This may be something you’ve grown quite accustomed to in your church. But it’s a new thing to me. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been in a church with this kind of technical capability, or creativity. I don’t know.
How about you? Do you struggle with highly digitized corporate worship? If so, how have you found a way to deal with it? How does one go about finding a church that is “unplugged” these days?
In the churches we have visited, video seems to be a central element to the worship experience. Before the service, a reel keeps you entertained. The announcements are peppered with promos advertising upcoming events. Most sermons start off with a video clip, while the pastor stands off to the side, or leans forward in the front row to watch.
These pre-sermon clips may serve a variety of purposes. Some introduce a pithy running theme for a topical series, complete with a visual identity, branding elements and a music score. Some clips use emotional imagery, or staggering statistics, to grease the skids for the sermon. But sadly, many of them serve as an icebreaker of sorts, using humor to dispel any hint of solemnity that may have settled on the people. (Quick parenthesis: I really struggle with humor during corporate worship, but that’s another post.)
Some video clips may be shown at other points in the service, too, without a lot of rhyme or reason. Like this one the pastor showed during the offering at the mega-church we visited last Sunday. He prefaced the video by saying something like, “I love Lord of the Rings. And when I saw this, I thought it was really funny. Our lives are a journey, and Lord of the Rings is all about a journey. So enjoy.” Then this played on the 40 ft. screen while the offering plate was being passed:
Then, wouldn’t you know it: the sermon came to us via video.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m just as much of a screen junkie as the next guy. I work all day long staring at a computer screen, where I help produce videos with huge budgets, tear-jerking emotion, high production quality and rich storytelling. Then I spend a lot of hours outside of work staring at any number of screens in our house.
Until recently, I even read my Bible on my iPad and iPhone. But I stopped doing it routinely, and here’s why: the novelty of the medium was competing with the preciousness of the message. I realized that I needed to give my eyes, ears, mind and heart breathing room away from the glow of the phosphors. I needed to be more deliberate about analog spiritual intake.
I grow so weary of digitized stimulation coming at me all day long. I have come to a point in my life where I want my spiritual intake and corporate worship to be peculiar—which, for me means as analog as possible. I want to smell the pages and feel their texture between my fingers. I want the words to be plain static text without undulating orbs or creeks flowing behind them. I want the sermon to be a real person talking, without any help or humor from pixelated concoctions brought to you by the new media ministry.
This is a snapshot of where I am right now. I may be in a different place 5 years from now. But I had no idea that this seemingly simple preference would make the church search so difficult.
Maybe I just need to lighten up.