“This is to enhance the gospel!”
It bothers me every time I hear that. Our opening keynote speaker said it. It’s almost always about the technology used in churches. Audio, video, lights, computers, iPads, phones, fog machines, lasers; apparently, they can all somehow make the Gospel better.
I strongly disagree. That may sound strange coming from a guy who is passionate about technology and how it can be used to help the church, but it’s true. I remain in favor of better mics, the best speakers we can get, brighter projectors and video walls, a more powerful computer, and dramatic lighting, but not because any of it can enhance the Gospel.
Tiah and I have been at WFX, a church worship tech conference and trade show. (Every church needs to be sending their tech people to a conference and/or trade show every year for a multitude of reasons, and this is a good one to start with.) As this one came to a close I was feeling a little disappointed, despite some great breakout sessions some of the products I really wanted to see weren’t here… and then we got to the closing keynote.
People & Songs were closing in worship, the audio was great, lighting was on point, and the speaker had paved the way for the band to close out with a bang. They delivered.
In the middle of the third or fourth song, I had a moment of clarity to express how I feel about technology in the church. It does not enhance the Gospel, that stands on its own. But in a time where we are bombarded by media from all directions, when people are hanging with friends, taking vacations, watching movies, all the while experiencing ever-improving technology, with a bar being raised higher, we soon find ourselves in a place where we don’t notice or quickly drift off from things that don’t hold our attention.
Jesus was an incredible storyteller. We are not that good. Too often, churches are using speaker systems lacking clarity (they often don’t know any better), cheap DJ lights that should be theatrical, and volunteers that aren’t fully engaged. We are creating an environment that loses people before we even make it to the Gospel.
So we can not enhance the Gospel.
We can diminish the Gospel.
We were made to be creators. Some use their hands, some their voice, some their minds, but we all create things. When we come to worship, so many things coalesce. The beating drums, the strumming of a guitar, the melodies of the piano, vocal harmonies, the arranging of words into verse and chorus, lights to reflect a mood and highlight specific elements; worship is a festival of creativity, and we do our very best to short change it.
Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the LORD has called [your name], and He has filled them with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And He has inspired him to teach, both them and [your friend’s name].Exodus 35:30-34
You’ve seen the singer without visible joy, heard the sound tech who mixes without emotion, and been subjected to speaker systems that just can’t handle what you ask of them; all of it with a bland stage that oozes mediocrity like a beige 1997 PC.
We are the church, and we have an incredible story to share, and that story deserves the absolute best we can bring. Bid good riddance to wholesale red, green, and blue lighting presets! Get rid of the speakers that make a muddled mess of the efforts of the band! Cast off the worship leaders who show no emotion!
It’s time to evaluate how we share the Gospel in church. Will it be another hum-drum business as usual Sunday? Will Joe Construction Worker, looking for answers, check out before you get to announcements?
Or will we invest in the tools and resources that the Gospel is worthy of? With crisp vocals and deep bass resonating throughout the space, lighting drawing our gaze upwards, immersed by God’s presence as we honor all He has blessed us with; will Farmer Bob be excited as he is surrounded by people passionately singing?
We can’t enhance the Gospel, and it’s incredibly prideful to think we can. But we can undoubtedly diminish its grandeur. Now is not the time to hold back our creative abilities. Set your musicians, your creatives, your carpenters, your painters, your techs, and every one free! Let us pour out everything we can, through every available avenue, in praise of the God Most High!
Ohsing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD! Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.