In the culture of the church today, it has become the trend to have a stage design, stage lighting, even a whole light show to accompany a worship service. That is, if you can afford it. If you can’t, then you do your best to have some kind of stage lighting to keep the audience’s attention. You try to put moving graphics on the screen so people don’t fall asleep. You do anything to grab and keep people’s attention because after all, we are a visual generation.
With this idea of today’s church culture in mind, I have a few questions for those who think we need stage lighting shows. These questions are just to get us thinking about what we’re doing in church (not just in worship, but the whole service). These questions are not meant to berate, assault, or in any way cause conflict. On the contrary, they are meant to cause one to think about the purpose behind our actions, what the Bible says, and if what we are doing is according to the Word of God.
These main questions are listed below with more thoughts and questions. Some of these thoughts may cross over or be duplicated. Again, this isn’t to cause strife, but to cause one to think. Isaiah 1:18 says, “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the LORD…”
What is the purpose in stage lighting?
Is it to create an atmosphere? What kind of atmosphere does it create? Is it to enhance worship? How does it enhance worship? If stage lighting can enhance worship, doesn’t it mean that everyone that has come before us was missing out?
Why do we need to enhance worship with lights? Can you name specific, continual times/services/events where the worship was definitively enhanced by stage lighting? How do you know it was the lighting that enhanced it? What would you say to people around the world or those in smaller churches that don’t have the resources to have stage lighting? Don’t you think it would be unfair and unjust of God to use something that makes it easier to enter the presence of God, yet not everyone has access to it?
Is the purpose to be more like a concert?
If the answer is no, then okay. Question answered. However, if yes, then why? Why are you trying to be more like a concert and less like a praise and worship service for God? Is the concert atmosphere what you’re wanting? Are you prepared for the things that go along with that kind of atmosphere? (Think of concerts, even Christian ones, and the things that come along with them.) Have you been to concerts (not worship events) and seen the things that come out of them? Are they what you want for a time that is dedicated to focusing on praising and worshipping God. Does that atmosphere bring an atmosphere of reverence and respect for God and the things of God?
If it is not to be more concert-like, is there something you are trying to be more like during your worship service (lighting wise)? Why?
Is it for entertainment or experiential purposes?
If it is for an entertainment purpose, why? Is worship for entertainment, or is it to come into the presence of God, to lift Him up and give Him the honor He deserves? Is church for entertainment? Or is it for the plans and the purposes of God, none of which is to entertain you, nor anyone else. Entertainment can be found outside the church. That doesn’t mean church isn’t entertaining, but that should never be the purpose or even a thought. Church has been and should always be to connect with God, to grow in His Word and relationship with Him and fellow believers. Fun and entertainment may happen along the way, but that is not the purpose of church, and never the purpose of worship.
Is it to help with the experience of church? Why? How does it do that? Would anything be lost at all if stage lighting was not being used? What kind of experience are we trying to have that needs stage lighting? The purpose of church, as we’ve said, is to connect with God and others, but God first. Again, what kind of experience can you create with stage lighting that is Biblical, scriptural, that you cannot create without it?
Is it to create an atmosphere?
If yes, why? Why are you creating an atmosphere with light? What kind of atmosphere are you trying to create? What does the Bible say concerning this? The Bible actually talks about creating an atmosphere for God to move. It’s in the Bible. However, most churches today either forget this or try to add to it. Elijah called for a musician and that musician playing created an atmosphere where he could prophesy. In other scripture, the church created an atmosphere for God to move through prayer.
But now bring me a musician.” Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him. – 2 Kings 3:15 NKJV
And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. – Acts 4:31 NKJV
And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him. – 1 Samuel 16:23 NKJV
Music, not lights, created an atmosphere for peace and refreshing in 1 Samuel. Nowhere in the Bible do you see anything about any time of lights – candles, fire, etc – being used to create an atmosphere for God to move or people to get closer to God. Believers did not wait until dark and then light torches because it would ‘set the mood’ for the Holy Ghost to move. They didn’t wait until dark and wave torches around because it made it easier for fellow believers to enter into the presence of God.
Is it to add another dimension to worship?
