STORYCHURCH started in a Durham school gymnasium/cafeteria back in 2010. It was so great! The school was brand new, so everything was clean and shiny — and super bright — thanks to the myriad of windows along the side of the room.
It was often so bright in fact, that Pastor Jeremy and I regularly talked (and talked) about the excess of light in the room and how we wished we could control it.
A little over 18 months ago, when we started to renovate what is now our first permanent location, the first thing we did was block out all the windows and paint the roof black. I was absolutely giddy with the possibility of being able to control the lights, at long last. No joke.
While caught up in all my giddiness, I’ve failed to communicate properly the WHY behind it. Here are some thoughts on why we like to control the lighting in our auditorium.
- It helps to reduce distractions in the room and people naturally focus up front.
- It eliminates glare off TVs or projection equipment used to display song lyrics, or sermon notes.
- Our new visitors feel more comfortable and less conspicuous.
It wasn’t until a friend sent me an article that outlined why we shouldn’t dim the lights that I realized what a hot topic this is. I continued my research online by reading several more articles (from both lights-on and lights-off people) and the bickering that followed in the comments.
I grew up in a church that kept the lights on. I encountered and worshiped God there, along with the congregation. I’ve been to other churches where they darken the room and use fog machines. I encountered and worshiped God there, along with the congregation.
The bible clearly says that when two or three are gathered in His name, He will be there (Matthew 18:20). There is no secondary clause about whether the lights should be on or not.
A lot of the articles associated darkened rooms and stage lights with “performancism”, however I would argue that this issue of the heart exists in every type of church, no matter the congregation size, worship style or lighting conditions. All of us must strive to keep our hearts in check to guard against this.
At STORYCHURCH, we’re very intentional at being a place for unchurched and de-churched people. A place where people can first belong, then believe and eventually become. At times we even steer away from the traditional approach to doing church.
We do church through the lens of new visitors, ensuring that nothing we do is an obstacle to them encountering God.
For this reason we make sure our visitors have the most convenient parking. We don’t single out new visitors in the service. We assure everyone we won’t call at their door if they fill in a connection card. We sing songs that are accessible, with modern imagery, yet still full of the same truths. When teaching, we assume our visitors have no knowledge of the bible and so we aim to explain everything in more detail.
Lighting is natural extension to everything else we do — and that’s all there is to it. It’s how STORYCHURCH feels led to present the Gospel in our city. It’s our culture, our DNA. Nothing more, nothing less.
Reading the comments on those articles was eye-opening. As Christians, why do we get so caught up in these so called ‘Worship Wars’? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about reaching our neighborhoods and cities for God, rather than worrying about the style of the worship service that takes place across town?
John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”
“Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us. If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.