The music worship wars lasted thirty years. To be sure, they are still taking place in some churches, but the full effects of these battles waned several years ago. They left in their wake disgruntled members, lost focus, and numerous church splits.
After hearing from a number of pastors and church leaders on this issue, I contacted Bobby Taylor of All Pro Sound in Pensacola. Bobby’s company had worked with many churches with which I have familiarity, and church leaders spoke highly of their work in audio, video, and lighting solutions. My initial questions focused on how churches can find a lighting solution that is not divisive.
Like me, Bobby knew that some church leaders and members prefer well-lit worship services, while others prefer a more subdued and darkened facility. After speaking with him and then speaking to numerous church leaders again on this topic, my fears seem to be founded. Many churches are having internal disagreements over lighting. In some churches it has become contentious.
Like worship styles and music, it is difficult to find a “right” solution. And the number of contacts I have received on these issues tells me we are in the early stages of a new worship war. Here are my five thoughts for now:
- The divide is often generational. Boomers and Builders in general like the worship services with abundant lighting. Gen Xers and Millennials prefer minimal lighting as a sense of reverence.
- The typical time when the younger generations prefer “lights down” is during the sermon. In this sense, the lighting issue is both theological and practical. The subdued lighting engenders greater focus on the preached Word. It makes a biblical statement about the importance of the sermon, and it is practical because it minimizes distractions.
- Compromises are not effective in most churches. Where this issue is contentious, mid-level lighting is about as effective as a blended worship style. There is enough to offer to make just about everyone unhappy.
- Migration is the most common form of expressing displeasure. Those church members who have real problems with lighting are not starting new churches like many did during the music worship wars. They are simply migrating to other churches.
- These battles will not be as prolonged as the worship wars over music and worship style. The response of migration will mitigate most of the intense disagreements. And the older generations, Boomers and Builders, are getting fewer in number. Over 6,000 of us die every day. There are not many of us left for battle.
As sound and lighting technology has evolved, we now have many more sophisticated options for our worship services. On the one hand, those multiple options are helpful for us to choose what is best for our congregations. On the other hand, more choices can lead to disagreements, even contentious battles.
The essence of the music worship wars was a focus on ourselves and personal preferences instead of God and others. I pray we church members will not be as self-absorbed with worship lighting. True worship has no sense of entitlement.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on Oct. 12, 2015. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.