What other dimension are you trying to add? Can you show this dimension in the Bible and where it says how to get there? Did God tell you to do so? If this is the reason and God has not told you to do so, then why are you doing it? If you can’t find it in the Bible – the guide for our lives – then why are you doing it?
Is to help usher in the presence of God?
If the answer is “yes,” then where is your scriptural basis for doing such a thing? Where in the Bible do you see that any type of lighting will do this? Can you look in the Bible and see what ushered in the presence of God – is anything close to lighting mentioned? Have you ever had an experience where the lighting specifically helped to usher in the presence of God? If so, how do you know it was the lighting?
All throughout the Bible, is it not prayer, music, and worship that usher in God’s presence? On the Mount of Transfiguration, did they not go up to pray? When Holy Spirit fell in Acts 2, was it not because the 120 were in the upper room praying?
Is it to make visitors feel more comfortable?
Why do you think lighting would make visitors feel comfortable (or more comfortable)? Do you think stage lighting will make unsaved visitors feel comfortable when confronted with the fact that they are sinners on their way to Hell? Do you think stage lighting will make fellow Christian visitors feel more comfortable when they can’t see to get to their seat, to the bathroom, to see the stage because they are blinded by the flashing lights?
Is it to make visitors feel more welcoming?
If so, why do you think stage lighting makes visitors feel more welcoming? Is it because it is something they are already used to? If so, why do you think they are used to it? Is it from concerts? In this desire to make visitors feel more welcoming, are you thinking more so about unsaved visitors or fellow believers? If it’s unbelievers, why do you think the church needs to be more like the world? Aren’t unbelievers coming to church because they are looking for something they can’t get in the world? The lighting and theatrical performance of many church services does appear to be just like worldly concerts, night clubs, and strip clubs. If you believe that it is something that unbelievers are more used to, acquainted with, then you are in turn saying that stage lighting makes the church look more like the world? Isn’t the church and the Christian called to be separate from the world, set apart, and holy? In adding stage lighting and making visitors feel more welcomed, do you think it makes God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost feel more welcomed? Have you thought about this? What does the Bible say?
Do you think it is distracting at all?
If yes, then why do you have it? Should we not try to remove all distractions that we possibly can so that people can easily enter into the presence of God? If you don’t think it’s distracting, why? Have you asked people of all ages in your church if it is distracting? What does the Bible say about this? Do you think this is a stumbling block to entering into the presence of God? Do you think that anything that takes away from the Word of God and the Spirit of God can still be of God? How so?
If you don’t think they’re distracting, why do the lights stop during preaching?
If you feel this is not distracting, do you turn the stage lights off when the pastor speaks? Why or why not? If you feel it is not distracting, why do you turn them off when the pastor preaches, or any other times? If stage lighting is to create an atmosphere, does stage lighting create the same atmosphere for the pastor speaking? If not, why?
If these stage lights are to create an atmosphere that makes it easier to enter into the presence of God, then why aren’t they going all during service? Why don’t we have them in every service, in the hallways, in the bathrooms, in our homes, in our cars?
What is the purpose of smoke/ smoke machines during worship?
Do you use a smoke machine during your worship service? If so, why? Would you use one if the opportunity arose to do so? What is its purpose? Is it to create an atmosphere? If so, what kind of atmosphere are you trying to create and can you find Biblical precedence in doing so? If we are to worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth, as Jesus said we would, what kind of spirit is associated with the smoke that you are using?
Some say that they desire to replicate the presence of God through smoke. They may have the ‘fake it until you make it’ attitude. Is there scripture to back this up? Is there anywhere in the Old or New Testament to support this? If there is, was it pleasing to God or not? Have you considered the effect that smoke has on those with asthma and other breathing conditions? The other questions we have asked about stage lighting, apply them to smoke and smoke machines. Do your purposes agree with the Word of God and the Spirit of God?
Do you believe that the worship is the same/better/worse with or without lighting?
What makes you judge it as being better, worse, or the same? The reasons that it is better, could those same result be gotten a different way without lights? Are the reasons that it is better scriptural reasons? What scriptures? Do you have irrefutable proof that the worship being better is because of the lights and smoke?
Why do we, as a church, turn the lights down during worship?
