I’m a pastor at a church plant primarily comprised of Millenials in an up-and-coming city. Our church is a prime candidate for loud, attractive music sung in a dimly lit room with an impressive worship team. Yet the music sung in our service isn’t loud, not necessarily attractive, and though it is extremely impressive to us, it wouldn’t be so to many outside our congregation. Furthermore, we sing in a completely lit room; no lasers, no candles, no dimmed lights, or anything of the sort.
While this might sound strange to some who find themselves in the same age bracket as our congregants, we do it on purpose – out of conviction. So then, why do we sing with the lights on and why would I consider this important enough to be the topic of this article? Here are a few reasons:
1. Fellow members are evidence of grace
Part of the wonder that comes when we sing in a congregational setting is the opportunity to sing alongside the trophies of God’s grace – His Church. When you get to lift up your voice with once dead sinners who’ve been made alive in Christ the words should have a fresh meaning. The brothers and sisters who are next to you singing on Sunday morning, like you, are miracles of God’s saving grace. It would be a shame if you couldn't witness them praise the author and sustainer of their faith for the sake of mood lighting.
There is something utterly soul-stirring about watching a struggling member, with whom you’ve walked through self-hate and guilt, sing these words with passion:
“When Satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look to see him there,
who made an end of all my sin.”
To watch that new believer who was baptized only a few months ago sing of the joy they’ve found in Jesus serves as an encouragement to you, and it could be a catalyst for your church’s continued evangelism. Whatever gain there might be in lowering the lights during worship, it’s hard to imagine the advantages of a dim room could outweigh the wonder found when you observe blood-bought-saints around you praise their King.
2. Christianity and the corporate reality
By the grace of God, I’ve witnessed the mindset of individualistic faith take a major hit in the past few years. Singing in a fully lit room can act as another dagger to our hearts prone to self-centered faith. One of the arguments for a dimly lit room during service is to eliminate distractions so that the attendee can focus on what they sing to Jesus. Yet I fear that in our attempt to eliminate distractions we’ve also eliminated the corporate reality of worship.
Christianity is a corporate faith where we all march together toward the Promised Land. It is in this corporate identity that we are given the charge to, “see to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God” (Hebrews 12:15). Those fellow members that you might be tempted to count as distractions are the very ones who will make sure that you don’t die on the banks of the Promised Land.
It’s not lost on me that singing in a room with the lights on won’t win back the beauty of the corporate reality of the Christian faith, yet it’s a step, and it acts as an incredible lesson for the body of Christ.
3. Confidence in another person’s Jesus
There have been many times, even as a pastor, where the thought of singing to Jesus on a given Sunday morning seemed like a joyless chore. Due to something in my life – whether it be sin, doubt, fear, or something else – I didn’t feel I was in a place where I could truly worship without being fake.
On most of these Sundays, what pulled me out of this rut was singing with the saints at my local church. A friend of mine once said in a moment of vulnerability, “Sometimes I need to borrow someone else’s faith.” That’s what happens to my cold soul on these hard Sunday mornings. While I might not feel enough confidence in Jesus to sing that morning, my brother does, and I can trust him. While I might not feel the love for Jesus I need to truly praise, my sister does, and I can trust her. There are Sundays where I walk into service feeling broken and bruised and the last thing I want to do is sing. On those Sundays, it feels like I’m singing someone else’s faith, and before I know it, their confidence and faith has become my own.
We’ve been given a blessing beyond what we deserve in the corporate nature of Sunday mornings. We should do all we can to protect that, even if it's something as small as leaving the lights on.
Friends, while you might read this and be tempted to dismiss it as too small of an issue and without any need for action, consider keeping the lights on this Sunday. I humbly submit to you that a glare on the screen, a potential distraction from another member, or some imperfection that may be noticed cost little compared to the tremendous gift of witnessing redeemed brothers and sisters sing to their Savior.
One last note: all three of these arguments can be used for why it’s important to hear each other sing as well. While it might seem counter-intuitive, let’s lower the music and raise the lights.