The Visual Focus of Worship
As a follow up on my article regarding architecture and décor, let me make a few observations regarding the visual focus of worship. What do I mean by “visual focus”? As someone sits in the congregation (or audience), looking at the front of your sanctuary (or auditorium), what do they see? What is the focus of the space based on what they see with their eyes? Without any knowledge of the purpose of your building, would be obvious from what they see that you worship Jesus Christ? Would there be any indication of the Trinitarian aspects of our worship?
This thought came flooding into my mind recently as I walked into the sanctuary of a church and was struck by something which was very instructive. As we find in many churches in our western world, the platform had been transformed into a stage, complete with all the trappings of modern worship – sound equipment, drum shields, monitors, and a kind of drapery that was used as a backdrop. This kind of setup is so common in churches, that it’s often a shock to find anything different.
But what does it say? What is the focus? Based on what we see, the focus is on the performance aspect of the service, and is not too much different than attending a concert. The focus is the performers. To underscore this, the pulpit (more like a stand to hold a book or notes) was moved to the side in order to avoid blocking the main focus on the performance of the band.
To top it off, as I looked at this particular sanctuary from the back, I noted an interesting twist. There was a Bible located to one side of the stage, down on the floor level, almost in the corner. It was displayed in a kind of “shrine” setting and almost appeared as a museum display.
Please understand that this church probably preaches from the Bible during its services. I am not analyzing their spoken word, I am observing the unspoken words. What we find, in church after church, is that many do not realize the message they are sending without words. Yet, the Bible clearly teaches that speaking without words is a vital part of our communication as we seek to share the message of Jesus Christ (see Psalm 19).
What is to be done? Clearly, most churches never consider the visual messages they are sending – except as they prepare PPTs or printed materials to present them in a professional manner. In other words, they are concerned with the branding and image of their church, but not with the image of Christ as portrayed visually in their sanctuary.
It would certainly be refreshing to see a church holistically think about architecture, décor and visual messaging. However, I’m afraid the trap of modern worship does not allow for this kind of holistic thinking.
Posted on March 15, 2016, in Architecture, Arts, Christian Worldview, Leadership, theology, Worship Leader and tagged Mark Sooy, theology, worship, worship leader, WorshipThink. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.