Is it to create a mood or atmosphere? If so, what mood or atmosphere? Do you find this mood or atmosphere being created in similar ways in the Bible? In what ways does the Bible say this mood or atmosphere you desire, or any mood or atmosphere, is created? Is this mood or atmosphere appealing to people’s flesh, soul, or spirit? Man is a spirit, he has a soul, and he lives in a body (flesh) [1 Thessalonians 5:23]. God is a spirit and because of that, will speak to us through our spirit.
Why don’t we leave them down during the preaching?
If the lighting is good, appealing, and helpful to the worship service, why don’t we leave it that way for the preaching or the entire service? I understand that some churches do leave them down the entire time. If that’s the case, how are those without tablets and phones – those with paper Bibles – supposed to see their notes and their Bibles? How do the older attendees see to get up and go to the restroom? Or should they just pee their pants? I actually know of an older gentleman that could not go to the bathroom because he couldn’t see to get out of the auditorium because it was so dark. And there was no usher to help because the music was so loud.
Why don’t we leave the lights up during worship and preaching?
What is the reasoning behind turning the lights down low during the worship and the preaching? Again, is it creating an atmosphere? Are we following a trend or a certain style? If so, did that trend or style come from the church or the world? If it came from the church, is it scriptural? If it is or isn’t, did God tell you to do it this way? Romans 8:14 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Have you been led by the Spirit of God in this area or by the influence of others in the church (or even outside the church)?
Compared to worship before you introduced lighting, how is it now? How is the move of God?
Has the ‘spirit’ of worship gotten better or worse. This does not mean, ‘has the worship band started to sound better,’ but have people found it easier or harder to enter into the presence of God because of the stage lighting? (Not an emotional response, but a spiritual experience). Has there been complaints about the lighting during worship, and if so, have you just written them off? Have you seen anyone who seems to not be in agreement with them, but not say anything. Do you believe those in the congregation who seem to be most spiritual think the stage lighting is a good idea? Is the move of God greater or less since the introduction of the stage lighting? Have people left the church because of it?
Don’t misunderstand me, just because others in the church think it’s okay, that doesn’t mean it’s okay. Just because they say it’s not okay doesn’t mean it’s not okay. The Bible says there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors. But if those counselors are looking at natural things and not spiritual things, their wisdom is not wisdom. It’s just opinion. This boils down to a simple questions – “What does the Word of God and the Holy Spirit say?”
Have you made preparations for those that suffer from PTSD?
Have you thought of those that deal with PTSD. Those that deal with this, and other issues, may not react in a pleasant way to flashing lights or smoke. Have you thought about them? What preparation have made for that?
The Effects Of Stage Lighting
After reading through and thinking, is there anything different you think we should be doing in the church? Stage lighting is a cultural tools used to appeal to people’s soul (mind, will, and emotions). It does not feed in any positive way our spirit man. Yet, the Lord Jesus said that those who worship Him, must worship in spirit and in truth. Lighting used for these stage shows are neither spirit nor truth.
If stage lighting does influence the move of God, then God is a respecter of persons. He is a respecter of the person who has enough money to buy the stage lights. But if the presence is brought in by prayer, then He is not. He is a respecter of faith. He is a respecter of those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). Everyone can have faith; everyone can open their heart to God. Whether you’re on the plains of Africa or the inner cities of America, prayer and faith can be found there. Stage lighting may not.
Our preconceived ideas of what worship should be has limited what worship is. Instead of focusing purely on God, we have put our focus on stage design, graphics, movies and light shows. Instead of focusing on the spirit, we have focused on the soul and the flesh. Instead of looking to the Word of God, we’ve looked to some tech guru. And it shows in the spiritual maturity of the church.
What is the plan for worship in church today? Is it to have a light show that enhances the move and presence of God? It does not. It doesn’t because lights, smoke, and a stage shows do nothing for the presence of God except drive it away.
What is your purpose for worship? Is it just to worship God or is to worship Him, with Him and encounter Him? If it’s to have an encounter with God, to get in the presence of God, then shouldn’t we do that according to the Word of God, not according to the church down the street, or every other church in the country, or what the world thinks or does?
