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July 3, 2013

Lighting Effects in Worship

by Kenny Lamm
laser worship

Using specialized lighting in worship can be a tremendous benefit in setting an appropriate worship environment–one that I endorse wholeheartedly. I have attended many churches that have done an awesome job of using lighting to create a great worship space. Recently I attended a church that I felt had taken lighting effects too far for worship. While everything done in the service was with great excellence, the fairly dense fog and moving lights that continued to sweep through the crowd seemed distracting. These elements seemed to create a concert environment rather than a worship environment, and I feel this is another way we can create a culture of spectators in worship rather than active participants. Guest writer, Mark Logan, of WorshipPlanning.com weighs in with a great article on lighting effects in worship:

These days, if you pay attention to forums or blogs, or anything similar, having to do with modern worship tech, you’ve heard a lot about advancements in lighting tech. This stuff is cool. Very cool, actually, when done correctly. Can lights.  Spotlights.  Laser lights.  All kinds of lights. We, as the modern church, are quite lucky to have such cool rigging and lighting available to us, as well as awesome technology with which to control all these wonderful lights. It’d be a shame to not utilize this for our worship services. BUT . . . we have to be careful.

Many point out the trend in many churches that appear to indicate a movement towards “rock concert” more than “church service.” Now, this is NOT meant to turn into a debate or opinion piece on styles of worship, denominational practices, or even “seeker-friendly” churches. What I am more specifically looking at here is this: Where is the attention drawn? Are there distractions?

You see, we can overdo anything. We can overdo singing. We can overdo pushing for the offering. We can overdo being “dramatic” in our preaching. We can overdo instrumentation (seriously, who needs 7 different guitars on stage during a worship set?). And yes, we can overdo lighting.

At a rock concert, the lighting is meant to be part of the show. It’s meant to make you think the band is even more cool than you already think they are. And THAT is the distinction. In a worship service, what is your lighting scheme doing? Is it drawing attention to the band?  Is it simply adding a “cool factor?” Or is it intentional, with the purpose of bringing these worship songs and lyrics even more to life? Do the lights help to draw people’s attention to Christ even more? Using our sense of sight is a powerful thing, and can absolutely impact the atmosphere of worship.

As an example, let’s look at “Nothing But the Blood.” This song is timeless, and powerful, and true. It stands perfectly well on its own. I can remember two specific times when we sang this hymn at conferences with very sophisticated lighting schemes.

One place had rapidly moving laser lights, big washes, and bright spots in random locations. It was very, very cool. And it was very, very distracting.  Even with my eyes closed, I could see the lights darting to and fro through my eyelids. At a different conference, there were no dancing laser lights (at least not during this song).  All there was, primarily, was a massive wash of red lights all over the stage. A sea of red. And during this song about the blood of Jesus shed for our sins, seeing this wash of red visually enhanced this time of worship. Not only was I singing about the blood, but I was visualizing the blood of Christ washing over everything. It was very simple, but it was extremely impactful.

This is what I am talking about.  Laser lights are not a bad thing. And they can be used very effectively in worship. The key is this – what is your light “show” accomplishing? Is it just something cool to add into your church’s “What to Expect” section of your website? Or are you intentionally utilizing (and not utilizing, when appropriate) this technology to enhance the atmosphere of worship in your church? Are you using it to make the messages of our praise even more real to your congregation? In the end, are you using lights to point to The Light?

-Mark Logan

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