Is Church Holier With the Lights On? Or Off?
Two services. On opposite ends of the country. They couldn't have worshiped more differently. Which one got it right?

There is no right format for worship.

This week I spoke at a ministers’ conference. In the closing commissioning service, most of the new ministers who came forward were wearing jeans and short-sleeved shirts. Those commissioning them were dressed the same.

As they laid hands on the new ministers, we were led in worship by a very loud rock band singing new songs, while a hipster performance artist painted a mural on a massive canvas, in a darkened room with black walls, strobe lights, fog machines and gigantic video screens.

It was glorious.

A few months ago I spoke at a different ministers' conference. In their closing commissioning service, the new ministers stood up front wearing dark suits or dresses, as did those commissioning them.

As they laid hands on the new ministers, we were led in worship by a southern gospel choir singing old hymns in a brightly-lit, white-walled, pews-bolted-to-the-floor, marbled-columned sanctuary. There wasn’t a hipster, a rock band or a fog machine in sight.

And it was glorious.

Contextualized Worship

Two worship services on opposite sides of the country. And in entirely different worlds.

So which one got it right?

Both did.

Each group is doing ministry that fits their context. They’re discipling believers, reaching communities, planting churches and sending out ministers – as evidenced by the dozens commissioned in each service.

I’m so tired of watching Christians who worship one way throwing shade at those who worship differently.

I’m so tired of watching Christians who worship one way throwing shade at those who worship differently.

“Come on, you can’t reach a new generation with those old songs, choirs and hymnbooks,” complains one side.

“I don’t need to keep the lights off in church and hide in the fog like I’m ashamed of Jesus,” gripes the other.

Yes, this is a thing. Church leaders actually spend time arguing over issues as trivial as lights on or off in church. If this is the first you're hearing of it, consider yourself blessed.

Variety Is the Spice of Worship

There’s a lot more variety in the body of Christ than most of us are comfortable with.

Our discomfort with how someone else worships doesn’t make their worship wrong.

Jesus told us to worship him in spirit and in truth. He said nothing about the color of the walls, brightness of the lights or the formality of our clothing. Because none of that matters to him. It shouldn’t matter to us, either.

I saw an abundance of spirit and truth in both worship services. That's what matters.

If what you're doing isn't working for your context, by all means change it. I'm a huge fan of trying new things.

But don't assume that what works for your church makes it right for another church.

Use what works in your context. Let others use what works in theirs.

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The views of the blogger do not necessarily reflect those of Christianity Today.

October 09, 2015 at 6:29 AM

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