In the Bible, the Lord compares the church and Jesus to a bride and bridegroom. Imagine the bride (a wife), loving her bridegroom (or husband) in a way that he doesn’t even care for. The Five Love Languages book has become a huge bestseller because of this fact. If I were to please, love, show my love to my wife in a manner that she finds repulsive, disgusting, and not attractive – then it is going to turn her off and turn her away from me. So I should find out what she likes and do those things. It is the same with the Lord. Do I have my idea and plan for making my wife happy? Do I have a wrong motive or purpose in doing what I’m doing?
Which plan and purpose are we pursing with the Lord? Are we pursing our own plans and ideas or God’s plans and idea? Are we doing worship according to God’s will, plan, and idea or our idea?
Sometimes, as Christians, we are so enthused with the fact that we can do something, we never stop to ask ourselves if we should be doing it.
So many churches are excited that they can have a light show, including smoke, that they forget to ask if they should do it to begin with? Some churches may think that they can now “compete” with the big church down the road. But we don’t compete with other churches. We do what the Lord says to do. We find that out through His Word and His Spirit.
Because of all the things that we have brought into the church during worship, we have become focused on people or things, instead of God. Yes, God may be a part of it, but He is nowhere near the main focus. People are already easily distracted because of culture. Social Media has trained our brains to want more new content. That’s why we continually scroll through the screen. We’ve done that same thing in our worship services – moving and flashing lights, moving graphics – trying to keep people’s attention. But these things are a distraction from what is supposed to be the main focus. We’ve created a concert environment instead of worship environment and called it worship. Many in the church have become spectators instead of participators. How can they help it? We’ve created an environment that is pulling for their attention – look here, look there, watch this light or that one light stream across the auditorium. Pay attention to this moving graphic. Instead, we should just focus on God – participate in worshiping Him.
The Appearance of Worship
I recall one night at church, during worship, I found myself putting every thing on cruise control. During worship, I sat back and saw myself singing the songs, lifting my hands, with all outward appearances looking like I was worshipping God. But as soon as I “snapped out of it,” I realized what I was doing and repented right there. Looking back, I now see that I’ve done this before, but I noticed it this time and saw how terrible it was.
I was giving lip service to God, as a whitewashed tomb. All outward appearances showed a worshipper, but on the inside – nothing. Nothing was coming from my heart, just my lips. It is possible to ‘worship’ God, serve God with you lips, your actions, but not your heart – with wrong purpose or motivation, and miss it. Isaiah 1:19 says, “If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land…” You can be obedient without being willing. You can be be willing without being obedient.
You can have the best intentions and still be wrong. You can have all the signs of outward obedience, and yet still be disobedient. There’s plenty of stories in the Bible where people were going with the crowd and everything seemed right, but they were wrong. Aaron formed a golden calf and the whole congregation thought he was awesome. But God didn’t. And neither did the man who really knew God because He had an intimate, personal relationship with Him. Peter was an Apostle, who knew Jesus personally – walked, ate, and lived with Him. Yet Paul had to correct him for eating only with the circumcised believers.
There’s another story found in 2 Samuel 6, where King David brings the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. You would think that this would be great, right? You’d think. As it’s traveling along in a wagon, the wagon hits a bump and Uzzah puts his hand out to catch it – and falls dead. Why did he fall dead? It was because they were not acting according to the Word of the Lord. The Lord said that the Ark was not to be put into a wagon. The Lord said that no one was to touch the Ark. And even though they had good intentions, even though they were dancing around and praising the Lord – none of it was pleasing to God because it was not in accordance to what He wanted. The Lord was not pleased, even though they called it worship.
One of the objections I’ve had in years past, was that if this isn’t pleasing to God, then how come His presence still shows up, people still get healed and ministered to, and everything seems fine. Well, for one, God is long suffering. And many times, we mistaken God’s mercy and long suffering for His approval. But what cleared this up for me was what the Lord told one minister.
“When it comes to having church, when it comes to services, when it comes to meetings,” Jesus said, “men make their own plans and then ask Me to bless their plans. I bless them as far as I can, but I cannot put My full approval and blessing upon them because men are pursuing their own plans.”
Don’t limit what God wants to do. Find out what pleases Him and do that. It’s possible for the majority to be wrong, even in the church. In fact, it’s the the reoccurring theme through the Bible. Stay with the Word and the Spirit.