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This Is Why We Darken Our Auditorium

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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.

(Mark 9:38-41 NLT)

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22 thoughts on “This Is Why We Darken Our Auditorium

  1. Pingback: Lights Up Or Lights Out | Worship Links

  2. Pingback: This Is Why We Darken Our Auditorium | WorshipIdeas.com

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  4. Excellent article. We are a relatively new church. We are only 28 months old. we dim the lights for the singing part of our service, but because we pass out a sermon note sheet we bring the lights up when the pastor preaches so people can see where to write their notes. Have you face this challenge?

    Liked by 1 person

    • We bring our lights up during meet & greet (after first set of songs) and then they stay up while the Pastor delivers the message. When he closes his sermon with a prayer, the lights come back down and we sing some more.

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  5. Deb says:

    It seems that often those of us who do the lights down, contemporary worship music unchurched, dechurched thing are not OK with the flip side of those coins. When we point our fingers and tell them they’re not doing it “right” we are just adding fuel to the worship wars fire. God will use both styles in His way…if He isn’t going to use it He will change it or close it. It’s not up to US to point fingers on either side.

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    • I agree with you, Deb. God is able to use all styles. I hope this article did not come over as “the right way” to do church, it meant only to share why we take the approach we do. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

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  6. David says:

    I liked your article. I have led worship in many places over the last 25 years and saw many petty discussions over what often amounted to foolishness. 🤔 Bigger and deserving of much more attention is the Presence of the Lord and I recall the times that technical issues rightfully took a back seat and we were all swept away in the wonder, love, and beauty of our glorious Father. Now I just want to know Jesus more… To minister to Him is my highest priority… lights or no lights. 😊 I feel bad for people who are sidetracked so easily because these arguments lead away from love and into selfishness. 😔

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is an area I struggle with a lot. I sit in the darkened auditorium during the “worship set” and watch people enter from the lighted foyer to a darkened room where it takes time for their eyes to adjust. Some people even use flashlights or cell phones to help them find their way.

    My “issue” is one of symbolism. We are called to bring people in to the light from a dark world, yet we have them leave the “light” (of the foyer) to enter the “dark” (auditorium). There just seems to be something wrong with that to me.

    I understand the reasons, as you have noted, for darkening the room and ultimately it is not a “deal breaker” for me. It is just one of the things I struggle with, because of the symbolism I noted, and probably will until I am called Home.

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  8. I lead worship at my church for the main service, the young adult group, and also the youth. Sunday morning lights are on full blast lol, young adult group and youth lights are off and stage lights are on (the room is small so it’s not pitch black, but it’s dark). thank you for this article! I knew I liked a darkened room for a reason. The full lighting is more traditional, and since times are changing, adaptation without compromise is necessary. Lighting won’t change the hearts of people, but if darkening the lights during worship will help Unchurched people come in and feel at ease, then why not! Great article 🙂

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    • Thanks for that. You’re a very worship leader, leading in all those services! I think you’re right in that fully lit environments can be driven from traditional values. We’re very much pro-experimental. If the lighting is not working, we’ll change it up sometime in the future. We never make a change assuming this is how it will always be.

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  9. Awkward Meet & Greet: My least favorite part of church service is when the pastor says, “Turn around, greet someone and “high 5 or shake hands” with 10 people before you sit down!

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