I’m gonna be frank here...the Holy Bible (and by holy I mean the KJV of course...or any other version) doesn’t say a word about stage design, lighting, audio being to loud or church having a certain look. It is something that the bible doesn’t touch, nor would it have a reason to because the church wasn’t confined to a physical building while the scriptures were being written. The confines to a traditional building wasn’t created until a few hundred years later. Today the stigma comes from a time when the piano and organ were the only things allowed on the stage. You lit the room so that people could see the Bible, the equally as important hymnal and the pastors face. Audio reinforcement was only for the pastors voice if you were lucky enough to have it and media itself was non-existent. Unfortunately that is all wrapped in tradition. Some churches are so steeped in tradition that they condemn you for putting on an appearance of “the world” in using lighting, and media in your services.
Paul is a huge influencer of the modern church, he wrote a large chunk of the New Testament and most of his thoughts that were injected into the body of Christ, were radical. The immediate church, the Jews, thought that only they were the body of Christ. Then it opened up to the gentiles. Paul began to bridge that gap, but preaching the Gospel to the gentiles opened up a whole new can of problems. (1 Corinthians) The gentiles had so many gods that they followed that they were just adding one more into the mix (sound familiar to today?). So Paul had to find ways to preach relevant unwatered down gospel to the gentiles in ways that they could comprehend. Does this relate directly with stage design? No, but it does come with the term “relevant”.
Most churches are not relevant because church is supposed to be “church” and not a night club. The stage is a place to preach from not a theatre platform. I’m not necessarily sure I see the difference between a performance of Le Miserable and a reading from Proverbs. Both are supposed to engage and evoke emotion. Both are supposed to have a meaning and a purpose to the audience and both are supposed to leave you walking away saying WOW. In fact, the Bible should always leave you walking away saying WOW and if it’s not then maybe you need to re-evaluate some things.
Isaiah 43:18-19 “18 Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
This stigma of the church tradition is something we are cautioned about repeatedly in the Bible, the Bible that so many try and use to support legalism at its finest. A pastor friend of mine once said something to this effect:
“We need to be grateful to and acknowledge the accomplishments of the church in the past, and move on to do greater things in the church.” - Jason Mahr
I talked about the MTV generation in a past entry. The church has got to be able to be culturally relevant enough to reach the kids who are consistently bombarded with an anti-biblical message. Sorry but the Bible as it’s presented by door to door evangelism and tiny tracts printed on fake 1,000 dollar bills doesn’t grab people any more. They had their time and place, and the church would not be where it is today without that.
I worked in a restaurant where this type of evangelism was used by Christians. I would see a tract laying on a table with the tip (or in many cases they would leave it AS the tip, shame on them). Instead of watching a fellow server pick it up and immediately laugh and make fun of God, I picked it up and threw it away. I’m not ashamed of my Christ, but I am ashamed of people who think that it’s about a piece of paper asking “ARE YOU GOING TO HELL??”. People I worked with knew I was a Christian and respected my relationship with God and even asked questions, but it’s because of how I lived, and my relationships I built with them. Church has to be on a much more personal level. Cultivation of relationships and discipleship need to take place in order for people to grow deep, but you have to grab them initially. A dead stage with limited presence isn’t going to draw anyone in. You need to be able to create that sense of intimacy, energy and captivation in order for people to pay attention. You don’t need strobes to be culturally relevant but you might want to open yourself up for a bit of color and design.
This swings the other direction and one can do way to much to go the other way and make it seem like church is a party and end up distracting from the gospel or worse, not preaching the gospel at all. There are many churches across America who in effort to become culturally relevant have swept the gospel under the rug in exchange for some flowery words that make them feel better about themselves and their sin nature. So there is a balance that you have to keep in order to be true to Christ as well.
So this is a major part of the creative process as well. You need to evaluate your design and your process to make sure that it isn’t detracting from the gospel or the presentation. There is also the element of making sure that you’re being relevant and adding depth to what is going on.