly reason for keeping the lights up. I don't know that seeing everyone is necessarily essential, and there has to be some balance here.
For example, I do think there is a place for loud instrumentals in the corporate worship diet (particularly with scripture on the screen) and that a well trained congregation benefits just as much during non-vocal musical worship, contrary to popular thought. Singing is only one part of the congregation's response, and it's a silly overstatement to say that if they aren't singing, worship isn't happening. That however, is another post for another day.
I encourage our band leaders to model physical worship when they are not on stage, not for show or for the praises of men but because as leaders, people are always watching us. Even when our hearts are hard and dull, God is still worthy of our all. Seeing others express their love towards Him can be helpful in reminding my own heart of who He is, and how little my circumstances matter to my worship experience.
Technologically speaking, our stage lights can't hit the back wall that we use for projection so our lighting settings reflect that (no pun intended). During the sermon we make sure the house lights are bright enough to make sure anyone of any age can read the bibles around the room.
In summary, we're working on finding the balance. Hope this helps.