We went along for years without the kinds of visuals we use in our worship services today. We read lyrics and notes in our hymnals and didn’t miss what we didn’t have.
But today we have motion backgrounds behind our lyrics on HD screens, we use mini-movies to tell stories that bring to life the ideas we’re expressing in our teaching time. People devote their lives, careers, and ministries to visual worship.
I’m going to spend a few blogs ruminating on the use of visual media in worship, beginning with a pretty basic question: I’m sure we’d miss it if it was gone, but is visual worship a necessity?
Our job as worship leaders/pastors is not to get people to worship. That’s a standard you can’t hold yourself to because only God can influence people to worship. And if someone else is holding you to that standard, maybe you need to find a new place to serve. (You’ll probably have to eventually whether you want to or not!)
Our job – or part of it, anyway – is to, as much as it is within our power and with the tools we have available, create an environment that gives our congregations every opportunity to worship. Visual media – like music, staging, lighting – is one of the tools we have at hand. Like those other tools, it’s an imperfect one, but it’s still a useful one.
Light, color, motion, visual story-telling – these things can be used to help people move in a particular direction. So, if used appropriately in a worship setting, I believe they can be used to to help us focus our hearts and minds on God. But their inherent imperfections make this tricky.
By their very nature, visual media can monopolize our attention. They can be too flashy. They can easily become – just as musical performance can – the point of our events.
All that to say, visual media in worship is not a necessity. It’s simply one tool on the worship leader’s belt.
What’s essential is wisdom. Pray to God for the wisdom to use visual media appropriately, not to become caught up in the cool factor, to use it only when, and in ways that, will help your people come to a place where they can focus on the One who is the object of our worship. Be wise so that you don’t fall victim to the lie that, if there are no visuals, it’s not worship.
Otherwise, our Sunday worship just becomes a rock show. And kind of a lame one.